How To: Get Hired on eLance
Get Freelance Work on the Web’s Best Freelance Marketplace
Life as a freelancer can be hard. Some freelancers try to gain steady clients in the ‘real world,’ but when that fails they turn to the web. While there are several freelance marketplaces, the largest selection of work can be found on eLance.com . There are other worthy contenders such as Scriptlance, Rent-a-Coder, and Freelance. eLance provides a perfect balance of security, quality clients, and varied projects. A freelancer looking for freelance projects may be overwhelmed with the large selection on eLance, but by following my simple advice you can maximize your edge in finding freelance jobs.
Tip 1: The Early Bird Gets The Worm
Freelancers can increase their chances of being selected by being the first to bid on a project. When you are the first person in for a job the buyer will remember your name throughout the selection process. There is a danger of underbidding, but luckily eLance allows you to adjust your bid later on. To find projects that have just been added subscribe to the eLance newsletter, which will send you the latest jobs every day in your categories as well as a weekly listing on the top-budgeted freelance projects. While searching through jobs you can also sort by bids lowest-to-highest by clicking on bids twice in the project listings. I’ve also found adding the ‘New Jobs’ RSS Feed into Google Reader allows me to get in on jobs even quicker.
Tip 2: Maintain Your Profile
Your profile is (usually) the closest you’ll get to a face to face meeting with your client, so you want to make sure it’s up to date with your latest samples. You can also add your logo to your profile which makes you look more professional to a potential client. Also, consider making a promotional Youtube video (or outsourcing it if you aren’t a video wizard) that a client can access from your profile. This can be a short video of you describing your skills, a ‘demo reel,’ a funny viral video, or testimonials from your clients. The key is to give the client an instant insight into the quality of your product. Most clients will check you profile before even reading your proposal, so this is the first and best way to make an impression.
Tip 3: Have Good Samples
The emphasis on a quality portfolio cannot be underestimated when trying to get freelance work. It’s the only criteria your client can judge you on, so you want to put your best foot forward. Ideally you will want to have a website to showcase your stuff, but for individual freelance projects you’ll want to link to specific relevant examples. If you don’t have web hosting there are many free sites you can use to host your samples:
The key is to convince your potential client that you have the skills to complete their project. Don’t get downhearted if a client declines your bid because they prefer another style. They have a specific image of what they want the project to be and if you aren’t it it’s better to move on to other prospects. Sometimes I use their examples of what they want as a jumping-off point to create a new sample for my portfolio. Next time a similar project comes around I have a perfect sample to forward to the client.
Tip 4: Don’t Copy and Paste your Proposals
Sometimes it might seem more efficient to come up with “boilerplate” proposals for different kinds of projects. This is dangerous because most buyers are looking for a freelance programmer who is speaking to their project’s specific needs. While coming up with a list of relevant samples for, say, animation or web design is appropriate, tailor your proposal to the buyer’s talking points. Also, make sure to answer any questions the buyer may pose in his freelance project description. I wouldn’t go as far as doing a free mock-up to establish authenticity, but if they confuse you for a scammer make sure and point them to your feedback and refer them to former clients for a recommendation.
Tip 5: Make Your Proposal a Sponsored Proposal
While it will generally cost you twice the ‘connects’ to make your proposal a sponsored proposal it shows your excitement and investment in a specific project. Do this sparingly, but if an awesome project that suits your creative side comes up don’t be afraid to let them know your serious! I did this for a project to create a multi-media 80′s slideshow a month or so ago and the client hired me within the hour. If you put across your passion for the project the client will be much more likely to select you.
Tip 6: Follow Up
Until you see that the project has been awarded to somebody else never consider yourself out of the running. If the project been closed for bidding for over a week with no programmer selected make sure to message the client and ask if they needed any more information. Don’t be pushy, but let them know you haven’t forgotten about them and point them to additional samples if available. It won’t always work, but often this extra attention will tip a client who’s been on the fence between two freelancers.
Tip 7: Get An Upfront Payment!
I can’t stress this enough. I’ve had several run-ins with clients who didn’t pay upfront and took off with the final comps with only a partial payment or no payment at all. Since then I’ve generally broken down the payments as follows:
- 33% – Upfront Payment
- 33% – 1st Draft Submitted for Approval
- 34% – Final Project Delivered
This protects you from the client pulling the plug on the project half-way through as well taking off source files without paying for them. I’ve never have a client say no to this payment structure. If you are just starting out you might be afraid you’ll scare away the client, but the type of person that would not consider you for such a reasonable request if probably the type of person who would try and take advantage of you anyway. If you have a contract you use for real world clients consider adapting it as a standard contract on eLance as well. Have a signed copy will help you with any disputes with no-goodnik clients.
Lastly, if you’ve followed these tips and still aren’t finding yourself getting freelance projects you make consider upgrading your account above the free or individual levels. This suggests a more professional operation and may make clients more comfortable with you. It also gives you more pitches in the form of ‘Connects.’ Also consider completing the eLance skills tests, which show your competency in certain areas.
To get the most out of eLance you have to be a professional. Following these tips will set you above the rest of the competition, whether it be from bored high school kids or Indian programmers.
The favorable comments regarding eLance are based on my own opinion. Although I use the site to make a living I have not been paid to promote them. If you would like to hire me on eLance you can find my profile here.