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Freelance Writers Should Not Be Scared Of Job Bidding Sites

Submitted by on July 20, 2009 – 9:10 pm 4 Comments | 10,534 views

womanatkeyboardIt seems that several of the writing blogs that I visit recently have featured articles about job bidding sites, specifically the heavy hitters Elance and Guru. The tone of the articles goes one of two ways: either the author makes a cautious case as to why these types of sites would be a good fit for writers looking to expand their client base, or they spend their time reeling off reasons why job bidding sites are the worst thing that could happen to a freelance writer aside from a hard drive crash.

When I first started as a freelancer, I was attracted to job sites as the kind of place where I could find hundreds of potential projects and clients clustered together in one spot. I didn’t have to sift through Craigslist ads or cold call businesses – I had a way to connect with people who were actively looking for freelance writers. I started off at GetAFreelancer.com, and managed to find some work that paid reasonably well from clients who were great to deal with. I never experienced the horror stories of slave-driving clients who expected the moon and the stars for pennies per article that I have heard passed around the internet equivalent of the industry’s water cooler. Maybe I just got lucky. I’d like to think that being cautious with whom I chose to do business also played a role. I was very, very careful when communicating with potential clients as well as when reading project descriptions prior to bidding.

Gradually I moved on from GAF to Elance, where I found more projects related to the subject areas I preferred to write about. Elance is one of the sites that garners the most ill will from certain freelancers. Some of these people have had bad experiences on the site with clients who weren’t what they expected, while others are unable to see beyond the proliferation of low budget jobs that crowd out more attractive projects. The general anti-Elance sentiment seems to center around the idea that it is impossible to find high profile, well-paying clients through this service.

Unfortunately for those who buy into this viewpoint, Elance is actually rife with the types of clients who not only provide regular, interesting work but who also compensate writers at very competitive rates. Some of my best clients have come to me through Elance, and I have no doubt that I will add to that list as time goes on. Certainly there are a multitude of projects coming in at the low end of the compensation scale, but this is hardly unique to online job sites. There will always be those seeking to hire the lowest bidder, just as there will always be service providers willing to accommodate them. It is up to you to decide how much your time is worth and bid accordingly.

Yes, there are things about the site and the way it is run that could be improved. It is certainly far from perfect. But for freelance writers ranging from absolute beginners to those with established credentials and client lists, Elance and other job bidding sites can be an excellent way to expand business. If the idea of a searchable database of hundreds of projects a week related to freelance writing sounds appealing to you, then I encourage you to give these sites a try. They can be a great addition to your arsenal when it comes to drumming up leads and seeking out fresh markets for your writing.

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4 Comments »

  • An interesting and well thought out post. Thank you for sharing your thoughts like this. I am toying with the idea of becoming active with Elance – it looks a little chaotic, but I can see that there is a vast range of jobs, and no-one is pointing a gun at you saying you must go for el-cheapo jobs.

  • Benjamin Hunting says:

    Glad it was helpful to you, Carolyn – and you are right, it’s very much up to you to decide how much your time is worth and which jobs are attractive enough to bid on. I find that over time, it’s possible to develop a sort of ‘filter’ when skimming through multiple project postings, one that picks up certain phrases and details that indicate whether a job looks viable or not. It works on both the bidding sites and when communicating with potential clients.

  • Hi Carolyn:

    Thanks for the piece. I’d be interested in knowing what you consider to be a fair price range for writing. That could be where some of the confusion lies — certain writers may feel that eLance, Guru, etc. bargain fees down to the point where it’s unfair. Other writers may feel that the average rate being offered/bid is quite fair.

  • Benjamin Hunting says:

    Jonathan – I feel that determining a price is definitely an area where confusion creeps in. Some writers are afraid to ask for a certain amount because they recognize the need for their rates to be competitive. The problem arises when you haven’t defined who you are competing against, exactly, and on what merits.

    This is very easy to witness on sites like Elance and Guru. Writers see a project that they know they can do, for a fair price, but they also see numerous other writers and companies undercutting that price by what can be a huge amount. They then feel that they have to lower their own prices in order to have any hope of making a winning bid.

    The key is to realize that you don’t have to compete on price at all. As long as your price represents the value that you bring to the client, then it is a fair one. There are many clients out there who are willing to pay a competitive rate for quality work.

    There may be more clients who are interested in paying as little as possible for work that might not receive as much attention as it should, or who will take the risk that their work may not get done to spec at all in order to save a few bucks – but this shouldn’t concern you. Think about this: would you rather have one or two clients who pay you a good rate for good work, or 10 clients paying you peanuts for mountains of words?

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