It 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.