Now and then people will ask me for advice on how to get started on Elance. I’ve written about this before, but here are a few other ideas that new Elance providers should keep in mind:
- Read the job description (the whole thing). I’ve hired people on Elance myself, and it’s always immediately apparent which ones have actually read the entire job description (and put some thought into how to respond) and which ones are just sending out mass-produced auto-replies and copy-and-pasted responses.
- Be sincere: Employers respond well to people who sincerely care about the project. Show that you took the time to read the description and that you’ve put some thought into how you want to approach the project. Write a 100% original response to each and every job that you bid on. Be human – be “real.” Show some enthusiasm and emotional connection to the project – explain why it is interesting to you and why you want to work on it.
- Be forthright: If there is part of the job description that you don’t totally fulfill, say so – but emphasize instead the skills and experience that you are most confident about.
- Get your pricing right: Don’t underprice yourself. You don’t want to be the lowest price bid for an Elance job. Make a reasonable estimate of how long it will take you to do the work. Setting rates can be complicated, but you should plan to make – on an hourly basis – at least three times your equivalent hourly earnings at a full-time job. (If you make $30,000 a year at your day job, your hourly rate is $15 – so your freelance rate should be at least $45 an hour.) Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t try to compete on price – instead, compete by showing how you can create value for the client and demonstrating why you are the right fit for the project.
- Follow up: If you don’t hear back from a client right away, feel free to follow up with an e-mail on the Private Message Board (PMB). But don’t just “ping” them with requests for replies – always try to add some new information with every time you contact the client. For example, say: “I’ve been thinking about your project and I had some ideas that I want to share with you,” or “I don’t think I mentioned this in my project bid, but I also have experience in (OTHER SKILLS)” or “Here are some samples from a similar project that I recently completed.” It pays to be persistent – not annoying, not “spammy,” but just check in with the client and let them know that you’re interested and that you are thinking about how you can help them.
- Act like you’ve already got the job: Your project bid should give the client a good sense of what you’re like to work with, how your thought process works, and how you plan to achieve the project goals and deliver a good result. Instead of asking questions to the client, make recommendations to the client. (“Here’s how I think we should proceed….I recommend doing the following steps first…”) Convey a sense of momentum. The client should be thinking, “Wow, this person is ready to go and they’ve got a lot of good ideas – they’re ready to take this project to the next level.”
- The first project is the hardest to win – but every project can lead to others. If you’re a new provider, it can be hard to stand out from the crowd. It might feel overwhelming, like there are dozens of people competing against you and they’re all willing to work for less. Be prepared to persevere through some frustrations and disappointments – you might have jobs that seem really promising that turn out to be awarded to someone else, or clients who seem interested to talk with you but then disappear forever. Just keep at it, stay positive, and keep bidding on jobs. Every single project has the potential to lead to many others – every project gives you a story to tell to the next client.