How To Win Jobs On Freelance Job Bidding Sites
Skimming through the comments on the recent FSW poll about freelance job bidding sites, there’s not a lot of love out there for the freelance bidding sites like Elance, Get-A-Freelancer, Guru, Rent-A-Coder and the like – and it’s no wonder when you see projects offering to pay you $1 per custom designed t-shirt image!
The general consensus seems to be that in the following circumstances they can be of some value…
- If you’re a student looking to get some extra cash and experience
- If you’re a freelancer living somewhere with a lower cost of living that allows you to take advantage of being paid lower rates for jobs
- If you’re just getting started and your main focus is on building up your portfolio
- If you want to hone your skills in a new area
- If you’re looking for quick turn-around jobs
This year my husband, Jonathan, decided to transition from being a graphic designer to a professional illustrator and turned to Elance and Guru to help him build up his portfolio. We tested out 2 very different strategies: the first was to get our Virtual Assistant (VA) to bid on any relevant projects with a certain criteria (quantity) and the second was to personally bid on specific projects that he was attracted to (quality).
As the saying goes… It is quality rather than quantity that matters. Jonathan won 5 major illustration projects which, although not the highest paying gigs you could imagine, are helping him build up his portfolio with the kind of work he wants and paying some of the bills at the same time.
Here are 8 of the key tactics that he used to win bids successfully:
- Choose your projects wisely.
Bid specifically for projects which you know you can deliver on, that play to your strengths and that interest you. Avoid personal projects like the plague – these are often the lowest paying jobs and the project owner is less likely to take the project timelines and budget as seriously as somebody who is doing it for commercial purposes.
- Use a personal touch.
Don’t use a template reply for every single project you bid on; tailor your response to the actual project spec and address the project owner by name if it’s on the bid. You should also ensure that your bid response addresses all the questions that are specifically asked.
- Don’t bid the lowest bid for the sake of winning the project.
Not only is this selling yourself and everyone else short as well as de-valuing the skills in your industry, but if you win you’ll end up having to do the job for that price. And what’s worst is you’ll usually end up resenting it. Set a price for the project that you are happy with and stick to it – no compromises.
- Have relevant pieces in your portfolio.
It’s important that if a project requires a certain style or specific skills for the job, that your portfolio or the pieces you bid with reflect this. If you plan to use the job bidding site a lot, then it is definitely worth taking the time to upload your best work to the internal portfolio within the site as well as having a good portfolio website that showcases your skills to send interested project owners to.
- Be prepared to demonstrate your suitability and expertise.
Whilst I’m not advocating doing work on-spec or for free (see next point), there are times when you might want to consider doing some brief sketches or provide a tailored pitch, to demonstrate that you can provide the specific skills the project calls for. If you have any suspicions at all about the integrity of the request however, politely decline and move on!
- Don’t do on-spec work
Don’t apply for projects which ask you to submit your actual designs or ideas so that they can then select the best one to win – this not only devalues the industry you work in, it encourages more people to use this tactic on the site. A useful resource for more info on this and one which you might like to refer people who use this tactic in their project spec to, is No-Spec.
- Show professionalism at all stages in the process.
As some FreelanceSwitch commenters noted, jobs you find through these sites can sometimes turn into long term clients. Always demonstrate that you are a professional in your industry. Treat any project you win, as you would a typical job and show no less professionalism than you usually would.
- Above all, be honest, realistic and authentic.
Don’t over-commit to deliver a job with a deadline you know you can’t make; don’t promise things you can’t deliver and don’t bid for jobs for which your skills aren’t suitable. Always show honesty, integrity and authenticity in your interactions on these sites – whether you win a job or not, the site is still a shop window that displays what you do…behave well, even if you think no-one’s looking!