If you’re a freelancer you’ve probably considered at some point to start looking for jobs on Guru, Elance, Odesk, PeoplePerHour, Fiverr, etc.
Chances are you also never visited the site again after creating a profile, applying for a few jobs and being ignored on every single one of them.
It’s hard to compete with professionals from lower income countries who can do the job for a tenth of the price, but that doesn’t mean you’re out of options.
Let’s have a look at some ways for you to get noticed and actually win some bids.
1) Stop competing on price
It’s daunting to even apply for a job when you see a whole collection of incredibly low bids that have already been submitted. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. Stop competing on that aspect of the job. If that’s all the company wants to pay, chances are they’re not your type of client anyway.
Try to focus on what makes you stand out. Write a well thought-out proposal and outline very clearly what you will do to deliver the best possible result. Link to relevant assignments in your portfolio (doesn’t have to be a portfolio on the freelance site, can be a link to Behance as well) and, perhaps even most important, use perfect English.
This shows the employer that you’ll be easier to communicate with than other, cheaper alternatives and that everything is set from the start to have a great professional relationship.
As a general rule of thumb, look at the employers history and past awarded jobs to get an idea of the average price. Invest time in crafting a perfect response for the jobs you really want (interesting project, you’re a good professional fit, well-paid) and leave the ‘meh’ ones laying by the side.
2) Use video proposals
I know, I know, it sucks. You were so comfortable behind your desk, unwashed and still with your bed-head, eating cereal while reading up on some possible jobs.
You don’t even have to take a shower, just comb your hair and put on a shirt. It’s only the top half that matters!
On some occasions you’ll even be able to re-use some of your past video proposals though I wouldn’t recommend it. Always try to go as personalized as possible.
If you’ve ever been on the other side of the process and tried to hire someone for the job, you’ll notice there will be hardly any video responses. If there is one, you tend to be a bit flattered to know they’ve gone through the trouble of doing that, and you get a much better impression of who the person submitting the bid actually is.
3) Sponsored proposals
Almost all the job sites have this option and it basically builds on the idea of ‘standing out’ between the sea of bids. You’ll have the advantage here again because people submitting cheaper bids probably won’t have the funds to sponsor their proposals. It’s just bad ROI and they know it.
You’ll have to experiment a bit with this though because they tend to work better on some sites than on others, depending on the way they highlight the sponsored proposals.
It definitely doesn’t work as well as a fully personalized video proposal because there just isn’t the same amount of personality and effort into it. You just threw money at a problem in the hopes of making it go away. Still though, feel free to give it a shot, especially for jobs you feel you’re really qualified to do and took the time to craft a perfect video response.
4) Offer free previews
Pretty hard if you’re a developer but most other freelance occupations can make it work. Once again, only do this for the jobs that you really want (see #1) because this can be a big time-sink and very demoralizing if it doesn’t result in a few won bids.
Someone’s looking for creative content on a certain topic? Write a 200-word excerpt on the topic to show them you got what it takes.
Client looking for a new company logo? Sketch something out on a piece of paper and upload it. It’ll show real interest, way more than the legions of people writing “Oh this is just my kind of job” because you actually took initiative and put in the effort.
5) Deliver excellent work
We’ve all had tough clients and projects that didn’t end up the way we hoped they would. This can’t happen online. Feedback sticks (though some sites offer ways to remove them) and keeping clients happy will result in more long-term projects.
You’ll notice that a lot of the most successful online freelancers tend to work with little more than a handful of clients. They’ve built up great relationships with them just like you would with a client in the real world. Keep offering revisions until they’re 110% happy and remember to ask them to leave official feedback. It’s not offensive to ask for a 5 star review if they’re happy, since they of all people should know that that’s all that matters.
3 stars? Cool, time to delete your profile and start over!
It’s also worth mentioning that even if a first project dragged on a bit and the client seemed hard to please, it may be completely different the next time around. Just like in any relationship, you get used to each other and tend to know what the other wants even before they mention it. Though that won’t always be the case, some clients will be awful and it will be best to cut ties with them before it escalates.
Any more pointers and helpful tips? Let me know in the comments below!