Using an online venue to find jobs for your freelancing career is a great route to go. Most of the bigger sites like Elance and Guru have decent jobs and decent fees. You generally are charged a fee for using the site and they take a percentage of what you earn. But working through them has several advantages. I worked as a freelancer for many years, scrambling for odd jobs here and there. Now I make 1,000 – 2,000 grand per month by bidding on jobs at these sites. The potential for making more is even higher if you learn how to bid and how to deal with clients.
Ask for escrow. Some clients don’t want to do it because they don’t want to put out the cash out-front. If they won’t do it now, they won’t do it later. Protect yourself. If a problem occurs, the freelance site you are working through will mediate so you can get paid.
Make sure you get ALL the money in escrow. I had one client only put the deposit in escrow. I was able to get that part of the payment. But at the end of the project, the workroom (Elance) was marked complete and I have yet to get paid the remainder of my fee. (In a case like this, you are stuck with invoicing the client over and over again in the hopes they might mail you a check.)
Ask for a down payment. Your time is money. Never ever forget that! Even if the client hates your work in the end, they still need to pay you for your time in attempting to do what they hired you to do. Now, I have at least once bitten off more than I could chew, and I gave the client BACK their money for the rotten job I did. Act like a professional.
Don’t give away free work. They can view your portfolio if they want to see the range of your abilities. A lot of potential clients will request an outline or a sample chapter before awarding you. If you are being asked to edit, they may send you a chapter and ask you to edit it. One guy asked me to WRITE my ideas for his book and send it to him before hiring me. Don’t get sucked into this no matter how attractive the job may seem.
Read the clients profile. They check your profile, you should do the same. Who are they? How many jobs have they advertised? More importantly, how many jobs have they AWARDED?
Check the client’s feedback. I once almost took a very attractive job without checking out the client first. Just before accepting the job, I popped over to their feedback page and found a SLEW of negative feedback on the buyer! I ran from that one!
Work only through the freelance site. Unless you are extremely comfortable with the client and trust them (and you better really be sure!), do all your business onsite. It will be saved and recorded and available to you should you ever need to open a dispute. This is one of the main things I like about working for Elance – my rear is covered if I document everything on their site.
Pay attention to how you charge. It is very tempting to jump in and bid for a low price when you find a job that looks not only promising but exciting. Figure out what you are willing to accept as an hourly wage and do the math. I once did a fun job for $60. It took me a week to complete the project, working 8 hours a day. Yeah, I won’t even do the math for you – disgusting isn’t it?
- Be very wary of clients who promise repeat work if you just do ONE more thing for them. People love getting something for nothing and there are people out there who will get everything they can from you and then you will never hear from them again.