Today's post is about my very first experience with the freelance job bidding site Elance.
I have known about Elance since I first got started in freelance writing in early 2006 but hadn't taken the plunge for a few reasons.
So, I know I'm queen of the mile long posts...but that's because I want to give valuable information instead of just a quick overview so if you've got a cuppa Joe ready, here's my wordy take on my first experience bidding for a writing job with Elance.
What is Elance?
Elance is a job bidding system geared to freelancers. There are many categories including technical as well as writing. Members can bid on available jobs in many writing areas like ghostwriting, content writing, press releases, etc. and complete them through the system. The site takes service fees from the service provider. There are a large number of buyers and providers that regularly use this site. The site's homepage boasts over $134million in jobs awarded since 2005.
Why I Avoided Elance for 2.5 Years
I wasn't sure I wanted to bid on job bidding sites for writing work and I'd heard a few negative things about Elance and recent changes to their membership fees.
1. They take a % of the fees and a bit of a complicated system for being able to bid. You need to pay money to place bids as well as pay more money from your earnings as well.
2. There is a lot of competition vying for the same jobs as you so competing bidders might bid very low, making it difficult for you to be competitive without giving your work away for peanuts.
3. I prefer ongoing relationships with my clients rather than one-offs.
4. I've read some horror stories about difficult buyers.
5. Most of all, I've been quite busy with my own workload which has been fairly steady for most of my writing career thus far.
Why I Decided To Check Elance Out
I decided this week to take the plunge for the first time and bid on a gig. Why?
1. I personally know writers that earn more than six figures annually from this website alone.
2. Elance has an escrow payment system and I've had some near death experiences with client invoices so that made me feel secure.
3. I could try them out without committing to a membership by using a basic membership and bidding for free.
4. I have two big clients whose business volumes have dropped substantially in the last month or two so I need to protect my livelihood by coming up with additional ways to find ongoing writing work.
In the last year or so, I've spent a bit of time browsing the open jobs and I've spent time looking at profiles and feedback for writers who I know use this site. I decided this week to use my free connects (that come with a basic free membership)to bid on a job. I first though I would just use those 3 free connects each month for now and see if it netted me any results.
The first bid I wanted to place was an internet marketing blog which is one of my niches and I knew I was very qualified based on all the buyer asked for but the bid required 4 connects and I had already vowed to just try the site out with my free connects. I only had 3 of those connects available so I had to pass on this bid.
Bidding On Writing Jobs
So I found a project listed and placed my first the other day for an article in a niche that's also one of my specialties.
After placing the bid, I noticed that others were bidding too, but they weren't bidding in the open. They were using Elance's PMB (private message board) function to hide their pricing instead of using the sealed bid feature which probably just costs more.
At first, I felt that I should have thought of that as well instead of showing my cards to my competitors but in the end I won the first bid I made against six other bidders. I was excited and decided that maybe my open and transparent approach was better.
As I began to try to navigate the system I liked what I saw. The buyer put the funds in escrow for me and Elance holds the funds until we're both satisfied or decide to file a dispute.
The client was a dream. He provided me with a lot of information and I was able to easily complete the assignment knowing just what was expected of me. It took a bit longer to research than I expected but I still finished in a decent enough amount of time to make it a profitable project.
I was a bit nervous about waiting for the client to tell me if he was satisfied with my first draft. What if the dream client suddenly turned into one of the nightmares I've read about on other freelancer blogs? (It turned out wonderfully but I'm under no illusions about the potential for difficulties in the future with other buyers)
The system was smooth with e-mail notifications and a workroom to hold all the pertinent information and messages about the project and I'm sure there are other functions I haven't even discovered yet. I've been paid and had a glowing review of five stars and a satisfied buyer who asked if he can offer me steady work.
Wonderful! I'm giving Elance a thumbs up for my first experience with them.
Getting Paid From Elance
Elance released the funds and I had the option to withdraw to my PayPal account, a bank account or Elance pre-paid MasterCard debit card. What I decided to do, because PayPal doesn't offer a debit card to Canadians (and it's a nice thought to be able to get hold of my funds quickly when needed) is to sign up for the Elance MasterCard.
The Elance MasterCard is only open to paid Elance members so I took $19.95 of my project fee and upgraded to a premium account for the next month which will give me extra features and allow me 40 connects instead of 3.
I like investing in my business with writing dividends and feel like it's a smart way to grow my potential client base. Besides, the gig was an extra gig so I treated it a little bit like found money. Whenever I find money, I try to plant it and make it grow a little so hopefully my success rate with Elance will grow too.
If interested, check out Elance here.