How Do Clients See Elancers?e_darrellj | Feb 06, 2015
Here’s another post from Sarah Ratliff of Coqui Prose Content Marketing. She regularly shares her thoughts on ways to succeed on Elance.
Many people know me as the owner of Coquí Prose Content Marketing, but I am also a prolific client who exclusively uses Elance to hire freelancers.
Although many Elancers have hired a few other Elancers to fill the occasional needs of a client or to assist with specific projects, I work day in and day out with a team of freelancers who help meet the goals of our long-term clients.
There’s a big difference …
For every job I have with a client, I may hire five or more team members to fill the needs for that client.
With more than 1000 jobs awarded since I started hiring on Elance about four years ago (both one-off jobs and ones lasting six months or longer), I see the business of freelancing from a very unique perspective.
Okay, Let’s Get Down to Business.
Let’s start by debunking three common myths that frequently lead to lots of chest pounding, self-aggrandizing and pontification ad nauseam. These are myths I have read in online forums again and again and, sadly, a-gain.
“You shouldn’t start out with low rates because you’ll forever be branded a low-baller and no serious client will take a second look at you.”
“Competition is stiff on Elance. You need to sell yourself in your proposal.”
“Keep your earnings private until you reach $10k.”
Rates: What Matters? Your Past, Present or Future?
I’ll take you through a typical job posting of mine to give you the “bird’s eye view” of things.
I’m pretty methodical when I post jobs on Elance. I have a formula for my job descriptions. I always include the following in my descriptions, especially if I am posting a public job (which I only do if my exhaustive search for an Elancer doesn't jibe with Elance’s sometimes-interesting ranking of expertise):
“My name is Sarah; please address me as such. My name is not: Yo, Sir, Ma’am, Hiring Manager or Employer.
Please read the entire description and in your proposal tell me exactly how you can address my needs.
Do not include contact information in your proposal, in your samples or in your résumé—it is against Elance’s Terms of Service. If I like your proposal and samples, I will reach out to you through the Workroom and ask you for your phone number or Skype information for a phone interview.”
Unfortunately, I have found that the majority of bidders can’t resist the urge to completely disregard one, two or all three of those requests, and so they make my job extremely easy. Following directions for them is apparently a hardship, and I don’t want to work with people who can’t follow the simplest of directions.
The result? Declines en masse, and yes, I will report them—not because I want to, but because I have to.
Having weeded through more than half the proposals, I am left with a handful of possible serious contenders.
I read all of the proposals. If I am moved, I check out your samples. If I like what I see in your samples, I move on to your profile. From there I have a checklist.
· What story is your Company Snapshot telling me?
· Does your overview tell me who you are and why you’re perfect for my job?
· What’s the ratio of open and complete jobs to cancelled ones?
· What do clients say about you?
I look for four things in the Company Snapshot:
1. Overall rating
2. How many jobs and clients have you had in the last 12 months?
3. How many clients have rehired you?
4. What's your recommendation score?
And more specifically, what am I zeroing in on?
1. If your rating is a 4.8 or higher, I’m listening
2. Contrary to what you might suppose, for me, less is more
3. I personally love to see a repeat client rate of 30 percent or higher—50 percent or higher and my eyes are large with excitement!
4. If your recommendation score is 90 percent or less, I’m no longer listening (not likely if you've got a high repeat client rate)
Why do fewer jobs speak to me but more jobs turn me off? One of two things is happening with Elancers who have many jobs. Either you’re farming out work without your clients’ knowledge or you’re so overbooked, you’re guaranteed to be late delivering my job. And if you’re late with delivery, guess what? So am I when delivering to my clients.
Then I move on to your job history. Once there, I sort through your “All Jobs” by:
· 4 and 5 stars
· 3 stars
· 1 and 2 stars
· Working jobs
· Completed jobs
· Cancelled jobs
I make a mental note of roughly how many are in each category. As you might imagine, if you have too many cancellations, I'm no longer listening.
I said earlier that I am only interested in an overall rating of 4.8 or higher. However, when I look at individual feedback on jobs, I am more interested in what prior clients had to say vs. the rating.
· A 5.0 with the words, “Thanks” doesn’t impress me
· A 4.6 or higher with specific feedback about your quality, expertise and professionalism speaks volumes to me
· Given the caliber of freelancers I have on my team, I am disinterested in anyone who consistently receives a 4.5 or lower—that’s not acceptable when my clients have come to expect the quality we’ve been known to give them over the last five years
I look through as many jobs of yours as I need to in order to establish a pattern and take you from a faceless blob to a person who could possibly partner with me—either to fill the needs of one of my clients or to assist me with my own needs.
Oh yeah, that myth that no serious clients will look twice at someone who used to charge low rates? It’s simply not true.
As a freelancer, I started out as low as it gets in the Writing & Translation category. I can assure you my clients—all of whom are quite serious—pay no attention to what I earned as a solo freelancer back when I started years ago as they're considering us for their job today. As they're going through the same ritual that I describe, they don't have time to notice, and they really don't care anyway.
As a client, when I look through your old jobs, I could care less what you charged in the past. In fact, I would hope you’ve raised your rates at some point and that you continue to raise your rates.
If you aren’t, something is wrong …
All that matters as far as money goes is what you want to charge me for this job. Is it something I can afford?
Writing proposals is both a skill and an art. So much so that I wrote an entire blog
about it and I only scratched the surface writing it. I’ll give you the high level.
Resist the urge to tell your prospective client you’re absolutely amazing over and over and o v e r a-z-z-z-z-z. Fewer things put me to sleep faster than someone who’s in love with him or herself.
Here’s a clue: the job isn’t about you.
It’s about me and my needs.
Address them in your proposal.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to imply that I am not interested in who you are as a person. In fact, if I'm impressed enough to want to call you for an interview, I'll want to find out who you are. Personality is as important to me as expertise. I just don't want to know all that in your proposal.
In a discussion I was having with a colleague, she phrased it very succinctly.
“The proposal pattern should be Client, Client, and then You. In the ‘You’ portion of your proposal, you have to be as stealthy as a Jedi Knight.”
There we go.
Earnings: To Display or Not to Display?
I have as much interest in how much you’ve earned on Elance as I do in who won X Factor or the Super Bowl.
It doesn’t tell me one way or another whether you can do the job I am considering you for.
Think about this for a moment. How could your overall earnings have any relevance to the job you're bidding on? And as a prospective client of yours, wouldn't it seem like a bizarre question for me to ask you how much you've made on Elance?
And here’s the kicker: If you bid on my job, I can see your earnings, even if you keep them private. Not my choice; talk to Elance about that one. And even after I've seen your earnings, I'm still going on my reconnaissance mission through your profile.
My guess is that the display of earnings only matters to other Elancers so they can benchmark themselves against you and each other. If that doesn't bother you, make them public. If you're like me and don't want to invite speculation, make them private.
And here's the question I have for those who freely offer this advice to those new-to-Elance freelancers who wonder whether they should display their earnings: Why $10k? What is so special about this number that after reaching it, you go public with your earnings?
All it tells me is that it gives your competitors one more thing to wag their tongues about. "So and so reached $10k six months after I did."
And if your competitors have that much time to speculate about you and your freelance business, guess what they're not doing?
My mom used to say to me all the time, "Sarah, don't compare your insides to other people's outsides."
Now that I have shared all this with you, my biggest question to you is, how will you change your bidding strategy? Leave a comment below and let me know.
PS: Looking for more free Elance tips? I recommend Danny Margulies' Top 5 Elance Hacks.