Why I Stay On The Elance-oDesk Platforme_darrellj | Feb 22, 2015
Here’s another post from Sarah Ratliff of Coqui Prose Content Marketing. She regularly shares her thoughts on ways to succeed on Elance.
It’s been a journey since you registered with Elance, hasn’t it? You opened your Elance profile; you uploaded a photo and agonized over what to write in your profile. You added some portfolio samples and took some tests. You bid on and won several jobs, and I’ll bet it’s been more exhilarating than the first time Mom let you drive her car.
With a few jobs under your belt, most, if not all with excellent feedback, it feels pretty damn good, doesn’t it? Riding that wave over the last few weeks or months, you may not have been able to stop and think about the business side of things for too long. If you are anything like me, you were probably too busy working and meeting deadlines. You admit to your partner/spouse that you're in love with Elance. Forget grateful; you’re in love!
Then one day you rediscover the transactions section. Yeah, you may have seen it early on, but in the beginning there wasn’t much to fixate on: One $50 job and a few $100 jobs didn't look like much compared to the vast white space below them.
Now that you’re hitting “next page” a few times to see all the transactions, it dawns on you that you’ve made a few thousand dollars. Predictably you have two reactions: “Where’s my ‘you’re number 1’ foam finger? I am one truly awesome human being!”
This is immediately followed by, “Holy crap, I made how much money and Elance took how much in service fees?”
Both eyebrows raised, your eyes are practically popping out of their sockets. You rise up in your seat and bring your shoulders back and your neck and head forward. Now your eyes are narrowed as they focus intently on each credit (your earnings) and each debit (Elance’s fees) and dang if you can’t launch your calculator fast enough!
You continue talking to yourself as you cock your head to one side. “Are you kidding me? Am I really out a few hundred bucks in service fees? Grrrrrrr!”
Yeah, I Had the Same Reaction, Too!
Did I reenact your ‘aha’ moment pretty well? Yeah, because I’d be lying to you if I said I haven’t had many of those hair-raising, eye popping moments several times myself over the last five years.
In the beginning when you’re still on the high from earning money as a new freelancer, you honestly don’t have time for the reality of the fees to hit you. It really is as exhilarating as the first time you drove Mom’s car—until you realize the more you make, the more Elance wants a piece of your action.
It’s a bunch of crap, isn’t it?
Well, actually it’s not, and I’ll tell you why.
To put this into perspective for you: by taking our four long-term clients off the platform, the Elance transaction fees I would save are about the same as what the average Elancer in the Writing & Translation category earns in one year.
(And for the record, we’ve long since exhausted the two-year exclusivity period with these clients, so there’s no risk of violating the Terms of Service (ToS) requiring us to pay the opt out fee of $2500 or 15% of my expected gross earnings—whichever is greater—that keeps us on Elance.)
Despite the money I could save, there are several reasons I continue to operate my business exclusively on the Elance platform, but I'll list two, and both have to do with money. There are obviously numerous others, but these are my main ones.
Pay Pal is Fine, But They Don’t Chase Up Your Clients When They Go AWOL.
Have you ever had the pleasure of chasing a client all over the virtual world, including leaving nasty posts on his or her Facebook wall to get your money? My first client off-Elance turned into a complete nightmare.
He was a referral whom I thought I could trust to pay the invoice I sent him through Pay Pal because he runs a non-profit that helps kids who are runaways. I wrote five articles for him and after he posted them on his website, he stopped returning my emails and phone calls. And instead of responding to my nasty posts on his Facebook wall, he did the only sensible thing a scam artist in this situation would do: he blocked me.
Sure I could have taken him to small claims court, but I live on Puerto Rico. Did I really want to fly to Virginia to go to court over a few hundred dollars? I really dislike drama and that was drama that could have been avoided had I met him through Elance and gotten him to fund escrow ahead of time.
It was a lesson I had no intention on learning over and over, so these days to ensure my team and I get paid, I require that clients fund escrow before we start working. If it’s an hourly job and they forget to pay, six days after I submit a time sheet it auto-pays. I really like the payment protection offered by Elance.
Short Term Gains Vs. Building a Sustainable Business.
I still think back to when I was in my infancy and crawling stages of being an Elancer. I was competing for the same jobs everyone else in Writing & Translation was bidding on.
After about a year or so I decided my team and I were no longer going to be Jacks and Jills of all writing trades, and that we would decide on a niche and specialize in it.
There's a magical thing that happens as you are building a reputation in a particular niche. You start rising in rank, and as a result the invitations come. No, not the invitations to translate Mandarin into Danish or to build a website even though your specialty has zero to do with either of those things.
No, we’re talking about the private invitations—the ones with your name on them that start like this, “Hi Sarah, I read your profile and have looked at all of your samples, and I think your team and you would be perfect for my job…”
Today my team and I both live entirely off this kind of work. Although we occasionally bid on a job if it looks fun and exciting, we don’t actively look for work anymore. Rather than finding clients on the open marketplace, they come to us (or they’re repeat business).
That’s right. I said, “They come to us.”
When I think of the biggest benefit Elance offers me by staying on the platform, that’s the one that speaks loudest to me. Because I didn’t give in to the temptation to take my clients off the platform to achieve a short-term monetary gain, today Elance markets my company better and cheaper than I can market it.
It makes me think about my version of the MasterCard commercial:
· $1440 in annual membership dues for a large business registered in three categories
· 8.75% of every dollar earned in transaction fees
· Seeing a personalized invitation with my name on it that I/we have a 99% chance of winning?
Now that I have shared all this with you, my biggest question to you is, will you think twice before you put short-term monetary gain before long-term marketing goals? Leave a comment below and let me know.
PS: Looking for more free Elance tips? I recommend Danny Margulies' Top 5 Elance Hacks.