Today we’re excited to introduce another regular contributor to the Elance blog, Bruce Lilly. He spearheads Editorial Services by Bruce and is a regular contributor of prose to our online work platform.
You write proposals until your wrists ache, your coffee’s cold and the sun’s dying, and still no bites. How can you find a job if nobody will give you a chance?
Hi, my name’s Bruce. My business Editorial Services by Bruce recently became one of the top 50 of over 12,500 Writing & Translation businesses on Elance. A lot of work went into this milestone, but 2 key questions are perpetually in my head before applying for any job.
· What do I as a freelancer value in this job in particular?
· What does my client value in a freelancer?
In that context, I’m going to share 2 simple ideas with you that will net you more jobs. It’s not rocket science, and they’re not Rockefeller tips. But they might just be enough to get your Elance car rumbling to life—or, if it’s already started, to help you find the accelerator.
Maximize your profile value before anything else.
Some people might tell you to “fake it ‘til you make it’” right out of the gate when it comes to Elance. Sign up and then shoot for ridiculously high rates. Sure, you won’t get every job, they might add, and your client might bargain you down, but at least you’ll land among the well-paid stars.
You’ll soon come to realize—like we all do—that unless you’re Blake from Glengary Glen Ross most clients will just ignore you if you charge too much and have no experience. You usually need a few healthy-star ratings with testimonials to snatch any truly high-income gig. Job History Feedback is often cited as the most valuable variable that clients use when deciding to hire a freelancer.
Today Jens Jakob shares his experiences on achieving massive success through SEO and PR. His secret? For a bit of background, he believes that shoe brands dictate what running shoes should be popular, which is not ideal. Therefore, he started RunRepeat.com – a platform that compiles running shoe reviews.
Washington Post, The Guardian, Fox News … the list goes on and on. If you’re working with SEO or PR, this post will no doubt inspire you. I went big and the return on investment was breathtaking. Our organic growth increased more than 500% in 3 months. Here’s what I did in three simple steps:
1. Brainstormed ideas
2. Build a team
3. Pitched ideas to journalists
Let’s get started.
Step 1: Decide What Kind of Research You Want to Conduct
I’m in the running shoe business and did research on marathon running. Why?
• Running shoes and marathon running are within the same field
• There is plenty of free data available on marathon results
• Marathon running is hot
It would be ideal to do research on running shoes, but collecting data would not be easy.
Step 2: Find a Team That Can Make Things Happen
The chances are next to zero that you’re 1) a statistician, 2) good at Excel and data collection and 3) good at PR. Solution? Find people who are good in these areas. Here’s what I did:
• Found a Vietnamese freelancer who was an expert in data collection from big databases.
• Found a Philippine freelancer who’s an expert in data entry
• Found a Polish statistician
• Found an American research expert
That was the team. The final price was $2,150 and I found all four freelancers on Elance. Together we created a full research project on pacing differences across genders in marathon running, giving it the title: Women Are Better Runners Than Men.
Step 3: Pitch Journalists
My primary task was to pitch the idea journalists. If I could share one bit of advice, it would be that you should not consider pitching journalists as a discipline of wining a reporter over. You collaborate. It’s a win-win. You get publicity and the journalist gets a chance to write an awesome article.
I have some good news and some bad news about writing proposals.
The good: If you write enough proposals -- even mediocre ones -- you can get lucky and win a job every once in awhile.
The bad: Failing to become a great proposal writer will force you to work way too hard, for too little pay, since you’ll have to write a zillion proposals and compete aggressively on price.
The moral of this story is simple: why rely on luck, low rates, and the law of averages, when you can master the art and science of writing awesome proposals instead?
Here are some key mistakes you’ll want to avoid.
1. Sounding like everyone else.
Imagine going to an auto dealership and looking at 20 different car models that are nearly identical. Would you remember any one particular car an hour later?
What if, instead, you saw nineteen sedans, and one SUV. Naturally, you’ll pay more attention to the SUV, right?
You need to be the SUV.
If your proposal blends in too much, you’re effectively rendering yourself invisible to the client.
Luckily, there’s a simple way to avoid this: Become a client yourself. See what they see.
It’s easy to do. Just post a job, read through the proposals as they come in, and check out the patterns of communication that people naturally tend to fall into while writing them.
Then, make yours different so it stands out and commands clients’ attention.
2. Copy-and-pasting (even a little).
It can seem tempting to send canned proposals to clients, to save time and do less work. But this is a big mistake.
The reason why has to do with clients’ expectations.
If a client reads your website, they expect to find words that were written once, a long time ago.
But when they read your proposal, their expectations are totally different. They want you to write something that addresses them, not “everyone.”
For this reason, even a partially pre-written proposal is a definite no-no.
If a project is worth working on, then it’s also worth the bit of extra time and effort it takes to write a dedicated proposal to the client. Don’t be “penny wise and pound foolish” about this.
3. Being pushy (or trying to be Luke Skywalker, instead of Yoda).
I often see proposals where a freelancer says something like, “I am the perfect person for this job.”
The problem with statements like that is that they try to put you, the freelancer, into the role of “Hero” in the client’s story. You’re calling the shots, telling them what they should do, instead of trusting them to do what’s best for their own business.
When you do that, you’re essentially auditioning for the part of Luke Skywalker. But that role has already been filled...by the client.
They’re the hero of their story; it can’t be any other way.
You, on the other hand, are Yoda.
Your job is to support them. To be their advisor, friend, confidant -- or any number of things they need you to be.
That means that the “theme” of your proposal needs to be THEM. More specifically, how YOU are going to help them get from Point-A to Point-B.
Telling them what they are “supposed” to do won’t work.
Drama happens. As much as most people try to avoid it, sometimes it’s just inevitable. Fewer things can cause more stress than when things go awry with a client whose project you’re working on. In the five years since I have been an Elancer, I have seen many flock to the Water Cooler when things didn’t go as planned.
One minute things are rolling along nicely. Milestones are delivered on time, client expresses happiness and the job continues to run smoothly. Suddenly out of nowhere—as Elancers describe things from their perspective—stuff just hits the fan.
Client is upset; he wants to cancel the job or file a dispute, claiming something went wrong somewhere. Elancer is befuddled; she contacts customer service, and for some the advice offered is enough to proceed—one way or another. For others, the response isn’t satisfactory and they wind up seeking advice in the Water Cooler.
By and large most drama on Elance can be avoided. By following seven easy steps, you can manage to work with clients completely drama-free. Interestingly, I find that one, two and in some cases all these easy steps are ignored by both newbies and even veterans on the platform.
1. Learn to Read Between the Lines
When looking for jobs in the open marketplace or responding to invite-only jobs, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of reading between the lines.
Because most freelancers—newbies and veterans alike—read job descriptions, say to themselves, “Yeah Baby! This job was made for me!” and then start writing their proposals, they neglect to heed the obvious warning signs/red flags that are right there in the job description.
Writing job descriptions (JDs) isn’t something all clients know how to do. I have been on the client side of things for over four years, and it’s because I have been a freelancer longer that I have become good at determining a good JD from a bad one.
Trying to score your first job on Elance can be tricky. We’ve all been there!
The good news is that once you’re over this initial hurdle, things get much easier.
Still, when you’re a total newbie, it can be daunting to compete with Elancers who already have an established track record.
Even though it seems like you’re David squaring off against Goliath, it’s okay because there are advantages to being David.
You just need to know how to use them. What follows is a practical guide for doing that when you’re brand new to Elance.
1. Go after small jobs (or even tiny ones)
One way to even the playing field when you’re new is to look for jobs that are under the radar of most top Elancers.
As someone with an extensive Elance track record, my existing clients (plus job invites from new ones) keep me busy enough that I simply don’t have time to look at the smaller jobs anymore. And I know many established Elancers who are in the same boat.
But when I was just starting out, small jobs offered me a great way to land my first gigs, make some money, and get some positive client reviews under my belt -- setting the stage for more success to come.
2. Send the right samples
While many freelancers are concerned about having a “complete” portfolio, the truth is that clients are more interested in how relevant your samples are.
In fact, it’s often more powerful to have just one single sample of high quality work -- if that sample is highly relevant to what the client actually needs.
Instead of thinking about your portfolio in terms of quantity, send clients 1-3 pieces that show them you can do the type of work they need. Doing so will give you a better chance of grabbing their attention than a portfolio that’s 10x as large.
(Still working on your portfolio? For the complete step-by-step approach I used to create my first samples, check out this blog post.)
3. Respond to clients with lightning speed
Once a client receives a bunch of proposals for their job, they often make a “shortlist” of candidates, and start sending messages to those people to feel out which one is the best fit.
This is yet another area where “David” can easily beat “Goliath.” Since the busiest Elancers are likely to take a while to respond back, you can outshine your competitors by getting back to clients very quickly -- the quicker the better.
Some people think that replying this fast makes you appear desperate, but when you’re just starting out, you need every advantage you can get.
And guess what? Clients love it when you respond to them quickly, because it shows them that you’re a responsive and reliable professional.
Some things in life (and work) can’t be absorbed in school or taught in the office. They cultivate over time and become part of our existence. In the business world, this is what we call the development of the entrepreneurial spirit.
It ripens in individuals who have a true passion for creating something from scratch and they are willing to do anything to achieve those goals. You don’t need to own a million-dollar business to exhibit qualities of having an entrepreneurial spirit. It’s that special ‘je ne sais quoi’ that you exhibit everyday and how you tackle your life and career.
What is an entrepreneurial spirit?
As Forbes adequately puts it, “Entrepreneurial spirit is a mindset. It's an attitude and approach to thinking that actively seeks out change, rather than waiting to adapt to change. It's a mindset that embraces critical questioning, innovation, service and continuous improvement.”
A word so common on our tongues, but do we know what it actually means? If we had to delve deep into the roots of what exactly is entrepreneurial spirit, a starting point would be the definition of an entrepreneur, it’s French for “risk-taker”. Today the term connotes leadership, initiative and innovation in business. One’s “spirit” is built on self-motivation, inner drive and the dire need to pursue a passion. By nature, entrepreneurs are creative, original and are daredevils. It takes discipline and strong communication skills as well as characteristics such as optimism, belief in one’s self and courage.
Why do we need it?
The million Dollar question is why do we need entrepreneurial spirit? If you guessed, “to create new businesses and to motivate others, especially if you’re leading a team,” then you're halfway there.
Danny Margulies is a copywriter and six-figure Elancer on a mission to help freelancers earn more money. Find out more at freelancetowin.com
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from earning over $100,000 on Elance in just 12 months, it’s this: You absolutely can charge (and get) what you really deserve--yes, right here on Elance.
I know from personal experience. Today I consistently charge (and get) $125 - $135 per hour, which is 9x as much as I made from my first jobs on Elance.
I’ve helped quite a few Elancers significantly raise their rates, too. Many of them had hit “brick walls” in their pricing, but addressing a few common mistakes allowed them to break through to the next level.
Let’s talk about these mistakes and how they hold us back from charging the rates we really want and deserve.
Blending in with the masses.
When the services you’re offering look just like everyone else’s, it’s natural for clients to choose the least expensive option. After all, if they’re going to get the same result regardless of which freelancer they choose, why not go with the cheapest?
The truth is, as long as there’s a person (you) providing the service, then you’re offering something unique. Part of your job is to communicate that uniqueness to clients--and then charge accordingly.
Food for thought: What are some unique things about you that clients would appreciate?
Here’s another post from Sarah Ratliff’s team at Coqui Content Marketing. She and her freelancers regularly share their thoughts on ways to succeed on Elance. This post comes from noted wordsmith Marsha Buchanan.
Jamaica is open for business, but I think it will take us a little while longer to realize the gold mine at our fingertips. Sure, it’s sweet to be ranked on the Forbes list as the top Caribbean country and the third overall in Latin America for doing business, but that’s not what this is about. More Jamaicans need to capitalize on the opportunities available and connect the dots to pursue online freelancing as a means to financial empowerment.
With a brutal economic climate and a high unemployment rate, there is no way we Jamaicans can afford to sit and twiddle our thumbs, for dreams must be realized, bills must be paid and we must get on with the business of making a living. In light of this fact, some Jamaican entrepreneurs are choosing to take their businesses online and monetize their skills. The thing is that while the Forbes list has good news for foreign investors who might be interested in doing business in Jamaica, Jamaican entrepreneurs have to face their own set of challenges. Just check the statistics on the Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) survey done by Balcostics Limited.
These numbers indicate the hardship of a regular Joe or Jane trying to run a business in Jamaica. If you have your heart set on building a profitable business the traditional way, prepare yourself for a mammoth task. This has been one of the biggest reasons young professionals are seeking to run leaner and smarter businesses by getting into online freelancing. This is where I do a happy dance and thank the heavens for online freelancing sites like Elance, but the reality is there are thousands who have no clue Elance even exists, let alone what it is. I suppose because of my own knowledge of the various freelancing sites and the opportunities to be had, I just took it for granted that most Jamaicans knew too. This expectation was especially because of what happened in 2009.
Back in 2009, Jamaica’s Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) sector outlined as one of its main objectives the intent to create a strong ICT framework that will see Jamaica established as a regional investment center for ICT companies and reliant service industries. Of course, they recognized that before that could be done they would have to partner with a country or organization that had experience with this. So in 2012, the World Bank teamed up with the Jamaican Government and the ICT sector to spearhead Digital Jam 2.0, which has been the most important event that launched Jamaica into the virtual world of work.
Here is sage advice from Remisha Hasnain, who has been happily working on Elance for over 5 years – often with her son at her side.
Have you ever felt that motherhood has brought your career to a dead end? The set of skills you once possessed, are now left unnoticed? Your lifestyle after the baby has limited you to constant diaper changes, cooking, cleaning and well catching up on the much-needed sleep?
Well if so, then you are not alone. Being a mom of a two-year-old boy (read: utterly notorious boy), I have learnt that the stress of excessive baby work is one essential part of motherhood. It not only makes you realize your strengths, but also helps you strive to achieve your goals. However this also requires a bit of extra effort, which you may regret now, but are going to appreciate in the long run. Trust me! All you need is patience, time management and most importantly the will to achieve your set goals.
Mentioned below are a few guidelines, on how you can manage to keep your sanity intact, while working and handling your baby all together.
As much as we think things are going to remain the same, except one addition of a family member, they don’t. With the arrival of your cute little bundle of joy, your priorities, work load and lifestyle start to change simultaneously.
To begin with, as per experience, home based businesses or freelance jobs are a much better call for mothers. As they give you the freedom to choose the place and time, that fit you best. However that doesn’t mean they require any less effort when compared to office jobs. The key to a successful career along with bringing up a baby with utmost affection, is time management, focus on the goal and promise to never over burden yourself.
Occasionally we invite people to discuss issues of importance to our community. Here are some thoughts from Adam Rossi, an Elance client and owner of Elvaria.
The freelance economy and 3D printers have converged to dramatically lower the time and cost associated with creating a new prototype. Recently, I was shocked at just how effective this combination has become.
My company, Elvaria, manufactures soft-serve ice cream and frozen yogurt machines. We frequently refine and improve the components of our machines based on customer feedback and our product roadmap. A number of the components that we use are custom manufactured based on our specifications.
The Traditional Process of Prototyping
1. Create a CAD drawing of the new part using in-house engineering or bring in a contract engineer.
2. Send the CAD drawing out to one or more rapid prototyping companies for a quote.
3. Select a vendor and wait for the part.
4. Test the part. Make refinements to the design and CAD drawing.
5. Repeat until the design is optimized.
6. Send the final drawings and specifications out for manufacture.
This usually took a few months.
A new approach.
A few weeks ago we decided to try the “new economy” approach to redesigning an agitator for one of our machines. The agitator is a magnetic mixing blade that spins in the hoppers of our ice cream machines, keeping the liquid product well mixed and preventing product separation. It’s driven by a motor located underneath the hopper and spins by magnetic force. Think of a large version of the spinning magnetic mixer you used in chemistry class.