One of the most challenging things for clients when they first get started on Elance can be the process of writing a job post. You put up your post, only to find that either no one submits a proposal, or you get dozens of unqualified bids to sort through. In some cases, you might wind up spending hours answering questions about the project from interested contractors, only to come up without a satisfactory prospect. Finding the right contractor on Elance is, in part, reliant on your job post. You need to create a job post that accurately reflects the work you want to have done, as well as the type of contractor you want to do it.
Here are several elements you need to include in your job post if you want to find the right candidate the first time:
1. Create a descriptive job title.
Your job title needs to be succinct, but it also needs to contain some essential bits of information. “Writer needed” might be accurate, for example, but it doesn’t tell contractors what kind of writing you need to have done. Try to include at least the specific type of work you need to have done. For example, your title might be “Sales page writer needed,” or “Blog post writer needed.”
2. List your actual project budget.
One of the more frustrating experiences for clients occurs when they either simply accept the default project budget, or when they put in a budget that doesn’t reflect their actual willingness to pay.
If you want to have 50 blog posts written and you list your budget as $500, for example, you’re not going to get bids from those contractors whose rates are above $10 per post. That’s not a problem if that’s the level of writing you’re looking for, but if you can afford $20 per post and want higher quality, you’ve got to set the budget correctly.
Building a freelance business requires more than marketing to new clients and completing assignments for them; it’s also essential to keep your skills and industry knowledge current. Recent studies have found that the average company spends more than $1,000 per employee per year on professional development. In order to keep up with the companies you’re working with—and your fellow freelancers—it’s important to spend money on your own development, too. As an entrepreneur, training and ongoing education can give you a competitive edge in the marketplace.
Here are five strategies for freelancers who want to stay at the top of their game.
1. Read about your industry.
Paying attention to industry trends can help you demonstrate expertise in your subject area when dealing with prospects and clients. Writing blog posts and bylined articles about industry-related trends and topics in the news can help you to market your services to a wider audience and build your client base.
Industry-related books and magazines fit into most small-business budgets and are generally tax-deductible, and, of course, blogs and websites are mostly free. Spending as little as 30 minutes a day reading the latest news and opinions broadens your perspective and knowledge in your field.
So you’ve joined Elance and you want to know what’s the best way to get out of the starting gate and become a serious contender in the bidding wars. You’ve probably noticed that there’s often fierce competition for projects, that some Elance contractors bid low, some Elance clients offer low prices, and that seasoned Elancers have a big head start when they have lots of great reviews.
On the flip side, I see new contractors coming on like a storm all the time. There they are, brand new, and lo and behold they have 4 or 5 projects in the first couple of weeks with 4 or 5 great reviews. And they don’t necessarily have amazing credentials—just some good basic experience and probably some good samples. When I see their quick success, what does that tell me?
They’re serious about starting their business.
They probably have a competitive streak (a good attribute in this business).
They’ve been bidding a lot—you have to bid a lot when you’re just getting started.
They’ve been buying extra Connects so they can keep bidding. (Note: spending $20 or $30 or $40 on extra Connects the first few months is not a big cost for starting a business!)
They’re probably checking for new projects every couple of hours because they’ve figured out that with newly posted projects there is less competition. (The projects come rolling in all day long and many clients choose someone quickly.)
They’re choosing small projects to get started, knowing that seasoned contractors usually bid on larger projects.
They’ve been careful to pick decent projects with good clients (more about that later).
They must have done a good job because they’ve received good reviews.
Technological advances of the past decade—such as high-speed Internet access and low-cost computing devices—have created a truly global workforce. Companies can now contract with a web developer in Pakistan or Russia just as easily as one who lives down the street. In fact, an Elance survey shows that eight in 10 small businesses plan to hire at least half of their workforce online in the next year, and the platform’s pool of qualified contractors consists of candidates from more than 150 countries.
There’s a strong financial incentive for U.S. companies to work with international contractors: professionals who live in places with lower costs of living often charge more affordable rates. However, working in a global marketplace offers a few initial challenges, such as language barriers, cultural differences, and varying time zones. Here are a few strategies to help you establish and maintain positive working relationships with international contractors.
1. Hire through a reputable source. Outsourcing agencies and platforms typically vet candidates before they allow them to bid on any client jobs. For example, Elance requires contractors to pass an admissions test before they can complete the registration process. While it is up to clients to continue evaluating candidates on their own, having a primary level of admissions standards is important.
1. Stress Unique Selling Points in Your Profile: Many contractor profiles open with personal information, mission statements and service menus. However, chances are many clients don’t prioritize these items. What they really want to know is whether you’re qualified to solve their problem or meet their needs. They want to know what you can do for them—not your children’s names and ages. Prove that you’re qualified—more qualified than any competitor—by highlighting your expertise. Demonstrate that you’ve solved similar problems and achieved similar goals for similar clients in the past.
Stress your unique selling points—the credentials and experience that make you the best choice for the work you want. Selling points include: education, work experience, awards, success stories and testimonials from former clients and bosses. Nothing makes a prospect feel more confident about hiring you than a solid track record.
Sell any credential or achievement that reflects glory on you—graduating from a prestigious university, working for/with a Fortune 500 company, achieving something noteworthy in your field. If you wrote an article for The Washington Post, feature that prominently in your profile. If a website you designed gets hundreds of hits per minute, stress that accomplishment in your profile. If the video you produced went “viral,” mention that upfront.
In addition, take the time to fill out the Service Description and Keywords sections in detail. These two areas attract the eyes of many buyers. Lastly, study the profiles of the most successful contractors in your category for hints on what to include in your own.
The best Elance clients are busy people: they have a business to run or a lot of creative ideas they want to turn into income. So you don’t want to waste their time.
Suppose you’re one of five candidates they’re interested in. Does that mean they’ll be perusing five Elance Portfolios looking for appropriate samples? And then checking through five Job History sections to see the testimonials of past clients for their particular type of job?
Often buyers say: “Please include samples.” Sometimes they add (and I’ve seen this several times): “Don’t make me search through your Portfolio.” But whether they say it or not, it’s helpful for them if you include samples with your proposal. Don’t just say: “You can see a variety of logo designs in my Elance Portfolio” or “Please see my Portfolio for manuscript editing samples.” Instead, attach one or two (or even three, depending on the project) appropriate samples with your proposal. Then you can add: “For additional samples, please see my Elance Portfolio.”
As for testimonials, you could say, “Please see the Job History section of my Elance Profile for comments from clients,” but it’s better to include, at the bottom of your proposal, a few client comments that are from similar projects. Choose testimonials that are specific rather than general. Rather than “Great work!” choose one that’s more like: “Surpassed expectations once again...highest quality writing within time and budget" or "Creative design and quick turnaround on our identity package. Very satisfied.” After each testimonial, I put the client’s initials (whether they use their real name or their Elance identity). And if you like, you can add, “For more client testimonials, please see the Job History section of my Elance Profile.”
Looking for ways to gain bettter visibility in contractor search results? What exactly does it take to move up those rankings? Freelance writer and Elance veteran Cathy Reed explains how she learned to utilize the search engine from the client's perspective to improve her visibility, which translated into more success working on Elance.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been one for reading directions; I tend to jump into something and read the directions later, and that’s exactly what I did when I joined Elance. I succeeded in getting a number of projects in the first few months, and then was caught completely by surprise when I started getting invitations to bid on jobs. It was then that I realized that Elance had a search engine (I’m sure some of you reading this will be aghast that I could be so ignorant!) and I decided to find out how it actually worked.
How do clients search?
To find out what it’s like to use the Search Engine as a client, I clicked on the Hire button drop-down in the navigation bar and posed as a client looking for an editing contractor.
Here’s what I discovered:
In the left-hand column, the client can choose his Elance Category; in this case “Writing & Editing”
In the Search Bar, the client can enter a Keyword like “academic editing” or “ebook editor” or whatever else he’s looking for
In the left-hand column, the client can choose to include other options:
If he has a preference, the client can select between an Individual or Business
By Tested Skills. For example, he may want his would-be contractor to have tested Editing Skills and Proofreading Skills and Grammar Skills
Location—North America, Eastern Asia, etc. which can be narrowed it down to a particular country, state or city
Feedback Scores—contractors with 5 stars, at least 4 stars, etc.
By minimum number of Reviews—at least 5, at least 10, and so on
Hourly Rate, e.g., from $10 to $20, or from $30 to $50
Why is it important to know this? Because then you can set up your Elance profile so that the search engine can actually find you (see below). But before you do that, I would highly recommend going to the top Elance menu bar and clicking on Hire button drop-down so you can see for yourself how clients search.
How does the Elance search engine work?
Let’s say the Elance client enters the Keyword “business writing.” In that case, the search engine will search for that Keyword and then further refine the search by taking into account the Skills you’ve listed in your Profile and the same Keywords and Skills that show up in your Elance Job History. Therefore, it will help if you have “business writing” in your Keywords, “business writing” listed as a Tested Skill, and a number of “business writing” projects that you have completed and received feedback for.
It’s tough to be an entrepreneur. All those nights you spent dreaming of running your own business gave way to days of non-stop working. You may be a leader in your company, but when it comes to knowing whether you are taking your business in the right direction, sometimes you feel all alone. That’s alright because there are plenty of online sources out that can help you find the answers, commiserate with other entrepreneurs or simply reconfirm that you are headed in the right direction.
The following is a list of 40 excellent small business blogs that offer insight on the trends facing small businesses today and provide answers to some of those nagging questions. Need advice on financial management? Trying to anticipate the next big fad with consumers? These blogs will answer those questions and keep you informed.
Not all blogs are alike. Some are news-heavy, some are funny and insightful, some are in-your-face and others are an easy blend of entertainment and resource. No matter what your business style, one of these blogs is sure to be a fit. So without further ado, the 40 essential small business blogs you should be reading:
Written by Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist and principal at Union Square Ventures. Great tips on raising venture capital and other advice on how to deal with VCs, not to mention a lot of lively debate in the comments sections—with significant participation from Fred himself.
Discover ways to monetize your blog, protect your intellectual property and tips on operating your business. This blog has extensive coverage of every aspect of small business.
The entire Elance team would like to wish our community a happy Labor Day today!
To commemorate the occasion, we've put together a list of valuable resources from the Elance Blog for both entrepreneurs and online workers. We hope that you'll be able to take some new ideas from them, and be inspired into building or growing your new business—or positioning yourself to win more jobs on Elance!
Many of us dream of starting our own business at one point. Many actually now make the leap, with a new breed of lean, online startups dispensing with offices, salaried employees and pedestrian processes to gain huge advantages over conventional businesses. A no overhead startup promises lower risks, shorter time to market and smaller investment needs.
Innovative technology, online applications and a paradigm shift in business practices has made the no/low overhead model easier to adopt and even more attractive for today’s entrepreneurs. A wisely spent microbudget goes a long way—a new company can be registered, branded, located in a virtual office, setup with digital communications, marketed and made ready to sell and take payments.
Staff & Expertise
A hefty payroll is often the biggest drain on a business, ringing in as the number one expense, so new models for hiring and managing a workforce are quickly gaining in popularity. Staffing using online contractors slashes overhead and can bring on board skills and talent not easily available locally. Elance makes online hiring easy, while the platform’s online management tools help control and track hours and output. Costs are far lower compared to hiring permanent staff, and there is no need to find space or equipment for your remote team.
Everything from artwork to accounting can be outsourced for projects; Elance is a one stop shop.