Saturday, April 25, 2009

Finding the Right Freelance Project

I joined Elance in January and found it a bit (okay, more than a bit) intimidating because I had way more questions than answers. After reading through countless forums, nagging SG, and absorbing as much information as possible, I gave it a go. It sounds like a few of you have the same questions I had; this post will, hopefully, offer some insight into finding (and landing) the right project.

When you begin scanning through the posted projects (on Elance, Guru, wherever), it can be overwhelming. There are hundreds of projects and you can only place so many bids. So, how do you narrow it down?

1. Find your niche. Is there a topic that you know well? A topic that you know inside out and backwards? Is there a specific writing style/format that you are most comfortable with?

For example, maybe you regularly blog about knitting chinchilla fur into baseball caps. There you have 5 niches already: blogging, knitting, small furry creatures, baseball, and apparel. Do you see any projects that may benefit from your knowledge on said topics/styles?

2. Decide whether the project poster and rate sound reasonable.
If you see a project like this:

“I want 500 articles written within 2 days. They must be high quality with prefect sppeelling (and I check this, I am a writer to you no). I am willing to pay $2 per 1000 word article. I need them all by tomorrow night. If you don’t have a PhD in Engineering, do not bid. This is an easy job for anyone who isn’t a moron.”


3. Okay, so you have found something that looks reasonable. Finally, you’ve been searching forever! Maybe it says something like this:

“Hi, I need (5) 500 word articles for my website. The topics are: 1) the health benefits of knitting, 2) the coolest thing about chinchilla fur, 3) what’s so great about baseball? 4) how to make your own hats, 5) blogging about knitting chinchilla fur into baseball caps. Please let me know your rate per article and an approximate delivery date. I’d like to have them within 2 weeks if possible. Thank you!”

You know it’s the perfect project. You can feel it in your tummy; it’s so yours. And then you ask yourself, “Um, what is my rate per article?” If you haven’t yet set your rates, look at the poster’s project history. If you see that he usually awards similar articles for $12 each, charge something similar if you feel it is reasonable for the amount of work/time it will take.

4. Check the poster’s feedback while you’re digging through the previous projects. If you see lots of feedback like this:

“This is the WORST Buyer I have ever worked for! He told me that I write like a first grader (I’m an English teacher!) and then he didn’t pay me for 3 months after requesting 6000 revisions.” (My example lacks the eloquence of a real English teacher.)

RUN. Better luck next time!

If you see lots of this:
“I really enjoyed completing this project for BaseballChinchillasR’Us. Clear guidelines and communication with prompt payment!”

Move on to Step 5.

5. Write a winning proposal. One of the big “no-no’s” of proposal writing is a “boilerplate” bid. You don’t want to send the same cookie cutter bid to every project. Here is an example of a no-no:

"Hire BoboBloggers International for your project! We specialize in blogging! You should hire BoBoBloggers International! We write web content! You can see samples of our awesome content at: we’"

Write a proposal that specifically focuses on their project. You want to show them why they should hire you instead of one of the other twenty providers who placed a bid. Show whatever it is that sets you apart from the rest (think Grace’s proposal that included her personal background that was relevant to the topic).

Attach samples of your writing that are relevant to the topic. If you don’t have anything that’s relevant, write something up! Just make sure that the sample isn’t something they could use for the actual job you’re trying to get. And if they ask you for a sample written specifically for the job—don’t do it! (More on that some other time).

6. Have a little faith in yourself.

Don’t apologize for being new—show them why that doesn’t matter! “Although I am new to (insert site), I have written (this and that) for (this long).”

7. Jump up and down and scream when you win your first project. Then come tell us and ask a bunch of questions that I can’t answer (but someone else can).

There are many more questions and issues to cover, so maybe someone else can jump in and offer some more insight into the world o’ freelance bidding.


  1. I love the idea of chinchilla fur baseball hats. Funny.

    I don't know if you saw it, but I asked you a question regarding the resume requirement for Demand Studios. It's under the comment section for the "Where do we go from here" blog post.

  2. Hi Shelley,
    I replied to your comment on the other post. Sorry that I didn't catch it earlier!

  3. More great insight, Kristina. Thanks!

  4. Laughing my proverbial hind end of a long eared equine creature off!!

    Kristina - this was superb. You need to look for some jobs blogging that demand a humorous slant :)

    Smashing good job.

  5. outstanding advice, Kristina. There's enough here and in the last three posts to, perhaps, finally pry me out from under my protective shell.

    Thank you all for daring to share your freelancing wisdom! ~Jim

  6. On the Elance profile, what do you guys recommend that I put in for my hourly rate to begin with? Keep in mind, I am a very beginning beginner.

  7. I left mine blank, Shelley. I've started off charging $15 per hour, but it's usually a flat project fee rather than an hourly charge.

  8. Oh yes, I see that it is not a required field. I think I will leave it blank also. I can't make up a number when I have no idea what market value is for anything writing related. Thanks.

  9. I've had a terrible time setting prices. You'll see that most projects go for a price well under market value. You're probably not going to find too many people who are willing to pay $40 per article, but there are a few.

    When setting your prices, just remember that you'll have to pay a project fee and taxes out of that money, so don't sell yourself too short. It's not worth it to write any number of articles for $2 a pop.

    It might help to slightly lower your fees to land a few initial projects, but don't overdo it or you might be expected to always work on the cheap.