Each of the main online freelance job sites – Elance, oDesk, PeoplePerHour and Freelancer.com – have guides detailing what they think it takes to be a successful freelancer, communicate well with clients and run effective freelance projects.
While undertaking freelance work in these online marketplaces is an art in itself, there’s loads of useful information in these guides that you can apply to your freelance career – no matter where you work, what your industry is and whether you freelance online or not.
With these freelance job sites, there are thousands of freelancers competing for jobs and perhaps a hundred or more bidding on the same job, so how do you make your freelance work stand out from the rest?
Here are their ideas and important steps you can take to improve your freelance work:
oDesk’s 7 Habits of Successful Freelancers
- Communicate early, communicate often: Be proactive—don’t make your client come to you.
- When in doubt, ask: This will help clear up confusion, save time, and keep the job going smoothly.
- Set clear expectations: Provide honest and realistic project updates and quickly alert your client when you encounter a problem.
- Respond quickly: Clients get concerned when they don’t hear from a freelancer
- Hit deadlines: Deliver your work on time, every time. If you think you’ll miss a deadline, let your client know so they can plan accordingly.
- Be a pleasure to work with: Listen to your client’s concerns and respond with a smile. A positive attitude is key to building your professional reputation.
- Under-promise, over-deliver: Never promise more than you can deliver and always give a little extra to every job. That’s the secret to happy clients and a successful career!
Elance’s 6 Tips To Win More Freelance Jobs
- Stress Unique Selling Points in Your Profile: Many freelancer 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. Prove that you’re qualified by highlighting your expertise. Demonstrate that you’ve solved similar problems and achieved similar goals for similar clients in the past.
- Create an Ideal Client Profile: Some freelancers make the mistake of trying to be all things to all clients. Instead of wasting time pitching on almost any job, create an Ideal client profile. This helps you spend time more wisely, targeting only the buyers with whom you most want to work, and who are most likely to hire you. Once you have a clear profile of your ideal clients, you can focus attention on the prospects that are most likely to hire you. This will increase both your profitability and your reputation.
- Write Awesome Proposals: Making a great first impression is key. Remember, you’re selling yourself, as well as your capabilities. Ask the client thoughtful, relevant questions. Outline your processes, and include a detailed timeline. Then, establish standard communication channels and frequency, and spec-out your milestones. The prospective client will know that you mean business.
- Act Fast: Once you see that a job that fits your skills, prepare your proposal as quickly as possible without sacrificing quality. By responding quickly, your proposal will be one of the first that the client sees.
- Manage Your Reputation: Feedback is one of the most important components of your freelance track record. To build a 5-Star reputation, complete your projects on time, treat your clients respectfully, and communicate frequently.
- Stay Connected: Clients appreciate fast turnaround, and want to keep projects moving forward by answering your questions and requests for information ASAP.
Freelancer.com’s 10 Tips for Writing an Effective Freelance Bid
- Read the project description carefully: After all, if the employer doesn’t feel you understand the project, you’re not likely to win the bidding. Besides, many employers will ask for specific details that you need to be aware of. In fact, employers often include a phrase that must be included in your bid in order to have it considered. The bottom line is, you should always take the time to go through the description thoroughly.
- If you have questions, clarify: Winning a project without knowing exactly what you’re getting into isn’t a good situation for you or the service buyer.
- Keep your bid clear, concise and to the point: Remember that the employer may have dozens or even hundreds of bids to consider. It’s very likely that every word of every bid isn’t going to be read. Bids with unnecessarily long descriptions may be skipped over completely. Don’t invite the employer to ignore your bid by making it too wordy.
- State your terms clearly: Be as precise as possible in stating exactly what you’ll provide, how much it will cost, and how long it will take to deliver. Being vague about your terms implies a lack of confidence. If you’re not confident in yourself, the employer won’t be, either.
- Respond promptly: Ensure you keep yourself available for contact.
- Quality, not quantity is usually the rule of thumb when submitting samples: Be sure that your examples are appropriate for the job and represent your best work.
- A word of caution: Unless you’re prepared to give your work away, any samples you provide should bear a watermark or other means of identification or at the very least your name and a statement of copyright.
- Be competitive with your pricing: Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be the lowest bidder. Bidding in a world-wide marketplace makes for tough competition, but if your work is truly above average, you may find that employers are willing to pay above average prices. On the other hand, if you’re relatively new to freelancing, you may need to establish a reputation first.
- Don’t oversell yourself: A little self-confidence is a good thing, but over-the-top claims probably won’t impress anyone. Being frank and honest about your skills will get you much farther than a lot of hype
- Proofread your bid before you submit it: Is it written clearly? Are there misspellings? No matter what kind of project you’re bidding on, a poorly written proposal suggests a lack of interest and poor work habits. Neither of those is going to work in your favour.
PeoplePerHour’s 5 Things Every Freelancer Should Know When Starting Out
- Going freelance doesn’t mean work gets easier: Being your own boss sounds great, but don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s going to be easy. When you work for a company, you get to focus on delivering the job at hand, but you forget that, in order for you to do that job, someone else had to source the client, invoice them, provide marketing to your customers and employ colleagues to help you out when things got busy. To reap the benefits of working for yourself, you must be ready to endure the hard work that comes with it.
- The phone doesn’t immediately start ringing: You know that your work is amazing, your old employer knows this, but now it’s time to convince the whole world of just how amazing you truly are. Creating a portfolio, or setting up a website, doesn’t mean that all the brands you’ve ever wanted to work with will now just come running to your door. It simply doesn’t work like that. These people might not even know you exist or, if they do, realise how much they need your services, so it’s time to become your biggest cheerleader. You can do this by getting out of the door and networking, reaching out to people on LinkedIn, tapping into existing networks and pitching for new jobs. Then, once you have taken the time to build your reputation, the phone is sure to start ringing and will continue to do so as you build up your business.
- You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate: As a new freelancer, the majority of your work will come from one-man bands, startups and small businesses. The one thing they will all have in common is their need to keep within a budget, with some even bootstrapping in their hopes of success. This will never change as entrepreneurs are always on the look out for a good deal. However, they are also on the look out for quality. Your job is to convince them why they should pay your asking rate by explaining the value that you will bring to their business.
- You win some, you lose some: The truth is you won’t get a response from everybody you contact and you won’t win everything you pitch for, but don’t let that initial bruise to your ego deter you from trying. If it doesn’t work out initially, take some time out to consider why, research new techniques, address your proposal methods and then try again.
- An overnight success doesn’t actually happen overnight: If you’ve based your decision to become an online freelancer solely on the fact that you’ve read about the surge of internet success stories, then it’s worth noting that a level of success takes months, if not years, of hard work and dedication. Look at it as a long-term commitment.
Want to get more advice on how to be a happier, confident and successful freelancer? Get tips and ideas delivered straight to your inbox: