Most freelancers get their work through a mix of referrals, cold contact, and on bidding sites.
If you talk to more experienced freelancers, you likely won’t hear too many kind words about them, but I want to tell you something…bidding sites can be a source of lucrative work for any freelancer at any experience level, as long as you know how to set yourself up and how to filter through the jobs that aren’t worth your time.
Where do I find bidding sites?
Freelance sites are popping up everywhere (since the freelance workforce is growing like weeds) and the old staples of Upwork and Freelancer have run into some serious competition. The sheer number of sites can be a bit intimidating, but it’s still good news for you since it means more choice and potential exposure for your work. Here’s a list of 71 if the big players aren’t working out for you.
Also, don’t forget traditional employment sites like Indeed (awesome!), Monster, and CareerBuilder where a search/reminder for the keyword “freelance” can pull up some really nice gigs. Just have a resume dedicated to your freelance work ready.
Peace of mind tip: Choose just a few sites that fit for the kind of freelancing you want to do and your experience level and focus there. I personally only keep about 3 going at a time (I start ignoring alerts if I’m getting too many), but you can probably manage more if you’re efficient with your time.
Creating Your Profile
I’m a fan of keeping these kinds of things simple.
My very first office job involved me spending large amounts of time going through resumes and let me tell you…I can’t explain how much I appreciated candidates who told me right off the bat whether they met the minimum requirements of what I was looking for.
Remember, a person with 852 other things to do is reading through your profile, so get straight to the point of what benefit they will get from working with you…that means not leading with a paragraph about your passions, side interests, or freelancer story. While these things might be selling points down the line, at this point, you’re trying to stand out from everyone else, so don’t waste time with extra words.
I like a format where you list what sets you apart and then breaks down experience. Make sure to use headings and bolding if available.
What’s possibly more important than your body text is your headline. It’s the first thing people see, so be direct and descriptive…if for example, you’re a freelance writer who blogs for web design companies, go with something like “Punctual Writer–Web Design And Development.” (Notice the little note in there that lets people know they won’t have to worry about you slowing down their projects.)
Don’t hesitate to try different formats, content, and combinations until you find what works best for you. Also, take a hint from the jobs you apply for…you’ll likely find some common language and keywords that the kind of companies you want to partner with use frequently.
(If you want to get feedback on your profile, take advantage of your free trial month of our premium membership and come join us in the forums.)
Finding Work That Works For You
OK…so right off the bat…if you’re just getting started, you might have to work some of the cheap gigs. That’s just the truth. The point of these though, is to build your portfolio, knowledge, and confidence. You’ll want to take them seriously, but also leave them in the dust as soon as you possibly can.
Once you get a bit more freelance ground under your feet, start setting minimum expectations for yourself. Don’t want to make less than $50/hr? Unless your lights are about to go off, don’t take a job that pays $30. Only want to work with companies in the oil and gas industry? Set up that reminder and ignore all those invitations from nutrition companies.
The way you go about this will be different on every site, but it basically comes down the being selective and honoring your own time. I set aside only 15-30 minutes a week to run through jobs very quickly and see if there’s any lost company out there who would be a good fit with me. (Check out this sample marketing calendar for more ideas on how to structure your work week to get more clients.)
Bidding On Gigs
Bidding can be crazy tricky, especially when you first get started and have zero idea what you should be charging.
A long time ago, I heard an entrepreneurial coach recommend that you should always have a general idea of what an hour of your time is worth in terms of money — that’s because it will help you determine what you should do yourself and what you should hand off to someone else. You’ll know how to decide if it’s a better idea to handle marketing and do your laundry yourself, or if you’ll actually save money by hiring someone else to do those things and then spend more of your time on your actual work.
For me, I figured that out by calculating how much I was making hourly in my previous work and going from there. If you have a job you’re coming from, or even a friend who does similar work, try those rates and see how they work out…and remember that there’s no shame in looking at what other freelancers on the site are charging to see how you measure up. (A guy with way less experience and education than me who was charging $200/hr while I was charging $50 got me over my price shyness REAL quick.)
Sending A Proposal
I’m not a fan of the big proposal right out of the gate. Depending on the client, they can get relatively complicated, but you don’t want to lead with complexity. What you do want to lead with, is demonstrating the fact that you want to understand client’s needs.
I ask questions…not too many…maybe two or three to let the posting company know that I want to do a thorough job. On top of that though, I’ll include a few ideas of how I envision their project working out, and one or two solid points (like the fact that I will be able to get the work done on time, or that I’ve done similar work before and including a link to specific work).
Good clients appreciate the questions and frankly, if a client is willing or able to answer questions about their project, they’ll probably be a headache to work with. That street goes both ways though, so if a bidding site allows for set questions (like Upwork) honor your prospect’s needs and answer them all.
That’s a very general overview of how to get going on a bidding site. If you want to start discussing your profile with other Black freelancers, remember that can sign up for a completely free membership option that gives you access to the general discussion forums as well as weekly tips. Have a great day, and try out some bidding as soon as you can.
P.S. Any other questions on bidding or bidding sites? Leave them in the comments.