Many people say oDesk and Elance (or all popular freelance job boards, for that matter) are a waste of time. They base their claim on their understanding that everyone is competing on price there and if you are on those sites, you are doomed to either fail or work for pennies.
It’s true that there are many freelancers with poor or no skills who are driving the market prices down. It’s also true that there are plenty of bad clients who are looking for nothing else but cheap labor. And then we have you, the little genius with excellent skills and high prices, who is wondering whether to waste their time on oDesk and Elance. Wonder no more – there are lots of good clients who are worth your time and efforts on both sites.
Think about it this way – those run-of-the-mill clients will hire those cheap unskilled freelancers to work for pennies and you will be left with the quality clients – all you have to do is learn how to find them.
If it’s not clear yet – oDesk and Elance are definitely not a waste of your precious time.
Don’t listen to naysayers and more importantly, don’t follow their advice blindly.
If someone tells you oDesk and Elance are a waste of your valuable time and you are stopping yourself from freelance success, this means only one thing – they did not succeed on oDesk or Elance.
Maybe they had the wrong approach, or maybe those websites simply were not a good fit for their skill set or goals. Whatever the case, oDesk and Elance were bad for them at that moment but it sure does not mean they are bad for you, right here and now.
You should make that decision yourself, based on the information you gather, not based on someone’s bias opinions.
Here’s my (bias) opinion why oDesk and Elance may be good for you 😀
Succeeding as a freelance is not about how many projects you bid on; it’s about which projects you bid on. It’s not about what your price is; it’s about what value you bring to the table for your price. Good clients know that – the sooner you accept it and start using it to your advantage, the sooner you will succeed as a freelancer.
If you are afraid of the low bidding freelancers on oDesk and Elance, wait until you see the competition in the so-called real world where you have to proactively find clients and pitch them whatever it is that you do. If you think cheap prices of your competition is what prevents you from succeeding on freelance websites, you are in for a rough ride, my friend, because I suspect you simply have the wrong mindset.
There are people who will try to undercut your prices, always, freelancers and clients alike. It is up to you whether you’ll let them do that.
Not competing on price is the first step to succeeding on oDesk and Elance
If you believe you will land any projects based on your price and cutting your rates is your main marketing strategy, you are doomed. And you are doomed regardless the market place you find your clients on – oDesk, Elance, LinkedIn or some other means of direct clients sourcing.
As we established already, there are a lot of crappy clients both on oDesk and Elance, who don’t care about your skills or expertise and are after the cheapest price. The good news is you don’t want to work with them anyway, so not being able to land their projects is a good thing, really. You shouldn’t even try…
Your goal should be to find the right clients for you. Whatever your line of business is, one thing is for sure – your desired clients will never award their project to a low-cost contractor only because of his or her low hourly wage. The good client will look for quality; they’ll look for the value you have to offer.
For the trained eye, it’s fairly easy to tell good and bad clients apart – here are a few posts on the topic: (these are for later – now keep on reading this post!)
- How to know your potential client from their job post
- How your ideal client defers from the bad one
- Red flags of bad freelance clients
If you do this the right way, you can make 100K on oDesk and Elance. Or not. It is up to you. Really.
Is this too cryptic? Let me elaborate 🙂
Not long ago, I read a case study on CopyHackers blog by Danny Margulies. He reveals his “secret strategy” how he made 6 figures on Elance in 12 months. He shares a lot of useful tips about finding good clients on Elance and why not all is how it seems.
Although he is a copywriter and I am a marketing consultant, I saw a lot of similarity in our paths (his and mine, that is). I had my dark times when I worked for pennies early in my freelance practice, because I didn’t know better (that’s a totally different story which I briefly talk about in my upcoming book – subscribe for more details!) Anyhow, in the end I succeeded on oDesk in a very similar manner Danny Margulies describes in his post so read it – I know it works just like he says!
But let me tell you – being a successful freelancer doesn’t necessarily mean making 100K on oDesk or on Elance. That’s one of the beauties of freelancing – you decide what your definition of success is.
For example, I never made 6 figures in 12 months on oDesk but that’s because I never wanted to.
If I do the math, with my current rates, I should be able to make 100K a year with a 30-hour work week and a couple of weeks off every year. But I don’t want that, I never did.
Freelance has never been about money for me. I work on clients’ projects only to make a decent living – to pay the bills, to travel, to invest in my own business ideas, to set some money aside, whenever possible, and that’s about it. I never planned to retire on my freelance activities. I can, many people do – it’s just not something that I plan. Except a few busy weeks a year, I rarely work on clients’ projects for more than 15-20 hours a week.
For me being a freelancer is all about having control over my time and life; not living my life according to somebody else’s schedule; being able to travel; working on my own projects and most importantly, having the freedom (financial and personal) to figure out a way to never ever have to work again.
oDesk and Elance are a great place to help you do just that.
Among other things, they save you a lot of otherwise unbillable time:
- You don’t deal with invoicing your clients – clients pay to the website, you get your money from a single entity (the website), regardless the number of clients you have; both websites have great one-click-type of reports, and for bigger companies, they offer payroll services, too.
- You don’t waste your time chasing payments because both oDesk and Elance guarantee you’ll get paid on time – either with time tracking and work diary for hourly projects, or with escrow service for fixed price jobs.
- You have a super easy way to land repeat business because your clients can rehire you for the same type of work with a few clicks.
- You build a profile with proven track record and reviews, which in turn leads to a lot of interview invitations and sometimes even direct job offers. Lead generation has never been easier. (Nothing is required of you, except doing your job – the website search engine takes care of the rest and puts you in front of your potential clients when they search for professionals with your skill set.)
The naysayers often complain about the fee freelancers have to pay to use oDesk and Elance – 10% for oDesk and 8.75% for Elance. But think about it – isn’t it a small price to pay for all the convenience those websites offer and the time you save by not doing certain things? As I said, you don’t chase overdue payments from clients, you do a lot less accounting, you generate leads without lifting a finger…
Besides, if you invoice your clients directly, you still pay fees to PayPal, your bank, and so on. Nothing comes free in this world, you know that. So think carefully what you get in return for the freelance websites fee and how much it’s really worth.
Now you know why I say oDesk and Elance are not a waste of time.
Do me a favor – the next time someone tells you these websites are a waste of time, don’t just take their word for it. Ask questions. Find out what they base their claim on. Consider all possibilities. Give it a try to make a decision based on your empirical experience.