I’ve been talking to a lot of freelance writers over the last few months as I work on some information products I plan to launch in the near future. One of the most hotly contested topics that has been brought up during these discussions are the advantages and disadvantages of job boards. There seems to be an even split of those who absolutely love sites such as oDesk and Freelancer to source new writing gigs while others avoid them like the plague.
The advantages of these services are easily recognizable; a large number of potential clients and projects to bid on, most handle escrow payments, a feedback system to rate both freelancers and clients, etc. What might not be as apparent to newcomers are the disadvantages to using job boards to attract new clients. I wanted to outline a few of the items that I found to be rather discouraging for those that may be looking at using them in the near future to secure some online writing jobs.
The biggest disadvantage to using freelance job websites is the sheer number of competitors that you will be bidding against for any given job. It is not uncommon to have hundreds of people or agencies bidding on any given project. This means that regardless of how accomplished you are as a writer, it will be hard to get the attention of the buyer, especially if you are new to the service. Feedback seems to be crucial for a number of buyers so if you’re just starting out you, your proposal may not even be opened.
One of the best ways to set yourself apart from the competition is to make sure your message to a prospective client has a catchy title or heading that will compel them to take the time to review your proposal or outline. Another key tip is not to use the tried and true “cut and paste” letter that outlines your background, interests and why they should hire you. Take the time to personalize your pitch to the buyer so that they know you are serious about writing killer content for them.
The other big disadvantage of job boards is the pricing expectations of many clients. As there are a large numbers of writers and freelance content creators bidding on these projects, most buyers use this competition to force down pricing on their projects. Take time to review project listings on some of the major freelancing sites and you will notice there are a large number of postings where the buyer is looking for writers who will research, write and edit 500 word articles for a mere $2.00. This may be an acceptable wage for outsourcing companies based in the Philippines and India but won’t cut it for writers based in most parts of the world.
While there are a large number of “cheap” buyers on these sites, you can locate some excellent clients if you use a little patience and persistence. You will find reasonable clients on the site who value high quality writing or other services so you should focus your time on finding those individuals and companies rather than competing for the low paying projects that populate most of the board.
I touched on two of the major disadvantages of job boards in this post based on my experience as a freelance writer but that same can be said for any freelance service that you may offer. I know quite a few designers, programmers and SEO experts who have the same issues with freelance job sites. The biggest recommendation that I can offer to anyone in this situation is to set some goals for each site that you’re exploring and if you are not able to accomplish them in a given time frame, move on.
Here is an example from my personal experience. When I first started out on Scriptlance (now Freelance), I wanted to attract at least three clients in the first 30 days. Within 10 days I was able to accomplish this goal at rates I was happy with. When job postings started to dry up at that service, I set the same goal at other sites and as a result of this experimentation I have found three services out of the 8 that I spent time on that I can generally source work from on a weekly basis should I be looking to add some extra fund to the bank account.
Don’t let these disadvantages discourage you from exploring the job sites. Set goals for yourself and if you are not seeing a return on the time you invest in bidding on projects, shift your efforts to other marketing efforts to drum up some business for yourself.