If you really love to write and are willing to put in the time and effort to make a career of it, you can get started making money as a professional freelance writer on Elance.
How To Start Making Money As a Freelance Writer On Elance
Getting started as a freelance writer used to be hard. You needed contacts, experience, a resume. Now, if you can write and are willing to put in the effort to prove it, you can start a career as a freelance writer. Don’t get me wrong here; making a living as a writer isn’t easy. You’re going to have to put in a lot of effort, work long hours, and do a great deal of self promotion. As a writer, you are the boss, the employee, and the product. You are the company. If that sounds too scary, there is a good chance that freelance writing isn’t for you. However, if you really love to write and are willing to put in the time and effort to make a career of it, you can get started with Elance.
What is Elance?
Elance is a website for freelance writers and businesses looking to outsource work. Companies and individuals can post job listings which freelancers then bid on. The client then chooses a bid, or proposal, and funds the job. When the job is complete, the funds are released. It’s an easy, low risk way for freelancers to find work online.
On Elance, as in any freelance situation, the most difficult job to get is usually the first one. The Elance forums are filled with people asking how to get that first gig. Reading the forums, it is easy to get the impression that getting a first job on elance requires some big secret that no one wants to share. I’m going to level with you here. There is no big secret. There is, however, a list of simple things you can do to make getting a job, especially a first job, as likely as possible.
Start With Your Profile
Your career as a freelancer starts with your profile. Later, clients will be able to look at your job history to see what kind of writer you are. Until then, you have to tell them. Start by choosing a professional name. Pick something that fits your style of writing. If you only write humor pieces, it is okay to craft a witty or funny name. However, if you want to open yourself up to a variety of work or don’t know have a crafty pen name, just use your real name.
Your About Me
Spend some time writing your ‘About Me’. Include references to work you have done in the past. Highlight your strengths. Tell the world and your future clients why you are the best person for their next job. Your job here is to sell yourself. Look at your writing as a product and create the best product description you can. If you’re really stuck for ideas, pull out an old employee application and browse through it for ideas.
Once you’ve written your ‘About Me,’ have a trusted friend check it for errors. This is very important. While it’s easy enough to catch errors in someone else’s work, it is much more difficult to spot errors in your own work. Simple misspellings, grammar mistakes, and missing words can do serious damage to your chances on Elance and it only takes a few minutes to have someone check your work.
The next thing you should work on is your tagline. Unlike some websites, Elance calls for a tagline beneath your name. While thinking up a tagline might feel like a chore, the tagline itself is actually a valuable tool in freelancing. In one line, just a few words, you tell potential clients exactly who you are. Play around with a few ideas and pick one that works. If you think of something that you like better in the future, you can always change it. However, once you find a good tagline, it’s a good idea to keep it. Like a business slogan, your tagline brands you as a writer and branding is always a good thing.
Add Work History
If you have any work history that can be related to the writing you plan to do or to writing itself, add it to your elance profile. In fact, anything that shows you as a professional should be added. For example, if you were the webdesigner for a niche website, add it. If you worked as a cashier at a gas station for six years, you might want to leave that out.
Don’t Self Assess
Elance takes skill assessment very seriously. While they allow you to self-assess your skills, from creative writing to advanced editing, they recommend that you use their assessment tools. Personally, so do I. Taking the skill assessment tests show that you are willing to put in the effort to prove what you know. Also, if you rank in the top ten, three, or even one percent on a skill assessment, you can mention it in your job proposals. I’ll admit I’ve received a few jobs just by pointing out that I scored in the top one percent for creative writing.
One thing you should know before diving into the tests, however. These are not your high school grammar tests. Elance assessment tests are hard. They also take a while to finish. If the test says you’ll need an hour and a half, don’t expect to breeze through it in forty five minutes. You’ll be sorely disappointed and your score will suffer for it.
Start Looking For Jobs
Once your profile is as good as it’s going to get (for now anyway), you can start looking for jobs. You’ll find the job listings under the ‘Find Work’ tag. Click on the Writing and Translation tab to filter out all the unrelated jobs, and then start looking. You’re probably going to read through a lot of jobs until you see one you like. That’s just part of freelancing. After a while, weeding through the jobs will seem almost second nature. You’ll glance at a job and know nearly instantly whether you’re interested or not. For now, just keep an eye out for something that looks half interesting and simple. Your best bet as a beginner is to find jobs writing 5 to 10 simple articles or a list of product descriptions. BMR jobs are also easy but the pay is right up there with terrible. However, BMR jobs are a great way to get in a few good ratings, even if you are working for peanuts. When you find a job you want to try, put in a proposal. I’ll explain more about proposals in a second.
Choose Your Bids Carefully
Finding a good job as a beginner on Elance is tough. Jobs range from the super easy to the impossible and everything in between. Price ranges are just as varied. Eventually, you’ll learn to tell a good job from a bad one. For now, just use your best judgment. Look for jobs that you feel you can do a good job on and that the average bid is about what you would expect to get. Then put in your proposal. Bid on a few jobs at a time. Most freelancers on Elance seem to get about a tenth of the jobs they bid on. While that may be a bit of a low estimate, it is about what you can expect as a newcomer, so it’s a good enough number for this article. Put simply, don’t bid on one job and then complain when you don’t get it. Most of the time you won’t. Just keep bidding. Eventually it will pay off.
I’m probably going to make a few Elancers angry with this statement, but I’m saying it anyway. On your first few Elance bids, you should bid low. Very low. Not working for pennies, of course, but still, low. Low enough to make the client take a second look at your proposal. In the Elance forums, they often call this lowballing. As a general rule, it’s idiotic and not at all cool. If you constantly bid less than you are worth, that is all you’ll ever make and your freelancing career will be over before it’s started. I am in NO WAY suggesting that you lowball every job you want, undercutting the professionals who have been making a living on this for years. What I am suggesting is to bid low on your first job or two because you will have absolutely zero work history and any client accepting your bid is taking a big risk, no matter how great your ‘About Me,’ Tagline, and proposal are. Unless you bid low, you will continue to be ignored. I lowballed my first job. On the next job I bid a little higher. With each job I tried to bid at least as much as the other bidders, with a few exceptions. If the other bidders are asking higher than the clients posted budget, I have no problem asking much less, if I feel the budget is worth the job.
Once you start regularly getting jobs on Elance, you should rely more on your proposal and less on your price. It’s better for you and it’s better for the freelancing community on Elance. On a personal note, I’ve found that my threshold for low budgets has altered dramatically since I started finding work on other sites. I have a new value for my work. Consequently, I make fewer bids on Elance because I don’t feel like stretching myself to fit a budget that I feel is much too low. However, I do still work the occasional Elance job. I put in a bid or two every week and will continue to do so as long as I find jobs that are worth their pay.
Write a Killer Proposal
Now that the question of price is out of the way, let’s focus on your proposal. You want a good one. No, not just a good one. You want to write an absolutely killer proposal. Put the same effort in your proposals that you put into your about me. Don’t just tell the client that you can do the job. Tell them why you can do the job better than they could do it themselves. The truth is, nearly anyone can write a passable article or product description. The client is on Elance because they want someone who can write it in the best way possible. If you think that is you, then tell them! And tell them why. Do you think you could write a fantastic article about herbalism because you’ve been studying it for fourteen years? Make sure the client knows that. Have you been juggling since you were two so a juggling article job was practically made for you? Again, tell them! Set yourself apart from the crowd of eager bidders with as many details as possible. It is the best way to win a job and a client.
Be Available For Follow Up Questions
Just writing a killer proposal isn’t enough to win a job. If the client has a question for you, you need to be able to answer it as quickly as possible. I call this step ‘being available’ and it isn’t hard to do. If you’re home and on your computer all day, keep your email where you can see it. If this means dedicating a browser tab to your Hotmail account, then do it. If you’re going to be away from the computer, have your email set up to go to your phone. Most new phones have apps for nearly every email service, so getting your email on the go isn’t difficult. If you’re concerned about getting too many email updates, dedicate a second email account to your freelancing and have that one send updates to your phone. I’ve won a good percentage of my jobs on Elance just by being available. If a client messages you and you respond nearly instantly even though the workroom says you aren’t online, you’ll earn serious credit for professionalism. It sends the message that you want to work, even if you have to send an email or two from your phone to do so.
Even if you don’t take the direct message route, try to answer all job related messages as quickly as possible. This means checking your email as soon as you start work for the day and putting in bids at the beginning of your work day rather than the end to ensure that you are awake and aware when that job query comes in.
Make Good On Your Promises
Finally, when you do get your first job (and if you follow my advice you will land that job sooner or later) make good on your promises. If you said you would have the articles finished in a week, have them finished in a week. Better yet, have them finished in six days. You’ll show the client that you mean what you say and it just might earn you a second job with the client.
Every client who pays you on Elance has the option of leaving you a rating. Those ratings and the comments that go with them are important. Later, when you bid on your second, third, or fifteenth job, the clients will be able to view your ratings to see how reliable and professional you are. Make sure your clients have nothing but good things to say about you when the time comes to give a rating. In fact, you may even want to ask them if there is anything that you can do to ensure they are absolutely satisfied with the way the job was completed. Sometimes, just asking is enough to boost their view of you from competent to professional.
Making a living as a freelance writer isn’t easy, but it is possible. You need skills, professionalism, optimism, and above all, persistence. As long as you have the skills to write, remain professional, and keep trying, you will find a way to succeed.
I hope this article was helpful to you. If it was, please leave a comment to let me know. You can also leave questions. I’ll answer what I can. I love writing and nothing makes me happier than making a living at it. If I can help others to realize that same dream, I will do what I can. It’s a lot of work, but it really is worth it.
Want to learn more about freelancing? Check out my blog on blogspot: www.brinnablaine.blogspot.com
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