Today I want to talk about another platform for generating some online income, whether you need it inject into your startup, to hold you over until the project pays, or are looking for a complete income stream online. A site that has essentially become synonymous with online services, has unfortunately garnered a reputation as a meeting place for providers willing to work for a buck or two an hour and clients who wouldn’t know quality work if it smacked them right on the nose.

Getting jobs on Elance is easy; however, getting big jobs on Elance that pay what you’re worth is quite a bit more challenging. Make no mistake, though – they are out there. I should know. I built my business using this site, and I’ve worked with clients there for $100 an hour or more. Jobs I’ve landed there have led me to gigs with industry giants like Efinancial, Fidelity Investments, and a handful of other household names.


Here are some tips for landing the better ones.

1. Bid a Lot

Easily the most common fail I see new service providers make is running over to Elance full of enthusiasm, bidding on one or two (maybe four if they’re feeling spunky) jobs, and then whining because they didn’t even get a bite.

This will not do at all. On a site like Elance, you’re competing with thousands of other service providers and a given bid can get dozens upon dozens of competitors. It’s largely a numbers game – you’ve got to cast as wide a net as possible.

I suggest bidding on five gigs a day, at the very minimum. When first building my business, I aimed for hundreds per week. Now, this will obviously rack up some fees, but your aim here is top feedback and ongoing client relationships.

Elance Extra Connects

Once the ball is rolling, you’ll hardly have to bid at all.

2. Get Creative With Your Bids

You can get great results by getting a little more personal with each bid and putting some extra creativity into it. Consider creating a video bid or attaching a PDF that talks about all your different services and how each could benefit the buyer – kind of like an online white paper but a bit more salesy. Other possible ideas I haven’t tried might be a mind map or quick infographic demonstrating your ideas for their project.

Obviously, the more personalized of these would not be an option if bidding on hundreds of jobs; this is more of a laser-point approach that hones in only on the best jobs when you spot a big fish. Which reminds me…

3. Tailor Your Bids to the Client

A huge pet peeve for many buyers on Elance is the “bid template,” a standardized, pre-written bid pasted into each and every job. It’s completely understandable why us writers, web designers, and programmers use these; when you have to bid on so many jobs just to land one, it would be extremely time-consuming to do otherwise.

Given the rates a lot of these buyers expect, you’re left to wonder how in the world they expect you to find the time. But the market asks what the market asks.

Fortunately, this doesn’t really mean you have to create an entire new bid for every single job…just that you have to convince the buyer you did. What I do is create a handful of bids all customized for different niches or services, and then, most importantly, I tailor them to the specific job before I post.

It’s always a good idea, for example, to mention details about the buyer’s niche or project in the first paragraph to signal straight away that you read what they wrote. I also try to insert relevant information a couple other times throughout my “template,” maybe address a concern or two they voiced, and then, if possible, attache niche-relevant examples.

In this way, you can get in a pretty substantial bid run without spending all year on it.

4. Address Common or Specific Concerns

Many clients will mention specific concerns they have in their project posting; previous experience with workers who turned in work late, didn’t turn anything in at all, or had poor English skills are common ones.

Also, each industry comes with it’s own set of concerns given the present state of the market. In the case of writing, for example, buyers worry about getting unreadable blog posts created by spammy writers. Even worse, some fret on whether the work will pass Copyscape – a shocking sign of the times.

Connect with them right off the bat by addressing these concerns in your bid. Mention why it’s not an issue if they hire you, and if they are particularly worried about this, it can really take a load off their mind if they believe you.

5. Be Picky About Your Clients

Even if bidding on dozens of Elance jobs per day, you should already have some criteria in mind for clients.

Many state exactly what they’ll pay for a job in their posting, and that’s always helpful. Other times, you can spot a cheap buyer when they use phrases like, “I’m looking for a very competitive bid” or “the most competitive bids will get special consideration.” In this case, competitive translates to “cheapest.”

You can also view a client profile to see how much money they’ve spent on Elance and what percentage of jobs posted were actually rewarded – this helps to save bids from being wasted on tire-kickers and dreamers. The client in this pic, for instance, is clearly not a bottom-feeder.

Elance Big Fish

A good client will often talk about the high-quality work they are looking for and mention that they’re not looking for a cheap provider. These are obviously good leads. Also, look for clients who mention ongoing work, as this is where the real money is in these sites. And check out the stated budget too, as this can give great info about their expectations.

These are just a few of the tactics I use for getting jobs on Elance. It takes some time and experience to really get good at selling yourself, but if you put in the effort, Elance can become your sole source of income. Stay tuned for my next article, which will present a handful of more client-getting tips.


Part 2