The promises of online contracting sites like Elance and oDesk are alluring. Clients will come to you. You will have a selection of assignments to choose from. Easy invoicing! Get paid!
But is it worth it? Are these online contracting sites the secret to landing more assignments?
Writers say that they are good for filling in the budget gaps -- but they aren’t perfect.
On the Inside
Shelly Cone of Beach Betty Creative used Elance when she launched her company in 2007 to help the company get off the ground. “I've had mostly a positive experience because it helped me keep a steady income until my company took off on its own. Now I still use it when I have those income lulls because it's a quick way to drum up business. It's great because until other types of customer prospecting (cold calling, appointment setting, direct mail or email) this is targeted pitching because you already know you are pitching to a customer pool already looking for your services,” says Cone.
But the experiences aren’t always positive. Berrak Sarikaya, digital marketing professional of PQ Productions has had mixed results with oDesk and Elance. “The good experience was finding a client that was very clear on the tasks he wanted me to accomplish, and gave a great feedback report at the end of our contract. The bad experiences happen before my bid even gets picked. I'll get invited to bid on jobs that are either not even in my skill set, or pay a ridiculously low price, which is just a waste of my time,” says Sarikaya.
Credit Image: Piggy Bank Yield via Shutterstock
What to Avoid
Be mindful when you are reviewing jobs to pitch for. “In general, I would label my experience ‘bad,’ due to the quality of work available. The service is an awesome resource for connecting with work when you need a little extra money, but it shouldn't be counted on to build your career unless you're satisfied with menial work. oDesk clients are generally searching for the cheapest services, rather than the highest quality, so neither side really gets a good deal,” says Dana Sitar of DIY Writing.
The job descriptions can give you insight into what you are getting yourself into. “I’ve developed a sense for words and phrases that some clients use in the job description that indicates to me that client may not be a likely fit or that they will be difficult to please. I avoid those because while I want every client to be pleased with my work, clients that are difficult and hard to please, from a purely business perspective, are also a time suck. Anything that takes up lots of your time takes you away from focusing on other money-producing activities, like pitching for or completing other jobs,” says Cone.
Know Before You Login
Do your due diligence before going for a job on these sites. “I tend to pitch jobs in which the client has a track record of posting jobs and awarding them, in which the pay offered fits the job description, and in which the job is fairly clear,” says Cone. “Check the client’s profile to see how many jobs they’ve posted in the past and how many jobs they actually awarded. If they’ve posted a lot of jobs and awarded few or none that’s a red flag.”
And finally, be selective about what assignments you go for. “Since you have a specific number of bids on both of these sites, I'm very selective about which assignments I even bid on. I look at the potential employer's history on the site, and how specific the assignments are, as well as what kind of feedback they have given to their past contractors,” says Sarikaya.