Is Elance Worth the Trouble?

Freelancing is one of those businesses that is hard to give universal advice on because so many people do it for so many different reasons. I am legitimately trying to make a living writing; other people simply write for fun in addition to their full-time job. Either way, and even if you’re somewhere in between, a lot of people ask me about my experience on Elance. 

My advice about Elance is somewhere between the article I posted about things I wish I had known when I started out, as a writer and the post about not being arrogant and thumbing your nose at work. 

I started out exclusively writing for clients I obtained through Elance. 

Now I’m going to do something shocking. I’m going to give you advice, and then actually give you numbers and figures to go along with it. I know, right? I could write a whole blog about the times I’ve seen blogs say things like “You can find some outstanding clients that pay ten billion dollars a word” and then never tell you where they found these clients. Selfishness is not the way to success, guys! 🙂 

But seriously. When I started out, I was only making 1 penny a word on Elance. Why? Well for one thing, I didn’t know any better. I had no idea I could be asking for more. For another thing, I needed work – period – and I actually did do relatively well with that fee for a time because I write fast and chose to write about things that weren’t that difficult and that didn’t require a lot of research. 

Be strategic as a writer – you have to be. 

However, eventually I realized that there was really no way to make a living off 1 penny a word unless I wanted to crawl into a hole with WiFi for the rest of my life and never see another living soul, clinging to my laptop and repeating “my preciousss” over and over. 

Not so much. 

So for awhile I started writing for other places, which I still write for, such as Constant Content (love, love, love) and Textbroker (it’s okay, but it has literally paid the bills some months), as well as corporate clients (upcoming blog) and pitching to publications (still waiting). 

However, I have recently – as in today recently – returned to Elance after a friend of mine, who does freelance graphic design work there, clued me in to a pretty “obvious” fact that I hadn’t quite figured out. 

Elance and sites like it, such as Odesk, are often seen as “race to the bottom” bidding sites. In fact, that’s how I described it to my friend. But she, more or less, told me that the only reason it’s a race to the bottom site is because I let it be. I bid low assuming people want the lowest paying freelancer. And, surprisingly, that’s not always the case. 

A lot of people who are bidding a penny a word couldn’t string a sentence together if their life depended on it. I’m not being rude, it’s just true. So when those clients have gone through a couple of horrible low-paying nightmares, they often start to realize that the higher bidders often contribute higher quality work, as well. So understand that sometimes being a middle of the road bidder can work for you. 

If you understand that you aren’t pitching to a magazine that pays $1/word you won’t be disappointed with the fee you get, and you’ll be able to get some decent work. Today I submitted two proposals and asked for 10 cents a word. Will I get them? I don’t know. But because of the type of work it was, I didn’t feel comfortable doing it for a lower amount. (There is a difference between being arrogant about pricing and simply knowing what you need to survive – it’s a balancing act.) 

However, I still bid as low as 3 cents a word sometimes on Elance if it’s something I know I can type quickly and that I already have some background knowledge in. 

Case in point, Elance is definitely worth the fee negotiating, proposal crafting, sample writing, and scouting if you know how to pitch and who to pitch. I wouldn’t write off Elance at all. Follow these quick tips and you shoul dbe able to find success on Elance: 

  • Write what you know – if you need a textbook to research for a project, either charge more or don’t submit a proposal. The faster you can work, the more you net from your fee. 
  • Understand where you are – if you aren’t going on Elance expecting to get rich, then you understand the market. It is intrinsically low budget, but it doesn’t have to be a pittance, either. 
  • Stay in your comfort zone – if you feel like a project is worth $200 and not a penny under, pitch for $200. If you don’t get it, oh well. Taking work that is below what you feel you really need for it will only lead to resentment and poor work. 
  • Be consistent – I submit at least 2 proposals every day just so I have a pipeline of possible work from Elance. 
  • Be professional – You never know who these clients know and, sometimes, even who they really are so you want to present yourself professionally at all times; it could open doors for you later. 

For my time, Elance is worth it. I wouldn’t spend day after day submitting 20 proposals a day, but I definitely spend at least an hour a day on there just following up with proposals and submitting new ones, and so far I’ve had a really good experience there.

Hopefully this helped! 🙂 

Tomorrow I plan to tell a little bit about all the places I write for/pursue for clients and how I structure my day so that it might help someone else out there wondering how to manage the plethora of writing opportunities. 🙂 

Until then, have a super day and God bless! 




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