Elance: Is a Bidding Site Worth It?

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Thu, May 7 - 5:35 pm EDT | 8 years ago by
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    There are tons of bidding sites out there for freelancers, but probably the most commonly used site is Elance. Elance isn’t just for writers – it is also for programmers, photographers, virtual assistants, and more. I know many writers that use this site successfully. I also know writers who want nothing to do with the site.

    elance_logoI personally do use Elance, and have had generally good experiences. The bad experiences I have had were not really Elance’s fault; they were due to bad clients, and you get that anywhere, not just with bidding sites. So why do some people hate it?

    The biggest con people talk about is the low pay. When you participate on a bidding site, you’re competing with other writers – many based in foreign countries where pay expectation is not as high – to get the job, and the client picks the person with the best pitch. I’m not going to lie – price is a big factor to the majority of clients. However, I’ve found that if you’re willing to bid on a number of project and shift through the crap, you can find people who aren’t primarily concerned with price. They want quality too.

    I can’t argue that it’s easy to get started on Elance. My recommendation is to look for a project that you’re EXTREMELY qualified to write. Usually, this will be a job that is very niche-specific. Upload a ton of samples of your work and offer free revisions, should they need them. Don’t be afraid to really sell yourself.

    Elance is a lot of pressure, because one bad client can give you an unfair rating, which makes your entire rating drop drastically. Yes, you can respond, but most potential clients don’t look at the whole picture – they just glance at the numerical value of your rating. So, with Elance, every i has to be dotted and t has to be crossed. I’m sure you do that anyway, but you have to be SUPER careful with a project on Elance.

    Once you build up a good rating with just a few projects, you don’t have to necessarily bid really low to get a project. Yes, there will be some people who will always hire the $1 per article writers from other countries, but there are also plenty of clients who will hire the best writer for the job, even if the price is a bit higher. These clients tend to expect a lot, but are also extremely loyal. When you work through Elance escrow, you also never have to worry about them disappearing and not paying your for your work.

    Though I do have to caution you that Elance takes a chunk. A big chunk. Every time you get paid, there’s a bite out of your money, even if you have a professiona (ie, not free) subscription. The good news is that you can get your money directly deposited into your bank account, though they also have a paypal option. Keep in mind, though, that paypal takes its own chunks out of your money.

    So, let’s sum it up:

    The Pros of Elance:

    • You can test it out for free and monthly subscriptions are very affordable.
    • It’s a place to find long-term clients.
    • You can use the escrow service to you don’t have to worry about getting paid.
    • There are plenty of high-paying jobs to be had.
    • You can deposit the money directly into your bank account (or use PayPal).

    The Cons of Elance:

    • One bad, unfair rating can make it hard to get future work from others.
    • They take a huge percentage of your earnings, so you have to account for that in your bid.
    • You have to shift through a lot of jobs where clients will only hire people with VERY low bids.

    Overall, I think that Elance and other bidding sites are at leat worth a shot. Through this site, I’ve found at least 5 long-term high-playing jobs, as well as a number of repeat clients.

    Do you use bidding sites? Why or why not? Share your experiences with a comment!

    Image via Elance.com.

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      • http://www.toughquestionsgreatanswers.com/ Darlene McDaniel

        Interesting post. I have an account, but I always feel like I have to work too hard to get the jobs I want. I have bid before and even was selected as a finalist for a job, but I wasn’t selected. I would love the opportunity to do some freelance writing work over at Elance, but the investment of my time to work the bidding process was a con for me, and I stopped hanging out there. Thanks for sharing the pros and cons. Maybe, I might go back out there and try again.


      • Prefer-not-to-say

        I did well on elance – got my first job quickly, had more work than I could accept – at top prices. Then I asked a question about TOS so I wouldn’t break the terms and I got a snotty reply from an agent. The provider boards were screwed up – showing I’d been paid when I wasn’t, or that I hadn’t gotten paid when I had. Repeated requests to fix it were met with apathy and “Just ignore it.” Dude. That’s my tax shit there. But the cubicle monkeys that work for elance didn’t care. Then came client from hell – who threw off my whole schedule and caused me to work 100 hour weeks to finish assignments for other clients, which threw me into pneumonia which made me drop a big assignment resulting in a huge smackdown of my 100% rating to a 67% rating. And elance could give a rat’s ass. I’m making them tons of money – they’re treating me like dogcrap on the front porch. They take days to respond to YOUR requests, but shut your account down if you don’t respond within 12-24 hours to their emails.

        You take your life and career in hand if you don’t absolutely, totally toe the elance line and happily accept shit pay. I had some great clients but there are more who have learned if they pitch a fit elance takes their side and craps on you. Do it to get started if you must – but move on to other venues if you’re serious about being a freelancer.

      • Allison Boyer

        I agree – it’s definitely a time investment because you don’t have every bid accepted. It can be hit or miss at times, which is frustrating.

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      • Rob

        Another con is that a a lot of project posters dont actually select a bidder at all but the bidders still have to pay to post their proposal.

      • Allison Boyer

        I didn’t think of that one, but you’re right! Whether the client chooses a writer or not, and whether you’re the one who gets picked or not, you still have to essentially pay for your bid, since it comes out of your monthly allowance.

      • Lynn46

        Allison, I just did a Google search with keywords “elance pros and cons” and found your article here. I was very tempted to sign up with Elance, but decided I should do a Google search first. Elance was mentioned in the current e-newsletter of the Society for Technical Communication of which I have been a member for 17 years.

        Thanks to your insight and that of the other commenters here, I have decided not to waste my time and money for dodgy results, at best. The most compelling “con” I saw (among several) was that I would be competing with low-bidding people outside the U.S. for projects. This would just not work for me–I live in a high cost-of-living area in Maryland near Washington, DC. I absolutely cannot work at an effective rate of $15 to $20/hour (USD). It’s not worth my time.

        Lynn G, an experienced tech writer/editor

      • Allison Boyer

        Hi Lynn, Thanks for stopping by!

        Before you discount it, try signing up for the free version of a writer’s profile. That way, you can at least check it out for yourself. I’m not very familiar with the rates for tech writers, so they may be higher than what I see for blog writers, ebook writers, etc. In any case, it can’t hurt, and I’d hate to see you make a decision without trying it out for yourself.

      • Lynn46

        Allison, I see your point about signing up for Elance with a free (limited use) account. So, I’ll go ahead and do it.

        I am now reading some of your other blog posts, and I’ve learned some valuable information about freelance writing. Based on several other pieces of advice I’ve read recently, it should be well worth my time to start my own blog site. I’m considering using WordPress as the platform.

        Thanks for your advice,
        Lynn G.

      • http://kpcwriitng.elance.com Kristi Patrice Carter

        Great article about Elance – the leading marketplace for online talent. I personally consider Elance the bomb and have been an Elance service provider for over 10 years. Yes 10 years. Why? Because the model works and I find it much easier and more effective way to get quality clients that are willing to pay me for my efforts. OUt of the 700 projects I’ve done, I have had mostly positive experiences. Of course, I’ve had that several annoying clients that made me scratch my head, my feedback took a hit but I simply brushed myself off and kept going. On the more positive side, I’ve had clients that truly valued my business, loved my work and passed on my information others for additional projects so in the end the GOOD far outweighed the bad.

        Here are some tips that I’ve learned over the years:

        -Submit more than one proposal. In fact submit a lot of proposals but take your time with each one. Individualize your proposals and use the private message board to further sell your services.
        - Scrutinize buyers and don’t bid on projects from deadbeat clients. Instead focus on legitimate buyers with great buyer feedback.
        -Dont give up. Yes, Elance can be competitive but if you know your stuff, have talent, specialize and keep at it, you can succeed too. I’m just one success story – on Elance, there are many.

      • Shahid Yaqoob

        I run a company and we work on Elance as well. I would have to say that Elance is a great place to work on and those workers or companies who have a complete quality set up or excel in their skills should certainly try Elance.

        What I mean by the above is that those small companies or group of workers who do not have complete understanding of the work or who are just trying to outsource things to certain people and do not have a proper set up would def not last long on Elance. Also those individuals who do not have command over their skills would probably also not last long. I am not trying to demotivate anyone here but these are the facts. Elance is extremely competitive and because the paying rate is higher, there are many skilled workers and companies on it so you will be competing with the best. If you want to succeed on Elance, understand the market first, get a proper set up and enhance your skills.

        One thing that Elance can improve on is obviously the feedback system. As it is written in this article that no matter how hard you work, one bad feedback from a bad client (which is not really Elances’ fault) could roll back your efforts. I think Elance should have a department who should look into these sort of clients and once they get multiple complaints or identify that there was a bad client, they should offer to delete all of his/her feedback.


      • Allison Boyer

        I’m sorry you had such a bad experience! I’ve had to deal with Elance staffers myself on two occasions, and both times they were extremely patient and helpful, so I can’t share your viewpoint on that. I’ve hear other people who’ve said things similar to you though, so maybe it just depends on the person that deals with your complaint. I definitely wouldn’t say that they always take the buyer’s side, in any case.

        The rating thing is a huge con in my mind. I had one client give me a super unfair rating on Elance, and because I don’t get tons of work from there, it killed my average rating. I personally don’t think they should have a rating system like they do. People should be allowed to rate you and leave comments about your work, but clients should be to look at all your ratings, not just an average score.

      • Cristiano Barros

        I have already suggested them to build an API, so that another programmers could develop third-party software to connect to elance and make this process a lot easier. But the answer was that an API wasn´t on their plans, at least not on top priority.

        What do you think about that, Allison?

        Nice article, BTW.

        Cristiano Barros.

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