Is Elance Worth It?

Better Luck Next Time

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

 

I logged into Elance today to turn off my notifications. I no longer use the site for a variety of reasons. One of which was definitely the change in policies regarding how they rate freelancers. But mostly the reason was because, well, I am just beyond that for the most part. Today while I was disabling the notifications I checked in with the recommended opportunities on a whim. And was reminded why I made my choice.

Pay was miserable for the amount of work people were looking for as well as the time frame. Things like, we want 6 1200 word articles. We’re going to pay $23 for all six. Or, looking for original ghostwritten fiction, 5K to 6K words, $40 for the project. Fast turnaround. Umm, no, no thank you.

So from that you would probably think that I would say that Elance (and other bidding sites like ODesk, Freelancer.com, etc) are not worth the time (or money!). But that’s not entirely true. Honestly, if you were to ask me if it was worth it, I would say, “It is until it isn’t”.

Let me explain. In list form because I hear the internet digs that.

1. Good for beginners

Bidding sites are great for the time when you’re just getting back into freelancing or when you don’t have any portfolio to speak of. There is a ton of work available and yes, most of it is dead boring content creation but work is work.

I point many of my friends who are not professional writers but have a handle on the English language and want to make a few extra bucks on the side in the direction of Elance. It makes finding quick gigs and managing payments super easy. If you’re only looking to earn some extra beer or diaper money, it’s a good place to run to.

2. You don’t have to chase people for money

Clients are required to put the money into escrow so you know it’s there before you even start. Which is great. If they don’t fill the pool, you don’t swim. Which is in stark contrast the greater freelancing world where people can (and will) withhold payments, pay late, or never pay at all. I haven’t actually run into any of that last set but I hear horrible things.
Although you have some clients that try to scam freelancers on the site, it’s pretty safe.

3. There’s a dispute resolution

Nobody likes conflict. With the bid sites, they sort of let you avoid it if you have to cancel a job or if the client wants to cancel. Or if you finished a project and they take issue with the work or if they want to change the deal midstream.

There are all sorts of built in features to help bypass communication errors between the client and freelancer. It’s what you pay the 8.75% for. And that’s handy.

But, there are some serious cons to the site too.

1. Sucks for making a living

Bidding takes a lot of time. You have to think of what to pitch, get your samples together and you’re going into a pool with A LOT of other workers and, let’s be honest about things. Minimum wage in a third world and developing nation is way different than a first world country and it doesn’t even come to close to most people’s ideas of comfortable.

And this is no disrespect to those workers. We all have to hustle but, if 60% of the bid pool will do the job for 2 cents a word and you want 10 cents, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what’s going to happen here.  

2. Rating System?

I don’t even really understand it. For a while I was level three in both art and writing. Which was strange because I had NEVER gotten an art job on the site but I had a ton of writing gigs with positive feedback. I also went from being a level 5 to, well a 3. So basically, the ratings are probably BS.

They do have skill tests that you can take to help boost our desirability which will likely help you get pulled up for invites but once again, it’s all about who is in the pool with you and chances are if you’re getting started, the other people in higher end pool are probably far more likely to land the gig because on paper, they probably look better even if they are actually a content mill.

3. It’s a lot a lot of time for little reward

Like a lot. There’s no way to really standardize the bid process and although you can pinpoint what sort of jobs you want to bid on, you still have to bid on them. And even if you have your bid process down to a science, you do still have to bid on a lot of gigs to find a single one that pays out.

And honestly, I don’t have time for that.

When I began to get more lucrative and steady work opportunities I dropped Elance and other sites like that altogether. I can’t say for sure that I’ll never come back to it. I may end up going for some pick up work during a dry time but it has been removed from my routine as a job source.

But that’s where I’m at in my career. I think that sites like Elance can help new freelancers really build confidence and get some work in a portfolio but it’s not great in the long term due to its limitations.

So, yes, Elance and bidding sites can be beneficial but know when to let them go and where to go to find more lucrative opportunities. Use it as stepping stone, not a business plan.

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Bidding with Focus

Love Struck

Finding work can be a daunting task and also, quite a shot in the dark. I’ve been doing this off and on for the past 7 years and it’s still very much the same landscape. It would be great if all job boards delivered only jobs that legitimate but the fact of the matter is, mostly every shot is in the dark but that’s not even the worst part. The worst part is when they try to sell you something.

Like I said, I’ve been at this for a little while and I’ve had my share of BS posts. After a bit you start to see the signs. There are the obvious ones, where the post has a link right there to some affiliate site (don’t click that! It probably won’t give you a virus but it will trap you in pop up window purgatory for a while) or it promises extreme amounts of money for very simple work. If it was that easy to earn, everyone would be doing it. They’re not. Don’t fall for the scheme.

I actually use Craigslist which is notorious for that sort of thing. Which is why many people try to stay away from it but there’s nothing to be afraid of. Sure there’s no gate keeper there (actually, the users are the gate keepers. Keep flagging bad jobs people) but I’ve gotten some pretty lucrative gigs from there and if a person pays attention, they can do the same. Scams usually don’t work very hard at hiding themselves.

But then there are the trickier ones where everything looks legitimate, they have a website, a promising email address, all the parts that equal a possible job so you apply. A few days later you get an email saying you weren’t selected but here, why don’t you sign up for some of our services or even post to your site’s message board.

Alright, stop right there.

This is a cheap tactic. Never respond to these. If your writing was good enough to gain exposure through a message board, then it was good enough to be paid for. Don’t fall for this. Don’t buy whatever they’re selling. Push the trash icon and move on the next.

The worst part of those gigs is the time that they waste. You spend your time putting together a well-crafted and thoughtful bid, only to have that sent back to you.

In order to save myself wasted time when bidding on jobs, I employ a triage system. The jobs that seem most likely go first and I spend time crafting my proposals and selecting my samples. The jobs that are in this pile are ones that are perfect for my type of writing experience and have no red flags.

Red flags are phrases such as “must be a native English speaker”, “no experience necessary”, “looking for top quality work” but has really low pay listed, etc. Red flags also include things like, low pay, poorly edited postings (meaning, not just a few typos but you’re concerned that English isn’t their first language), and links to anything other than their website or a submittable page.

If there is something in this adds that make me think that the job could be a real one, it goes in the second pile and they are bid on after the first rung jobs.  These bids are much more generic with a basic portfolio submission.

Then there is the third pile. The third pile is made up entirely of jobs that I think may be not worth my time and or frauds but they seem interesting. Most of the gigs in pile three get deleted after a second look. If they happen to still grab my interest, I send a generic bid with basic information and a single sample. I do not waste any time with these.

I have had some come back as real opportunities but mostly this pile is where you find your scams etc. Those replies get deleted and not a second thought paid to them. Once a bid system is employed, the process is more or less automatic.

Some freelancers enjoy a constant pool of work and never have to find clients. And good for them. That’s what we all want. But getting there takes time and effort. Recognizing when to bid and when not to goes a long way to saving time looking for work. Also learning to spot red flags so that you can avoid bad jobs all together helps a lot too. There are people waiting to hire you, you just have to wade through the muck to get them.

Twilight to Twilight

I See the Moon One of the most important part of juggling freelancing and a full time job plus, you know, life, is scheduling. Which is pretty elementary. Anything you read will probably say that that. I’m not a time management guru, I take three hour long naps after work and wake up 15 minutes before I’m supposed to be at my day job.

Which is pretty contrary to what most writing advice usually supports. A lot of what is out there is always suggesting that writers set aside time to work in the wee hours of morning before children and spouses wake. Before cows need milking and eggs need plucked from chicken nests. Or I assume that’s what happens that early. I don’t know. I live in the city. The idea is to make that time, those early morning predawn hours, your time. Own it. Fill it with the work.

Which is all fine and good but I’m not a morning person. Mid-morning, maybe sometimes, but early morning, that’s a big never.

Also I’m not, generally speaking, very creative or productive just after waking up. I’m just a night owl.

So rather than restructure my entire biorhythm, I just structure my life around the fact that my brain functions best between 8PM and 3AM.

I come home, I nap for a few hours and then I talk to my children about their day, settle in at my computer and get to work until I pass feel sleepy again and go back to bed.
And that’s ok.

Mornings are not everyone’s best time. It’s not my time. I fill my nights with the work. There are hours long stretches of uninterrupted time there where I can fall into things, take breaks, do edits and rewrites. I can lose myself to the work.

Mornings, that’s just me trying to squeeze in time before I have to drop everything and handle the business of life. Night time is for creation. There is no other business. There is nothing else coming that will take precedence over the work.

There is only the work and I.

Mornings are for hobbies and for things you can drop. Nighttime is for things that matter. Things that keep you up. Not things you wake up for.

It’s semantics. Everyone is different. Some people are morning birds and do well in those wee hours, snatching time from other obligations. I prefer to set out a time when there are no other obligations and in a 9-5 world, that time is nighttime.

From twilight to twilight, the world is mine.  When others are rising to begin, I’m shutting down, a night well spent. Too few hours of rest, tasks that don’t matter, and we start the process over again.   

The Best Plan

Image

I am supposed to be finishing up something else right now. It’s very late, almost midnight and this has become the norm for me. The very late night not the subtle, not so subtle procrastination. I need nine hours of sleep to function well and be happy but I’m sacrificing that for now and finding myself up until midnight or later to rise at 7 AM to go to my day job.

And what am I doing? Right now (if I was working right now, this very minute) I would be working on the draft of a short story. On some other night this week I may be writing about video games or random content. I could be writing romance or horror movie notes. Some nights I’m shooting off emails with writing samples attached. I could also be writing HTML and CSS code. Creating web pages. Putting together media kits. It depends on the night.

What. Am. I. Doing?

I am almost 30 years old. I was married last Sunday to the love of my life. I have two children and I work full time in what could very possibly be described as a good job. If not a great job for me. I have a very full life. A life that many people would envy and want.

In these hours, close to midnight, I am working very hard to change that life. I am working so hard so that I can quit this life and have one that is more suited to me.

I am almost 30 with a husband and two children and I decided that I wanted to grow up to be a writer. Starting now. Well, starting about 4 months ago. When I began to stay up well past my bedtime writing about video games, romance novels, and random content.

I’m working on becoming a full time freelancer. I’m transitioning. I have a plan.

Why am I doing this? Why? And isn’t it scary?

Well of course it’s scary! It’s the most fighting thing I’ve ever done. But, staying where I was, how I was feeling, that was even more frightening. That forever crush of a perfectly ordered world when all I wanted to do was tell stories and paint pictures. You can’t do that in the 9-5. Not really.

Besides, I’ve always been one to go all in. So right now, I’m available nights and weekends and I’m sacrificing sleeping so that I can sleep in whenever I want later. This is my journey and it’s terrifying but it’s exciting too.

Free nights and weekends like a ’00 cell phone plan. But I’m working on becoming unlimited, baby.