Elance and oDesk are two of the most popular freelance sites for web developers out there. These sites are full of competition - some of it is real competition, and some of it is white noise. Getting a potential client to recognize you, and also pay you fairly, can be difficult, but it isn’t that difficult. There are a few things you can do to help yourself land jobs, and even help maintain a quality market for your fellow freelancers.
This part is the first and most obvious step, and will probably take you a couple of days to finish. You want to have a few examples of high quality work up there, but I’ve noticed that potential clients aren’t looking at profiles and work samples nearly as much as they are looking at your proposals and how you make them feel. This is good news for every freelancer out there, because the way you communicate is entirely within your control, regardless of what anyone else is doing or bidding.
After uploading your work, take a few tests to highlight your skills. These tests are a little bogus in my experience, but it’s nice to have that note on your profile that says “Top 10% in Web Design” or whatever your forte. List out your resume - this is especially helpful for people without a record on these sites. Showing a complete and detailed resume builds your credibility when your Elance work history cannot. Write a good, brief, and genuine introduction. Say your name, say what you’re good at, say how you can help. This introduction is the very first step in building a relationship with a potential client. Make sure it’s the right first impression.
Determine your hourly rate before you get on Elance or Odesk (you can use my handy calculator here, if you need help with that). Before you get your first job reduce that rate to under $30/hr. Once you get a couple of 5 star reviews you can increase your rate a little bit, and once it stops saying “new freelancer” on all your bids or when you have a few jobs worth of history on your profile you can go up to your normal rate. Do not try and compete with low bidding American freelancers or with international freelancers. If you are a high quality freelancer, charge your real rate - you WILL get the work you deserve. And remember that Elance takes close to 9% of your earnings, AND they charge you a monthly fee. If you underbid and then face those fees, you’ll end up working for nothing.
PS. if you want to know more about this topic, I totally recommend signing up for my free course 3K in 30 Days. 3K in 30 days is perfect for anyone who needs a crash course in getting started as a freelance web developer or designer. If you've ever wanted to know about portfolios, getting clients, finding work, or a ton of other great stuff, then 3K in 30 Days for you. It's a really comprehensive, easy to digest 8 day email course, and it's totally free (you can register at the bottom of this page!). It's compiled from both my own experience booking 3K in work my very first month as a freelancer and the best resources available, all in one place.
New jobs are posted constantly. There is no shortage of potential work for you to bid on. That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to bid on everything or even that you should. Here are some pointers:
Moral of the story is that you shouldn’t waste time bidding on jobs that aren’t in your niche, that won’t pay what’s fair, or that are flooded with competition. Be more discerning in what you to apply to, and you will have a much greater hire rate.
Again, that sounds obvious, but this is the most important part. This is where you communicate who you are and how you can help. There is where you set the tone for your future relationship with the client: this is where you influence how the client feels. How the client feels about you is absolutely the most important part of landing virtual jobs.
Here is a proposal that got me an offer within hours of submitting it: Hi there,
My name is Ashley - I'm an email marketing expert, a web and wordpress developer, and a digital marketer with experience in every area you listed. I've sent over 100 campaigns in MailChimp, helped small companies get first page google rankings for related keywords, and run Facebook campaigns that generated about 5,000 new page likes. You're passionate about education: I'm passionate about digital marketing. I'm sure I can help you achieve and hopefully exceed your goals!
Please note that while I'm new to Elance (I recently joined on a friend's recommendation) I have plenty of experience. I'm a native English speaker based out of New York. I see that you're in Ireland - but because freelancing is my fulltime job, I am usually available at flexible times. I try my best to ensure that our communication will be as detailed and timely as possible.
It sounds like you have a lot of different needs for your project, so the first step would be to get on the phone (skype) and hammer out the details. I want to make sure I understand your product and your needs before we get started. It also seems like this has the potential to be a longer term relationship, so for those reasons, I haven't included a fixed quote. My hourly rate is $45/hr.
I'm looking forward to talking with you more!
Web Developer and Digital Marketer
Do these things and you shouldn’t have any trouble landing jobs on freelance sites. It’s a viable source of income and has a rightful place in your overall job scoping strategy. Good luck!