18 May 2014

How To Make Money Online From Freelancer.com

Whether you want to work from the road or no, picking up a little extra work on the side can never hurt. I can't believe I used to work a 9-5 without any back-up. What if I got fired just like that? After being in numerous jobs where people were canned at a drop of a hat, I know you can never be too secure about your position.

Sorry, did I just scare the bejeezus out of you? Well no fear, freelancing is here. I've been taking on contract jobs through Freelancer.com for about four months now and I'm proudly 100% freelance. Not rich, oh no, but boss free, schedule free, meeting free, ridiculous make-work project free, office free.

Almost all my projects came through Freelancer.com, though I'm using Craigslist and Elance now too. These sites let you set up a profile and bid on contract projects. The sites take a small cut of your fee and once you're paid you can transfer the money to your account via PayPal.

Getting work through them is a bit of an art; I'm still learning it but I've picked up a few tricks. Here's how you can crack Freelancer so it starts making you cash money.

Create a Good Looking Profile

It's a pain in the ass to fill out all this crap. After all, you've already done it for LinkedIn, Monster.com, 1000othersites.com. Can't these jerks just talk to each other? However, making yourself look as human as possible is essential given the number of scammers out there. Load all that juicy education, work experience, and your portfolio (a PDF of clippings is fine). Most importantly, upload a nice smiley photo of yourself not looking like a scammer. Make sure it's just your face, up close and personal. Get verified too (you need to confirm your bank account via Paypal. Set up an account there, it's super easy).

Choose Your Niche

Specialize to corner a certain market. For example, there's plenty of writers on Freelancer.com but most are non-native speakers and writing teams that produce sub-par results. I let them handle all the writing jobs that offer $1 per article (seriously) and only focus on higher-level employers who are looking for real copy (not plagiarized, not spun, not utter crap) who will pay my rate ($30/500 words). So, there's my niche and so far there aren't too many other writers crowding my space.

On the other hand, my boyfriend was interested in producing music for apps etc. but realized there were too many professionals bidding. You're going to get a leg up if you have actual experience (I have written for Toronto media and can provide links). Here's what you do: if you want to work in SEO, offer to do it for free for a website and then use that in your portfolio. Volunteer first, get paid later.

Bid Often, Friend

Employers seem to love assigning projects right away. You'll get emails notifying you of new projects every day and I encourage you to apply as they come (I set aside 15 minutes every day to do new applications). 

Underbid and Pay Up

Employers prefer workers who have starred ratings on Freelancer.com and previous feedback. To get a leg up you'll need to bid low on your first couple of projects, no matter your previous experience and standard hourly rate. Freelancer lets you see the project budget and the average bid of all applicants. Bid lower then everyone else (sorry guys) and then shell up the $1.50 to get your bid placed at the top of the pile. This is a must-do--almost every project I've gotten it's because I paid that buck fifty to be on top.

Read the Project Description

Employers get frustrated when bidders just send off their standard message and cover letter and don't even bother to see what the project entails. Take that extra few seconds to scan the whole thing. Often employers will request you include a keyword in your bid to make sure you actually read their description. Not doing this is a simple way to screw your bid.

Write an Honest-To-Goodness Customized Cover Letter

I have a few templates for my Freelancer.com projects--ones for eBook ghostwriting, product copy, website copy, and social media marketing. Then I add a line about why that specific project would be a good fit for me. Any employer worth their while will be pissed if they realize you're just sending out the same message to 100 other people every day--obviously you won't show dedication to their individual project.

What To Include In the Cover Letter

Depends on your field but I always say I'm a native speaker right off the bat. It definitely distinguishes you in any language-dependent task because the majority of people will not fit that description and employers want it. I always include live links to my work and offer to send references. I mention one related job (social media writing in publishing) but mostly stress qualities such ass professionalism, reliability, actual journalistic experience, and consistently top-notch work. Employers can read your profile for the details.

Yay! Someone Messaged Me

Perfect. If they're hesitant because of your lack of experience give them an email address of a past employer. Beware of anyone who wants sample work up front--if the project offers ongoing work I'm game but if it's a one time deal, forget it. Same goes if he or she wants a detailed picture of how you're going to complete the job. Giving them an idea is fine but you don't have time to work for free. They either trust you or they don't.

Yes! I Have a Project

Sweet! Make sure the employer sets up a milestone before you start work--you don't want to be in the hole for unpaid projects. Then make sure you get very clear specifications. Avoid any offers of a Skype chat--you need to work to your hourly rate and you can't be wasting time talking about something that can probably go in a short message. Deliver on time, ask questions if you need to, ask for the release of the milestone as soon as you're done, be courteous, and ask if they'd like to hire you for additional projects. Repeat customers have been a huge boon to my business, letting me spend more time working and less applying for jobs.

What Else?

Also, look for employers who offer clear project descriptions that are neither too short or too long-winded. Short means they don't know what they want (bad), long-winded means they may be super picky and will likely drive you insane (also bad). Thankfully, you'll also find some super cool people who will be a breeze to work with and who will hand you not only money but awesome, engrossing, fun projects. It's a gamble that's worth it.

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