Dec 9, 2014

Are Freelancing Websites Worth the Time and Effort? Getting Jobs from Freelance Websites.

Freelancing is a very brave choice for a work at home mom, but also can be a great and rewarding thing as well.  Working on your own terms, being home for your children and having that flexibility is something that we all dream of, right?  Often the choice to work from home and freelance would be one that is very carefully made; especially if one is moving from a full-time job to being a freelancer.  In that case, the transition would be done very slowly, often including working your full-time job in addition to freelancing for the first few months to even a year. However this transition is very worth it since statistics state that freelancers make 45% more over traditional workers.  The most common hourly rate for a freelancer is within the $20-$60 an hour range, depending on your industry.  In fact, some even get $80-$100+ per hour!

Something that I have frequently seen is a lot of freelancers considering using freelance "bidding" websites such as O-Desk or Elance to get clients.  After all, building up your client base and actually having clients to work for is definitely the hardest part of having your own business.  It's definitely the most exhausting and the one thing that causes business owners the most anxiety.  Trust me, I know first hand.

These websites are options but they also aren't options at the same time.  Now, what do I mean by that?  I say that only because they have just as many cons, if not more, than they do pros.

Freelance sites are run on a bidding & short proposal system.  Simply put, when you find a job you like, you enter your hourly rate (or full-project rate depending on what the project calls for) and write a short description (or proposal) or what you can do for the client and how you can benefit them.  Sounds simple, right?  Well, it is simple to bid for jobs that you are interested in, but very difficult to actually get a freelance project from the site.  This is mostly because there is so much competition.  Not only competition from other qualified freelancers but also competition from the overseas freelancers who work for just pennies.  The majority of these freelancers are individuals from overseas and underprivileged countries who post their services for anywhere from $0.88 to $3.00 an hour.  (Yes, I have seen $0.88.)  So let's put it this way -- if you're selling your services for a carefully calculated and qualified rate of $20 - $30 an hour and someone else is selling theirs for $4 an hour, who do you think is going to get the project?

Now, in this case  one would say that is definitely mixed up.  That the rate would equal the quality of work and they're "getting what they are paying for", which is true.  However people who need a quick project done without concentrating on quality would probably choose the person for working for less.  It's frustrating for us freelancers and a very sad fact, but most people are very concerned with price over quality of work.  Most of the clients don't take the time to read the proposals, no matter how compelling and professional they are, and they don't take the time to understand that the larger price tag includes experience.  It includes individuals with certifications, specialty schooling in their area of expertise, various tests and exams and extensive software training.  Qualified freelancers have a fully-stocked home office and have all of the programs up and running to assist their clients.  Now isn't that a professional that a client would want to help them out?

On the other hand, those websites are great for someone starting out.  A brand new freelancer with no client base may have to lower their rate starting out to get these jobs, but to a reasonable rate not to a rate that's below poverty level!  It is a good place to get clients and start building up a client base who will end up trusting you and possibly referring your services.  These websites are also a great way to gain multiple income streams while working at home, if you're able to handle it.  

I've used these websites before and while I have gotten some clients, I also feel like I sold myself short and under priced myself.  I ended up taking projects for 55% less than my normal hourly rate and it was even a rate that was $3 under what I was making in my full time job. (This is an example of what not to do!)  I find the process of weeding through the jobs posted to find just what you're looking for and writing a proposal that usually doesn't even get read is very tiring,  The time one puts into searching those sites could be better used marketing their own site and their own services via the internet and social media. 

From experience, I think your time (and money) would be best spent on creating your own website and looking for some local smaller clients for your first clients.  You still may have to lower your rate, but not to a rate that would cheat you out of what you deserve.  When you contact your prospective clients yourself (via e-mail, mailer or phone) you can sell yourself better.  You are able to attach info-graphics, media kits, examples of your work and so on.  Either way you market yourself, it will take time to build your client base and business to one that has a sustainable and steady income.  It's hard, but it is very possible.  

Have you used any freelancing sites?  Have you found success on any?