Why should you start using Elance?
There are many steps you can take to start a successful design business. A great way to increase your exposure and get more jobs is to join the freelancing website Elance. Since merging last year with oDesk, Elance has become one of the largest freelancing sites, with over 8 million freelancers and more than 2 million businesses. By far the most popular type of work completed through Elance is in the information technology sector, which accounts for nearly 60% of the business transactions on the site.
One only needs to examine Elance’s latest analytics to see why it is a great place for a freelance web designer to look for work. Of the nearly 5 million jobs that have been posted on Elance over the years, more than 2 million have been of the IT and Programming variety, of which web design is a part. What’s more, of the $5 billion USD in transactions in Elance’s history, nearly $3 billion of it is from IT and Programming jobs. And these numbers keep climbing, meaning more and more jobs are available for web designers every day.
IT and Programming jobs are available in large supply all over the world as well, with jobs posted in every nation in North, Central, and South America, Europe, Australia, most of Asia, and a large part of Africa. The largest need for workers in this field is the United States, which offers some of the most reliable and high-paying jobs on Elance.
Indeed, web design-related jobs are among the most popular postings on Elance. In fact, web design is the 23rd most posted job on Elance all time, not far behind WordPress jobs and graphic design jobs. Although growth in each of these jobs has experienced a slight decline on Elance recently, there have still been hundreds of thousands of jobs posted over the years, with thousands of jobs currently posted.
A Short Elance Review – What Elance Can Be For a Web Designer
Elance is an excellent resource for any designer, but particularly so for those just starting out. On any given day, there are hundreds of website design jobs listed on Elance, so it has a wealth of opportunities to find work. Elance also takes care of all the business related things that you may not quite know how to handle yet. For example, there’s no need to create contracts, as Elance handles that. Before you begin work, you and your new client must agree to specific terms of service, including the scope of the work, the timeline of the project, and payment for services rendered. Furthermore, money to fund projects is placed in an escrow account before you start work, so you know that your new client has the money to pay you. Any problems that arise, such as a client not paying you in a timely fashion, are addressed by Elance, which serves as a mediator.
Getting work on Elance is a lot like getting work in the “real world.” You have to create a compelling resume that highlights your qualifications and skills. You need to develop a portfolio with your best work samples. You need to devise proposals for jobs that fulfill the needs of the client. And you have to be willing to take on just about any job (for less pay) to get your foot in the door until you’ve built up a good reputation. There are all sorts of great tips for getting business on Elance. To help you boost your freelance career, we’ve put together a few suggestions that will help you get hired.
Step One: Create an Awesome Profile On Elance
Your Elance profile is essentially a resume that potential clients view when considering your proposal to work for them. Ensuring that you’ve completed the profile in its entirety is extremely important. Having an incomplete profile may turn potential clients off because if you can’t even complete your Elance profile, how can they expect you to complete their web design project? There are a number of aspects of the Elance profile:
The basics include your name, location, and tag line. When entering your name, consider whether you want to be known as an individual or if you have dreams of having a company someday. If you decide to use a company name, come up with something that is eye-catching and conveys what kind of service you offer. Avoid using cutesy names or strange spellings. A nice, simple name like “Creative Web Designs” is much more professional and impactful than “Fantasticz Designz.”
The tagline may be the most important part of the basic information. You’re given 50 characters to convey your skills or services. It might be advisable to create a tagline that focuses on your services because it reads better than a list of skills. For example, include something that says what you can do for a client, like this:
“Complete Web Design Services from Design to Deployment.”
The above statement says a lot more about what services you offer than listing off a bunch of skills like this:
“Expert in Adobe Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and Fireworks.”
The overview portion of your Elance profile is your resume. As with a resume you would submit for any job, you need to provide insight into the following:
- Your experience in the field.
- The services you offer.
- Your educational background.
- Your work history.
The most important of these sections are the first two. You need to explain, briefly, what kind of experience you have. If you have none, talk about the courses you took in design school and the projects you completed as part of your studies. Talk about grades you received and feedback you got from your professors. Treat your design school experience as if it were a job. The first couple of sentences of this section appear under your name when you apply for a job, so make sure you start off with a bang and write something that will reel clients in, like this:
“A versatile designer, I have a proven record of creating gorgeous websites that increase traffic and reduce bounce rates.”
The services section may be even more important. Prospective clients are looking for someone that can solve their problems, so developing your services section to reflect the ways in which you can resolve issues for clients will help you land more jobs. But beware. You can’t be all things to all people, so resist the urge to throw every possible service you could ever offer to someone into your services section. Only list the services you legitimately can provide and provide well.
A great way to expand your marketability is to use a website builder like IM Creator. With the wide array of supplementary services a website builder provides, you can market yourself as a website creator rather than just a website designer. Website builders take care of all the technical stuff, from SEO to e-commerce integration to hosting, domains, and email. Taking advantage of these tools will give you the ability to offer far more services to clients and will also give you a leg up on the competition.
One of the great features of Elance is that it gives you space on your profile to include a portfolio. Developing your Elance portfolio should follow the same rules for creating a great web design portfolio. Include only your best work. Explain how each portfolio piece met a client’s need. Keep it fresh and updated to reflect your growing skillset. As a worker in a visual industry, your portfolio allows you to prove to potential clients that you can do what you say you can do. While there’s no need to put dozens of examples into your Elance portfolio, put enough work in it to show off the services that you offer and the quality of your work.
The skills section of your profile allows you to choose from hundreds of skills in Elance’s directory. This section is vitally important because potential clients can search for freelancers based upon certain skills. If you list “web design” as a skill, someone posting a job for web design services will then see freelancers with that skill listed on their profile. It’s basically a way to match you with potential jobs, so selecting the right skills is critical.
The other nice thing about the skills section is that Elance offers the opportunity to test your skills in many areas. The results of your tests are then displayed in the skills section of your portfolio and can be a great way to demonstrate your abilities to potential clients. According to Elance, members that take skills tests are three times as likely to get hired than members who don’t take tests. However, be aware that if you don’t do so well on your test, you have to wait until the “Improve Score Link” on your profile becomes active. This may take a few days to occur, so a bad score would be visible on your profile until you’re able to retake the test.
Elance offers various skills-based groups that give you the opportunity to demonstrate your expertise further. There are all kinds of web design and development-related groups for experts including Photoshop and other Adobe products. To join a group, simply take the related skills test, and once you pass with a sufficient score, the group’s badge will appear on your profile. As a member of the group, you will have access to a directory of other group members. You will also be able to view jobs that have been posted for experts in that particular area, so it’s a great way to network and find potential clients.
Take a Peek at Profiles of Other Designers
If you just aren’t sure what you should include in your Elance profile, have a look at what other people in your field have done. See what skills and talents they highlight. Look at the groups they’ve joined. Scroll through their portfolio to see what kind of samples they include, and also look at their descriptions of their portfolio samples. There’s no need for you to reinvent the wheel here – see what has brought others success and do the same on your profile.
Step Two: Make Smart Decisions With Your Proposals
The proposal you submit for a job is the first thing that a client will see from you. It’s basically your resume and a job interview wrapped into one. To pique their interest, give potential clients a clear and accurate picture of who you are and what you can do. Writing a good proposal takes some practice, but there are some essential elements that must be included.
Don’t assume that potential clients will look at your profile. Instead, offer a brief, yet informative picture of who you are in your proposal. This might include a statement of your relevant work or educational experience. But don’t spend too much time in your proposal talking about yourself. What the client wants to know is how, specifically, you can help them solve a problem or satisfy a want.
To do this, read their job description carefully and evaluate the most essential aspects of what they’re looking for. As you do, ask yourself these questions:
- What is the client’s primary need/want?
- What skills are required for this job?
- What is the timeline?
- What is the budget?
Use the information that the job poster provides to build your proposal. Whatever needs they have, explain how you can meet them. Whatever skills they require, talk about how you possess them and how you can use those skills on their particular job. If their timeline is a week, set a week as your timeline as well. If their budget is less than $500, include a realistic budget that fits in with what they want to pay. Tailor each proposal you submit to each job. It’s fine if you have a set of standard go-to topics for your proposals, but under no circumstances should you create a proposal template and use it for every job for which you apply. Clients will see right through it.
It’s amazing how many freelancers on Elance ignore the basic information in job descriptions. There always seems to be at least one proposal that far exceeds the job’s budget or timeline. Don’t be one of those people!
Include a Freebie
If you’re just starting out on Elance, getting that first job is the biggest (and most difficult) step. Including some kind of free service in your first few proposals might encourage people to hire you, even if you don’t yet have any feedback or an established reputation on Elance. A nice trick to use is to offer something you’d provide anyway. For example, if the job is for a complete website for a small business, offer to throw in the contact page or about page for free. Whatever you offer, make sure it’s something that attracts their attention but doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg either.
Including a work sample in your proposal is a way to offer a freebie without losing any money. You can attach a file directly into the proposal so the potential client doesn’t have to click through Elance to find your portfolio. Obviously what you provide as your sample needs to be (A) a stellar example of the kind of work you can do, and (B) related to the job posting. If you’re applying for a job to refresh an existing website, don’t offer them a .JPG of a photo you retouched in design school. Instead, take a screenshot of a previous site you’ve designed and attach that. If any of your designs are live, provide links so you can show off your work.
When you’re just starting out and haven’t yet developed your Elance reputation as a great designer, your best strategy is to bid low. Many individuals and companies that place jobs on Elance are looking for someone who has the skills to do the job, but who also offers a good price. Without much (or any) feedback in your profile, the best way for you to stand out is to beat the competition with a low bid.
This, however, can be easier said than done. Elance is a worldwide platform for people to find work. You aren’t just competing against other people in your neck of the woods. There will always be someone willing to work for less, so it’s advisable to set some boundaries for how low you will go.
The benefit of bidding low is that you’ll be able to get more work, more quickly. As you develop your Elance reputation and get feedback from clients, you’ll be able to charge more for your services. Even though there are some popular examples of Elancers making thousands of dollars right off the bat on Elance, this is the exception rather than the rule. Many people begin their Elance careers making pennies on the dollar. But with experience, your earnings can quickly rise.
Elance uses a system of Connects, which basically serve as job application tokens. Each job for which you apply requires a certain number of Connects, usually ranging from one to four. The purpose of these Connects is to ensure that Elance members offer quality proposals and aren’t just spamming job posters with rubbish offers. Your membership level will determine your number of Connects, so using them wisely will help you avoid running out. Once you’re out of Connects, you won’t be able to apply for more jobs until your monthly quota is replenished at the beginning of your next billing cycle.
To make your Connects last, develop an idea of the kind of client that is most likely to hire you. Perhaps small business owners would make a good demographic for you to explore for web design work. Also take into consideration the type of client you want to work for. When you’re just starting out, this might be difficult, but as you get more experience, you will be able to formulate a good idea of the people that are great to work for and the people to avoid.
However, there is a big disclaimer here. When you’re just starting out on Elance, you should cast a wide net. Use your Connects to apply to as many jobs as possible. If you apply for 50 jobs, you may only get two or three of them, so keeping engaged in the process of applying for jobs is extremely important. As you build some credibility and identify the types of clients you like, then you can be more selective.
Constantly Check Your Messages
If a potential client examines your proposal and messages you, you need to be there to answer them. This isn’t to say that you need to stay awake for days on end on the chance that you’ll be contacted, but during your waking hours check your Elance inbox at least two or three times an hour. The last thing you want is to have a potential job be awarded to someone else because you didn’t respond to an email in a timely manner.
Step Three: Build a Solid Reputation
One of the most important tools for getting hired on Elance is to build a solid reputation. After all, image is everything. Each time you complete a job, your client will leave you feedback and rate your performance on a number of measures on a scale of one to five. Clients can write a short blurb about your performance as well.
It goes without saying that you should strive for a five-star rating with each and every job. To increase your chances of getting top feedback, adhere to the following principles:
- Meet (or beat) deadlines – Even if you have to pull an all-nighter to get a project done, do it. Missing deadlines will not endear you to the client for future work, nor will it get you positive feedback. If you can deliver the final product ahead of schedule, even better!
- Communicate regularly – Keep your client in the loop by providing updates every day or two. There’s no need to write them a novel each time – just let them know how things are progressing and address any questions they may have, or ask for clarification or guidance from them if you need it.
- Be flexible – Elance includes job listings from around the world. Being willing to chat with a client after you normally close up shop for the day may be necessary in order to get a job or get the kind of feedback you need to get future jobs.
- Be humble – Not everything you do will be perfect, so if your client asks for something to be changed or modified, don’t take it personally. Your client’s directives will allow you to better meet their needs and expectations, so view their constructive criticism as something that will help you achieve that five-star rating.
Elance is an excellent medium for finding work as a freelance web designer. But it doesn’t come without putting forth a lot of effort. The more work you put into your profile and your job proposals, the more likely you are to be hired. And as you build your reputation as a quality freelancer, you will watch the jobs (and the money!) begin to roll in.
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Image Credits: Business Men by Markus Spiske via Flickr Creative Commons 3D Bright Idea by Chris Potter via Flickr Creative Commons Money by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr Creative Commons Reputation Management by netZtrack via Flickr Creative Commons