Freelance Writing: 7 Tips for Getting Well-Paid Work on Job Auction Sites

moneyThis guest article is written by Nick Daws, a UK-based professional writer, editor and writing teacher. He also has a popular freelance writing blog at www.mywritingblog.com.

If you’re seeking a way to make money online from your writing skills, job auction sites such as www.elance.com, www.guru.com and the UK-based www.peopleperhour.com can be a great place to start.

For those who may be new to the concept, job auction sites allow people needing freelances to advertise on them, and freelancers (writers and others) to bid for the work. Once all bids are in, the client chooses the one they judge best – which may not always be the cheapest – and gives the successful bidder the good news.

The freelance then goes away and does the job. Once it is completed to the client’s satisfaction, the client pays the freelance the agreed fee, usually via the auction site. In most cases they also give the freelance feedback on how they did, and this will appear on the freelance’s profile on the site.

Job auction sites therefore act as brokers, introducing clients and freelances to one another in a competitive arena or auction. The way they operate varies a little, but the method described above is typical.

These sites allow anyone to bid for work, but one effect of the auction format can be to drive down the fees paid to freelances. So in this article I’d like to set out seven tips for achieving greater success – and higher fees – with your job auction site bids…

1. Don’t limit yourself to just the writing category when looking for suitable projects. Opportunities for writers crop up quite regularly in the sales and marketing category as well.

2. Do make every effort to create a professional-looking profile. In particular, when sub-contracting work via these sites I have been amazed by the number of people who do not post examples of their work (most job auction sites allow members to do this) or post examples that are irrelevant to their writing skills. Seeing a PDF of the front cover of a report that someone produced tells the viewer nothing at all about that person’s abilities as a writer.

3. Find out as much as you can about the client. Don’t just read his project details, but check out his profile on the site. This can help you create a bid that is tailor-made to his circumstances and requirements.

4. Bear in mind that a client may have a range of motives for putting a job up for auction, and not all of these may be set out in the bid details. For example, an e-book publisher may be looking for a well-written e-book he can publish with minimal editing. But a writer (like me) who is sub-contracting work may be looking more for someone who can put a quick first draft together, which he or she can then bring up to a publishable standard. It won’t always be clear what a client’s priorities are, but you need to try to infer this from the information provided, and in particular remember that clients won’t always be looking for ‘perfect’ writing as their top priority.

5. Don’t use ‘standard text’ for your bids. It looks lazy and won’t impress a potential client. Try to customize every bid you make so that it will fit the client’s needs perfectly.

6. And, though it should hardly need saying, ensure your bid is well written in grammatical sentences and (if appropriate) paragraphs. Don’t write it in ‘note’ form. You are applying for writing work, so you should take every opportunity to demonstrate your writing skills.

7. Finally, be wary of making claims you cannot substantiate. When subcontracting work I have had freelances state in their bids, ‘I will deliver a perfectly written report that will meet your needs in every respect’. To which, my reaction is, ‘I’ll be the judge of that!’ It’s better, in my view, to show a little humility: ‘I will prepare a well-written report which I hope will be suitable for immediate publication, but I will happily take on any feedback from you and revise/rewrite until you are completely satisfied.’ As a client I would find the latter claim far more impressive than the former.

Follow these tips and I am confident that you will soon see an improvement in your success rate on job auction sites, and you will be able to ask – and receive – better rates of pay as well.

Nick Daws is co-author (with Ruth Barringham) of The Wealthy Writer , a complete, downloadable guide for writers to making money writing for the Internet. This article is a condensed version of one section of the module about writing for job auction sites.

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Comments

  1. says

    Informative post thankyou, Nik. I too have been suprised at the number of people who don’t provide work samples in their portfolios on elance. Mine is chock-full. I am wondering if its because of the risk of buyers stealing work, there are some really unscrupulous ones on there. What do you think, it seems its more usual to provide specific samples with your bid, which the buyer is then also free to steal?

  2. says

    Hi Natalie

    Thanks for your kind comments about my article.

    Yes, anything you post online can theoretically be stolen, and that applies on job auction sites too. Still, I think it’s a risk you have to accept if you want to get work from these sites. Potential buyers do need to see relevant examples of your writing.

    In practice, it’s not something that worries me. I tend to use extracts from longer projects that wouldn’t really be of any value on their own, or promotional articles that have already appeared on a range of websites. Clearly, though, I wouldn’t post an original piece of writing I was currently trying to sell elsewhere.

  3. says

    I have looked at some of the auction sites like Helium and payment was not worth the time to me. I’ll check out some of these sites. Maybe they’re more professional. Very useful article.

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