Why are so many freelancers jumping onto the Elance bandwagon, and buckling themselves in for a long and prosperous ride?
There is no one easy answer to that question. I could wax poetic about how Elance is by far the best site for freelance jobs on the net, but that tells you less than nothing about what truly makes Elance stand out from the crowd.
Since there is no simple way to sum up what Elance can do for freelancers, we’ll take the long route, I’ll give you the million-dollar tour, and I let the site features speak for themselves.
Elance’s main page sums it up with: Find work. Deliver results. Get paid. What they can’t tell you in a short catchy tagline are the large number of site features that go along with these three steps designed specifically to ensure that the freelancer thrives. So the first stop on our Elance tour is the Sign Up.
Elance offers four plans to suit every freelancer’s needs: the free basic plan, the professional plan, the small business plan, and the large business plan. For individuals, starting out with the basic plan is a great way to test the water, but you’ll soon want to upgrade to the professional plan in order to bid on more jobs and get priority in search rankings. The small business plan is designed for companies with five employees or less, and the large business plan is for companies of unlimited size.
The first step, once you’ve chosen your plan level, is to select a work category to be listed in from the following: Admin Support, Design and Multimedia, Engineering and Manufacturing, Finance and Management, Legal, Sales and Marketing, Web Programming, Writing and Translation. Choosing a work category allows you to submit bids for jobs that are listed in that category, and allow buyers to find you in searches for experts in those particular fields. But what if your skills span two or more categories? Not a problem. All of the Elance paid plans allow the option of choosing additional work categories for a small monthly price.
Next stop on our tour is Connects. Each plan gives users a monthly allotment of connects, which are used to bid on jobs. Lower budgeted jobs require less connects than bigger budget projects, and extra connects can be purchased at any time.
The connect system is a great way to weed out the riff-raff found on other freelancing sites, like the ones who spam every job post with useless bids. Connects ensure that the bids come from serious bidders who have read the job description and are really interested in the project. A nice change from those other sites. But what good are connects if buyers don’t know who you are and why they should hire you? That leads us to our next stop:
This is where you get to strut your stuff, show off your skills, experience, and credentials, and make yourself stand out from the crowd. Your profile page is your calling card, and Elance walks you through creating a winning one.
Each profile has a tagline – some are creative, some are matter-of-fact, and some are just plain brilliant. It is the first impression a buyer gets from you, so choose your words wisely.
Each profile also has a list of keywords associated with it that are used to filter buyer search results when they are looking for key skills, so keep searches in mind when you choose your keywords.
Each profile also has a detailed ‘About’ and ‘Detailed Service Description’ section that buyers will see when they view your profile, and a portfolio section where you can upload samples of your work for perspective buyers to view.
So far this all sounds pretty similar to what can be found elsewhere, but Elance goes the extra mile. They require new users to take a skill test to keep the quality of freelancers high, and they work hard to offer features that help freelancers stand out. Not only can you list your credentials and references on your profile, you can also have them verified by Elance so that buyers know they’re legitimate. Additionally, Elance has a huge range of general and category specific skill tests you can take, with the results published right on your profile. High scores mean more work and more exposure, so if you know your stuff, you can really let it shine.
There are many more profile features on this tour that we’ll save for later because they don’t kick in until you’re up and running. So our next stop now is:
Job Searching and Bidding
The job search can be intimidating at first because of the huge number of jobs posted daily, but after a few minutes of playing with the job search functions, you’ll quickly get the hang of it. You can browse through category specific jobs or a list of sub categories, or you can refine your search to specific key words. You can sort by newest first, ending soonest, highest budget, location, and a whole range of combinations of the above, and more. You can even set up job alerts where jobs that match your skills are emailed directly to you. You’ll quickly be able to narrow in on the jobs you want, and clicking on the job title will bring you to the full job posting. There you can read a detailed job description and determine if it’s a good fit for you. And Elance has a great Watch List feature for you to keep track of the jobs you’re interested in too.
When you’ve found a few choice jobs, it’s time to bid. But what if you need clarification on some part of the project before committing? Elance has two great features to cover this. The first is the job post public message board where you can post a question to the buyer in an open forum without using up any connects. The second option is the Pre-Bid Question. This allows you to contact the buyer in private, and does cost connects, but you can then place a full bid on the project for free. This is great if you want to communicate information and questions that may help your bid stand out, that you don’t want other bidders to be privy to.
When you’re ready to bid, it’s very simple. The form is right on the job description page, and you simply type in your bid proposal. I use the word ‘simply’ very loosely, as all freelancers know that crafting a winning proposal is no simple task. But Elance has some great FAQ’s on the subject that give you fantastic tips on putting together proposals that land jobs.
Working and Getting Paid
This is the part of the tour that everybody is dying to know about, and it’s one of the big areas that set Elance apart from the competition. When you land a project, both you and the buyer set down terms and milestones that both parties must agree to before the job commences. These include timelines for delivery and payments, and set out exactly what is expected from both parties. The terms and milestones cannot be changed without agreement from both parties. Once the terms are set, Elance provides a workroom for all documents and communication related to that project. That way both buyer and seller are always on the same page, and disagreements are kept to a minimum. There is a status report function and you can bill and request release of funds right from the project workroom.
Elance offers two types of jobs; fixed price and hourly. Both types offer payment guarantees, which is something you won’t find elsewhere. For fixed price jobs, there is Elance Escrow where the buyer funds the project before any work commences. And for hourly jobs, Elance offers the Hourly Job Work Guarantee when the provider tracks their hours with the Elance Workview system. The bottom line is that on Elance, you get paid for quality-completed work. And you simply bill the client right from the workroom. Easy. Safe. Professional.
Build Your Reputation
We’re back to profiles. When you deliver high quality work, you also build a solid reputation that is highlighted right on your profile page. Buyers leave feedback and rate your performance, and with a high rating you land more work. Elance also has a points system that rates freelancers by level. This level is based on all of your activity and achievements on Elance, not just client feedback scores. From the Elance website: The points system “rewards providers who market their services effectively, deliver great work, maintain high levels of client satisfaction and develop lasting client relationships on Elance.” And the beauty of this is that buyers can see all of this with just a quick glance at your profile page. And this leads to invites. Freelancers with a solid reputation get regular invites to private jobs (another nice Elance feature), and the more your reputation grows, the more jobs you land.
Quality and Safety
All of this sounds very good for freelancers, but I’ve saved the ‘piece de resistance’ for last. What really sets Elance apart – the one thing that makes them the only real choice for online freelancing sites – is their commitment to quality and safety. Their payment guarantees are only a small part of this commitment. Elance has a detailed Terms of Service that spell out minimum payment rates, restrict inappropriate job posts, and set out clear expectations that buyers and sellers both must adhere to. All buyers and sellers that do not conform to these are removed, making Elance the safest and smartest place to be.
There are so many other site features that I haven’t even touched on like the ability to online interview, the ability to refer profiles, the excellent customer support, the close knit global community.
So what does this all add up to? A freelancing site that attracts the highest quality buyers, a freelancing site where providers can find and perform work rather than worry about getting paid, a freelancing site where the quality of job postings is head and shoulders above the rest, and a freelancing site that is safe, efficient, and easy to use, and a freelancing site that outperforms all the others – all in one place.
Give it a try, and take your freelancing career to a whole new level.