Freelance bidding sites allow you to do several different things all on one site – the main goal is to provide a secure marketplace where a buyer can post a project, relay the specifications of the project, and give an estimated budget for completing the project, along with the criteria for the professionally completing the project.
Freelance bidding sites are usually free to register and their fees will vary from site to site after the free registration. What you get for a free registration on most freelance bidding sites is the ability to add your skills and often your online resume to their database.
Once the freelancer’s profile is set up on the freelance bidding site of choice, the forms and required information can be filled out to get started. Some sites will charge a fee for special services, such as uploading clips and work samples to the freelance bidding site’s portfolio, and some may allow this at no additional charge.
Many freelance bidding sites charge a fee to either the provider or the buyer and sometimes to both. For example, Elance Online charges a monthly fee, with discounts for annual and quarterly membership fees to the service provider, but it is free to post projects as a buyer. Guru.com also charges a quarterly or annual fee to use their premium services. With this fee, the provider (the freelancer) will be given a certain allotment of bids at no cost. After the freelancer has used all of their allotted free bids, they can then purchase additional bids either in bid packs or individually, depending on the site’s regulations.
Once the package and bids have been purchased, the freelancer can now browse the database for jobs or assignments that have been posted by buyers. When the freelancer finds a job on a freelance bidding site for which they are qualified, the freelancer can now place a professional bid for services, outlining the services they can provide the buyer and possibly provide work samples as well as their cost for completing the project.
The buyer can then review all the bids and samples and choose a provider who best meets their needs. Once the buyer has chosen a freelance provider, he or she will award the project to the provider with the best bid for the price and value of service, which may not always be the lowest bid. Once the project is accepted by the buyer and the freelancer, the freelancer communicates with the buyer, usually over a message board on the freelance bidding site, and then completes the work to the buyer’s specifications.
Payment arrangements vary depending on the cost of the project and the services provided by the freelance bidding site. Some freelance bidding sites have escrow accounts, where the buyer transfers the funds of the agreed upon price into the account to show good faith and then when the freelancer completes milestones or completes the project, the buyer then releases the escrow funds to the freelancer.
Freelancers can ask for upfront payment or a deposit to secure the work, and this is especially helpful to show good faith on the part of the buyer and secure some funding, especially if an escrow account is not available or used. Once payment is initiated, the freelance bidding site usually takes a small percentage (between 1-10% on average) of the total cost of the project as a finder’s fee. The balance is then remitted to the freelancer.
Freelance bidding sites can help a new freelance provider build a portfolio by completing one-off jobs or projects or the freelancer may find a provider with whom they are offered a regular assignment or freelance contract. Generally speaking, the freelance site allows for repeat projects with the same provider at a reduced fee, and after a certain period of time, the provider and freelancer can negotiate work off site with no finder’s fee. (The time varies on each freelance bidding site, but averages six months to a year.)
Most freelance bidding sites have some type of a scoring or feedback module that allows the buyer to post comments and rate the services of the freelancer. As the freelancer builds a good feedback and rating, they can increase their bids and take higher paying assignments based on quality services.
Freelance bidding sites are a great way for a new freelancer to build a portfolio, build a client base, and break into the freelance market, but it should be known that in any auction/bidding type of situation, the projects quite often pay less than industry standard for the same services off site. Freelance bidding sites are also good for an experienced freelancer to pick up some extra projects or cash when the market is slow or in between their regular projects to keep busy.