I recently put together a list of 11 websites that’ll help you find work as a freelancer – and, while that’s hopefully a useful resource, it’s likely to just stay on your ‘to read’ list if you’re not certain how to approach actually getting involved and getting work from these platforms.
Freelance gig services aren’t the only way you’re going to find paid work – but, with the sheer number of projects and gigs that are available at any one time, you’d be narrowing your horizons if you didn’t at least dip your toe in the water and get a feel for what’s going on.
Here, I’ll outline some important considerations if you are going to give one or more of these platforms a try – some taken from my experience – and some from my wider network of freelancing friends and colleagues…
Photo by The Creative Exchange
A few years ago, I browsed a handful of gig sites as a potential customer for a project I was working on.
On the face of it, I was met with thousands of strangers, some with quirky cartoon faces, others with photos, some with images that gave an idea of what they did – and so on.
What I didn’t see a lot of was branding – but, when I did, it really stood out. What stood out even more was seeing that same branding across different sites. Suddenly, I felt like I was looking at someone who really had a serious business – and someone who’d invested in making themselves appear professional.
Sure enough, the person I opted to use featured on a few different sites with the same profile picture and similar postings on each. Were they the best person for the job? I’m not totally sure – but, first impressions count for a LOT, so, if you want to make sure you’re catching people’s attention, think a bit about creating a ‘brand’ for your freelancing – consciously or otherwise, people will notice it.
Prepare Some Samples
To the best of my knowledge, I’ve never landed any freelance work without showing people a sample of my writing.
Sometimes it’s in-situ on a site I work with – other times, it’s a .doc or .pdf that I’m sending to them.
It’s good to have this work to hand, so you can be ready to send it over as soon as you get an enquiry. If you’ve got a big back-catalogue of work, you might even be able to cherry-pick a few relevant samples from similar industries to the one your client works in.
Don’t panic too much if this is going to be your first rodeo though – but do consider sitting down to put together a portfolio of what you could offer – write articles, prep some photos or video samples, create some illustrations – it’s unpaid work now, but it’ll significantly improve your chances of winning the project when a real enquiry comes in.
Create Compelling Descriptions
Virtually everyone has an interesting profile picture on gig sites – but far fewer people make themselves stand out with decent titles and service descriptions.
Now, what’s ‘decent’ to one person might be useless to another, so it’s important to think about what you’re offering – and making sure you’re doing the best job of explaining – concisely – what the people browsing profiles can expect to get for their money.
“I’ll create your company logo”
Isn’t nearly as descriptive as:
“I will design a vector logo in Photoshop in 6 hours”
With just a few more carefully chosen words, people have a better idea of what you offer, a timescale, the format you’ll produce and the tool you use. This is key for catching people’s attention and answering the question they’ve got – which is almost always, “Can this person give me what I need?”
If you’re not sure what audiences are looking for, check out some of the descriptions that the successful people already doing a great job on the site have created. Remember, you’re probably not going to be talking to people who know your role as well as you do – so don’t blind them with the intricacies of what you do – keep it simple. You’ll want to talk about the quality of service you offer, your prompt turnaround times, your willingness to revise your work if needed – and other service musts.
Don’t be afraid to get in front of the camera
Photo by Hermes Rivera
There are quite a few freelance gig platforms that give you the opportunity to shoot a promo video that’ll sit alongside your job listing. Video is immensely powerful – more on that here – so, video is also likely to significantly boost the number of enquiries and conversions you advert sees.
Fortunately, you’re not going to need to shoot professional standard video here (unless you’re a videographer – in which case, I’d guess you’re comfortable with this!) – instead, just go for authentic. Letting your potential clients know you’re a real person might not sound like a big deal – but honestly, in this faceless internet world we live in, the personal touch is going to win you a lot of enquiries.
Get some ratings/reviews under your belt
Some sites (Fiverr for example) will expect you to set your price point low when you start out.
I tend to see people approaching this in a couple of different ways:
You could trim down what you offer – for instance, offering to write 100 words of copy for $5 or edit a couple of photos – but that’s fairly transparent. There certainly aren’t going to be many people looking for such small projects – and people can do the math if they’re actually hoping for 2000 words or 100 photo adjustments.
Instead, I’d suggest taking a bit of a hit on your time for the first few jobs you do. Sure, I realize you don’t want to work for $1 an hour – but, if you do (and you do it well), you’re effectively buying yourself some great reviews. Don’t be ashamed or try to hide this approach, as a customer, everyone loves a special intro offer – so flaunt what you’ve got – then start putting your prices up as your clients are hooked – or as the positive reviews start coming in.
Go for the Upsell
Another way to maximize what you’re earning is to go for the upsell on the products you’re offering.
I had a logo designed recently. It was $5 – and the guy who did it (within 4 hours) had nearly 5,000 positive 4/5 star reviews on the site. Bargain, right?
Well, yeah, and I was pleased with the work – but EVERYTHING after the design cost extra. No problem from my point of view – he did a great job – but, if I wanted a vector file it was more; if I wanted a greyscale version, it was more; if I wanted it made into a business card design, email signature, etc – it was going to cost more.
I think I ended up spending somewhere around $30 – and, if all of his 5,000 reviews did the same, then his $5 logo business suddenly turns into quite an empire!
Offer your baseline product, then, take a few extra bucks here and there for the additional services that you can do quickly and easily. $5 to $7 or $50 to $60 probably isn’t going to be enough to have your customers change their mind and look elsewhere – but when it’s multiplied across hundreds or thousands of gigs, it’ll make a big difference to your bank account.
Photo by Braden Collum
If you want to win business on freelance platforms you’re going to have to act quickly when you get an enquiry.
There’s a strong chance that the person who’s getting in touch has also sent messages or proposals to other freelancers – and, if it takes you a day to reply, there’s a genuine chance that your competitor is already working on the job.
Every platform will send you notifications when someone gets in touch – so, make sure they light your phone or inbox up like a Christmas tree – then jump on them as quickly as possible.
Optimize for the Platform
To some degree, platforms like PeoplePerHour, Fiverr, UpWork and the others are like search engines for people trying to track down freelancers – and, also like search engines – they’re going to produce the results that are most likely to appeal to the people doing the searching.
Google works out what’s appealing by considering a huge number of factors – including page content, links to the page, traffic behavior when viewing the page – and many, many more ‘signals’. Essentially, if you’ve got a webpage that people are viewing, spending time on and taking positive action on – it’s never going to do your rankings any harm.
Although I have no absolute proof of what I’m about to suggest, the evidence I’ve seen from a wide range of people using these platforms is that they’re running similar algorithms. If you’ve got appealing content with terms people are searching for; you respond quickly; you produce the work quickly; people pay quickly – then bingo, you’re a better prospect for customers – and therefore, a better result for the platform to suggest.
Remember, you’re making money for the platform. You’re the product. If you want to be sure that you’re going to be presented to customers first, you need to make yourself the most appealing product possible.
Understand What Works
Photo by rawpixel
I’m not ashamed to admit that I love a spreadsheet – and, if you can learn to love them too, I promise they’re going to help you understand how to maximize your revenue on freelance platforms.
Every time I place an advert for my services, I note the text, the images, the time it’s placed, the locations it’s placed in – and as many other variables as possible. It takes about 3-4 minutes to add it to my tracking sheet – and another 3-4 minutes each day adding to it as results come in.
Doing this removes the mystery that’s often involved with finding new work. If you know that the description you were using in January brought in 50 enquiries and 5 of them turned into paid gigs, then you know how to get 5 paid gigs in February too. Okay, it’s not an exact science – but, as someone who’s been freelancing for since before iPhones existed, I can tell you that you’re going to see trends – some busy spells – some not so busy spells – and understanding what’s inspiring your level of work is absolutely key to making sure the well never runs dry.
Note down what you’re doing. Note any changes to your descriptions, bids, portfolio – and so on. There’s a magic formula that’ll work perfectly for you and your potential customers – you’ve just got to work out what it is.
What about you?
Those are my thoughts about what will make you stand out from the crowd on freelance gig sites – but I’d love to know what you’re doing to land projects. If you’ve got any tips that you don’t mind sharing or strategies that you’ve learned to avoid – leave a comment!
Cover image by Ali Yahya on Unsplash