Thoughts on Project Bidding Sites

Thoughts on Project Bidding Sites

I was reading another blogger’s fawning comments about UpWork the other day. So fawning that it had to be a paid-for article. Annoyingly fawning, you know what I’m saying? I posted a response, but he declined to permit it to be published (go figure!), (it took him a long time to accept the comments, but he finally did it), and I’m also including it here with some minor edits so that you get the context a bit better:

My perspective on job bidding sites is entirely different. If you’re having trouble finding clients, focus all your energy and spare time learning to market yourself!

Examples: are you priced incorrectly for your market? Does your website look cheap and unprofessional (or is it non-existent)? Do you clearly explain how you are different than other freelancers? Do you meet with clients in a suit or in jeans? The answers to all of these questions are part of your marketing message.

eLance, Guru, and the other project-bidding sites have nothing to do with finding clients. They are about competing in a global market for projects. Companies that outsource projects on eLance have exactly one thing on their mind: get a non-strategic project completed with as little money as possible. They don’t care about establishing the relationship necessary so that you can work on the strategic projects, and those projects are the ones that get the most budget money, so that’s where you — as a freelancer — want to be.

My recommendation: focus on finding local clients that need the type of services you can provide and are looking to establish a long-term relationship. Clients want their strategic consultants to live nearby, so that they can have a face-to-face meeting if necessary.

How do you find these clients?

  1. Create a compelling web site, so that customers who find your web site want to call you, because you offer them something no one else is offering. Even if you think you offer exactly what other freelancers are offering, you need to figure out how you offer something better/bigger/faster/whatever. And hammer that message home when you get the potential client’s attention.
  2. Make sure your web site is visible. That means you either get into any directory that a client might look to find you, tuning your site so that you show up really high in the search results for the keywords that relate to your services (e.g., Austin software development), and/or paying per-click advertising (recommend: Google).

If you go the directory route and you’re technical, I recommend (of course) FreelanceLocalTech.com, which is free to post a blurb about your services and is organized around the idea that you are looking for local clients and local clients are looking for someone like you.

Don’t bother posting your resume on a job site unless you’re looking for a contract position (which defeats the purpose of being a freelancer) or a full-time job. Clients looking for freelancers don’t look at Monster/Dice/etc.

  1. When you get a client to call you, do everything to close the deal! If the customer sounds worthwhile, set up a meeting and make sure you “wow” them in the meeting. That’s the best part about focusing on local clients: you get to meet with them face-to-face and close the deal. On eLance/Guru/etc.: you’re a faceless bidder from another country or another planet for all the client cares.

Focus locally. Focus on relationship building. Focus on marketing.

Avoid faceless bidding on one-shot projects.

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