Warning – If you are looking to make a quick buck without working hard, you may be disappointed, and this article isn’t for you. For others, who value hard work, keep reading.
I started working on Freelancer in November 2013 and have earned around $66,000 (INR 41 lakhs) through the website in 23 months. I could have earned even more if I had sufficient bandwidth to manage all the incoming projects. My income increased consistently from $23 in December 2013 to around $5000 in September 2014.
I left freelancing in October 2015 and today I use Freelancer mostly for hiring freelancers. I will soon write another blog post on why I left such a lucrative career and what did I do after that. You may like to subscribe to my newsletter for regular updates on how to develop a sustainable business online with prestige. I have also launched an affordable and comprehensive Content Writing Course which will help new writers transform their writing skills and charge a premium for quality work. This course covers a module on how to earn decent money as a freelancer, be an entrepreneur or become published author.
This blog is an account of my journey from being a freelancer to an employer. Freelancer has already published a case study on my freelancing career. You can read this here.
Started by Accident
I left a well-paid job to start a digital consulting business. During my last job, I spearheaded a successful digital marketing campaign that generated 60+ B2B leads, and the monetary equivalent of it was almost US$400,000. While this success boosted my confidence and revalidated my digital marketing skills, I had no clue of how will I get clients for my new business.
Soon after acquiring few local clients, I realized that it is too difficult to provide high-end digital marketing services to SMEs at the price they are willing to pay. It was rare to come across a small business owner who has a professional approach towards his or her business, especially towards marketing (There were some excellent clients too, and I will talk about how I acquired them in a new blog). After struggling for five months, I stumbled upon Freelancer.com and then never looked back.
The process of making it big
Let us see the factors that can influence your earning on Freelancer.
The factors that affect your earnings
Before you proceed, please spend some time in understanding the Earning Framework. Your earnings depend on the number of projects you have completed successfully and average project value. You can increase your earnings either by working on more projects or increasing your professional fee. Both of these are directly linked to your profile rating on Freelancer. So you can’t charge higher than other freelancers until you have a good number (say 100+) of ratings and excellent reviews on your profile. To gain 100+ ratings, you need to win more projects. To win more projects, you should place a large number of bids and at the same time ensure that the award rate is also high.
Award rate = Total Number of projects awarded/Total number of bids placed
For beginners, award rate is 1-2%. This means you need to place bid on 50-100 projects to win your first job. You can increase your award rate if you take care of the following:
- Place your bid as soon as the project is posted
- Keep your price on the lower side
- Write an impressive proposal
This will help you win maximum projects. More projects will lead to more money and ratings. Higher earnings and ratings will lead to the better rank of your bid that in turn helps you fetch more projects. And, after few months the cycle will be automatic. You simply have to ensure that you deliver the work as per your commitment. You will never run short of projects. In the process, you can also experiment with pricing raise or keeping it the same for new clients.
If you think you can’t do freelancing because you have no domain or technical knowledge, please read this article on how every can do freelancing without initial investment or training.
As a beginner, you need to understand the following:
My first project on Freelancer was worth $25 and the second one was worth $5. I got the first project after placing a bid on over 45 projects while the second project was awarded after placing 25 bids. Despite low value of projects, I gave my best and both the employers worked with me for two years.
Don’t give up in first 100 Days
New freelancers need to make huge efforts to build the trust. For first 100 days, freelancers don’t work for money. Rather, they work to get ratings on their profile. They work to improve their bid rank as explained in next section.
Have a look at my 1-year earnings report and you will know why I am saying this:
My 1st year earnings report on Freelancer.com
You should not lose patience and self-belief in the first three to four months, even if you are not able to make your ends meet. Never give up. Remember that the efforts required to earn first $1000 are same as efforts needed to make the next $5000.
Improve Bid Rank
In late 2015, Freelancer introduced pagination system for bids as shown in the following figure. According to the new system, the list of bidders is split into some pages. Each page displays only eight bids.
As a new freelancer, your bid may end up at 3rd, 4th or even 10th page. Employers usually prefer to review 5-6 profiles before selecting a freelancer. So, only 20-30% of the serious employers will go beyond the first page of bids.
The website also gives you an option to sponsor your bid to the top position. However, this doesn’t enhance your prospect, so don’t waste money on this feature.
You should try to complete at least five projects by offering your services at lowest cost. Once you have five ratings on your profile, your bid rank will go up significantly.
Write a Custom Proposal
This worked wonderfully for me. Most of the freelancers write standard proposals for all the projects. If you can write a short and clear plan based on the project description, it will immediately attract employers’ attention.
Complete Your Profile
Before start bidding, complete your profile including display picture, cover photo, education details, work experience, skill sets, and portfolio. It impacts the decision of the employers.
Choose your Niche
Don’t bid on every project only because you need to get started. Choose your niche and focus only on the relevant projects. If you are a graphic designer and want to build your profile on graphic design, then don’t work on data entry projects. All the ratings and money earned on data entry projects will not be able to help you rank higher in the Graphic design category. So focus on a niche which suits you in the long term.
Be Quick and Consistent
On Freelancer.com, 80% of the genuine projects get awarded within 24 hours of being posted. 60% of these get awarded within an hour of being posted. So try to be first to place a bid on new projects. Competition is less in the morning and evening times so bidding on these times can be helpful. Also if you want to build a long-term freelancing career on these sites, make sure that you have ample time to bid. 40-50% of your time will go in bidding while remaining in completing the projects in hand.
Freelancing marketplaces position themselves as low-cost marketplaces. They attract a large number of entrepreneurs who want to get things done on a shoestring budget. As a new freelancer, you can’t compete with top freelancers on value; hence you need to compete on the budget. For the first ten projects, you have to keep your prices to lowest possible level. Once you have ten ratings on your profile, you may increase the prices slightly. You can similarly raise the prices once you achieve a milestone of 50, 100 and 200 ratings. Average project value on Freelancer lies between $50 and$200.
Communication with Employers
- While discussing the project, explicitly specify the timeline by when you will be able to complete the project. Ask as many questions as possible. If you feel that the bid price is way too less than you can accommodate, it is better to quote the right price before accepting the project. You should take care of following points before or after taking the project:
- Never work on a custom sample, however, small the work maybe – Like any other marketplaces, you will find a lot of scam artists on Freelancer.com as well. They ask for a small piece of work to check your quality. Once you send it to them, they never get back to you. So never work on a free custom sample. The best you can offer is to create a small $5-10 hourly project.
- Never accept a project until a milestone is created – You must ask an employer to create a milestone before you accept the project. The moment you will accept the project, the site will deduct a commission from your funds (irrespective of whether you get paid by your employer or not).
- Never work out of Freelancer.com – Getting paid through Freelancer boosts your profile.
While Working on a Project
- Ask your doubts
- Keep your clients informed about the assumptions you have made
- Avoid any delays, however, inform customers about any possible delay
- Communication is everything – Respond quickly and immediately
Be careful about
- Never work for free
- Avoid projects that need to be delivered within the next 24 hours
- Don’t get into the trap of promises made by employers on long term work – Everyone says it to get the max out of you. No one can guarantee long term work.
There are 20 million members on the website. Obviously, the competition is very fierce. Also, almost 80% of the projects posted on these sites never get awarded. So you need to work hard to get many projects. However, if you can work hard for the first 100 days, there is a real possibility of making it huge over a period. You will face several challenges until you have 20+ ratings. You need to figure out how to deal with those challenges. Also, you should look at the larger perspective rather than, the smaller daily earnings in the initial days. Once you understand the right strategy, you will never run short of projects.
This post was proofread by Grammarly!
Author: Saket Kumar Singh
A digital marketer and strategist by profession, I love writing and travelling. In the past I have been a Communication Engineer, Coder, Banker and Lead Consultant. Someday I would travel to explore the world.