How to find the best service to start your freelance career
Once you have an online portfolio established, there are several places you can post work samples along with your resume and start bidding on jobs, the most popular and trafficked are:
I’m sure if you look today, you may find others. However, in recent years there has been some consolidation in this market. Elance and oDesk are now under the same ownership. (Note: As I’m writing this, I’m receiving emails from Elance brass that essentially say the sites will be combined. By the time you read this it be something like oElanceDesk. UPDATE: They are now fully integrated under the banner of Upwork.) Several sites that used to serve niche markets have been taken over by Freelancer.
There are some that specialize in specific areas. DesignCrowd, for example, connects clients with graphic designers and has a different bidding/awarding system than sites like Elance. At DesignCrowd a job is posted and interested designers submit ideas, one of which is selected.
The major sites listed above have many listings for virtual assistants. However, there are sites that directly hire virtual assistants and then give them assignments. Zirtual and Worldwide101 fall into that category. Again, I’m sure there are others. A lot of virtual assistants also maintain their own websites from which they solicit clients.
I’m going to cover the basics of aligning yourself with one of the major portals, such as Elance. The initial registration process is no big deal so you might be wise to put your name in with a few and spend some time browsing jobs, comparing costs and seeing how easy it will be to find jobs that you are truly interested in.
Take their search features on a demanding test drive. I like the way Elance works because I can focus in on the category of writing jobs I prefer and then narrow it down further by looking for words like “humor” or “funny,” because sometimes I feel like pushing the envelope a little.
Sites usually have free and paid memberships. When you’re starting out, a free membership may be all you need, especially if you’re beginning your freelance career as a part time adjunct to your regular job. Below are charts that outline the membership plans available at Elance and Guru. When I looked at oDesk’s plans they were about the same as at Elance, but gave 10 more “connects” at the free and basic levels.
Elance plans and rate structure (2/2015):
Guru plans and rate structure (2/2015):
For me, the number of connects has been irrelevant for several years. Once you establish a high rating on Elance, people ask you to bid on their projects and these invitations do not count against your monthly quota. This is a huge benefit. It also means that I’m not wasting my time searching through the job listings. Further, people who find highly rated providers and send them requests for bids are generally serious about actually getting the work performed. I also need to mention that the greatest percentage of my work now is repeat projects for established clients and no “connects” are involved in those contracts.
However, when you’re first starting out, you may need to take a shotgun approach to bidding and you’ll end up using all the “connects” that you have. I remember months when I was down to my last couple of connects; I may have purchased a few more once or twice. Honestly, I think it’s a wise idea to invest the $10 a month and get a paid membership. Not only do you get the ability to bid on more jobs, it makes you look more serious and you can market yourself better.
This is the second article in a series. The first discussed creating an online portfolio. The next part will cover what you should include in your online portfolio.