When you create your account with one of the popular freelance websites, you’ll be required to write some promotional copy about yourself, enter educational information, list jobs you have held and more. All of these things together, along with some work samples you upload, will comprise most of your public profile.
The 80-20 rule governs earnings on sites like Elance and oDesk, in fact I’m certain the ratio is even more skewed than 80-20. The 80-20 rule says that 20 percent of the freelancers are earning 80 percent of the money. From my experience, I would guess that 5 percent of the freelancers on these sites are earning about 90 percent of the money.
But no matter what the precise ratio is, you want to work your way into the elite group of earners to are tucking good money into their bank accounts every day and to accomplish this you need an excellent profile.
Frankly, when I put this topic on my list to include in this series, I thought it would be my shortest entry. But as I pulled together everything I wanted to tell you, I realized that there’s a lot to say and that’s mainly because there is a lot you can do wrong when you’re establishing your profile.
A social media
These freelancing sites are essentially variations of the different popular social media platforms. You might think of them as LinkedIn but with a “hire this freelancer” button built in. The problem is that wannabe freelancers usually put no more thought into their profiles as they do when they create their personal Facebook page.
Until your reputation is firmly established, your profile and your bid are your primary means of selling yourself to a prospect. When I bid on a job I scan the page to see who else is bidding. On Elance, this bid summary page grabs a freelancers photo and the first 140 characters of his or her profile description.
In other words, your prospect may not know anything more about you than what you can express in a single tweet. This is where probably a majority of new freelancers screw up. Let me give you a couple of examples. The first is from a writer trying to get his freelance career off the ground. This is how he begins to describe his talents:
“The most effective way of working is to have good communication and to this end I feel that it very important to have clarity and focus for every…”
That’s exactly where his description ended on the bid summary page. I’m a journalist at heart so I’m going to call the first sentence in a profile its “lead.” His lead said nothing that would make me want to hire him. Perhaps he thought he was being wise by showing some kind of larger understanding or concern. I don’t know. But I do know that this lead is ineffective.
Here’s a real humdinger from a hopeful writer:
“When I was very young I used to rehearse everything I said quietly to myself before I spoke. It was an odd habit, but I wanted to make sure that…”
I want to give you one more example because it illustrates a very common mistake I see:
“BA Degree in Hospitality with specialization in Sales & Marketing. International work experience for 10 years in USA, UK, Hong Kong and Europe….”
Far too many individuals looking to sell their services end up creating a profile that reads like a resume or a curriculum vitae. This is totally the wrong approach. Let me be plain about this: Your online profile is a sales piece. You are selling yourself as someone who can provide a service to fill a need or solve a client’s problem. Here are the first few sentences of my profile:
“Awkward and lifeless copy kills your chance to win new customers. Demand compelling copy. Your competitors do.”
Try to “hook” potential clients immediately. Draw them further into reading your profile and then impress them with your ability to relate to their situation and your professionalism. Frankly, if you’re a writer on one of these sites looking for freelance clients, if you can’t get someone to read your entire profile, you’re probably in the wrong business.
Although I shouldn’t have to say this, I will because I see this mistake all the time: Your profile must have no spelling or grammar errors. I see people looking for writing jobs whose profiles read like text messages.
I don’t get it.
Earlier I discussed establishing an online portfolio of your work. This would be work that is published on third-party websites or your own blog, for example. However, you will also need to upload samples (files) of your work on whichever freelance site you decide to use.
When I look at what other writers have posted, I often find documents that read like reports written for a junior college English class. If you don’t yet know the difference between article writing, copywriting, and academic writing, you need to figure it out – fast. Few people want to hire a freelancer to write something that reads like a school essay, even if your English teacher used to always praise your writing talent.
If I could sum up in one word the main quality you need to demonstrate with your writing samples it would be “engaging.” More than 95 percent of the writing you will be doing will be for the Internet. Your clients will want to grab eyeballs and hold on to them as long as possible. They will want to inform, entertain and perhaps make a sale along the way.
Take the time to create a slick, magazine-like, layout for your samples. Head over to Pixabay to find some good artwork you can incorporate into your writing samples. Don’t worry about uploading a lot of samples. I believe sharing links to your online published articles in your bids is more important that what you upload to your portfolio. Also, few prospects will do much more than scan a couple of writing samples.
Show your skills
Many freelance sites offer skill tests. You should take as many as possible. They give you instant credibility and they also improve your “rating” – which is a number attached to your name and the higher the better. (You get higher ratings through some classified formula of earnings, recommendations, marketing, skills and secret sauce.)
If you do poorly on a test, most sites will allow you not to post your score, so the attempt serves as a lesson and you should be able to do better the next time.
Academic achievements, such as your college degrees, previous jobs and even your own actual identity may be subject to verification. If you go through the verification processes when they are offered, it boosts your ratings and that in turn can raise the confidence of your potential clients when they consider hiring you.
There is usually a small fee associated with getting various aspects of your resume verified. In the long run, it is worth the investment. If a few verifications will boost your rating a point or two, it lifts you above a lot of your competitors.
Your client feedback
How your clients rate you is generally posted in your profile. It may be reduced to an average. My rating is five stars out of a possible five stars. Many others will have 4.5 stars and so on.
This client feedback rating is, as I’m sure you already know, crucial to your long-term success. This is doubly true when you are starting to establish yourself. A poor review early on will sink your ratings. If you have a rating under four stars, you’ll never get hired and if you’re not rated higher than 4.5 things are very iffy.
On Elance, the categories that your clients rate you on are:
You should put those attributes on a little Post-it note and stick it to your computer monitor so you are always aware of the judging criteria. They will keep you pointed in the right direction. Clients can also make a few extra written comments, so if you drop the ball on any of these, you can be fairly certain it will be mentioned in the commentary.
However, clients generally want to leave good feedback. I’ll discuss this more when I cover bidding. But for now, know that if you do good work and perform “as advertised” you should get a good rating and complimentary feedback, which will be reflected in your profile and strengthen your position as you continue to offer your services to new clients.
(This is the third in a series. Other articles deal with which service to select and how to get an online portfolio started.)