When I started freelancing, I knew early on that I had to branch out.
I began as a “freelance writer”, my first two “clients” being content mills. Work wasn’t always stable, but I managed to get by. During the slow times when I wasn’t fervently writing to clock up a survivable hourly wage, I would research more about freelancing. More specifically, online freelancing.
A little later down the line, I also began “in person” freelancing as a TEFL teacher. While better paid than content mills, TEFL also wasn’t the most stable job. Of course, now being a seasoned content mill writer my original thoughts of “Great, I can sit at home all day, sip wine and write for cash!” were now long gone. However, as much as I enjoyed TEFL I didn’t really see a future in it.
So, I sipped a lot of wine. I wrote for (not so much) cash. And I did more research into freelance job boards.
Upwork, oDesk, eLance, Guru… whatever. There were almost too many. After a lot of fumbling around, I managed to find my feet and actually snag a few decent-paying clients. I even forged one or two long-term (business) relationships. Content mills remained my “slow time” fallback (when work was available). In general, I made an alright living for someone in a cheap city with few expenses.
Between working with freelancer platforms, my own clients, content mills and teaching English, it dawned on me just how much work freelancing really is. It was a good education, to say the least. The searching, the bidding, working on projects just to get an interview… I spent hours of work without even a guarantee of getting a job.
In many ways, it sucked.
Finding work as a self-employed person is just as tiring and as much work as finding a full-time job – actually, probably even more since you always have to be hustling alongside your own projects.
When it comes to freelancer sites, really try to remember:
They should never, ever be your only option.
Get out on social media and the real world and network – forge relationships, maybe do a bit of pro bono work here and there to build up your portfolio. At the same time, do pick at least two or three platforms you feel will work and put some time and effort into crafting a profile.
Why? Well, because…
At the very least, a freelance job site offers you free advertising.
This all comes down to personal branding and a bit of advertising. After all, the more your face and profile pops up on the internet in the right places, the more likely it is that the right people will see it. The same can be said for publishing a portfolio on these sites.
Freelance Job Boards: The “keys” to increasing your chances of success
I cannot give you a 100% guaranteed formula that will definitely land you a list of clients so large you almost can’t keep up with the work. If I could, I’d probably be selling ebooks and courses on it (it’s what all the cool kids are down now, apparently).
However, I can give you the methods I used in order to land clients. Sometimes they worked like a charm, sometimes results took longer to materialize. Either way, they are reflective of the business world. You have to get the right target audience, sell the right product and market yourself the right way. Additionally, there are slow times and times when you have nothing but work to do.
When it comes to freelance job boards, however, these points are non-negotiable. They’re important, even if you just want a basic smattering of visibility.
Define what you ARE and what you’re SELLING
DO NOT write “Online Freelancer” as your job title, followed by “various freelance services – online!”. Anything in the area of too vague and too general is either going a) get you a bunch of jobs no where near your field of expertise or more likely b) get you absolutely no response whatsoever.
Your profile(s) are important
No matter how many freelance job boards you sign up to, craft them with a whole lot of love. While the actual structure of your profile can vary from one platform to the other, in general you should…
- …have a clean, professional profile photo. This doesn’t have to be a photo of your face although I would highly advise it for individual freelancers. You are the friendly face of the business you’re running. Alternatively, you may want to consider a logo.
- A comprehensive tagline that defines what you ARE. Harking back to the previous paragraph, are you a digital strategist? A web developer? What’s your focus, what’s your specialty? Try to think of a creative but clear way to send the message, too.
- Fill out your bio/profile description. It’s amazing how many freelancers neglect to do this. You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) detail every aspect of your job history but you should provide a comprehensive view of your professional background, your services, skills and the type of “pain” you can solve for your prospective clients. If possible, try including testimonials.
What I would advise is briefly forgetting about freelance platforms and simply crafting and online resume with at least the above points. Additionally, include a portfolio of your work and then create a website and publish it there.
You can then take this “core” professional profile and adapt it to whatever platform you’re using.
Beyond Freelancer Sites: Be your own “command central”
Ultimately, you should view each freelance platform you sign up to as one of many “channels” through which you can spread your message. People may either reach out to you on these platforms, or you may have to do a bit of job bidding to at least get your face out there (and who knows, you may end up scoring a client/gig or two).
Ultimately, this will ensure that you have a strong presence on these platforms and additionally can spread your personal brand.
However, you should maintain your “central” profile. Publish a blog posts every now and then (once a month at least). Share this post on social media (Instagram is great for photographers, LinkedIn is good for most professionals).
Join a few online communities, get involved in discussions and publish your opinion in different (relevant places). Get to know people and build relationships online – really make a name for yourself.
Ultimately, freelance job boards are really little more than a gimmick. It is possible to get a lot of clients through them, but they shouldn’t be central to your strategy (at least when you’re starting out).