Top 5 Tips When Bidding For Freelance Work

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One way of obtaining freelance work is by bidding for work through websites like GetAFreelancer.com, Guru.com or Elance.com. This route to contract work is a handy tool for stop-gap work but can be a minefield for the uninitiated. The idea is based on the eBay model, where clients post the type of work they are looking for within a budget range, timescale, and description of the work they need completed. Freelancers then bid on the job, and the client selects the best fit, or sometimes unsurprisingly, the cheapest offer of work.

The system is based heavily on trust and therefore, like the problems experienced by a minority of eBay users, some people have had bad experiences using it. Bidding systems have downfalls as well as advantages, so this article aims at ensuring you get some important advice to ensure you don’t fall into one of the many pitfalls that exist to trap unsuspecting freelancers.

Research the Client

As with any job you might be considering, find out who you might be working for first. Do they have favourable comments against their ID? Do they have a substantial profile? Do they have a company website? If a posted job doesn’t feel right when you read it, the chances are you should steer clear.

There are several giveaways you should watch out for when thinking of bidding for a writing gig:

– the poster seems confused about what it is they actually want
– they are a new poster offering a high budget
– they are a new poster with no references
– the poster has little or no information in their profile or job description
– the poster is reluctant to give up much information about himself or the job
– they are looking for work on a trial basis first

All of these instances should set alarm bells ringing in your head, telling you the job you might be about to bid for is not all that it seems.

Don’t Bid Low

Not only is it an affront to hard working writers the world over, but bidding low for projects reduces your professionalism as well as your chances of moving forward in the industry.

Too many jobs appear on these websites advertising work for a pittance but disguised as something fantastic. For example: “$500 for easy article writing” sounds like a good deal, but when you read the small print, very often you’ll find the client is looking for 500 articles a week at $1 a piece. You would be a fool to go for it, because not only is it demeaning, it also propagates the misunderstanding that writers will work for next to nothing under ridiculous demands. The Writer’s Strike in America should have warned people about this sort of thing, but while there are writers who do it, the problem will always exist. Don’t be one of them.

If you are serious about freelance writing, then do your research and stick to the going rate. Not only will people take you more seriously, but you’ll avoid getting involved with cowboys looking for a cheap deal. Remember: people will get what they pay for – $1 per article will rightly get them garbage, compared to a quality article researched and written for $100.

By all means bid strategically: if the average bid for a $100-$250 gig is sitting at $150 and this is within decent market rates for that type of work, then be competitive, but don’t lose your self-respect over it.

Watch Out For Pirates

Suppose a client accepts your bid and the ball is set rolling on a project. You await the full remit but when it arrives you discover it is for something a little bit more than previously agreed. It would be easy to return with a volley of abuse, and it might be even easier to take the work as it is and hope to impress. But don’t. A chancer is at work and he will take you for all you have. If you were to get involved in this type of situation, what’s to say you will even get paid at the end of it?

Should you find this happens, a short but polite email to the client explaining the new remit was not what you agreed, but you would be happy to discuss new terms as part of another project over and above the currently agreed one.

Do not let yourself be bowled over by slick sales talk or threats of breach of contract –stand your ground and be strong. If you lose the gig then you have lost nothing but a lot of hassle, so thank yourself for having the savvy to get out while you could.

If the client is genuinely confused then negotiate a deal for the new work, and who knows, a continuing working relationship may develop to be very fruitful for both parties.

Another popular scam is to sign up a writer, only for the client to say they would prefer you to write an amount of the project and submit it in advance, just to see if you are both compatible. Challenge them to put their money up first, stating you don’t work for free, or simply prepare to walk away. The chances are if you undertake this work you can wave goodbye to any form of payment and will never hear from them again.

Be Prudent With Payments

The main rule when handling payments is safety first. Escrow systems are normally in place to which it is recommended clients place the agreed amount of money first. This money is then held in this third party account until the job is completed and can be released; a system designed to protect both parties from intellectual and monetary theft.

Using Escrow means you are also able to leave comments for each other after a project’s completion in order to boost your profile within the community. A downside to this though, is you will normally be charged to withdraw your money to an external account, which if this is PayPal or WorldPay for example, may also take its own percentage depending on the amount.

One way around this is to bypass Escrow and simply agree with the client to take payment straight into PayPal/WorldPay. This eliminates any extra charges, but loses the protection afforded from Escrow. In this instance, ask the client to deposit a percentage of the agreed fee into PayPal (unless you have worked with him before), to ensure confidence on either side that the work will be done, and that payment is safe.

Don’t Entertain Anything Illegal

From time to time seemingly well-paid gigs arise which may be illegal in some countries. Very often jobs are posted that ask the writer to plagiarise other articles or content, write unethical reports with “guidelines” that consist merely of lies, or offer payment to provide false names or testimonials in articles for people and products that do not exist. Many of these scams are used to gain money from people over the internet under false pretences, which in most countries is an illegal practice called fraud.

It goes without saying that jobs like these should be avoided at all costs. Although you may be ghost writing the work, if the cops came looking there will always be a trail back to your computer.

All this aside, there are some very good opportunities for work in the form of one-off gigs on bidding sites. They afford the writer a chance to dip their toes into new territory without too much being at stake, and it can be a good way of filling the gaps when things get quiet.

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7 thoughts on “Top 5 Tips When Bidding For Freelance Work”

  1. Great post, Colin. I was planning something like this over on my blog. I guess I’ll have to take a different tack 🙂 However, I have posted something on scams today which syncs well with this. Asking for the money up front is the best way to weed out scammers, IMO.

  2. I have been with Guru for about two months now and what a waste of money! The majority of the jobs are total crap (write 50 articles for $2 an article) posted over and over again.

    I refuse to negotiate my rates. I charge what I charge; I’m sure that the winning bidders are working for chump change.

    If anyone has had a positive experience with this site, I’d love to hear it!

  3. I’ve been on Guru for a while now, and my personal experience over there is positive. However, I only go after the translation jobs. Even then, you have some unreasonable clients; I just move on and don’t let it bother me, they’ll get what they pay for.

    I did go after some writing jobs in the beginning, but like Robin said, it was not worth it at all – and one of the few decent ones I got, I ended up getting burned by the client (I ended up tracking down all the directories where he had submitted the articles and had the different sites remove them – the time it took wasn’t worth the unpaid money, but it was all about the principle!). Since then, I always use Escrow – the fee it costs is well worth the headaches it saves.

  4. Hi Colin

    I came here via Sharon’s blog and I’m glad I did since your blog seems chock a block full of goodies for freelance writers.

    One thing that really bothers me with these freelance job websites is all the “cheap” writers who constantly undermine us by bidding for jobs with ridiculous low amounts.

    It makes it really hard for serious writers to actually snatch a job and only serves to damage the whole industry. Once clients see that they can get writers for $2 and article, why offer more…

  5. I perfectly agree with you. Sometimes clients are unreasonable, it is us writers who have to decide whether to sell our talent for money or creative satisfaction. Most often writers write for paltry sums, this disturbs the whole equation of the industry. Even websites like Guru.com etc. should have certain bidding standards to protect writing industry in general.

  6. Great article!

    I would also add ProjectPosts to your list of freelance websites (www.projectposts.com). Posting to it is free – no cost to you so there is nothing to lose!

  7. This is evidently true i have tried to be a writer before I landed ob having my own blog. I have done for people jobs on elance and upwork and noticed that some clients will never pay so this is very educative for writers who will bid. I used to but be carful on the job type some clients will want you to be off the site and give you their skype and emails plz don’t try this.

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