Thursday, June 10, 2010

Bidding websites. Useful for freelancers?

Guest post by Veronique Martin-Place

Elance is an online marketplace where writers can bid on projects. I discovered it in 2009. At first, I thought the site was perfect for expat freelance writers like myself who were looking for non-location specific clients. So I started to apply for projects on Elance and other bidding websites that matched my skills and interests.

After a couple of months, I was spending more time on these websites than doing what a writer is supposed to do: write, promote and network.

Even though I only bid on projects I was suited for, I wasn't getting jobs and it was time to figure out why:

-First, the competition is tough: I was competing with 2,412 other “French experts” registered on Elance.

-Second, the competition is unbalanced: Individual freelancers have to compete against group of 5 to 10 freelancers (sometimes more) working together, and sometimes you're even bidding against entire companies.

-Third, location really does matter: Freelancers living in developing countries are working for lower wages than others. How can a freelance writer living in Switzerland compete against one in China or India?

-Fourth, the figures speak for themselves: For instance, Elance states that on June 8, 2010, its 2,412 French experts have earned $38,714.00 from projects completed in the last 6 months. That means if you are one of them, you have earned $16 in half a year. Worth the time and effort? Maybe not.

Anyhow, I have learned my lesson and I am going back to basics:

1- I spend limited time on bidding websites for freelancers (less than half an hour per week).

2- I am registered with only two of them: for the English speaking market and for the French one.

3- I spend much more time on my own writing projects.

4- I network a lot using social media (Linked In, Twitter, my blog) and in real life (Chicago expat groups, fellow writers and artists).

Bidding websites for freelancers might be useful for a beginning writer, but they should not be your only point of entry into the market.

What is your opinion of bidding websites?

Veronique is a French expat writer. She launched her portable career in 2009 when she founded Writer Forever. She is an experienced expat and has spent 10 years of living outside France (Norway, Sri Lanka and now the U.S.). She blogs at Expat Forever.


  1. What great advice Veronique: stick to the basics. I could not agree more. The fact that there are all these ways to sell or pitch stories can be both good and bad...but as every writer knows, there's nothing more detrimental to a writing life than being too distracted!

  2. I've never heard of Elance - great post! I might give Elance a try but only less than half hour a week as you suggested. Thanks!

  3. I haven't tried Elance either, but since I live in one of the most expensive countries in the world, I think it's a better use of my time to network with people within Switzerland so I can sometimes afford to go out for that $25 Chinese food.

  4. AnonymousJune 12, 2010

    I have done Elance for about 18mths sometimes on the paying program and sometimes on the free one, depending on workload.
    The competition is fierce and frequently dishearting when someone is selected to write 100 articles for $75 (US)or less. However among all that, I have secured a couple of real gems. In part I win contracts within my specialty field - I am a garden writer not generic and some purchasers prefer that.
    The ability to switch your spellcheck into UK English, USA and Australian is really handy!!
    And the bidding thing - yes that is addictive!

  5. Dear all,
    Thank you very much for you comments and advice.
    I agree with Katy: 1- the bidding results can be very disappointing; 2- but this kind of website can help you to keep an eye on your market especially if you have a niche.
    But the most important remains to focus on your own writing projects.
    Thank you Chantal for hosting my post on your blog.

  6. Bidding is also very popular in the translation business. We gave it a try a couple of years ago but for us it's a waste of time living in a fairly expensive country as Sweden (on top of that translation rates have continuously dropped throughout the years due to global competition). We agree, freelancers living in developing countries clearly have an advantage on such bidding platforms.

  7. Hmm. Maybe it's time to move to China after all!

  8. I totally agree with the author’s view that bidding websites might be beneficial especially for freelancers who are beginners in the writing field. I also agree that they should not be a single entry approach into the online market. I submitted recently a paper on the topic ‘bidding websites for freelancers’; however, I took a little editing help from essay editing online at Essay Yard.

  9. Hmmm, thank you for this good information, becouse I want to work as freelancer! I think your tips will be very importent for me! By the way, I want to advice the best company! It is online writing services! They are very professional and very friendly people wich can help you in all your writing problems!

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