The Freelancing Guide: Finding Work

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Preparing for starting as a freelancer is a challenging and sometimes daunting experience for most people. Now imagine what it is to actually find your first clients?

In this post, I’m going to give you some general advice how to do it, based on my personal experience and observations.

First, you need to understand the actual process of finding work.

There are two types of freelancers: those who have the skills, abilities and connections to negotiate their own private clients without resorting to using brokers and those who have no experience, limited set of skills and no connections at all. I will be covering the second type here, because it is the more challenging one from the two.

Finding and Registering for Jobs

Finding projects involves browsing through virtual marketplaces where employers, recruiters and other freelancers who are also looking for skilful people are posting their job proposals or projects. A few of these websites include:
http://www.freelancer.com
http://www.rentacoder.com
http://www.odesk.com

The first step you would need to take before browsing through these marketplaces is to register a profile in one or more of them. The registration process is usually straightforward and self-explanatory. When signing up for particular marketplaces read carefully and review all of their policies and terms regarding searching for, accepting, performing and getting paid for jobs through the particular service because all of these different websites have quite different terms and conditions of use.

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Building your Public Profile

I have observed that people who have not completed their profiles tend to lose out on projects a lot compare with those who have completed their profiles in full. In particular, pay attention to the skills section of your profile where you can list your skills and abilities for the employers to see. Don’t cheat with non-existing skills there.
Some marketplaces have started offering tests that you could pay for and take in order to show your achievements to the world on your profile page. These tests are really useful for most employers because they show your real abilities, hence, when you have passed various tests, this signifies to your potential employer that you are really professional and stand from the crowd of millions of unskilled cheap labour.

The final step is to look through the different categories corresponding to your abilities in the marketplace, pick some jobs you would be willing to do and place bids for them.

Selecting your First Jobs

First, look for easy projects in order to get acquainted with how the system actually works and then after you have done a few of them, you have gathered some positive feedback upon completion of them and you have become familiar and confident that freelancing is really for you, you could jump into larger and well-paid jobs and projects. Many of these websites offer category of trial projects for newcomers. These projects are marked with a special sign that reads something along these lines, so watch out for these projects because they have been specifically designed for the employers to be able to recruit new people, restricting these projects only to first time members. Usually, after you complete your first project and receive feedback on it, you will not be eligible to bid on other trial projects anymore.

Bidding for a Project or Job

Every project page has a button called ‘Bid now for this project’ or something similar. When you click this button, you could place a proposal bid that includes the price you are willing to do the job for, the timeframe in which you would be able to deliver the completed job and a few other details differing amongst the different marketplaces.
After the project automatically closes depending on the time it was set to be published for, or after the employer decides to pick a freelancer who would be doing the requested job, you woukd be notified via email whether you have been selected to do the job or not and if you were not selected, who was the lucky freelancer chosen to complete the project which would enable you to spy on your competition and see some of his/her tactics and strategies for winning projects and tailor your profile and bid proposals accordingly.

When bidding for a specific project or a job, research your target market thoroughly and try to come up with a realistic price which is not too high or too low. I know, I know. You might be the local guru, who has 10 years’ experience of doing something in a particular area under your belt, but right now you are still unknown to the world and you need to compromise with a few things while you gather pace and authority in the virtual nasty world of freelancing. Also, put a realistic timeframe for completing the job. If you think that you could complete the selected job for X days, factor in an additional day or two, just in case. You know, your Internet could go down, your computer could crash or basically anything could happen that could jeopardise your first job and you would need extra time just to be on the safe side.

When typing a message to the employer highlighting your skills and experience, don’t forget to include examples of your previous work related to the job or project in question. (Never ever give your personal contact information neither in your website profile, private messages,etc, nor in the links or file attachments containing samples of your work or you risk being banned from the marketplace for violating their terms and conditions of use).

Place the bid button and you are set to go. Lay back, relax and wait for the employer to get back to you and good luck!

In the next post, I am going to talk about communicating with your employers and how to avoid some common scams.

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