By Garrett Hauenstein, for Edwardsturm.com.
There’s no better time to be working as a freelancer than today. According to Forbes, “on-demand” workers are now mainstays in small businesses as well as in huge corporations such as GE and Amazon. Today, over 15.5 million Americans categorize themselves as self-employed, which includes contractors and freelance workers. What’s more astounding is that this number is expected to reach as high as 60 million Americans by the year 2020, according to Intuit.
But if you hate cold-calling to sell yourself, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t, then you’ve got a variety of on-line options to pedal your services in the open market. A lot of sites that connect freelancers and clients are geared towards the tech/IT industry, but some of the best, such as Outsource (Rebranded as Remote.com) and Thumbtack, cater to all industries.
Much of what I’m writing here I learned because I failed more than I succeeded when I first threw my hat in the ring of online freelance job hunting. It was only though a lot of trial and error that I learned what worked and what didn’t.
Getting hired, especially for your first job, can be difficult and discouraging. Here are some things to make sure you’re doing (and not doing) to ensure you’re giving yourself the best shot to land the gig.
Be Willing to Spend Money
The way these sites typically work is that you’ll buy a number of credits. Each job submission you create will cost a certain number of these credits. You need to weigh the job against the number of credits it costs to apply.
Try not to expect to get hired right out of the gate. In my experience, it can take 10 – 15 submissions before you get interest from a potential client. You have to have the resources (and patience) to keep applying until your momentum gets going.
Make Sure Your Profile Is Brilliant
You only get one chance to make a first impression.
Your profile should be buttoned up, professional, proofread and double checked before you ever send your first quote. Don’t skimp on the information you’re being asked for. When a site has a field for a “Professional Overview,” come up with a couple good paragraphs about who you are and why you’re great at your job. Simply writing, “I do PR in Chicago,” isn’t going to cut it.
If you’ve got the opportunity to upload past visual work, do so. Outside of customer reviews, there’s no greater factor in determining if someone will want to hire you than them being able to see your previous product.
You will never find work on these websites if you don’t have reviews. Plain and simple.
But how do you get reviews for a site you just joined? Well, the good news is that most of these sites allow you to reach out to previous clients you have worked with and get reviews from them. This is absolutely vital.
Think back over your career and come up with ten people you think would speak positively about your work. Then have them write a review and post it to the site. It usually will take them less than 5 minutes.
Narrow Your Focus
You may be good at a lot of things. Maybe you can even crochet, bake a flan, and trim rose bushes all at the same time. And the logical step, one would think, would be to put all of this on your profile so you can cast a wide net when looking for jobs.
The problem is, your potential clients see a jack of all trades, and a master of none. You need to pick and choose what you’re going to be great at and then gear your profile towards that 100%.
For now, be the world’s best flan baker, and leave your crocheting and roses off the list. Everyone likes flan better anyway.
Make Your Quote Response Polished and Specific
When you send in your quote, you typically have a space to respond to the job poster in written form. You should always use this space and not simply send a monetary quote alone.
Ensure your response is well written and speaks (briefly) to your skills and offers a bit of background on you as a professional.
Some sites, Thumbtack for instance, allow you to save templates to quickly respond to jobs. This is helpful as it allows you to keep a polished response at the ready so that you don’t have to rethink and rewrite each time. If your site doesn’t offer this feature, write your response in Microsoft Word and simply copy and paste it each time.
That said, you should always leave a space in your response to address the specific needs of the job poster. For instance, if their post stated that they’re looking for Blog and SEO help, add a line that directly speaks to your abilities in those areas.
Most sites offer some sort of text alert, email, or app notification when a new job is posted in your area of interest. Do yourself a favor and drop what you’re doing, look at it, and respond immediately if you’re interested.
Thumbtack limits the number of responses to a post to 5 so you really need to be on the ball and respond right away. Outsource does not have that limit, but you don’t want to be the 40th person quoting a job because, I promise you, the poster has stopped reading quotes by then and you’ve just wasted your credits.
The bottom line is that you need to both present yourself as an expert in your field, and then be patient enough for someone to respond to your quotes. It’s not fun waiting, but remember, after the first time, your confidence will be up and then it’s just a matter of keeping the momentum going.