Freelancing on the internet

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Peoloom

Robin
I'm currently studying for a master's degree in economics in London. I realized not too long ago that I don't have any desire to work a 40 hour per week job -- at least while I'm in my 20s.

I've decided that I'm going to try to live in Bulgaria this summer before the second year of my program starts. I think if this summer goes well, I might try to do it for a few years after graduating. I think I need $50/day to live comfortably in Bulgaria.

I'm making a little money writing web content, but I don't think I can live off of that income. I signed up for an account on eLance to try to get more work but it has so far been fruitless. What other options are there? I'd like to avoid going there without a dependable source of income (i.e. I don't want to assume I can wait tables in Bulgaria and show up with nothing in my wallet). Has anyone had any success on eLance or oDesk? Another site? I have some business ideas that I think can generate money, but I won't have time to build them out until the summer.
 
Those websites work fine but you need to realize you are competing with workers from developing countries like India where they can underbid you since the cost of living is so low.

If you are set on freelancing than you need to build your client base through word of mouth. I sometimes work with people in the web design business through my job as a Small Business Consultant. The way that most of them obtained work is through working with an established firm that does work for other businesses. They usually develop great relationships with those clients and eventually quit the firm to do freelance directly for those companies. The companies they work for often recommend them to other companies.

However, one things the successful people have going for them is a great portfolio that potential clients can view. They will also do some cold calling to get new clients, which can work a bit.
 

zorgon

Sparrow
jmb, I'm curious, how do you get in the door cold calling? Most companies don't seem to have much in the way of publicly available contact info. Emails to their generic "info" addresses get ignored. Phone calls require you to know who you want to talk to.
 
zorgon said:
jmb, I'm curious, how do you get in the door cold calling? Most companies don't seem to have much in the way of publicly available contact info. Emails to their generic "info" addresses get ignored. Phone calls require you to know who you want to talk to.

You need to develop an organized sales strategy. This the most effective one I know:

1) call the company ask for the name, email address, and phone number of the person of the hiring person.

2) Send them a template email (basically a cover letter) expressing your interest in freelancing for them. In the email you will include a link to your portfolio and you will mention that you will call them in the next week to set to confirm they received the information and to set-up a meeting if they are interested.

3) Call them directly a week later and mention that you emailed them a week before. They most likely did not look at your email so at this point you will tell them you are sending it to them again right now. If they have time and are at a computer, ask if they received it and if they are interested. If they are, talk to them about freelancing for them. If they don't have time, ask if they can call you next week to speak to them about it again.

4) Continue this process and track it in an excel sheet. Another option is to mail this person a print portfolio (costly), or even better is to drive around your city to deliver the print portfolio to each hiring person. The key in being successful is following up on each lead. For instance, there is one salesman from a credit card processing company who calls me. I declined the service the first time because I was not ready to put up the money. He asked me if he could call a month later to see if i was ready. I said yes. He called a month later and I was still not ready. He asked when he could call again and I told him to try in 2 months. He contacted me back in exactly 2 months. I am still not ready to purchase the service but I know that I will eventually...and with his company because there will be a time when I am ready for the service and he will likely contact me during that time.
 

speakeasy

Peacock
Gold Member
I'm a freelance web/flash designer myself. I've gotten all work through word of mouth. I haven't yet tried one of those bidding sites for work because of what I've heard, that it is filled with guys in India willing to do programming for $5 an hour or some ridiculous shit like that. My first client was my previous full time employer, I left on good terms and they sent work my way.

Cold calling is a complete waste of time, don't even bother. The ROI of your time is VERY low and the quality of client that would respond will probably be low as well. Any client with a big budget project isn't going to respond to some guy they don't know cold calling them. They go to agencies or rely on word of mouth, or if you've done some incredible work make sure you have the link to your business as the bottom so people that are impressed with your work can contact you.
 
speakeasy said:
Cold calling is a complete waste of time, don't even bother. The ROI of your time is VERY low and the quality of client that would respond will probably be low as well. Any client with a big budget project isn't going to respond to some guy they don't know cold calling them. They go to agencies or rely on word of mouth, or if you've done some incredible work make sure you have the link to your business as the bottom so people that are impressed with your work can contact you.

I should have specified it more. I was referring to cold calling firms/agencies.
 

Roosh

Cardinal
Orthodox
I looked at elance too but man the competition is fierce.

I'm lazy and I don't like hustling for work. I've been doing my own thing for about 4 years with the blog and the ads from that and book sales bring home a 3rd world income. I can live in argentina on my own with that but not in america, which is one reason i'm living with my dad. Recently bartending has pushed my income to where i can live on my own, but i rather save that money and hit the road in a few months.
 

Trotter

Woodpecker
It's a tough market for freelancing. Basically, if you don't have any contacts you have to contract yourself out for peanuts with individuals and very small companies regardless of how nice your portfolio may be. It's all about who you know. Even in my line of work million dollar contracts are handed out through word of mouth mostly.

I tried the freelancing thing for a while hoping to pull in some extra money. After about 6 months of attacking it aggressively I decided that I didn't have the right resources to do it. There are some freelancing areas that are sometimes easier to get into such as technical writing.
 
It is possible, but as everyone said above, you are competing with people around the world. It's a marketplace like any else, and adheres to many of the same rules.

If you are considering freelancing, keep in mind that you will need to account for the time you spend looking for work/selling your services...or in the case of using elance/guru bidding on the jobs.

There are several factors to consider when selling your skills but the most important one to realize is this: the more complex/specialized your skill, the higher value it is.

Also, the more structured/automated you make your system the smoother the flow of cash will be to your wallet.

Having a dedicated project manager/project bidder from india for 5 bucks an hour or somesuch would allow you to scale your earnings big time.

Writing is obviously the easiest web-labor sort of job there is out there and there are plenty of webmasters who would rather pay 1 or 2 cents more for legit, well-written content/articles. As far as being paid for writing goes, it is nearly slave labor wages, but so it goes.

Building virtual relationships with other freelancers, consultants etc can be very lucrative as well.

For example, I know a guy who is an SEO consultant, who works with a virtual team who all specialize in different online business functions. A wordpress specialist, a php developer, a copywriter, business plan writers and they all work virtually and refer business other business to the group. He charges $2000 for a business plan and has an m.b.a. write it for $900, etc.
 
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