November 9, 2009

How to Use Bid Sites to Break into Freelance Writing

Do you want to pursue a career in freelance writing, but think you can’t make it work because of lack of experience? One way to break into freelance writing is by bidding on writing jobs at contract sites such as Elance, Guru, Freelancer or GetAFreelancer.

These jobs probably won’t be the highest paying you will ever have, but can be a great way to get your foot in the door and build up a portfolio of online clips. Once you gain some experience, you can make the move to better paying jobs, but until then, bid sites are a legitimate way to get started.

Here’s how it works:

Pick one or two sites to start with. Do some Internet sleuthing to investigate the reputation of the various sites — a good place to start is the forums at Absolute Write.

Set up your account. Any worthwhile bid site will let you write your own profile. Make sure it’s a good one, since prospective clients will definitely be reading it. Most sites also require you to have a paypal account to receive your wages. Now is a good time to set that up if you don’t already have one.

Consider upgrading your membership. Most sites offer a free basic membership, or an upgraded membership for a fee or for a percentage of your earnings. My advice is start with the free membership, and spend a few days getting to know the site. If after a few days it seems like a worthwhile investment, you can always upgrade. Some sites, for example, let “premium” members bid on higher budget projects — a big plus. But remember, your goal isn’t to earn a full-time living from bid sites. Your goal is to get some clips so you can start applying for better paying jobs without having to bid for them. (Save your receipt from upgrading, as you can likely use it as a write-off come tax time.)

Find projects to bid on. Most bid sites feature a range of web-based assignments, from writing to programming to data base work. Search for the writing projects, and then find the ones that most interest you. You might also want to look for projects that will give you a byline, as ghost written clips are less valuable on the job market.

Determine your asking price. Most projects will have a few insanely low bids ($.02 for 2000 words) and a couple super high bids ($2000 for 2000 words — not gonna happen on a contract site!) The rest will be within a few cents of each other, so picking a price point is important. But it’s even more important to distinguish yourself. That’s where your profile comes in handy. As you land jobs, you will get feedback from clients, which can also make you a more attractive candidate.

Complete the job. Even if the job doesn’t pay a ton (and it probably won’t on a bid site), it’s important that you do your very best work. Remember your goal here: To get clips that you can use to launch your freelance writing career. Your top priorities are therefore to write a solid piece that you are proud to use as a published clip — and that will garner a positive rating from the client.

Stick to it. To make this strategy work for you, you need to put in the time. Commit to spending a half an hour each day trolling the contract sites for good jobs to bid on. The more gigs you bid on, the more likely you are to land some. If you only bid on one or two jobs a week, it may take six months or longer to land even one. But if you bid on a few jobs each day, you can have a nice portfolio of completed clips in no time. And then you can branch out to some of these other ways to find freelance writing jobs.

Have you had a good experience with any of the contract work sites? Tell us about it!

Sign up for our newsletter!