Why You Should Think Twice Before Bidding on Freelance Gigs (Book Giveaway)
Editor's note: Miranda Marquit is a regular contributor to Wise Bread as well as and many personal finance blogs. She has built a successful freelance writing and blogging career, and has done well enough to become the primary breadwinner for her family, while working from home. Her book, Confessions of a Professional Blogger, is a fantastic getting started guide that we recommend for any aspiring freelance writers. It is chock-full of practical and actionable tips Miranda has learned from years of working in the trenches. (Enter a comment below for a chance to win a free copy!)
In the excerpt below, Miranda explains why freelancers should avoid job bidding sites, and where to look for better paying gigs instead.
I've been providing online content for several years now, and I've found it a great job as a stay-at-home mom. The rise of the Internet means that stay-at-home parents can benefit from a job that doesn't require a physical presence. There are many places to find jobs online, including freelance bidding sites, which purport to provide stay-at-home moms and dads with the perfect opportunities. Even with these sites readily available, though, I've only completed a couple of jobs with the help of freelance bidding sites.
Freelance bidding sites, which are also referred to as marketplaces, are the last places I would look for work — no matter how desperate I felt. I learned fairly early in my online writing career that a bidding site is pretty much the last place you should go if you want a fair fee for your work.
3 Reasons to Avoid Freelance Marketplaces as a Writer
A freelance marketplace can be a great resource if you're doing the hiring. You find writers willing to work for fairly low prices. If you want to get passable work — and sometimes great work — for less, a freelancing bidding site is the place to be. On the other hand, if you are a writer trying to make a living, I can think of other things you should be doing instead. Here are three reasons for stay-at-home moms and dads looking for online jobs to avoid bidding on freelance gigs.
1. You're Lowballing Yourself
The point of a freelance marketplace is to help a publisher find a writer for a rock-bottom price. You'll only get work at a freelance site if you are willing to charge less than the next writer. Essentially, you lowball yourself. While some publishers looking on a freelance marketplace might accept your higher bid if they are truly looking for quality, it's rare that you will get a fair price for work done this way. Instead, you will agree to accept less than you're worth for the sake of saying that you have a gig.
Freelance bidding sites point out that they offer writers access to thousands of potential jobs. It's true that you can do a lot of work if you sign up with a freelance marketplace. Unfortunately, that work will be low-paying and frustrating.
2. You Get Even Less After the Site Takes Its Cut
Because a freelance marketplace connects the parties, it only makes sense that it takes a cut of each transaction. Usually, the freelance marketplace takes its cut out of whatever you make. It's tempting to use a freelance bidding site, since it acts as a third-party to keep everyone honest. While it's not a guarantee against getting scammed, you do receive a certain level of security when you land gigs through a marketplace.
Unfortunately, this security comes with a cost. The freelance marketplace will take a portion of the pay you receive for your work. This means that once you lowball yourself by bidding as little as possible on a gig, you will receive even less in the end after the marketplace takes its cut off the top.
3. It's Hard to Raise Your Prices Later
Once you have worked for so little with a client, it's hard to raise your prices to something fairer later. Many stay-at-home moms and dads find regular jobs through freelance marketplaces. They can either keep working through a bidding site, or they can take their relationship off the site after a while.
However, it is harder to raise your rates on these regular clients after they have seen that you are willing to work for so much less. Plus, these clients know they can just go on the bidding site and find a new writer to replace you. When you're stuck in this rut, it's hard to get out. You can even end up with a skewed view of what's "fair" for your work, remaining behind the curve for your entire career.
Where to Look Instead of Freelance Bidding Sites
Rather than get caught in the vicious cycle that is the freelance marketplace, look elsewhere. Here are some of the things that are more productive and helpful to your online writing career than spending hours lowballing yourself on a freelance bidding site — with the chance that you'll be passed over in favor of someone willing to work for even less.
Write for Content Farms
This isn't my favorite thing to do, but if you need somewhat fast cash, this is a viable option. You submit your work, and you're usually paid for it. Plus, it can provide recurring income. You'll get paid less, but at least you'll be honing your writing skills, rather than fruitlessly trying to convince a publisher to pay you less than you're worth.
Look on Reputable Job Boards
Write Posts for Your Own Blog and Write Guest Posts
I don't normally write for free, but I'd be willing to do so to improve my long-term career. It's a better use of your time to build your portfolio by writing something really good for your own blog, or by providing a guest post for someone else. Craft a great piece for someone else or your own blog, and you have a great sample to provide when applying for freelance gigs on the boards.
The reality is that freelance marketplaces are a colossal waste of time. After a couple of gigs on these sites, I realized that there were other options for work. Don't sell yourself short. Develop a quality writing portfolio, and you won't need to bid on freelance jobs. In fact, I recommend that you avoid bidding sites altogether. They are far more trouble than they are worth, and you risk getting stuck in a time suck.
We're giving away 3 free copies of Miranda's new book, Confessions of a Professional Blogger: How I Make Money As An Online Writer.
We'll randomly select 3 lucky winners from the comments on December 16th. To enter drawing simply leave a comment below. (U.S. residents only.)