Elance (and Don’t Say Yes to Any Project)

Many freelancers or those who are just starting as a freelancer must have heard the buzz about Elance.com. I learned about it through my friend, Dale, who found some help through this site for his start-up.

As a translator and copy editor trying to build a larger client list, I decided to give Elance a shot. Excited with the concept and idea of Elance, I began browsing the site for new opportunities to bid on. People who want to outsource their work post descriptions of the jobs they need done, the time frame, and their budget. Freelancers who are finding work can bid on these jobs with a delivery time frame and rate that is within the outsourcer’s budget and expectations The outsourcers will decide who to hire through the bids received, basing their decisions on the experience of the bidder, reviews the bidder has received, and the price the bidder is asking for. The more experience you have and the better reviews you get from your clients, the higher chance you will get selected for a job. But here’s the catch. The employers looking for labor often have a stringent budget, and because this website is open to workers worldwide, the competition is high for freelancers from the US who have a higher standard of living. I’ve found that at the end of the day, the bidder that asks for the lowest amount of money and has the fastest delivery date gets selected for the job.

The Competition

One big thing outsourcers look at is the price that bidders ask for. All of my bids were declined because the rate I gave was too high compared to what other bidders offered, even though I kept my rate within the outsourcer’s budget (the outsources have to select a reason why they declined a bidder’s bid, which is why I know the reason mine were declined).

Realizing this trend, I decided to place a lower bid for an e-commerce translation project. The outsourcer budgeted it at $500, so I placed my bid at $100. Within five minutes, I received an e-mail that said that I got the bid. I was excited to finally get my first bid, and jumped right into it to finish the project within the 48 hours I had promised.

Your Time is Money, Too

After finishing the 6000-word translation that took me six hours to complete and another hour to proofread, I realized that it has taken too much of my time for the money I was to receive for it. The rate for English to Chinese translations is $0.10/word on the low end, which means that I should be receiving at least $600 for this project if I had gone with my normal rate. I received  invitations to bid on projects through Elance after this, but as the one I was selected for, these projects were all under budgeted. I have declined them all.

When trying to get more work as a freelancer, we often fall into the trap of doing work for less, with hopes that the experience and portfolio we build will allow us to charge for more later on. While this is sometimes the case, it’s also important to know when to say no. I tried out Elance for three months and finally decided to stop. Even though it was an experience and something that can be added to my resume, I do not feel it was worth my time.

My Final Thoughts toward Elance

Although Elance may be a good way to make extra cash and get clients if you are from a country with a lower cost-of-living (China or India), I do not feel it is for me or for freelancers in the US. However, if you are someone who is trying to outsource your work, you may be able to find quality and affordable workers. Who knows?