Imagine, for a second, that there was a website out there that was filled with freelance writing clients – all of whom are ready and waiting to hire you for their web content needs. A place where you could browse listing after listing of potential projects, submitting applications to only those that interest you and fulfill you on a deeply personal level…
In fact, websites like this do exist. They’re called freelance portal websites, with the most popular options being Guru.com, Upwork.com and Freelancer.com.
But here’s the thing… Despite seeming like a freelance writer’s dream destination, they’re actually the worst possible place to find clients (at least, in my own personal experience).
“Bottom of the Barrel” Pricing
Instead of functioning as an open opportunity for good freelancers to connect with the clients who value their skills, freelance portal websites tend to turn into a “bottom of the barrel” free-for-all. Many of the clients who post projects to these services aren’t looking for good work, they’re looking for cheap work – and they can absolutely get it from the number of overseas workers who are willing to complete tasks for far less than domestic writers.
Now, I’m sure some of you out there are ready to contradict me, based on the great client you happened to connect with through one of these portal sites. That’s great, and I’m glad to hear that at least some people are finding value with these services.
However, I’m willing to bet that – in order to find this needle in the haystack – you spent hours upon hours of time submitting applications to projects that you never even had a chance of winning.
Big Problem #2
And that brings me to “Big Problem #2” that I have with freelance portal websites – the amount of time needed to win a single project. Believe me, I’ve put in my hours sending project proposals (all the while explaining that, “Of course my rates are higher, but you have to pay for good quality!”), brushing up my site profiles and taking the meaningless tests that many of these sites offer as a way for freelancers to objectively demonstrate their skills.
I’ve been fortunate to win a few of these projects, even though – looking back – I now realize that my time would have been much better spent pursing hiring opportunities that gave me a better chance of succeeding (like those found on freelance job boards and other legit sources of real writing work).
But by and large, I found that the clients I worked with through these freelance portal websites had one thing in common – they all wanted me to do more than the scope of the project originally detailed. Seriously, this happened so often that it was both eerie and predictable – and I’ve heard from plenty of writers who have had the exact same experience!
“I Would Do Anything for Reviews… But I Won’t Do That”
One client who had hired me to write a batch of ten articles asked me if I wouldn’t mind doing eleven total, since she hadn’t been able to narrow down the topics she wanted to cover (with no expectation of a compensation increase, of course). Another far exceeded the number of revision requests I had included in my proposal and threatened to leave negative feedback on my profile if I didn’t comply.
Again, maybe I was unlucky. Maybe the clients I worked with were a few bad apples that don’t represent all of the employers working with these services. However, I suspect that’s not really the case. I believe that this type of competitive work leaves freelancers at a disadvantage, forcing them to pitch artificially low prices and to kowtow to employer demands – all in the name of positive feedback.
So while your results may vary, I’d highly recommend staying away from these websites, whether you’re trying to launch or grow your web content writing career. There are just too many other great opportunities to build a solid client base to risk devaluing your work in this way!
Just found your site…very informative. I think I’ll stick around for awhile.:)
Awesome – glad to have you 🙂
Great article! I suspected as much about these sites, so I haven’t pursued work through them. I’m glad my instincts were right.
I was on elance for about a month. I spent way too much time and effort trying to get clients before I realized there is really nobody there interested in quality over price on that site. I know some people are successful on elance by providing dirt cheap content at dirt cheap prices. For a serious, experienced writerit’s a waste of time. I wish someone had told me sooner.
I had the same experience on Guru. I spent about a month tweaking my profile and taking all those dumb tests you can pay for to show clients how good you are (not that it matters when they’re looking to hire at bargain basement prices). What a huge waste, and I’m glad I got out of that game ASAP!