Sunday, March 9, 2014

Elance, a freelancer's blackhole?

Several years ago I turned to freelancing online because I was out of work. I needed cash and I was willing to work to peanuts.

Lucky for me there was a lot of opportunity in writing web content then. The pay was low, but not ridiculously low. For someone with some skill, it was possible to make $15/hour pretty easily.

A large part of my income back then came through Elance. Within a month of joining Elance I made more than $1200 just on that site alone. I worked my tail off for it but it wasn't a struggle to find work.

When I finally got back to my real job, I put my Elance life behind me. I walked away from my account and a terrible project where the client was completely unreasonable. Was that professional of me? No. I'm not proud of it but given the situation I was in at the time, I had little choice.

A few weeks ago, I decided to get back to Elance to supplement my income. I thought I'd start a new profile and rebuild my business. Just like that, right...just a few painful weeks of taking low pay to build references and then back to business.

Right? Um, nope.

After 3 weeks on Elance and bidding on several projects, I won a single bid for $20 for 3 articles on electronic cigarettes. As soon as I won the bid, Elance delisted the project because the subject matter violated their TOS.

What I'm running into on Elance is intense competition. Most projects appear to have 20-30 proposals from freelancers whose profiles carry positive reviews or freelancers from third world countries willing to make $0.50 per 100 words.

Curious about other online freelancing sites, I began exploring Fiverr and Freelancer and it's been interesting.

Freelancer is very much the same situation as Elance. There is a ton of competition and very low pay for quality content. In order to get positive reviews for your profile you have to be willing to take projects for content mills making what comes out to about $2/hour.

That's INSANE!

Fiverr on the other hand has been a more positive experience. I've made $52 (assuming that the funds will clear) and have built some positive mojo for future work. While the pay isn't fantastic right now, there is room on the site to grow if I achieve enough sales to unlock the ability to add "gig extras" to my listed projects.

Fiverr will not be a full time opportunity for me but it is worthwhile so far.

Re-learning this online writing market has been quite a challenge. A lot has changed. I've learned over the last couple weeks to redirect my efforts away from Elance and Freelancer and expand my efforts on sites like Fiverr where there is a bit more freedom to market yourself.

I've also identified a few opportunities to follow up on. My plan between now and the end of March will be to resurrect my writing opportunities with Examiner and Demand Media Studios and look into a couple of opportunities that I haven't tried yet, Slice the Pie, Independent Writers and Triple Curve.

I'll report back on how things go later in the month. In the meantime, if you'd like to share any experiences with these or other online writing opportunities, please comment!