Websites offering online work opportunities have expanded significantly over the last two years. The growth of websites offering freelance job opportunities such as oDesk, Elance, and Freelancer, demonstrates that contractors have an appetite for sourcing work online. Some commentators see the demand for online freelance work as a sign of the current economic situation, with redundant workers seeking alternative work because regular job opportunities are shrinking. However, supporters of online freelance websites view their growth as a positive response to changing attitudes to work.
Pros and Cons of Searching for Jobs Online
Searching for online job opportunities has become popular because of the flexibility they offer. People can work at a time and place that suits their schedule. Freelancers can fit their online work around family commitments, hobbies, or other paid work. Because online freelance work can be undertaken from home, it removes the costs associated with working, such as commuting, store-bought lunches, and business clothing.
Undertaking online work via reputable intermediary websites, such as Elance and oDesk, gives freelancers confidence that they will receive payment. Elance offers an escrow service, where customers deposit money with the website prior to offering work. Although a dispute can occur, freelancers have a good chance of being paid because the website already holds the money. Freelancers working for oDesk on an hourly-paid basis are guaranteed to be paid, although fixed-price assignments are exempt from the oDesk payment guarantee.
However, online freelance websites also present disadvantages. The global nature of these websites means that competition for high-paying jobs is fierce. The willingness of workers in weaker economies, such as India and the Philippines, to work for a fraction of the living wage in the United States places U.S. freelance workers at a disadvantage. The average gross monthly wage in the U.S. is $3,263, compared to $295 in India and $279 in the Philippines, according to a recent survey by the United Nations’ International Labour Organization.
Another disadvantage of online freelance work is that it passes a number of work-related costs on to the freelancer. The individual must source his own health insurance, sort out his own taxes, and make plans for his retirement without the safety net of employer benefits. Again, this places U.S. workers at a disadvantage compared to workers in countries with well-developed public health and social security systems.
Once a freelancer has built a reputation, customers may begin to seek her out. However, for most freelancers, particularly those who are new to Elance, Freelancer, oDesk, or similar websites, online networking is vital. Networking in relevant industry groups keeps freelancers up-to-date with new developments and publicizes their expertise.
Freelancing can be a solitary occupation. Networking with other freelancers will provide much-needed support when the going gets tough. You may also pick up hints and tips about where new sources of work can be found.
The downside of networking is that it can easily feel like work, while producing zero income. Be sure that your networking has purpose. Focus in on forums and groups that offer an identifiable benefit. Limit the time you spend on networking to ensure that you do not encroach on working time and reduce your earning potential.
Building an Online Portfolio
Employers that make hiring decisions online cannot carry our traditional interviews. Instead, they rely on the freelancers’ portfolios as evidence of whether they are likely to complete an assignment to a reasonable standard. According to the Elance Employer Online Hiring Practices survey, 84 percent of employers find contractors’ portfolios important when they are making a hiring decision online.
Make sure that you put together a killer portfolio that includes samples of all the different kind of writing you are capable of. The more variety you can show, the better. So, for example, you can include a sample of the thought provoking essay you wrote for a magazine, a news release for a small business website, a popular guest post on a blog that went viral and so on. If you have accounts on public knowledge sharing sites such as hubpages, squidoo or wikipedia, be sure to include those samples as well. Last but not the least, if you have written or co-authored any eBooks, be sure to mention them too. Overall, the idea is to appeal to a potential customer, no matter what his needs are.
Writing a Persuasive Pitch
To win work online, you need to write a strong pitch that will convince the customer that you are the best person for the job. Customers are more interested in how you match their requirements than your personal details. Highlight your expertise, demonstrate how you have addressed similar requests in the past and include examples of your work, where possible. Customers may not have time to search through a lengthy portfolio for samples of your work that may be relevant to the assignment on offer. If you have examples, make them easy to locate.
Writing a great pitch can convince a customer to choose you, even if you are not the cheapest option. Freelancers in countries where English is not the first language may charge less, but if their pitches contain spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, customers are likely to think twice before allocating work to them. So put in as much effort on your pitch as you would on a paid assignment – without the pitch, there may be no paid assignment!
Cultivating Online Relationships
By cultivating great relationships, you will generate satisfied clients, receive positive feedback, and win new assignments. Satisfied clients will return to you time and again with new assignments, confident that you will consistently deliver high-quality work in a timely manner. Positive feedback will be recorded against your profile on online freelance websites. Five-star feedback will tell potential clients that you are dependable and reliable. The onus is on you to ensure that the customer to whom you provide good service will leave a feedback in the first place. If you think you deserve good rating, don’t be shy to ask for it.
Overall, the online freelancing sites like oDesk, elance and freelancer offer several opportunities, but may seem daunting when you just start out. Take your time to figure out the ropes to give you freelancing career another avenue to find new customers from.