Breaking into freelancing

The hard part about freelancing is finding the clients. Freelance marketplaces like oDesk, Guru.com, and eLance can be good sources of freelance jobs if you put in the time and energy to figure them out. Main pro? These marketplaces offer a worldwide pool of jobs where your geographic location is generally not an issue. Main con? You’re competing with a worldwide pool of freelancers, many of who can bid very low because they live in countries where the standard of living is lower than it is here and an hourly wage that is smaller than Canadian minimum wage is still considered lucrative.

Getting hired for posted jobs is a twist on the typical “how do you get experience if no one will hire you” Catch-22 — to be hired, you generally need a reputation within that marketplace as a good worker, but to get that good reputation, you first need to be hired.

I’ve been trying off and on over the last month or so to break into the freelancing world at one of these marketplaces. Unfortunately, even buyers who claim they want native English writers with top writing skills will still sacrifice some (perhaps even a lot of) language quality for a lower bid. (Reminds me of a previous employer who insisted that 80 or 90% accurate was good enough for our user guides — “it’s only words”, after all.) Today, I received an interview invitation for one of the jobs I’d bid on, writing a wiki-based help system. I believe I’ve actually been given the job (I say believe because it still says I’m in interview status, despite the buyer saying we were going ahead with the project). It doesn’t pay a great deal — about $350 CDN — but I knew that going in. The reputation that the successful completion of this job will give me is so much more important in the long run than the money earned. I consider it the same kind of investment as working on that Joomla site I just launched — that was resume fodder, this is reputation fodder.

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