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Inside Elance: Thirteen Writers Explain Why Elance Works for Them
By: Writing Stuff

Browsing through the writing projects at Elance, one thing stands out. It’s the “Recent Earnings” figures listed with each bidder’s name. These aren’t fake figures – these figures show what real writers have been able to earn and they range from $1000 to $60,000.

If some writers are making $60,000 a year, then Elance looks like a great opportunity for writers. Yet, a lot of the talk is against Elance. People say that it’s unfair that they charge writers fees, that you won’t get paid what you’re worth, and that the bidding process pushes the value of services down. Is there truth in that?

To find out and to get an inside look at Elance, I found people earning good money on Elance and asked them a few questions. Here’s what they had to say.

Is there money to be made?

Ryan, Copywriter – “It’s a full-time income.”

I’ve made $40,000 this year through Elance. And I’ve made about the same again from Elance clients referring me to others. If you’ve got ability, there is definitely money to be made.

Gerard, Freelance Writer – “I’m working my way up.”

At the moment, I’m making about $500 a week. I started out making about that a month. But the more I learn which projects are worth taking and how to win them, the better I’m getting.

Are the fees worth it?

Raymond, Copywriter – “There’s a cost to doing business.”

If you’re working for yourself, then you’re a business. And starting any business is going to have some costs. As a writer, I can’t make a cent unless I can find clients. For $30 a month, Elance puts them all in front of me. That’s a worthwhile investment in my business.

Angela, Proofreader – “The cost of finding work.”

When I think of the time it would take me to search for good clients, I think Elance is a bargain. To get the volume of work I’m getting, I’m sure it would cost me far more than $30 a month.

Damien, Copywriter – “It’s a no-brainer.”

Yes, I pay a few fees. But I make around $50,000 a year. And the process of completing jobs and getting paid for the work is professional and simple. Of course, the fees are worth it.

Are the fees unfair?

Steve, Freelance Writer – “Higher fees, higher pay”

I was there in the beginning when Elance was a free service where you didn’t have to pay to bid. I wasn’t happy when they decided to charge a subscription fee. But I stuck around and rode it out. Since then, the quality of bidders has increased so much that you can bid for a project and get paid what it’s worth. Everyone there is professional and paying to be there, so there are no unprofessionals bidding $5 and ruining it for everyone. Racquel, Editor – “Quality Clients.”

I understand that what Elance did was a business decision. They knew that the money was in attracting quality clients. But they couldn’t do that unless they first fixed the quality of the writers. The fee sorted out the serious professionals from the rest. Once they had quality writers, they worked on attracting quality clients. I’ve completed a few projects through free bidding sites and seen the difference. So I think the fee is actually a good thing.

Is it a good place to find work?

Evan, Freelance Writer – “They attract the right kind of clients.”

There are a lot of free sites around. The problem is that as well as making it easy for freelancers to bid, they also make it easy for project owners. They focus on attracting clients with promises of cheap services. You can bid for free, but the clients they attract are looking for a service at a rock bottom price. I’ve tried them all and Elance and Guru are the only two where I’ve found good clients and been able to get a reasonable amount of money for my work.

John, Copywriter – “They reduce the competition.”

Do you know how hard it is to win a job that’s advertised on the Internet when 2000 people apply for it? On Elance, I’m often competing with just 10 other people. And with great feedback and a great proposal, I average winning about 1 in 3 projects.

Do you have any advice for people considering working via Elance?

Angela, Proofreader – “Let the work build.”

Take projects that you know you can do, and don’t rush into applying for them all just because you want work. Wait for the right one to come along. Project bidding is often slow to start. But one project leads to two, two leads to four, four leads to eight and so on. Just accept the slow start and let the work build, learning as much as you can on the way.

Ryan, Copywriter – “Don’t drop your prices.”

If you’re not winning projects, don’t panic and start dropping your prices. Keep your prices reasonable, but don’t think that a lower price will make the difference. A lot of clients on Elance are looking for quality. If your price is considerably lower than everyone else’s, you stand out as cheap. And that doesn’t suggest quality.

Ryan, Copywriter – “Winning projects is a skill and it will take time to learn it.”

Don’t assume that it’s easy. I’ve seen a lot of people sign up for one month, not win a project, quit Elance, and then tell everyone that it’s a scam. The truth is that winning projects and completing them is a skill as important as the ability to write. You have to take the time to learn the skill.

The Conclusion

For the people making good money on Elance, it is a good opportunity and the fees are worth what they get in return. This suggests that Elance is at least worth a look.

The next bid of good news is that you can take a look for free. Just sign up for a free account at Elance, which they call a “Courtesy Listing.” Your profile will be able to be viewed by potential clients and you can browse through the projects available. Then if you find a few projects that you think you can win, you can upgrade to a paid account.


Take your freelance career to the next level with “The Freelance Success Book Series.” These books contain inside advice direct from clients, project managers, employers, editors, and successful writers. Visit the Writing Stuff site to read all about it.

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