How to land gigs and build a 6-figure career on Freelancer.com, according to the CEO and freelancers who've done it
- Freelancer.com hosts more than 19 million posted jobs, 1,800 job categories, and nearly 49 million users.
- Founder and CEO Matt Barrie and seasoned freelancers making bank on the platform shared their best tips for finding and landing lucrative gigs.
- They recommended crafting a compelling profile and portfolio that shows how your experience, skill set, and interests make you uniquely qualified for the job.
- Make sure to respond quickly to clients with a customized proposal that shows you've read and understood the client brief, and don't be afraid to negotiate price when necessary.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Home to more than 19 million posted jobs and nearly 49 million registered users, Freelancer.com, which launched in 2009, ranks as the No. 1 largest freelancing and crowdsourcing marketplace in the world.
"With 1,800 job categories, employers can hire freelancers to do everything from creating a logo for their kid's soccer team to crowdsourcing talent and solutions for NASA," Founder and CEO Matt Barrie told Business Insider.
According to a recent company press release, the marketplace saw a 14% job increase between Q3 2019 and Q3 2020, with the total number of jobs rising from 465,000 to 539,000. The platform has also seen 35,000 new sign-ups daily since COVID-19 began in March.
With an uptick in both users and job opportunities, what does it take to get noticed and be successful on the world's busiest marketplace?
Business Insider asked Barrie and two freelancers making six figures a year on the platform to share their insight.
Read more: A 34-year-old freelancer who quit the job she hated and now makes $200,000 a year debunks 5 of the biggest myths she's encountered about becoming your own boss
Highlight the experience, skills, and offerings that are unique to you
After you sign up and create a free account, you'll want to focus on creating a compelling profile.
"You really want to use this real estate to accurately represent your abilities and resources and emphasize your skill set," Barrie said. "This is your opportunity to share what makes you different and why you're the best person for the job." He suggested checking out the Community section of the site for helpful tips and best practices.
Anne Valentino is a a 45-year-old freelance writer based in Rochester, New York, who joined the platform in 2015 and said she hit the six-figure mark in revenue eight months into signing up. She told Business Insider she uses her profile to highlight the fact that she holds both a master's and PhD in English and taught at the university level for eight years.
"People have said my degrees were what was most attractive about my profile," she said. "For instance, I just finished ghostwriting a project and the client said the primary reason he hired me was because I had a PhD from an American university."
While Valentino highlights her education, Toronto-based Michael Teofilo, 32, whose business has brought in $500,000 on the platform since joining in 2012, uses his profile to set himself apart from other web developers and graphic designers in the marketplace with his "Try us before you hire us" offer, which involves his company offering free, no-obligation design work to draw clients in. He also highlights that his firm offers 24-hour customer support in his profile, something that not everyone can offer — but with a team of 18 that he's slowly grown over the years, he's able to manage it seamlessly.
There are also a series of certification exams you can take through the platform for a nominal fee. Upon passing an exam, a badge or insignia will appear on your profile, boosting your ranking. Your badges will also be featured in each of your bids.
Valentino elected to complete both the US English 1 and the Preferred Freelancer SLA Program 1, while Teofilo took US 24English 2 and Preferred Freelancer SLA Program 1.
According to the site, freelancers who pass exams are 25% more likely to win a project than those who haven't passed exams.
Read more: The tactic that brings in 100% of new clients for many freelancers and entrepreneurs
Respond to prospects and clients within 24 hours
Once your profile is complete, the first crucial step toward making a good impression when it comes to securing jobs and favorable reviews is response time.
According to the platform, clients typically award projects within 24 hours of posting, so it's a good idea to download the app so you can respond to clients, place bids, and discover new projects on the go.
Just after attending university, Teofilo started his own online company, which is when he began hiring developers on Freelancer.com to help with his business. Three years later, he transitioned over to the freelancer side, bidding on business for his own web development and graphic design firm.
"I've been on both ends of the equation, as an employer and a freelancer, so I know and can appreciate the importance of timely communication," Teofilo said. "In most instances, people that post jobs are eager to pull the trigger and get started, so you've got to be responsive to even be considered in the running for a job. It's a numbers game and this is the most important factor, as you want to get them while they're hot on the idea. Same day, at most, next day with a proposal and price. If you lose their interest, they'll move on."
Early on in your career, Valentino suggested responding as soon as possible, within an hour or two at the most. Though as your client base grows, she said that becomes impossible to a certain degree and there are times she responds within a few hours — however, it's usually within a 24- to 48- hour window.
"You can have a great proposal, but if it arrives in your prospective client's inbox too late, you don't stand a chance," Valentino added. "Turnaround time is huge, so you need to turn your responses and your work around fast, but not so fast it sacrifices the quality of it." She estimated she spends up to two hours daily responding to prospects and clients.
Read more: Freelance software engineers making over $100,000 a year reveal how they got started, find clients, and set their rates
Customize your proposal
It's not only critical to respond quickly — you also need to show you've read and understand the client brief by responding with a custom proposal.
"Read the brief thoroughly, be clear in your communication, and ask pertinent questions that address the brief to engage your client prospects and your chances of being hired will increase exponentially," Barrie said. "Really make it jump off the page."
Teofilio said that from the moment an employer posts a job, they're often swarmed with bids from skilled labor competing from all over the world." "People want to know they are dealing with another human being as opposed to a bot," Teofilo said, adding that to customize his proposal he makes a point of including his photo along with a personal message to drive home the fact there's a real person on the other end.
"Don't cut and paste content and send a template proposal," Valentino added. "People know when you do that. Take the time to address the specific job you are bidding on by providing unique content specifically for that project."
According to Valentino, it's key to start off by addressing the specific project's needs, otherwise the client might tag it as spam. She also recommended using the first three to four sentences specifically for the job being described. Then she uses the last few sentences to reiterate her experience level, adding a couple of sentences about her philosophy of writing in general. To avoid her content getting stale, she said she tries to update this section every few weeks.
Read more: How I went from making $40,000 a year as a freelancer to over $110,000 — and the email template I use to land new clients
Curate a strong portfolio, set expectations, and consider getting verified
The best way to build a solid reputation is through garnering client reviews.
Since reviews are such a critical part of being noticed, Barrie said the hardest job to win is the first and emphasized the importance of having not only an engaging profile but also a portfolio showcasing your work.
When he started out on the site, Teofilo said he took on easy jobs in the effort to build a good reputation and get some glowing reviews under his belt before going after the bigger jobs. Today, he has 352 reviews.
"Reviews are everything," Valentino, who now has 281 of them, added.
In terms of expectations, one of the downsides of many crowdsourcing platforms, according to Teofilo, is when dealing with people virtually they're more likely to ask for more. "You get hired for a single or set of tasks and then the client always just wants more," he said. "Freelancers that are new to the platform just need to know how to manage expectations and they'll be fine."
"Do your work in a timely, efficient manner, and don't promise the sun, moon, and stars to your client," Valentino said. "Get the job done, but don't get in a position where you wind up overpromising anything because that will only lead to dissatisfaction across the board."
According to Barrie, sellers can also pay $99 and go through a process to get verified on the site, adding another layer of trust and authenticity to their profile. Becoming verified also grants exclusive access to projects over $3,000, including those with Tier 1 companies known as enterprise clients, such as NASA, Facebook, and Deloitte.
Once verified, sellers receive a blue checkmark badge on their profile that's also visible on any bids they put forth.
At the moment Teofilo isn't verified on the site, however, he plans to become verified when his business needs more work.
"There has to be some credibility to the process of hiring people online and Freelancer.com nailed the process," he said. "I think it's a small price to pay for a massive increase in chances of getting a potential message, which is the most vital step in converting a new client.
Don't be afraid to negotiate price, and go after high-demand jobs
"One thing I never do is underbid a job," Teofilio said. "There are plenty of times I see budgets come in significantly lower than what is needed to complete a project. If I'm interested in the job, I'll bid on it but with a more realistic quote, and oftentimes I'll still get the job." He said he once bid $7,300 for a $1,500 job and landed the project.
"The real money comes in when you are working on jobs that actually make other people money, such as adding features like ecommerce capabilities to sites for large corporations," he added.
Valentino said it's not only important to know your worth and set your rates accordingly, but to also nail down the timing of payments. The recommended method for payment on the site is through milestones, meaning when certain milestones are hit on a project, payment is released from escrow by the platform, allowing protection for both sellers and clients.
According to Barrie, the best way to find success on the site is to seek out projects you're not only comfortable with but also those which are in high demand. The categories which saw the biggest increases in job postings from the United States on the site during the third quarter were engineering and science (up 85%), design, media, and architecture (up 45%), business, accounting, human resources, and legal (up 42%), websites, IT, and software (up 41%), translation and languages (38%), and writing and content (up 31%), according to a recent company press release.
"At the end of the day, we are competing as a meritocracy, so if you can find an area or niche where you bring something extra to the table in terms of your skill set, you can essentially name your price," Barrie said.
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