Key Newcomer Tips - Finding and Evaluating Projects
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Finding and assessing projects is important for all freelancers, but that’s especially true for new freelancers, for two reasons. First, successful freelancers can draw on existing clients for some portion of their work, whereas someone who’s knew obviously doesn’t have clients yet, and so must get all of his or her projects “from scratch”. And second, new freelancers often have a harder time winning projects because of their lack of a feedback history, which means that they must identify more opportunities for each project they do win.
Here are some of the key tips I recommend for new freelancers in the area of project searching and assessment.
It may be tempting to start out with just one freelancing site. It’s certainly easier, and may be cheaper as well (in the case of sites with membership fees). However, doing this will restrict your chances of finding work, and will also tend to make you too reliant on one source for your projects.
Sign up with at least two freelancing sites, preferably three or four. If possible, include at least one general-purpose, larger site, and one smaller site specific to your area of interest.
The default duration of project listings on freelancing sites is usually several days to several weeks. This gives new freelancers the false impression that time is not of the essence when bidding. However, clients can close listings for bidding at any time, and most projects that are awarded at all, are awarded within the first day or two. Many last even less time, and I’ve seen projects awarded in less than ten minutes from when they were put online.
This occurs because some clients believe not in optimizing—getting the very best proposal—but what is called satisficing—going with the first proposal that seems like it will fill their needs. Some are also in a hurry and are willing to accept a less-than-ideal candidate to get the job done now. Scanning for project listings frequently gives you an advantage over those who only look periodically.
There’s another benefit to looking for projects frequently: you get your bid in sooner when you find a job you like. Clients are more likely to carefully read the first or second proposal they receive than the tenth or twentieth.
Scan as broad a selection of projects as practical. It’s fine to save time by only looking for projects in the specific sections of a site relevant to the type of work you do. However, I don’t recommend doing searches only for specific keywords—you could miss out on a lot of opportunities that just weren’t posted with the words you expected.
Some experienced freelancers may cringe at this advice, believing that you should only go for the best projects even as you are starting. I differ slightly in that regard. I don’t think you should toss out all of your standards, but at the same time, you should recognize the value in getting some feedback history, and do what you can to get some projects under your belt. Working on a project that’s not perfect is better than not working on a perfect project.
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Last Site Update: February 1, 2012
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