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Table Of Contents  The Online Freelancing Guide
 >  Finding and Evaluating Online Freelancing Projects
      >  Factors for Assessing the Quality and Suitability of an Online Freelancing Project

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Anticipated Duration and Timeframe
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Intuitive Assessment
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Number of Bids

I believe that you should take a look at the number of bids a project has received when considering whether or not to write a proposal for that project yourself. In most cases, you are far better off bidding on a project that has a relatively small number of bids, rather than one that has many. Conversely, sometimes a project has very few bids when you’d expect otherwise, and this also may indicate that caution is warranted.

Determining the Number of Bids

To my knowledge, all major freelancing sites allow you to see the number of bids on the project. Most provide a data field in the header of each listing that indicates the number of bids outstanding on the project. On other sites, you may have to open the project description to see how many bids have already been submitted.

If you’re using a freelancing site that for some reason doesn’t tell you how many bids have been received, then you’ll just have to ignore this assessment factor. Writing to ask the client would be both unprofessional and pointless.

Why the Number of Bids Matters

It’s not the case that many bids means a poor quality project that you should avoid. In fact, it is very often the case that the best projects—in terms of factors such as total budget, effective hourly rate, the interest level of the work, and so forth—have the most bidders. It is those attributes that lead so many freelancers to go after the work in the first place.

The issue with bid volume is a practical one. The more bids the client has already received, the less likely you are to win the project, or even to have your bid read and taken seriously. Clients tend to pay attention to the first few bids they receive, and to read them in sequence. When dozens start to roll in, they can easily get overwhelmed, and may not even bother going through them all. The more proposals a client has, the tougher the competition you are facing in trying to win the project. Finally, there’s a good chance that a client who has already received many proposals is already discussing the project with another bidder.

All of these issues are why I recommend scanning for projects regularly. There is a clear benefit to being an early bidder.

Pursuing Projects with Many Bids

You shouldn’t entirely write off a project simply because it has a large number of bids. In fact, there are freelancers out there who would object to my even suggesting that you adjust your bidding behavior based on what others are doing. In their minds, if you do good work and provide good value, you should be able to win any project.

But while that’s true in theory, it doesn’t really work that way in the real world. Clients are assessing you on your merits, but also comparing you to others. What we’re discussing here are probabilities, not certainties. It’s entirely possible to win a project that already has 20 or 30 bids. You just have to accept that the situation is not ideal: you’ll need to do more work to win such jobs, while facing a lower chance of success despite that additional effort. You may also have to bid less, an issue I discuss further in the chapter on proposal pricing.

The extra work here generally involves making yourself stick out from the crowd. If you are going to jump “into the fray” by being the 42nd bidder on a project, you need to be offering the client something special and attractive. Furthermore, you have to write the proposal so the client can figure this out quickly—so he or she doesn’t move on to the 43rd.

I’ve won projects in the past that had over a hundred bidders before I first contacted the client. I think one had over three hundred. These were projects requesting what the client believed would require manual data manipulation. The job was easy and there are thousands of unskilled workers looking for this type of task, so he received a huge number of applications. I was able to suggest an alternative method of getting the work done that was more accurate, faster and cheaper, and on that basis, was able to win the work. But for every project of this sort where my alternative approach has been successful, there have been two or three where I was rejected. This would occur typically because the client wasn’t open to a more creative approach, or he or she was overwhelmed with proposals and never even read mine.

Projects with Too Few Bids?

Finally, while it is generally better to bid on projects with a small number of bids, beware of projects that have too few bidders as well. If a job seems attractive to you, then it should be to your competitors as well. If the listing is brand new, that’s one thing, but if it has been on the site for two or three days, seems like a great task, but has very few bids, then proceed with caution. There may be something about the project or the client that others noticed but you have not.

Of course, if you are an expert in a niche field, it may be common for you to find very good projects where few others have bid, simply because they don’t have the expertise to do the work. And certain areas are just low in volume and small numbers of bids are routine. But if the number of bidders seems suspiciously low based on your past experience, watch out.

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Intuitive Assessment
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