Optimizing Your Searches and Limiting Your Pre-Bid Investment
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The time you spend on pre-bid work is important, but it is not time that you get paid for. Thus, you want to spend as many hours as necessary on activities such as searching job listings, reviewing project details, and asking for clarification from clients—but only as many as necessary.
Here are a few thoughts and suggestions to help you make your pre-bid process efficient and effective. We’ll continue this discussion with more practical guidelines for the pre-bid process in the chapter on writing proposals.
Finding good potential projects is a skill, and like any skill, it is honed through practice. The more time you spend scanning project lists and reading project details, the better you’ll get at identifying the jobs that are likely to be worth bidding on, while skipping the ones that are not.
I’m not saying that you should deliberately spend extra time looking for projects just so you can eventually save time looking for projects. :) I’m just encouraging you not to worry too much if you take a lot of time on this in the beginning, because you’ll get better over time.
If a freelancing site allows you to change the number of projects that appear on search pages, set it to a relatively large number. While it takes more time to load a page with a large number of projects, it takes less time than loading a smaller page several times. You might wait a couple of extra seconds to see 100 search results compared to ten, but it will be much faster than viewing ten results ten times.
That said, don’t go overboard: some sites let you load up huge numbers like 500 or even 1,000 projects, and that can really bog down your browser. Ideally, you’d like to aim for a number so that you get all the new projects from the last time you checked the site on a single page.
Some sites only show the titles in project listings, whereas others let you see a short summary of each project below the title. These summaries let you get a much better handle on the project, and assess whether it is something that you want, than titles alone.
Most freelancing sites include, along with a project title, simple summary information about the client and project. Use this information to quickly look for “show stopper” indicators that you can use to filter jobs from consideration completely.
The most important one is the project budget. Not all sites require clients to include a budget, but if they do, you can use this to very quickly weed out projects that aren’t worth the bother. I usually scan down the listings looking for project titles that interest me, but then immediately gaze over at the project budget column. If the customer wants to get the work done for $10 or $20, the project goes into my “mental trash bin” immediately regardless of what it is. Just not worth my time, no matter what it is. (See the discussion of project budget for further information.)
Experiment with other “eye filtering” data items, adjusting based on your needs and what is provided by the site. For example, some freelancers prefer not to work with clients who haven’t done any work on a site yet, and so may skip projects where the client has no summary rating. The percentage of awarded projects is also a useful metric in determining which clients are more likely to be worth the bother.
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Last Site Update: February 1, 2012
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