Important Note: Elance is now known as “Upwork”. So, you can replace most of the information in this in-depth blog post with “Upwork” — wherever I say “Elance”. Although the name and interface are a bit different, the principles will still apply!

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Ah, Elance. The massive online freelancing community that can greatly benefit your business/ personal income or be a complete waste of time.

Before I break down exactly how to bring in $6,500+ in jobs during the first 45 days on Elance, let me tell you my story.

My Story

I first heard of Elance during a mentor session with a retired owner of a $20 million/year advertising agency, Phil.

He knew that my (now) business partner Derek and I were shifting our focus to web design, marketing, and advertising, so he briefly mentioned Elance to us and said that it would be worth checking out.

The next day, I headed to the mountains of Pennsylvania for vacation and, luckily, that simple recommendation from Phil changed my life.

3 hours into the trip, I had already created an account on my iPhone and added multiple job postings to my ‘watchlist’ to submit proposals on when I arrived.

When I arrived, before I began submitting proposals, I read every review and tip on Elance out there. Just like you’re reading this, I wanted my proposals to be flawless.

After hours of research, however, the only information I could gather was that 50% of the reviews said it grew their business and 50% said it was a waste of time.

On the fence, I submitted my first proposal. Within 1 hour, I had a message from the job poster and was awarded the job to write a Youtube marketing plan for $30 (only took me 45 minutes.)

I immediately called my soon-to-be business partner and told him about my success. He hopped on Elance, created a profile, and within 2 days had landed several jobs amounting more than $1,000.

We felt so empowered, that we decided it would be a good idea to incorporate Elance into the beginning foundation for the company we had been developing, Flight Media.

After that, things went uphill.

By time the 7-day vacation ended, I had landed a $15/hr WordPress management job for 10-15 hours per week, a $1,000 WordPress web design job, an article writing job for a $35 article (took me 1 hour to write,) and a graphic design job for $50 (took 2 hours.) When I got home, Derek & I quickly became

We gained clients, lost clients (due to work overload,) and within 45 days, we had earned more than $6,500 combined. (Pretty good for 21 & 22 year-olds!)

Why You Should Use Upwork

In the past, when I heard the word ‘Freelancer,’ I always thought of unemployed people who did ‘odd-jobs’ to make an extra income.

It wasn’t until I joined Elance and did more research that I realized freelancing is the best thing you could do as a career (besides owning your own business.)

“Why? I have a decent-paying job.”

There are numerous reasons you should freelance, but if you’re on the edge of deciding whether or not it’s a route you want to take, consider these:

  1. No Bosses. (Just clients that abide by your schedule.)
  2. No Workplace. (You work remotely where you have internet access. That could be in Tahiti sipping martinis or by the fireplace on the couch in your home, not a cubicle or office.)
  3. No Income Cap. (Your income is relative to how hard you work, what you charge, and how often you work. I averaged $25-$30/hr my first month on Elance. A nice raise from $12/hr doing manual labor as previously being a painter!)

The important thing to remember, however, is that being your own boss isn’t as easy as it sounds. You need to be responsible, motivated, and manage your time wisely.

Lacking in any of these areas can quickly make freelancing more stressful, than fun.

Where Do I Start?

Excellent question.

I jumped head-first into Elance and landed those smaller jobs, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they were the right jobs.

The WordPress management and web design were massive headaches (bad communication, too many expectations, etc.) and I could have eliminated that probability if I submitted proposals for the right jobs and not just ones that would make a quick buck.

The trick to winning on Elance is establishing long-term relationships with good businesses.

That’s where the money and fun is.

So, whether you’re looking to make an extra monthly income or become a full-time freelancer, here’s a Guide to Making $6,500 on Elance in the Next 45 Days:

1.  Sculpt the Perfect Profile

No one wants to hire someone with an incomplete profile.

Take 3-5 hours to make the best profile you possibly can. If somebody is considering your proposal for a job, they will look at your profile to view your portfolio, ‘overview’, skills, groups, etc.

To maximize your proposal-award ratio, having a complete profile is essential. Here’s a checklist to do that:

  • Have a Real Picture. People are more likely to hire someone with a nice, professional, smiling picture. Not a stock photo or no photo.
  • Have an ‘Overview’ Section. This is where you want to toot your own horn. Any accomplishments you’ve made in your field, let potential clients know. Make it the first thing you say as well because the first few sentences will appear in your proposals as a mini-snippet. Mine said:

      “I’m absolutely passionate about business, marketing, and advertising. I helped Flight Drummers accumulate 500,000+ views on Youtube, 20,000+ fans, and paid members in more than 14 countries during the first 8 months of working with them. blah blah blah.”

    This immediately grabs the attention of anyone looking for a marketing, advertising, or business consultant and positioned me as an expert. Those are real results, too. Don’t make up something for the sake of getting work. In the end, the results will reflect that!

  • Join Groups. If you’re a web designer that uses WordPress, Magento, or Drupal, then test in those groups and join them. Often times, people wanting WordPress websites will require you be in those Elance groups or favor your proposal over those that aren’t. Elance has groups for just about every skill, so be sure to find a group to join!
  • Upload a Portfolio. Although this can be time-consuming, potential clients look at it. Having an organized portfolio with relevant examples can be the factor as to whether your job is awarded the job or not.
  • Test in Your Skills. Testing in your skills will show that you have proof to back up your ‘overview’ section.
  • Get Verified. If you have a new profile, it should ask you if you want to get verified by setting up a skype call. You will need to scan your ID, send it to Elance, and be on a 2 minute Skype session with someone who works for Elance to verify that your ID matches your face. Annoying, but it gives potential clients more ease-of-mind, knowing that you’re verified and real.

 2. Find the Right Jobs

Like I said before, this was the first mistake I made.

I was so excited to get started, that I began proposing on every job I possibly could to land the maximum amount of jobs–only to be knee-high in crappy clients that had horrible communication, were cheap, and expected the world.

Here’s how to find the right jobs to propose on:

  • Find Relevant Jobs. This may sounds like common sense, but it’s easy to come across jobs that aren’t what you’re looking for, but would be an easy paycheck. Don’t do it. Stay focused and build your portfolio with relevant jobs to enhance your credibility. I made this mistake with writing articles and doing graphic design work in Adobe Illustrator when I knew close to nothing about it. I didn’t have fun doing them and I didn’t ever use them as portfolio examples.
  • Make Sure Their Budget/Expectations Are Realistic. It’s very common to see job postings where people have unrealistic expectations. Someone may want an article/web site completed with unlimited revisions or want you to triple their company’s sales with a budget of less than $500. We call those Project Creeps. Their expectations are higher than their budget and they will turn your profits into a loss.
  • Find Sponsored Posts. Sponsored posts are the job postings that are highlighted and say “featured post”. These are good to consider because it means the poster paid $25 just to have their posting highlighted. If someone is willing to pay an additional $25 just with hopes of finding a good freelancer, then they are more serious and typically have more money to spend.
    Sponsored Elance Post

    Sponsored Post

  • Review Their History. How much have they spent on Elance? Are they ‘payment verified?’ What’s their award ratio? Do they typically leave good reviews for past freelancers and do they seem kind and understanding? These are all important things to consider before submitting a proposal. If someone has spent $0 on Elance and they have awarded 0 out of 16 job postings, then chances are, they won’t do it for you. It will just be a waste of a ‘connect’ (you get 40 with the free profile.)
    Elance Poster History

    Elance Poster History

My rule of thumb is to find posters who have spent at least $500-$2,000 on Elance, have at least a 40% award ratio, are payment verified with at least 3 green dots, and leave kind reviews for past freelancers.

It ensures a higher probability that the relationship can start and end well. Although it will take an additional 2-3 minutes, it’s worth it. You can find all this information by clicking on the poster’s name.

3. Submit Award-Winning Proposals

This part of the process can make or break your Elance success.

It takes time to sculpt a high-converting proposal and if not done quickly, can leave you demotivated and thinking like the 50% of people who say “Elance doesn’t work.”

It took me a while to truly craft an effective proposal, but now that I have, I typically receive messages from 50-70% of the jobs I propose on and get hired by 40-50% of those.

(If I propose on 10 jobs, I’ll have 4-6 message me and actually get hired for 3-4 of them.)

*Side-note: These numbers come from submitting hundreds of proposals since July 2013 and getting hired for 30-40% of them.

So, to craft a high-converting, award-winning proposal, you’ll need to:

  • Leave Copy & Paste Behind. If you’ve ever used Elance, you’ll realize that it’s pretty easy to craft a proposal for a particular field, then copy & paste it to relevant job postings. This is a ‘no-no.’ People can easily tell when something has been copied and pasted. It’s not personal and it’s not specific to their needs.For example: In October, I decided it was time to hire a Virtual Assistant, so I submitted a job posting. I received more than 40 proposals, with only 6 being authentic and specific to my needs. The rest were copy & paste bullcrap that I immediately declined. The few that tailored it to my specific needs caught my attention and the girl I hired has been with me for more than 3 months and is advanced to becoming a marketing project manager within our company.
  • Make Your Intro Count. Make the first few sentences of your proposal ‘pop’. If you don’t grab the attention of the job poster in the beginning, chances are, they won’t read your entire proposal. I typically grab attention by letting them know that it’s “good to see another serious posting” or “We could absolutely help you with your ________!” This makes them feel special and everybody loves to feel special. 😉
  • Be Enthusiastic. People like to work with happy, passionate people. If your proposal reflects that, then it will more than likely be considered over those that aren’t. Use of smiley faces, exclamation points, and humor tend to work very well!
  • Know Key Terms. Knowing the lingo for whatever kind of job you’re submitting a proposal for is essential. For marketing, I use terms like ROI, campaign, strategizing, CPC, CTR, CPM, CPA, etc. If it’s a term that I don’t think they’ll know, I’ll put its meaning in parenthesis:

    …drop your CPC (Cost Per Click) and higher your CTR (Clickthrough Rate)….

    It assures the prospect that you know what you’re talking about and you’re a good teacher. 

  • Price Competitively (at first). When you first begin on Elance and have zero credibility, it’s best to price your services competitively until you have a reputation. I priced on the medium-side until I accumulated about $3,000 in sales, then increased to a higher rate. Once you’ve worked with more people and have a larger portfolio, clients can justify paying you more.Quick-tip: Having a reference spreadsheet that contains every service you provide & pricing will make submitting proposals quick.
  • Sponsor Your Proposal (when necessary). When you submit a proposal, you will have the option to ‘sponsor’ it for additional connects (typically 4.) It’s important to be one of the first people to submit a proposal on a job, but in the case that you’re a bit late and there are 20+ proposals, you can bump yours to the top by ‘sponsoring’ it. It costs more, but will increase your chances if there are a large quantity of proposals already submitted.
  • Create a Video Proposal. Although this sounds like a great deal of work and ‘weird,’ it works. I’ve done much split-testing between text proposals and video proposals and video proposals receive a higher response rate from the job poster. Creating a video that introduces yourself, addresses their specific needs, and adds a bit of humor will nearly double your response rate from a plain text proposal. Why? Because nobody else is doing it. Videos are interactive, show that you’re real, demonstrate your enthusiasm, and establish a sense of trust between the poster and you. Plain text can be very dry and just blend with the rest of the 30+ proposals the poster received.The best way to create a video proposal, is by filming it via your webcam directly on Youtube. To do this, login to your Youtube –> click ‘Upload’ –> choose ‘webcam capture’ on right –> hit record! It will automatically upload to your profile as soon as you’re done recording, so you can add the link to your proposal! (See example below) It may take several takes, but it’s worth an additional 5 minutes! Although I don’t submit 100% video proposals, I try to submit them whenever I’m in a good environment and I look presentable.
  • Find ANYTHING In Common. Have you ever heard the saying, “Find the 1% you DO connect on, and connect 100% on it”? This holds true on Elance. If a client is in an industry that you are familiar with, mention it and make that connection. People like to work with people who understand their industry and their passion. Seeing as I used to be a licensed investment advisor, I use that as my connection point whenever I submit a proposal to a financial company.
  • Tell Them the Next Steps. People post jobs on Elance because they need direction in a certain area. One of the last things you want to include on your proposal is the next step and what the process is to solve their [tooltip text=”pain-point” gravity=”nw”]A customer’s problem, want, or need.[/tooltip].
  • Attach Examples. On Elance, talk is cheap. Everybody and their grandmother says they will create the ‘best’ logo, write the ‘best’ article, and generate the ‘best’ results. Back up your words with samples of work. It demonstrates that you really do know what you’re talking about and saves the poster from having to look themselves. If I’m submitting a proposal on a Facebook Ad Campaign Setup, I’ll attach screenshots of real clients. This is the icing on the cake. Don’t do it and you’ll lower your proposal’s worth immediately.

Here are a few examples of proposals that resulted in new clients:

Example #1 (Plain-Text Proposal)

Elance Proposal Example #1

Example #2 (Plain-Text Proposal)

Elance Proposal Example #3 

Example #3 (Video Proposal)

Elance Proposal Example #2

As I said before, crafting an ‘award-winning proposal’ takes time. The first few you write may be tough and sound weird, but the more you do, the better they will become.

4. Close the Job 

After a job has been completed and paid, it’s easy to forget to close the job out. This is important for three reasons:

  1. The client is in agreement that the project is completed. There are no more revisions, requests, etc. (I’ve had clients come back after a job has been completed and ask me to do more work as ‘part of the job.’ When there is no written confirmation of a job being completed, the ‘Project Creeps’ will come for you.
  2. It reminds the client to leave feedback.
  3. It gives opportunity to get bonusesIf you’ve clearly done an exceptional job and the client has experienced massive results, it’s easy to add a final note in your ‘closing email’ that says “P.S. Any bonuses are much appreciated!”. I’ve received bonuses up to $100 from clients before. It doesn’t hurt to ask!

Conclusion

If you’ve never utilized Elance  for your business or individual income, I would highly encourage testing these methods. I first began Freelancing on Elance during a summer vacation and since then, have incorporated Elance into Flight Media’s business model.

The first month Flight Media was a legal company, Elance accounted for nearly $9,000 of it’s revenue.

It even allowed us to expand from two team members (Derek & I) to 5 in the first 2 months.

Have you experienced success on Elance/Upwork? (If so, what tactics are you using?)

Final note: If this article motivated or helped your Elancing efforts, please hit a share button and subscribe! I figured I’d make this a free post, rather than an eBook! 🙂