I promised myself that I wouldn't discuss this topic here because I've seen how ugly an innocent question or opinion about whether or not bidding sites are worth joining can turn into an all out war. Let me start by stating that I am only stating my personal opinion on the topic based on my own personal experiences. I have no problem with anyone disagreeing with me – Actually I think it makes for a much more interesting well-rounded discussion which allows everyone to see both sides of the coin.
I belong to a Yahoo writers group and have noticed more and more members looking to supplement their shrinking incomes wondering if bidding sites are a possible answer. Who knows - it could work out for them. My intention is not to be a wet blanket. I just feel the need to share my personal experience seeking work from a bidding site.
My foray into freelancing full-time
I started freelancing full-time in September of 2007. At the time I was the only breadwinner for my family and I was already freelancing part-time while homeschooling my kids. I didn't have time to panic over whether or not I could really do it, or obsess over whether or not to design a logo or build a website. The mortgage was late, the kids needed to eat and something had to be done, so I responded to a couple of ads seeking writers on Craigslist with a resume and writing samples and thankfully secured my first two clients who sent me enough work right away that we were able to stay afloat while I scrambled around looking for a few more clients.
Taking a chance on Elance
Because I was very new to living off earnings as a freelancer, I didn't know that work typically slows during the holiday season. I'd been educating myself via a couple of writer forums and blogs. I noticed that a couple of writers often talked about how busy sites like Elance and Guru were keeping them. A few stressed that paying for a site's membership fee was usually the best way to get the optimum jobs.
I hesitated because I was in the business to make money not spend it, but the decreasing number of projects was sending me into a fit of anxiety, so I paid for the top membership with Elance. I spent time developing a professional profile and portfolio. I took the time to learn all about how the site worked. But I was shocked at the low rates buyers were seeking for projects. Whenever I placed a bid, it was several days later before I would even learn that once again I didn't win. Buyers would contact me with interest asking if I'd be willing to lower my rates, but I just couldn't see doing that.
What am I doing wrong?
One thing about bidding sites – it's important to get feedback from clients. Other buyers are looking for service providers that have good feedback, which makes perfect sense. But I began feeling like I would have to bid ridiculously low rates to get that feedback.
I tried giving it a chance and even bought this ebook to help me with no success. Meanwhile, I was also still responding to advertised writing jobs and snagged a couple of new gigs. I realized I was doing much better responding to the ads versus spending hours a day searching for jobs on Elance, writing a bid, and losing out on money. After two and a half months, I cancelled my membership. Once I learned to market my business, things got even better financially.
Was it me?
Maybe I didn't give it enough time to work, but honestly in my situation I didn't have a moment left to spare. I know some writers are very successful using these sites. Three that come to mind are Allena Tapia and Lorna Doone Brewer and Tamara Berry. I've also come across writers echoing experiences similar to mine.
I'm not saying don't do it, but I'd advise that if increasing your income is your primary incentive, be cautious of paying membership sites. If it works for you, you could easily recoup the investment, but if it doesn't then you've lost your hard earned money.
I'd love to hear about any experiences other writers may have had with bidding sites.