Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why I Don't Use Bidding Sites

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.


Devon Ellington said...

As you well know, I am vehemently opposed to bidding sites. All I've seen on them are people who want the lowest price, not the right writer. I know there are those who claim they make a lot of good money from the sites: I'm skeptical.

You found better clients on your own because you are pro-active and respect your work.

Your business will continue to grow because you act like a professional and demand that sort of treatment.

If people want to use bidding sites, great. Less competition for the really good jobs for the rest of us!

Valencia Higuera said...

I've never used a bidding site - then again, I'm skeptical of anything that requires an upfront fee. I always felt that it would be a waste, especially since another writer would likely underbid my quote.

Kimberly Ben said...

@ Devon: You make some really good points. A couple of buyers on the site were interested in having me work with them, but because I wouldn't go rock bottom on rates they would choose another writer.

@ Valencia: In my gut I knew I was making a mistake for me - emphasis in the 'for me.' A lot of writers I really respected said don't bother, but I gave in to desperation and rationalized it by thinking about the writers who had success on bidding sites.

Cyra Miles Valdez said...

I just started using bidding sites and it is really frustrating.. you are bidding sometimes to a very low unthinkable rates..

Kimberly Ben said...

Hi Cyra,

That was also my experience. Some of the rates I saw were truly unbelievable.

Lori said...

I'll admit freely that I used Guru for a year. Found a long-term client there, too. But I gave up my paid membership (and that's another thing - NEVER pay for job listings!) when I saw too many $4 for 40 articles jobs and contacted the company. When their response was basically "they pay, therefore, they advertise" (paraphrasing there), I decided the only thing Guru was intent on was parting me from my money.

Devon's right - bidding wars are wasted efforts for both client and writer. It's not an auction - it's business.

The time spent trying to get decent money from people who are interested in cheap isn't worth it. They don't care about your work - they care about slapping something out there fast in order to make money.

In one case, I had one of the job posters there actually confront me because my rates were double the rates of others. I responded honestly - "You get what you pay for. I'm a professional and my experience speaks for itself." He had the audacity to write back and say the other writers, one in particular, had better experience.

I couldn't help it - I responded "Again, I am a professional. I don't devalue my work. I can't speak for the other writer, but I won't get into bidding wars over rates that my other clients pay without question."

Never heard from him again. Amen. And I'm sure he was lying about the other writer's existence.

Allena Tapia said...

Hey, it's Allena. Just googling myself, lol.

Well, I used Elance for about a year (2007 I believe) and I am "pro-elance" mostly because of 1-2 clients that I got out of it (that I still have.) BUT, I don't use it anymore, either. So, take that with a grain of salt...

Kimberly Ben said...

Hey Allena,

I'm glad you Googled your way over! Thanks for stopping by to comment and clarify your Elance experience.:)

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