Is it worth trying to get work on freelance sites such as elance.com, guru.com and getafreelancer.com? It depends on your situation. If you’re starting out working at home as a Virtual Assistant, it can be worthwhile to register and bid for work on these sites.
You have to accept though, that you’re going to be competing with people in India, Eastern Europe and Asia, who will be bidding at VERY low rates to get the work.
Does that mean you won’t get work if you’re bidding at higher rates? Not necessarily. Some clients are willing to pay higher rates for Virtual Assistants who are based in countries where English is the mother tongue. I have come across Virtual Assistants who have successfully found one-off projects AND long-term clients through these freelance sites but it’s a bit like searching for a diamond in the rough.
One strategy is to state your full rate, regardless of what others are bidding. If you’re charging $35 per hour for wordprocessing, ignore the others who are bidding $2 per hour. You have to be mentally strong to do this and not get discouraged by the cheaper bids. In your bid, you need to stress that your work is quality work. In every communication with the potential client, you need to make sure that your spelling and grammar is perfect and that you respond promptly. That way, you stand out as a quality service provider. Although the majority of people using freelance websites are looking for the cheapest bidder, there are occasionally clients who are prepared to pay for quality work. I say ‘occasionally’, so don’t expect to get a flood of clients this way.
Another strategy is to cut your rates down somewhat, in order to get more of a foothold in the freelance marketplace. This strategy must only be viewed as a way of getting a few projects under your belt and building up a portfolio of work to show future clients.
You wouldn’t want to use this as a long-term strategy because you won’t be able to support yourself by consistently charging low rates.
Plus, it’s demoralising to work for less than you’re worth.
I would suggest using the freelance websites only at the beginning of starting your business, rather than as a long-term strategy, unless you’re working at home in a country where the cost of living allows you to work at a very low rate.