This guest post is by Ian Ippolito, CEO and founder of vWorker.com
As the CEO of vWorker.com, I have close contact with many of the 300,000+ freelancers who use the site to earn a living. I’ve seen virtual workers of all temperaments, nationalities and ages. But the thing that always strikes me is how there seem to be two distinct types of freelancers.
The first seems to enjoy a charmed life. It’s not unusual for such a freelancer to be brand new to the site and yet win not just one, but several jobs in the first few weeks. They enjoy great success, build up repeat business and enjoy an easy and constant stream of projects and income.
The second struggles for weeks just to win their first job, and don’t understand what they are doing wrong. Then when they finally do wine one, they don’t manage the project properly and have numerous problems with it and their employers. They usually end up with a dissatisfied client and no chance of getting repeat business, and have to start all over again at square one.
I’m writing this article to help you be the former type of freelancer, and avoid the fate of the latter.
1. Successful Bidding
Put yourself in the employer’s shoes for a minute. You’ve just posted a job on vWorker.com to create your asp.NET company website and are evaluating bidders. Which one of these bids would make you want to correspond with the bidder further?
Hi, I’m Andre Jones and I’m an expert in the following:
a) Web site design
I also am a fantastic photojournalist and marketer.
Here are example of my work:
Please see my resume for more details. I’m looking forward to working with you!
Bid amount: $2,000
Hi, I’m Andre Jones and I have 5 years of experience in ASP.NET.
I read through your description and think this is going to be an excellent way for you to attract new clients.
What kind of security did you have in mind for this project? The reason I ask is that, I can build whatever you want. But I don’t want to quote you the price of the equivalent of a “limosine” if you are really looking for an economy car. For instance, are you expecting a special admin section that only you can access, or will it all be public?
Bid Amount: None
Who will the employer prefer? It’s not even a close competition. 99% of employers will respond back to bid #2, while deleting bid #1. Why is there such a difference? The main problem with bid #1 is that it gives off the foul stench of a copy-and-paste spam bid from an amateur. Bid #2, on the other hand, comes across as engaging, interested, enthusiastic and competent. Look at the differences:
- Bid #1 has listed every skill he has, including most that are not asked for in this project. Why would the employer care about this? He’s making the classic mistake of talking about what’s interesting to himself (his skills) rather than what’s interesting to the client (how he can help the client solve his problem). Bid #2 on the other hand shows respect for the employer’s time by only talking about the relevant skills.
- Bidder #2 showed the employer that they actually read the description by asking specific questions about it. Pertinent questions compel a person to answer them. Bid #1 on the other hand has no questions and is not compelling. Incidentally, it is so generic that it gives the impression it was probably spammed to everyone on the site with similar projects (and it probably was).
- Bid #2 expressed enthusiasm for the project itself. When an employer has to choose between two equal candidates: the more enthusiastic has a huge edge. Note that he did this in a sincere, honest and specific way. He didn’t throw out platitudes (which can be even worse than not saying anything at all). So if you can do this sincerely, then it’s a powerful tool. If you’re not sure about this, then don’t take a chance of doing it incorrectly.
- Bid #1 put in a $ amount on their first bid. This is usually a huge red flag to any knowledgeable employer. 99.999% of the time, there’s no way someone can make an accurate bid without getting additional information. This reeks of a freelancer who is too inexperienced to realize how bad this is. Bid #2 didn’t make this rookie mistake.
(Insider scoop: Speaking of bids, I’ll give the readers of this blog who use vWorker an exclusive “œscoop” on an upcoming feature that will be of interest to you. Currently when you make a bid (say $1000), the vWorker fee is deducted from that. But in a few weeks, that will change and instead we’ll raise the amount the employer escrows to cover the fee. So if you bid $1000, you’ll get $1000 and you no longer have to worry about the fee during you bid. See vWorker updates for info on this when it becomes available.)
Alright! You’ve followed the above tips and you’ve now won the bid! Working properly during the project is the key between a client who comes back to you over and over again for a long time, and one who can’t wait to get rid of you. The key is to remember to think long term.
2. Managing client expectation
Even on a very well laid out project, you can expect 10-15% of a contract to be unclear. This means you will have to work out the details during the project. Go through the project at the beginning to find these areas and get them hammered out.
Don’t make the mistake of ignoring things, or worse: getting no input from the client and instead implementing them in the easiest way possible and hoping the client won’t notice. Communication is key to working out these issues and avoiding an unhappy client later.
3. Managing deadlines
Deadlines are real and should be treated as such. But every human being misses at least one deadline in their lives. If you can’t make a deadline, don’t wait until the day before and say “œOh, by the way I won’t make it. Sorry, dude!”. The last-minute surprise (when you’re expected to be finished) can cause your employer a premature heart-attack, and cause you to lose all credibility.
Instead, you should be communicating with them constantly during the project. As soon as you notice you are behind schedule (weeks before), let them know and let them know why (i.e. “œwe ran into xyz because it was more complicated than expected”). With advanced notice your employer can often make other arrangements.
And never just say “œOh it’s going to be late,” and not say when you think it *will* be done. Just like you don’t like to be left in limbo…neither does the employer.
These are all small but important things that make the difference between keeping your client’s trust or losing it completely and never working for them again.
4. Uploading deliverables
Disputes happen… even to the best of freelancers. They key is to be prepared so you can avoid problems when they do occur.
For some reason, many freelancers hate uploading their work to the vWorker site. Yes it does take a little more time to do this. But ask yourself this: would you rather do that, or would you rather lose the funds for the project you worked so hard on, simply because you didn’t take the time to do this simple task?
On a site like vWorker we guarantee that you will be paid if you complete the project to the contract, on time and in the industry expected manner. However, without the upload, you have no proof of what and when you delivered. And without that, we cannot enforce that guarantee and you can end up not getting paid. So you can easily avoid the entire situation by just uploading the deliverables. Then you are fully protected in a dispute and can get paid for the work you did.
5. Repeat business
You finished the job and have a happy client! Congratulations! Now that you’ve earned their trust, you can look forward to a recurring revenue stream from future projects. However, many people don’t think about how to save money by structuring that repeat business properly.
For example, if you won your first project from the employer via an open-auction pay-for-deliverables project, we charge a 15% vWorker fee. On repeat projects, the employer skips bidding, which saves us money (bandwidth costs, advertising to bring in bidders and employers, etc.) and we pass that savings on to you. The key is to make sure the employer posts the project to you as a “œone-on-one” project. This cuts the cost to 12.5%. On a large project this can be a significant savings. If you both trust each other so much that you can forgo escrowing, you can set it up as a bonus and only pay 10%! And there are other ways to save as well.
Once you’ve established trust with the employer, you can have the switch from pay-for-deliverables to pay-for-time (PFT). In PFT, you clock into a timecard and are guaranteed payment for every hour you work. This is a really good deal compared with PFD, where any cost overruns (or bad estimates on your part) are your responsibility. On top of that, the fee drops to just 9%! So this is a fantastic way to give you more flexibility AND save money at the same time.
And on all the above options, you can drop the cost by another 2.5% by asking the employer to use a preferred payment method (snail mail check or wire). These are cheaper for us to process, so we pass it on to you. Note: Once the bidding change I talked about earlier is in place (in a few weeks) we expect employers will be much more likely to use a preferred payment method, because they will actually see the difference (will not have to escrow as much).
Using the above tips, you can have a very successful freelance career. I hope these tips were helpful!