How to Use Elance and Guru to Land That Client Every Time

biddingI know that a lot of seasoned old professionals prefer not to use sites like Guru and Elance. Often the clients who post jobs there are bargain hunters. They’re looking for the lowest price rather than the highest quality.

If you’re going to transition from the budget work into the higher quality jobs, you’re eventually going to have to stop relying on job boards to get your work, but that doesn’t mean they’re completely without value. I was introduced to many of my best clients via bidding sites.

Bidding Site Benefits

The benefits to using bidding sites include:

  • Ease of use. These jobs are quick and easy to apply for. You can do it while watching TV with your spouse or while waiting for other client feedback.
  • Potential client information. Your potential clients can get all sorts of referrals and testimonials about you, but similarly you can get information on them. If they’re a client who didn’t pay his last freelancer or someone who has posted 20 jobs but never awarded one, you know to stay away from the beginning.
  • Guarantees. Although it’s not 100% fail-safe, these services do offer escrow services and complaint departments that can help intervene if you’re having problems with a particular client. When used effectively you can limit your potential for a non-paying or trouble client.
  • Testimonials. The sites really encourage your happy clients to leave feedback. Instead of poking and prodding your client to give you a testimonial for your site, it is an automated process and you get a good review to use as you choose.
  • Warm calls. I don’t know about you, but I hate cold-calling or approaching a client who may not need or want my services. At the very least, everyone posting a job on a bidding site wants people to contact them about their project.

Okay, so maybe you’ve decided you’ll give one of these bidding sites a chance. What do you need to know to land that client? Read on.

The Initial Bid

  • Don’t apply to bargain-basement projects. Remember about transitioning to high quality? Remember that logic even when checking out the bidding sites. Make sure the project is worth your time and that you’ll be able to meet your hourly wage. Don’t apply for the jobs that have a $100 budget for a full-blown e-commerce website, but pay special attention to the projects that have a decent budget and are posted by a reputable client. Make sure the job posting is clearly defined and that the client isn’t just price-shopping.
  • Read the project description thoroughly. If the client asked questions, answer them. Make sure the client realizes that you’ve read their project and haven’t just copied and pasted a generic response to their request.
  • Give examples of projects you’ve done that are similar to what they’re looking for. When dealing with your portfolio, sometimes less is more. Make sure your samples are directed to the client and the project they’re posting.
  • Ask questions. If you’re needing clarification on any of the points in the job description, ask. The client will be flattered that you’re already taking an interest in their project and the questions will make them want to reply to you directly.

Following these steps should ensure that you’re applying to the right type of job and that you’re submitting the right type of proposal. You’re well on your way to landing a new client! Now you should be receiving an email or message about the job.

The Follow-up

Chances are you won’t be selected right away, but you’ll instead be engaged in a discussion with the potential client about the project. This is your time to shine.

  • Be honest. The client will be asking about your experience, knowledge, abilities and deadlines. Be honest with them even if it means not simply saying what they want to hear. Clients appreciate honesty and they’ll be able to smell the desperation of a “yes man” who is obviously just feeding them what they want to hear rather than being honest.
  • Respond in a timely fashion. You’re trying to make a good impression, so make it a good one!
  • Promote your other qualities. Your portfolio should speak for itself and show them that you are a talented designer, writer or programmer. Promote your other qualities, like your ability to hit a deadline or your promptness at replying to emails or phone calls. Personal qualifications go just as far as professional ones when dealing with the right kind of client.

By this point you should have landed a new client or two, so let me be the first to congratulate you! At this point, treat the client exactly as you would any other client you have. Remember, not everyone who posts jobs on these bidding sites is looking for the cheapest possible price, and with a little effort these clients can be really good return customers.

Now It’s Your Turn

Do you have any success stories of great clients landed off bidding sites? Let us know in the comments below.