How to Land Clients on eLance or any Freelance Sites

How to Land Clients on eLance or any Freelance Sites

When it comes to freelance writing, there is no shortage of ways to find someone to write for.  The problem is, however, that many of these methods are difficult or too time consuming to make it worth the effort.  Freelance sites, such as eLance and oDesk are thought by many to be too competitive to be worth the time.  In my experience, however, they can be a great source of work, as long as you do it properly.   This post has really grown much longer than I expected, but I feel it is well worth the read.  If you follow the tips, tricks and suggestions laid out below, I’m very confident you’ll find clients on eLance very quickly.

I’ve written on the basics of eLance in the past, so if you’re just looking for an introduction to that site, please click HERE.   I use eLance FAR more than oDesk or any other freelance writing site, so that is what I’ll talk about most here.  From what I’ve found, however, oDesk and the other sites are very similar, other than the cosmetic differences.  Any tips I list here should be transferrable to any freelance site.

Setting Up Your Search

The first thing you want to do, once you have an account set up, is to create a default search to help narrow down the jobs that you see.  If you’re just looking for writing jobs, for example, you don’t want to have your screen filled up with graphics design jobs.  To set up your default search, follow these simple steps:

  1. Put your mouse over the ‘find work’ menu, and then click ‘browse’
  2. Under job categories, click on any of the categories you want.  I click on ‘article writing’
  3. Ignore the jobs listed, for now.  Expand your search by clicking additional categories you’re interested on the left.  Choose all the categories you want to see jobs from:
  4. As you click the checkboxes, the jobs on the right will update.  Go through and click all the check boxes you’re interested in.  If you offer services other than writing, you can expand those categories too and add them, so all the potential jobs for you are in one place!
  5. Once you’ve got all the categories selected, scroll down and narrow it down further (if desired).  I restrict my searches by budget just to weed out some of the low paying jobs.  Remove any hourly rate under $20, for example, and make sure the specific budget is at least $25.  Of course, you can set these at any level you’d like based on your desired pay rate.   Many jobs won’t have a budget listed, so you’ll still see those too.
  6. Once you’ve set all the different settings how you want them, scroll back up to the top of the screen and click ‘save this search.’
  7. Name the search, and choose whether or not you want eLance to email you the results of the search.

That’s it.  Now you’ve got a simple way to find all the jobs you’re interested in looking at.  From now on, when you want to find a new job on eLance, just put your mouse over ‘find work’ and click ‘Search Jobs.’  This will bring up all the jobs that meet your criteria, with the most recently posted coming up at the top.

How to Choose Which Jobs to Bid On

eLance limits the number of jobs you can apply to based on the number of ‘connections’ you have.  You get a set amount of connections for free each month, and then you can buy more for  $1 each. Naturally, you don’t want to waste any connections you don’t have to.  So, when looking for a job on eLance, pull up your saved search we created previously.

I recommend starting from the top of the list.  These are the most recently created jobs, and I recommend this because some people are looking to hire someone fast and if you can get your proposal in front of them before other people, you might land the job without ever really having to ‘compete’ for it.

The trick to eLance or any freelance site is to be able to move quickly.  No matter how good you are at bidding on jobs, you’re not going to get hired most of the time.  With this in mind, it is important to be able to decide whether or not you want to apply for the job with just a quick glance.

Scanning the List of Jobs

The first thing you want to do is know how to read through the list of jobs from your search.  Read the titles, budget and brief description that you can see without clicking on it.  In many cases, you can see that it is not something you’re interested in writing on, so you can skip right over it.  If you see the price is too low, for example, just skip right over it.  If they need content on something you don’t like writing about, skip over that too.  This takes some practice, but with time you’ll be able to quickly glance at each one and choose which are worth looking closer at, and which are not.

Taking a Closer Look

For those jobs which look good at first glance, click on them to see the detailed job description.  There are a few things to look for in this section.  First, read through the full description and see how it sounds.  Even those jobs that don’t list an exact price will often mention their budget here, so see if you can weed out low paying gigs.  Also, look at the client info by hovering your mouse over the green dots next to their name:

Client Info

This gives you some great information.  First, Total purchased.  In this example, the person has paid $969 through eLance so far.  This proves that he is at least a legitimate client.  If you look at the number of jobs awarded, however, you see that he has given 37 jobs so far.  With some quick math, that works out to an average of $26 and change per job.  This helps you to guess what some jobs will be paying, even when the client doesn’t list it explicitly.  Also look at the percent awarded.  Some people post a lot of jobs and rarely hire people.  Don’t waste your ‘connections’ on someone with a low percentage here because the chances are, they won’t hire anyone for the job.

You’ll also want to decide whether or not to apply based on the topic, length, turn around time expected and things like that.  Each writer is a little different, so I can’t say what you should or should not be interested in.  With experience, however, you’ll get the hang of choosing what you want to apply for and what you want to pass on.   If you decide this job isn’t right for you at any point, immediately click the back button and look for something else.  Don’t waste your time on a job you don’t want.

Writing a Proposal

If you like what you see in the job description, you’ll need to write a proposal.  This is where most freelancers seem to have the most anxiety.  I’ve found, however, that this is nothing to worry about.  I try to keep my proposals fairly casual, and stick to the facts.  In my experience, those who are hiring someone won’t want to read through a whole book length proposal.  Keeping it short and sweet seems to be the way to go.  There are, however, some great tips and tricks I use which I’ve found improve my chances of getting hired.  Here they are:

  • Watch for “Hidden Words” – Many clients place a line in their job description that says something like, “Start your proposal with the word “Chicken Fingers” to let me know you actually read the job description.”  Obviously, if you don’t start your proposal with the right word, you won’t get hired and you will have just wasted your ‘connection.’
  • Find Something in Common – When possible, find something in common with the person or the job.  If, for example, you see they are from your state, mention it!  Even if they are from a state you recently visited.  I had a client I was applying to from Arizona a while back.  I had recently vacationed there so I started my proposal with, “Hey, I’m very interested in writing this content for you.  Also, I see you’re from Arizona; I was just in the Tucson area visiting my sister on vacation, and visited the Grand Canyon too!  Small world!”
    Nothing lengthy or pushy, just something to try to set yourself apart from the dozens of other applications they will receive.
  • Express Interest for the Topic – If they are going to pay you to write on a topic, they will want you to do a great job.  If you have experience or interest in the topic, let them know!  I recently completed a job for a client on eLance where they wanted an eBook about the Paleo diet.  I happen to follow (as much as I can) the Primal diet, which is very similar.  So in my proposal I wrote, “Hey, I’m really interested in writing this for you.  I have lost 20 pounds on the Primal diet, which is very similar to the Paleo diet.  I absolutely love the diet and would be happy to share my knowledge and experience related to it with your readers!”
    This should be genuine and true.  If they feel you’re lying to them, you’ll never get the job.  Obviously this tip will not work on every topic, but when it is applicable, take advantage!  When you’re not interested specifically in the topic they need, try this next tip.
  • Passion for Learning – If you don’t already know a lot about a subject, or you’ve never written on it before, turn that into an advantage.  When I’m applying for a job I know little about, I say something like this, “Hey – Your job listing caught my eye because it is on a topic I’ve never written about!  In my 3+ years as a freelance writer, I thought I’d covered almost every topic, but the mating habits of the East European horned slug seems to have slipped through the cracks (imagine that).  I really enjoy learning about new things, and researching new topics, so I would be happy to do this writing for you.  I promise to give 100% to this project, and I’m sure you’ll be thrilled with the results.”
  • Explain Your Prices and Turn Around Time – I usually take one line to explain my prices, so they know what they are getting.  Something like, “I am bidding $125 based on $.05 per word for 2000 words, plus $25 to find and add in the images as requested.  I can have this done in 5 days, though if you need it sooner, that can be arranged” (This also leaves it open to raise your price.  If the client contacts you saying they need the writing done in 24 hours, you can say yes but it will be an extra $25 (or whatever).
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions – Many jobs I bid on are unclear in some areas such as word count or number of pages.  When that’s the case I say something like this after the initial introduction part of my proposal, “I see that you didn’t list how many words or pages you wanted this to be.  I’ll need that information before I can give you an exact bid, but for now I’m going to fill out the bid at $250, which will be my price if you need 10 pages of content on this topic.  If you need more or less, just let me know and I’ll adjust my bid accordingly.”
  • If you’re New, Use that to Your Advantage – Most freelancers I’ve talked to say they can’t get started because people on eLance only want to work with people who have lots of previous work on the site.  Or worse, they bid really low in an attempt to build their reputation.  Being new isn’t bad, and in fact, it can help you in some cases.  If you have 0-3 successful jobs on eLance, include something in your proposal that says something like, “I have been a freelance writer for X years, though I am just starting to expand my business to eLance.  I will be working extremely hard to exceed your every expectation since I’m so new here, and I want to make sure I’m getting high ratings!  If you give me a chance, I promise you won’t be disappointed!”
    You won’t’ get 100% of the jobs, and some may still pass you over because you’re new, but you’ll get hired sooner than you think.
  • It is a Numbers Game – Last I checked, I got hired on about 8% of the jobs I apply for.  I’m happy with that.  When most jobs have 20-50 people applying for them, it can be competitive.  This is why I don’t think you should spend more than 5 minutes or so writing a proposal.  Get it written and submitted and move on.  You win some and you lose some.   Even with low hire rates, it is a great opportunity because if someone hires you, and they like your work, they may come back again and again for work on a regular basis!

That is all the suggestions I have for getting hired on eLance.  If you haven’t already, please sign up for eLance using my referral link (it earns me 10 ‘connections’) by clicking HERE.   I wish you the best of luck!

Example Proposals

Here are a couple of example proposals I’ve written on jobs I got hired on in the past.  They are copied & pasted right from eLance, so hopefully they will give you a good feel for how a proposal should look and feel.  If you have any questions, just let me know!

A Job for a Paleo eBook:

Paleo, I’m coming

Hey – I’m very interested in writing this for you. I’m an experienced freelance writer, and I’m also on the Paleo diet right now (technically I’m following more of a primal diet, but it is extremely similar to Paleo. I’ve lost about 20 lbs so far, and really love it.

In addition, I’ve written about Paleo diets before so I’m well aware of how it works as well as what types of things people thinking about following the diet are thinking about. I’ve attached a Paleo product description I recently wrote for another client for you to review.

All my work will be 100% unique and delivered in the format you require. I also have no problem signing an agreement stating that you own full rights to the completed work.

I am just entering a number in for the bid since you didn’t specify exactly how much content you need written for this specific project. We can discuss the prices and things like that if you want to have me write for you.

Thank you



A Job for General Blog Posts:

I am interested in writing for you. I’m new here to eLance, but I’ve been freelance writing for well over two years now. I can write on just about any topic and enjoy both writing and researching so this should be a perfect fit.

You can see examples of my writing in my profile or visit where I do almost all the writing for the site. My name is Michael Levanduski and you can find hundreds of articles on that site by me.

I’m going to write up my bid based on 10 articles at 400 words each for the average.

In addition to getting high quality content from me, you’re also going to get someone who is really easy to work with. I’m available on skype, email or phone both day and night and I always deliver on time.

I look forward to hearing from you.



A Job the Client Needed Completed within 24 hours in the Medical/Anti-Aging Niche

Hey – I’d love to write these for you. I’ve got experience writing on this general subject. I regularly write for an anti-aging clinic in the New York area.

That is a link to one post I wrote for them, but there are quite a few others. The articles on that site are fairly general, but it should give you a feel for my writing style.

I can have these done for you well before your deadline as long as you hire quickly so I can get started ASAP.

I will be available for a little while longer tonight, otherwise I’ll check on this first thing in the morning. I can be available via email, skype or phone if you need to chat about it at all.

Ideally I’d like to be able to write something up and have it to you by noon tomorrow for your to review and let me know if there are any problems. That way I can make changes.

Just one note, I will be unavailable after about 3PM tomorrow afternoon so if you choose me, please keep that in mind.

As requested I’m bidding on 5 posts at about 100-200 words each. The delivery will be by noon tomorrow (Eastern Time).

If you have any questions for me, please let me know!



Thanks for reading this post, I hope you found it useful. I'd love to hear what you thought about it in the comments below. If you're interested in publishing this, or any of my content, on your site I'd love to hear from you. Just contact me using my syndication request form HERE.

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  1. says

    I cannot thank you enough for sharing this information. So many people want to keep things like this a secret to eliminate the possibility of competition. I’ve wanted to break into the freelance area but have not had the chance to research many sites yet as I am also getting my DJ business off the ground.

    I will be checking this out tomorrow afternoon. Again, I cannot thank you enough. I had never even heard of this site.

    Missy Bell

  2. says

    Great information here!

    I never managed to find any work on eLance or Odesk, mainly because I barely tried, and the competition is fierce. I found most of my client through internet marketing forums. Still, I renewed my eLance account and I will give it another shot. The sample bid part really helped. It is always a good idea to include links to live articles that you wrote when you submit a bid.

    Great stuff!
    Timothy Torrents recently posted…What is The Average Salary of a Freelance Writer?My Profile

  3. golecha says

    I have heard about this site and after reading your article I feel there is wide scope for those who want to work from home. But a request I am based in India , hence would request you to if possible to explain the whole stuff in more simple form.


    • says

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Whether you’re from the US or India shouldn’t much matter for eLance and other sites. The biggest difference would be you wouldn’t likely be able to get the high paying jobs, since you’re English isn’t up to the standards they will want. There are plenty of jobs paying $.01 per word or less, however, which will accept your writing I’m sure. With the exchange rates and cost of living, that may be worth it to you. I don’t know.

      Thanks again!


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