Project boards and outsourcing sites

I want to touch on a rather sensitive topic because I get a lot of questions about it: finding clients on projects boards and outsourcing sites.

I want to prefix this by saying that I’ve seen people have success with these types of sites. But they had to put in hard work everyday in an uphill battle.

My opinion:

I don’t think you should use project boards or outsourcing sites to find clients.

There are two simple reasons.

One. These sites are a network where freelancers are connected to clients. This means you’re on a pretty level playing field with every other freelancer. You’re competition is the guy in California who works at home, the dozen developers from South Africa, and the huge outsourcing firms where their "freelancers" are just an employee number.

Doesn’t sound very fun, huh?

With this fierce competition and very few ways to elevate yourself you have to compete on price. And there is always someone who is willing to charge less than you.

Two. Since these sites use custom software to manage the bidding process and project, both you and the client are severely limited in what you can do. They can upload documents about the project and maybe have back and forth communication with you. But it’s still limited and the client has to do that with everyone who applies for the project.

Do you communicate better on the phone than in writing? Sorry, you have to write about your bid and can’t call the client.

Have a suggestion for the project that would make it easier to do and save the client some headache? You probably won’t be heard and couldn’t bid it differently.

Think about it from the client’s perspective. They’re going to get a lot of responses. They’ll get burned out and want to limit the amount of time they spend with the 99% of the freelancers they aren’t going to hire. It makes sense to them. But it will suck for you.

All of this leads to very exacting, cut-and-dried projects. There really isn’t any other way for the client to evaluate multiple proposals to find the best solution.

They are almost forced to post cookie-cutter projects.

Now, if you’re making a living off of these sites, more power to you. They can work for some freelancers and with a system. But you can do so much more by going out on your own.

Don’t shortchange yourself, your skills, or your business.

Eric Davis

P.S. There is one "secret" that I’ve heard from the freelancers who are successful on project boards. Though it’s not really a secret if you think about it.

Play by the job board’s rules to win the project and then pitch the client to do a second project. Basically the job board becomes a way to find clients and do trial projects. The good clients to stick with and run the project separately.