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Elance: Warning Signs in Your Freelance Job Listings

Winton Churchill
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New job listings appear on Elance and other freelance job sites every day.

A freelancer who's looking for assignments will have no trouble finding jobs to bid on, but unfortunately some employers are looking for a bargain and expect a freelancer to work for a very low hourly rate.

These employers should be avoided!

Other types of employers to avoid are those who are difficult to work with and those who post questionable jobs. It's important to recognize the warning signs for a problem employer and to avoid bidding on their jobs whenever possible.

Here are some of the warning signs for undesirable freelance jobs.

• A ridiculously low budget. For some employers, cost is more important than quality and the project budget is very low. Once you get a good feel for how long it takes you to complete different types of projects, you can figure out what the hourly rate for a job is and decide if it's acceptable. For example, if you know how long it takes you to write or proofread 500 words, you should be able to judge how long it will take you to complete 'x' number of pages. Then you can decide whether the project budget allows you to earn an acceptable hourly rate.

• Vague about the details. Employers who don't disclose details about a project will often reveal them after a freelancer has been hired. For example, they may ask for 10 400-word articles, but after you've been hired they add a requirement that you find several photos for each article and then post the articles on their blog. Steer clear of vague job descriptions.

• "My budget is low, but I will have plenty of work for you in the future." The logic behind this statement is baffling, yet it's amazing how many employers include something like this in their job description. If the price is too low to start out with, it will still be too low even if they hire you for more work.

• Low hiring rate or low feedback ratings. Look at the employer's Elance history before you take the time to make a bid. Some employers post a lot of jobs on Elance but never hire a freelancer. Others have a history of problems with freelancers. Unless the employer has a solid hiring record, don't bid.

• Use common sense. If there's anything sleazy or potentially illegal about the job description, don't bid on it. Elance attempts to screen and remove unethical projects, but some slip by.

Examples of questionable projects include being asked to plagiarize another writer's work, helping a student cheat on class work or writing the memoirs of someone who sounds unbalanced.

The odds of these projects causing you problems are too great to take a chance on them. Almost every freelancer gets started with a few low-paying "bargain" jobs in order to build a professional portfolio. However, it's important to transition out of this phase quickly and only bid on jobs where quality is more important than price.

There are plenty of jobs of this type out there. Just look out for the warning signs and steer clear of the bargain hunter employers. One of the best ways to transition into

higher-paying jobs is to focus on a skill or expertise that differentiates you from other freelancers. (see "Call #15" for a video tutorial on this strategy.)

There is always a demand for writers who specialize in niche subject areas like business, technology, fitness and fashion. Employers are more willing to pay a good price for well-researched content in a niche subject area than for generic content that any freelancer could provide.

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·  Monthly Call #15 Video

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