I Tried To Make Money on Freelancer.com and Didn’t Succeed
When you think you’ve found a shortcut, reality steps in and teaches you a lesson.
Last year I tried my luck on Freelancer.com, a gig-platform to post jobs as a client and find work as a freelancer.
I registered on the platform, filled out my profile with examples of previous works, my hourly rates, and started hunting down the job pages to find my first gig. I thought it would be easy. I was wrong.
How it works
On the “Jobs” page, you can filter jobs by elements such as keyword, location, budget or language. You seek out gigs that look appealing to you. In order to get the gig, you need to place a bid with the rates you’re willing to accept, and a short proposal. Placing a bid with a proposal is a zero guarantee that you will get it.
The client may or may not chat with you to discuss further details of the project, and agree on a project rate. When your proposal is picked as the “winner”, the project will be locked for you, and it’s up to you to deliver the required work in time for the deadline. Sometimes clients approach you by themselves without you first having to bid on their project, and you decide what to do with their proposal on the spot. That’s how it works in a nutshell.
Getting the first client
To become more “credible” and reliable-looking to clients, you’re going to need reviews. To get reviews, you’re going to need clients. Getting the first client without any reviews is a challenge. It took me weeks to get mine. Every day, I spent anything from one up to three hours scouting and bidding on jobs, so far without any luck.
Upgrading my profile
When success failed to happen, I looked at my “competitors”. They had gathered multiple reference, and added several Freelancer.com “certifications”. Certifications are multiple-choice exams that are added to your profile as a badge once you pass them. The only catch: you have to pay to take the tests in order to get a certification.
“Maybe it’ll increase my chances, so let’s give it a try”, I thought. I ended up adding three badges to my profile, one for translation, two for language comprehension. And the gig search continued.
Upgrading my membership
Signing up for an account is free and automatically subscribes you to a free membership. Free members get 8 bids (or chances to apply for jobs) per month. A new bid is granted to you at an interval of every 90 hours. But, bidding on a project ≠ getting it.
What happens if you’re out of bids? Then you either wait for the next free one, which will be added to your account after 90 hours. Or, you upgrade your membership by paying, which grants you extra bids.
The first gig
More bids = more chances of getting a gig. My first one was proofreading a website that was translated into English for a total $30. Easy money, I thought. But no.
The translation was quite poor, that oftentimes I had no idea what the meaning of the text should be. I used Google translate on the original page, and heavily cooperated with the client to make sense of the text so that I could offer them quality work. Luckily they were extremely patient and kind.
After a week of frustration and cursing at the editor, I finished the project and handed it over to the client for a final review. They accepted, transferred me the payment of $30, and left me my first Freelancer review. I was happy about that, but it was hard-earned.
Time and money spent vs. proceeds gained
- $30 from one project.
- 1 hour daily: Over the course of around a month I spent on average 1 hour on the platform looking for gigs, upgrading my profile or taking exams.
- 30 hours over the course of one week for the project itself.
Totaling: 60 hours
- $35 for three certification badges
- $4.95 for an upgrade from the Free to Basic Freelancer membership to get access to 50 bids per month
The numbers speak for themselves, don’t they? Okay, so I did make money, but was it really worthwhile?
Fun fact: I deleted my Freelancer account after this “failed” venture. But, my renewed membership fee of $4.95 was deducted from my account before I was able to withdraw my hard-earned proceeds. After that, my balance was below the required $30 threshold. When below it, you are not able to withdraw anything. I thought, “Well, that was that”, and completely abandoned the platform.
With time it would be possible to build up your reputation and get access to higher paid gigs, but I won’t be doing this on Freelancer. Why?
- Extreme price competition. I got the impression clients tend to go for the lowest possible cost. Quality seemed secondary.
- Lack of trustworthiness of users. I noticed there are many fake profiles. People posing to be from another country to increase their chances of getting work, or translating agencies posing as individuals. They eat up a gig, and further distribute on Freelancer, or to people elsewhere as an intermediary. Because this one “person” can handle various client demands (such as language fluency in 8 different languages), they get the job. And do it at a rate that wouldn’t make it sustainable or worthwhile for me to spend my time on.
- Reliability. My client transferred a timely payment, but there seems to be no fully secure system in place that penalizes clients that vanish in thin air once you hand over the work, disappear off the platform and re-register under a new account to repeat their actions.
Seasoned freelancers I’ve read about recommend Upwork above other platforms for high quality clients and projects, although I haven’t tried this platform yet.