Why You Should Think Twice Before Bidding on Freelance Gigs (Book Giveaway)


Editor's Note: Congratulations to Kim, Carmen, and Bethany for winning the giveaway!

Editor's note: Miranda Marquit is a regular contributor to Wise Think as well as and many personal finance blogs. She has built a successful freelance writing and blogging career, and has done well enough to become the primary breadwinner for her family, while working from home. Her book, Confessions of a Professional Blogger, is a fantastic getting started guide that we recommend for any aspiring freelance writers. It is chock-full of practical and actionable tips Miranda has learned from years of working in the trenches. (Enter a comment below for a chance to win a free copy!)

In the excerpt below, Miranda explains why freelancers should avoid job bidding sites, and where to look for better paying gigs instead.

I've been providing online content for several years now, and I've found it a great job as a stay-at-home mom. The rise of the Internet means that stay-at-home parents can benefit from a job that doesn't require a physical presence. There are many places to find jobs online, including freelance bidding sites, which purport to provide stay-at-home moms and dads with the perfect opportunities. Even with these sites readily available, though, I've only completed a couple of jobs with the help of freelance bidding sites.

Freelance bidding sites, which are also referred to as marketplaces, are the last places I would look for work — no matter how desperate I felt. I learned fairly early in my online writing career that a bidding site is pretty much the last place you should go if you want a fair fee for your work.

3 Reasons to Avoid Freelance Marketplaces as a Writer

A freelance marketplace can be a great resource if you're doing the hiring. You find writers willing to work for fairly low prices. If you want to get passable work — and sometimes great work — for less, a freelancing bidding site is the place to be. On the other hand, if you are a writer trying to make a living, I can think of other things you should be doing instead. Here are three reasons for stay-at-home moms and dads looking for online jobs to avoid bidding on freelance gigs.

1. You're Lowballing Yourself

The point of a freelance marketplace is to help a publisher find a writer for a rock-bottom price. You'll only get work at a freelance site if you are willing to charge less than the next writer. Essentially, you lowball yourself. While some publishers looking on a freelance marketplace might accept your higher bid if they are truly looking for quality, it's rare that you will get a fair price for work done this way. Instead, you will agree to accept less than you're worth for the sake of saying that you have a gig.

Freelance bidding sites point out that they offer writers access to thousands of potential jobs. It's true that you can do a lot of work if you sign up with a freelance marketplace. Unfortunately, that work will be low-paying and frustrating.

2. You Get Even Less After the Site Takes Its Cut

Because a freelance marketplace connects the parties, it only makes sense that it takes a cut of each transaction. Usually, the freelance marketplace takes its cut out of whatever you make. It's tempting to use a freelance bidding site, since it acts as a third-party to keep everyone honest. While it's not a guarantee against getting scammed, you do receive a certain level of security when you land gigs through a marketplace.

Unfortunately, this security comes with a cost. The freelance marketplace will take a portion of the pay you receive for your work. This means that once you lowball yourself by bidding as little as possible on a gig, you will receive even less in the end after the marketplace takes its cut off the top.

3. It's Hard to Raise Your Prices Later

Once you have worked for so little with a client, it's hard to raise your prices to something fairer later. Many stay-at-home moms and dads find regular jobs through freelance marketplaces. They can either keep working through a bidding site, or they can take their relationship off the site after a while.

However, it is harder to raise your rates on these regular clients after they have seen that you are willing to work for so much less. Plus, these clients know they can just go on the bidding site and find a new writer to replace you. When you're stuck in this rut, it's hard to get out. You can even end up with a skewed view of what's "fair" for your work, remaining behind the curve for your entire career.

Where to Look Instead of Freelance Bidding Sites

Rather than get caught in the vicious cycle that is the freelance marketplace, look elsewhere. Here are some of the things that are more productive and helpful to your online writing career than spending hours lowballing yourself on a freelance bidding site — with the chance that you'll be passed over in favor of someone willing to work for even less.

Write for Content Farms

This isn't my favorite thing to do, but if you need somewhat fast cash, this is a viable option. You submit your work, and you're usually paid for it. Plus, it can provide recurring income. You'll get paid less, but at least you'll be honing your writing skills, rather than fruitlessly trying to convince a publisher to pay you less than you're worth.

Look on Reputable Job Boards

I'd much rather compete for better-paying jobs on the boards. My favorite places to look for online writing jobs include Media Bistro, Problogger, and FreelanceWritingGigs.com.

Write Posts for Your Own Blog and Write Guest Posts

I don't normally write for free, but I'd be willing to do so to improve my long-term career. It's a better use of your time to build your portfolio by writing something really good for your own blog, or by providing a guest post for someone else. Craft a great piece for someone else or your own blog, and you have a great sample to provide when applying for freelance gigs on the boards.

The reality is that freelance marketplaces are a colossal waste of time. After a couple of gigs on these sites, I realized that there were other options for work. Don't sell yourself short. Develop a quality writing portfolio, and you won't need to bid on freelance jobs. In fact, I recommend that you avoid bidding sites altogether. They are far more trouble than they are worth, and you risk getting stuck in a time suck.

Win a copy of Miranda's new book!

We're giving away 3 free copies of Miranda's new book, Confessions of a Professional Blogger: How I Make Money As An Online Writer.

We'll randomly select 3 lucky winners from the comments on December 16th. To enter drawing simply leave a comment below. (U.S. residents only.)

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Guest's picture

Great article! In a world where people think that it's really easy to make a quick buck writing and bring down the curve for everyone, or businesses want to get great content for their site for free, it can be hard to get what you're worth as a pro. I'd love a copy of this book.

Guest's picture

The freelance bidding sites are the kingdom of low-balling, I can't bring myself to get involved. My best source of freelance work is my own blog. Sure, I put a TON of time and energy into maintaining it, but it serves me better than any resume could.

Guest's picture

I've avoided those bidding sites for the very reasons you mentioned. The value of good (or even decent) copywriting has dropped substantially over the past decade (give or take) and these sites only make that worse. Question: What are content farms?

Guest's picture

A content farm is a place like Yahoo! Voices, Squidoo, or HubPages that just churns out content. You can submit your stuff, get paid, and earn residual income based on pageviews and other criteria. It's not glamorous, and it doesn't pay great, but it's one way to pay the rent if you need fast cash.

Guest's picture

I'd love to get this book for free, but was so intrigued that I just purchased it instead.

I'm three weeks into drawing unemployment from one of the worst employment experiences of my life (I am a 'mature' woman) and am in no hurry to enter into another potential nightmare. Having owned my own very lucrative business for 20 years (which was locale-based ... and I no longer live there!) I know that I have the drive and desire to be a success as a freelance writer - I just need direction from those who have walked this path!

Can't wait to read it!

Guest's picture

Awesome post.

Guest's picture

I'd like to read this book. Thanks for the giveaway!

Guest's picture
Anna B.

Great advice! I am new to this field and was wondering if these freelance bidding sites are the best approach to finding gigs. I'll proceed cautiously and work on some of the suggestions Miranda provided. Thanks!

Guest's picture

just to win the book, cheers

Guest's picture

Looks like a great book. I would love to read it. Thanks.

Guest's picture
Jeffery Cole

There is nothing in the world of writing more disappointing than finding examples of capitalization on words given freely. As much as I would like to get paid for my thoughts, I give in for failure to have faith in the jump from a typical job to getting paid for talent I have gave away so freely for so long.

Guest's picture

Hm.. great confession.. I'm not writer but as a publisher I totally agree with you. we hire a cheaper freelance writer to increase our profit and decrease our loss

Megan Brame's picture

Such a great article and so true! It's hard to raise your value for repeat clients if you started low.

Guest's picture

Thanks for the tips! Those link will prove useful!

Guest's picture
Asch Hawthorn

this is an extremely helpful article, thank you for sharing it.

Guest's picture

I would love to read this book - from her above post, it will be very informative and helpful to anyone interested in becoming a writer. Thanks.

Guest's picture

This is something to think twice about - nice thanks for the input....

Guest's picture
Rinette Ouk

I would love to read more and get ideas on how to make money writing online.

Guest's picture
Lisa E

I've heard of Problogger, but haven't used it myself. At least not yet.

Guest's picture

Great tips presented in a nice, concise format. Thank you!

Guest's picture

I'm against such freelance gigs too because they don't even pay what your writing is worth. You often end up doing a lot of research, placing citations here and there, but it's much better to just write your own blog and hope to earn good money in the long run.

Guest's picture

I've been a stay at home mom now for about 2 years and have recently begun looking into something that will satisfy my business appetite. Thanks for the suggestions...definately worth researching a bit further.

Guest's picture

Thank you for a very informative article! I'm a firefighter and a stay at home dad. I used to work construction on my days off until my son was born. I love staying home with him and I don't want to give that up. However, we miss the extra income I earned with my side job. I have a marketing degree and have been pondering different ways to stay home with my son and make a little extra money. I believe your book would guide me in the right direction. Thanks!

Guest's picture

Thanks for the giveaway! I'll take this advice into consideration

Guest's picture

I am a first time new mom and I planned on going back to work but had so many complications with my pregnancy and after that I am unable to do much of anything but take care of my child. I feel so useless in the monetary department and now my husband is losing his job. I would love to be able to have a job that worked around my schedule and was something I enjoyed-writing!

Guest's picture
J. G. Adams

Good lord where were you four years ago. After finally decided to take my writing career all the way, after braking my back and growing by sick, I spent far to much time in the marketplaces lowballing the hell out of myself. This was after my first publication, a short story that didn't go anywhere. I also discovered that a lot of these gigs are for ghost writing, so they don't pay very well well and you get zero credit. Long story short I could have used this advice back then it would have saved me a great deal of time and the sense of failure. To that I will add to all aspiring writers, don't give up.

Guest's picture

I am a stay at home mom and I have been looking for something that I can do to contribute to my family's income for sometime. I have been getting a little desperate the last couple of months. I have always wanted to start a blog about our daily living adventures and my bargain shopping as well as our baking and recent craftiness. I am not sure how to do it and I didn't want to ruin my chances by just jumping into it so this book would tremendously help me gain the added confidence I need to become the successful blogger I have to desired to be. I have always enjoyed writing and have been very successful in the past, but just not sure about it all. Thank you so much for the opportunity and I look forward to reading more of your inspirational work. Thanks Melinda

Guest's picture
Ashley Dufault

Thank you so much for posting this along with suggestions! I just graduated college and am trying to get my feet wet in freelancing. Unfortunately, not knowing where to turn, I've started out with the bidding sites. Before beginning on oDesk, I perfected my profile - overview, several relevant tests with great scores, schooling, a modest hourly rate, etc. The only thing missing were portfolio pieces. I landed one job that earned me $20 and the contract ended unexpectedly a week later. The last three jobs I've been offered ALL disguised themselves as good, hourly paying jobs, with the client then privately offering measly fixed prices that, in the end, they can get away with not paying. In one case, the pay would have equated to $1.30 an hour! One job was to pose as a fan and post comments on a business' Facebook Page and the other was to use my personal Amazon account to mass copy and paste reviews about products into the comments sections. Unreal. I'd rather pull my hair out out of boredom than do something shady I don't believe in, and for peanuts.

Guest's picture
Richelle Redmond

Wow, I just recently started looking into how to earn some extra money as a stay-at-home mom with four little girls ages 2 to 7, the two oldest of which I also home school, and decided to research writing blogs since I enjoy writing so much. I am happy I found reliable sources of information from here and it is so encouraging to see someone like Miranda sharing her lessons, resources, and advice for others to be able to do the same. Thank you!

Guest's picture
Jennifer S.

Great information. As an aspiring wordslinger, I'd love to get my hands on your book!

Guest's picture

Loved the advice given in this article! There are so many articles out on the Web that have a lot of great information on earning money as a freelance writer, but not many of them advise to stay away from bidding sites. In fact, most people supply lists of such sites! This was a fresh perspective with useful information and tips on becoming a freelance writer. I do have a question though, any tips on building a portfolio?