How to Use Contract Work Sites to Break Into Freelance Writing

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New freelance writers can use project-based contract sites such as Elance, GetAFreelancer, Ifreelance or Guru to break into freelance writing. Joining and using one of these sites addresses several problems that new freelancers run into: need to make money, lack of clips and online presence, and the need for professional references.

Difficulty: Average

Time Required: 4-6 Weeks

Here's How:

  1. Choose a Bid Site
    Make your choice based on factors such as cost, quality and amount of posted projects, features, and usability. Explore sites to find the one that best fits your personal needs. Reputations and recommendations of these sites vary in the freelance world, with some writers avoiding the sites altogether. We had a great deal of success on Elance and happily recommend it as a good start.
  2. Upgrade
    Yes, I know it's difficult to lay out the dough when you are trying to make money, not spend it, but upgrading pays off in the end. Upgrading from a basic membership to a higher level membership allows you to bid on more projects with higher budgets. It may also open up advanced features, such as additional storage space for your clips or highlighted bid proposals. Upgrading your membership will pay off in the end. Trust me!
  3. Build a Profile
    Your profile should include samples, clips, resumes, bios, and even photos. This is your introduction to an online presence, and later, once your website is established, you can link to your various profiles and back to your website for increased traffic. Also, this is what project managers click on when deciding the project winner, so make it convincing!
  4. Navigate the Site
    Learn the user platform. Most sites list projects available with descriptions, budget, and parameters noted. By clicking on a project, you can enter a proposal or bid, send private or public messages for clarification, and peruse past projects of the employer. At most sites, you can even check out a buyer's reputation and payment record.
  5. Start Bidding
    Bid on writing ​projects that interest you, and that you have the skills to complete. Genres range from press releases to company blogs to children's books. Competition is stiff, but a well-marketed freelancer with a bit of tenacity will get business. If given the option to upload supporting documents or resumes, by all means, do it!
  6. Win Projects
    Again, tenacity is key here. Give the provider a fair price based on the size and difficulty of the project. Detail exactly why you're the best writer for the job, even if it's as simple as providing the best price or having worked in the sector. Check in with the buyer when the bidding ends, and reiterate your interest in the project. Communicate quickly if asked for additional details.
  7. Manage Your Reputation
    Don't shoot yourself in the foot before you even give yourself a chance! Once awarded jobs, communicate with the project creator. Talk about things such as deadlines, style, tone, and final product format. Being a good customer service provider now will get you more contract work in the future.
  8. Complete the Job
    Complete jobs according to the employer's exact specifications. Deliver them on the deadline, as agreed, and in the format needed.
  9. Get Paid
    Yes, it is a good feeling when you are finally paid for a piece of work! Many bid sites have invoices ready made to send to your clients, or you may elect to bill through Paypal or another online service. Emailed invoices work well, too.
  10. Build up Your References
    Most sites offer a space for the client to leave feedback about your work. Urge the client to do so, as this will help you get more contracts in the future. You may also consider asking the client to provide a blurb on your website.
  11. Add the Clip
    You now have what many beginning freelancers lack- a paid clip! If the employer agrees, you can use the work you've done on your bidder profile, on your website, or list it as a credit on your resume.
  12. Start Again
    With one great paid piece under your belt, and one great reference available, you're now ready to begin the process again. With a little sweat, and maybe some sore typing fingers, you'll be able to build up clips, references, and paychecks within a couple of weeks!


  1. Keep your receipt from that upgraded membership; you may be able to use it for a tax write off.

What You Need:

  • Writers resume or general resume
  • Funds for upgraded membership
  • Ambition