Should I join a crowdsourcing website to get new clients?

Those of you who read my blog know how much I advocate networking. There’s nothing like it for meeting new people, connecting people with similar skills and finding individuals who can help each other. You’ll also know that nearly all of my customers came from networking referrals and introductions.

But what if you are just starting a virtual assistant business? Maybe you’re thinking about joining a crowdsource or freelance website community.

Have you tried crowdsourcing?

When I put the question to people in my 4N networking groups, I got some very different views. Here’s what I heard from people who’ve tried it

How does a crowd source website work?

It is all about sellers and buyers. If you are a customer (buyer), you can post a job, get help with a project or one-off task and search the database for a suitable freelancer with skills and experience to match the job you need doing. As a buyer, you can set the budget.

As a freelancer, you have a platform on which to sell your services; either by pitching for a job or being approached to work on a task for a predefined amount of money. You set the rate which the buyer agrees to pay.

Which freelance website should I choose?

Being visible on a freelance site is quite hard because there’s lots of competition out there where experienced sellers tend to jump in quickly to bid for jobs. There are also freelancers who pay to feature their profile. If you work in a specialist area, it’s worth checking which sites focus on niche areas such as IT, PR or content creation. Look at WorkCrowd, People Per Hour (PPH).

Finding your first job from a freelance or crowdsource website

Bidding for work can be time-consuming. Imagine if you’ve spent a lot of time on a proposal, only to be turned down without knowing the reason why you weren’t accepted. On some freelance websites, there is a limit on how many jobs you can bid on per month.

Understand what the buyer wants

Sometimes customers are quite vague in their description of the work, and their brief may be short or poorly written. Look for jobs with a clear brief, check out the buyer’s profile to see how many people they’ve worked with. Have an eye on the feedback they’ve left for other sellers.

How much should I charge?

Don’t bid below your usual hourly rate and be realistic with the time estimate, is the advice I heard. It makes no sense to charge less because you risk ending up being out of pocket (see Are there any fees).

If your rate for the job comes in above the buyer’s budget, then explain why in detail. Chances are you’ve thought it through and included aspects of the work the customer hadn’t thought of.

And when you are bidding for a job use your small business contract as a basis for your proposal. As a seller, you have an opportunity to say what you need to complete the work.

Know what you’re letting yourself in for – read the terms and conditions thoroughly

Probably the best comment I got and something I say to everyone. Before you do anything, read terms and conditions carefully.

If you join a crowdsourcing website, you have to play by their rules. PPH say if you breach their rules, they have the right to deactivate your account immediately meaning you may not be able to access the money you’re owed.

If you win a bid and complete a piece of work for a client, the rules say any further work relationship with that buyer must be conducted within the website.

You don’t own the relationship with your customer. All correspondence between you has to take place within the confines of the crowdsourcing app.

Remember when you’re a seller on a freelance website, you may be operating under their terms and conditions, not your own.

How and when will I get paid?

When you win a bid, the buyer has to pay a deposit into the website’s Escrow account which is quite reassuring to know there’s money in advance. You can state the deposit you require in your proposal. When you complete the job, and the customer is satisfied, the buyer pays the balance. Bear in mind, you don’t get paid straight away. The money is in escrow, and you will need to submit a request your money.

If the client has stated a deadline, meet it. There may be a penalty in the form of a deduction from your earnings. Make sure you never miss a deadline.

Are there any fees?

Costs vary, but yes, there is a service charge or commission which is deducted from your earnings. Also be aware the prices quoted may not include VAT.

Feedback and ratings

If you choose your work wisely, look for high value, tangible projects where you know your skills and expertise meet the buyer’s expectations it can be very rewarding. Having great feedback is very motivating, and the higher your rating as a freelancer, the greater your visibility becomes.

Advantages

As a newbie, it’s a great place to practice your bid and proposal writing. Because things happen quite fast, the crowdsourcing environment helps you hone those skills and become much quicker at what you do.

Can’t beat networking

For me, it’s networking all the way, but I’d like to hear about your experience with crowdsourcing? How did it work for you? Come along and have a chat me at one of this month’s networking meetings? Here’s where you can find me.

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