The popularity of freelance bidding sites such as Upwork.com (formerly eLance.com) and Guru.com proves that there is a demand for the services they provide. Speaking as someone who has heard numerous horror stories both on the client and freelancer sides, however, I think there is unseen danger in using them to find a freelancer.
A professional colleague of mine was looking for a freelance graphic designer to help her with a logo, for example, and she decided to try one of the most popular internet freelance bidding sites. The winning bidder offered to create a logo for $100. A great deal, right?
Unfortunately, it was a disaster: The winning bidder had a great-looking portfolio, but the first designs he sent were garbage. In fact, after another round, my colleague became suspicious that the logos in the portfolio weren’t even his creations. He was based overseas, so there was definitely a communication gap. Bottom line, she wasted lot time and energy in addition to her $100, and she still didn’t have a usable logo at the end of the process.
If you’re still considering using a freelance bidding site to find a freelancer, I believe you need to be mindful of a few things:
- Bidding sites have a seriously negative reputation among many experienced freelancers. The first reason is because they often come across as a low-baller’s game, which drives prices down. The second is because the providers take a cut of the action, which decreases profitability even further.
- Many freelancers use a bidding site as a minimal-brainpower-required way to find jobs, not necessarily because they are targeting specific projects or industries. You’ll recognize them by their canned, boilerplate responses to your posting.
- As a client, you’re competing against an unknown volume of businesses for an uncertain level of talent. Why would you want to compete for the best person for the job?
- If you believe you’ve found Mr. or Mrs. Right, your options are severely limited, since you can’t legally contract with them outside of the given bidding site.
- Finally, you may be unwittingly dealing with someone who is unscrupulous and who puts pieces in their portfolio that aren’t their own original work in order to win the business.
The internet offers myriad ways, each with their pros and cons, to find a freelancer. Freelance bidding sites, in my professional opinion and experience, decrease your odds of connecting with the most qualified person for the job. That’s not to say it’s impossible, only that the effort to make a more personal connection with a freelancer is well worth the investment–and will prevent a lot of headaches.
This post is adapted from Jake Poinier’s Dr. Freelance guide, Help! My Freelancers Are Driving Me Crazy: 12 Keys to Driving Loyalty and Results from Your Creative Workforce–available on Amazon.