Freelancing sites

Probably the sadest four weeks of my life... I signed up for one of those freelancing sites.

For the last few years I've been mainly working on my own projects, while doing consulting/freelancing work to stay afloat.

When I quit my job as a full stack web developer, I had enough money to last me about a year.
My plan was to work full time on some of my own projects to make them profitable enough to make a living. That however never happened.

Forward a few years, it has now been six years since I left my work as an employee.
During this time I have both got married, bought a house, and my wife have given birth to three kids! It has been the best time of my life, but the last few weeks have been very sad.

Although I try to avoid freelancing to get more time for my own projects, none of my project are profitable enough and I depend on the freelance work to stay afloat.
Freelancing work has however dried up, and I calculated that if I did not get any more work, money would dry out at the end of the year. So I really need to step up my freelancing work, or get a job.

So the last four weeks I have spent most of my time trying to find work on one of those freelancing sites ... I read tutorials on how to best setup my profile, made a nice portfolio, and started bidding on jobs.
The competition is just crazy, with people from Asia working for 15$ an hour. But I thought that 20+ years of experience must be worth something, so the first week I made reasonable bids, but got no responses.
I signed up for a "professional" membership in order to make more bids and stand out. Spent time editing my profile. Still nothing.

New strategy: complete some of the work when placing my bid

So I had a new strategy; I bid on small projects, and do some of the work, enough to show something, in order to showcase my skills and show that I was serious. Still nothing! Not even a message.
After a week doing this, I watching the server logs, and discovered that on half the projects, no one had actually checked out my work! So that was just a lot of wasted time.

Participating in contests

Then I started participating in competitions instead. At least then someone would actually look at my work.
Competitons are easy, just do exactly what the contest owner wants. No matter how stupid it is. Don't try to make a better solution. Doing exactly what contest holder wants is how you win the contests.
Doing contests you will however spend several hours without a guarantee to get paid, it's up to the contest holder to pick a winner, and sometimes a winner is not even picked... And most contests are like "make me a webpage for $100, amaze me with the design", and the winner is always the best looking, rather then the fastest, easiest to maintain, or most user friendly one. doh.

Personal proposals

So I went back to bidding on projects. But instead of actually doing work that might be ignored, I made my bids very personal and targeted. This was much more effective and I actually got to chat with some project owners! I also bid very, very low, because I was starting to become desperate. I figured out I needed to do some work basically for free in order to get a good rating before doing more serious projects. But I still did not get any jobs...

No-one gets awared

After three weeks I went back to check all projects I had bid on, and discovered that none had been awarded, not just to me, they had not been awarded to anyone! My guess is that the project owner just gives up when he/she discovers that the bids are higher then anticipated (they are actually reasonable), did not find a suitable freelancer (quality is actually pretty low), or the projects have been taken off-site.
One guy actually got angry at me when I refused to chat with him outside the freelancer site. So my guess is that many projects are taken off-site in order to not pay the fees to the freelancing site. I do however consider the freelancing site as a service, as they can handle disputes, and I wanted to get a rating.

Getting certified

The freelancing site offers "certifications", where after paying $30 or so yo got to do a test to certify you skills. I though why not, so I started with the hardest level for JavaScript ... I've been coding JavaScript for over 20 years, and after starting working with Node.JS eg. full stack JavaScript. I have become very good at JavaScript.
So I was very confident doing this test... But I failed.
It was a very sad moment. My confidence was already very low after not having won any project nor any competition. But failing the JavaScript test was really the last drop. So after 3-4 weeks I rage quit. There where still some contests I was participating in that had not picked a winner, but the membership fees was higher then the price anyway.
Since this post is already long, I will make a dedicated blog post with excuses why I failed the test ...

Thinking of using a freelancing site to hire someone ?

The rates are very low, but the average quality is also pretty low. If your budget is $50 dollars for a web page, you will get a Wordpress site with a free template. You basically get what you pay for.

The best way to get quality work is to make a competition, and make the price reasonable. I saw people rewarding $200 for a logo, and they got over 100 entries, some of them very good!

During my 3-4 weeks I saw 3 competitions with a $1000 or higher reward, and on those the quality was very good, stuff that you would easily pay $10,000 or more for if you contacted a consulting company.

As expected, most competitions are about making logos or designing something, but you should also consider posting a technical competition.

Written by 1st October, 2019.

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