The Freelancers Field Guide to Contract Work

By Peter Ferrigan

What is Outsourcing?

Outsourcing is a great way to earn extra money or even a full time living. When a company outsources its work this means they are looking for people outside the company (you) to complete jobs for them on a contract or short term basis. Most freelance work can be found on freelance marketplaces across the internet. For a list of freelance websites search Google, or some of the freelance directories available.

Getting Started
The first thing that you should do is compile your past work history into a portfolio. Many freelance websites allow you to post your work online. The other option is to open a free hosting account and place your work into an online demonstration of your ability. Include references, past work, testimonials and anything else that highlights your talents. One thing this should not be is in resume format. The internet changes a lot rules for hiring employees and freelancing is changes them even more. Here you will find that experience and ability weigh more heavily in a hiring decision then education or status.

Getting Hired Today

The easiest way to find contract or freelance work is to visit one of the many freelance marketplaces available on the internet. A majority of the websites are divided into two sections, one for Freelancers (you) and the other for Project Managers (people looking to hire you). The first thing you need to do is register as a freelancer. Once registered be sure to upload a profile and details of your most recent work.

It is important to remember that work on the internet (especially when you are new) is built on trust. The best thing you can do to increase your chances of getting your bid selected is to put detailed information in your profile.

The basic setup for a freelance website is that the Project Manager will post the project and you as the Freelancer have the opportunity to place your bid for the work. A bid includes the time it will take you to complete, the price for the job and a short description.

Placing the Bid

Your bid should be a complete summary of the required work. It should be detailed, accurate and relevant to the project. This is why the biggest mistake you can make is placing a bid which contains: ‘can be done’ ‘I can do it’ or ‘No Problem :)’. Even these are better then the copy and paste bid description. This is something like “COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENCE. WE GIVE U A 100% ACCURATE WORK.” These bids are not at all relevant to the project.

Each project manager would like to think that his/her project is the only one that you want. They want to believe that you are gearing your whole day into getting this job. Increase your chances and move ahead of the competition by placing a short, polite description that is relevant to the project. Here is an example:

“Hi _(Project Manger’s name)_, I have placed the details of my bid in the private message board. I look forward to working with you and can get started immediately. Thank you for your consideration, __(your name)__.”

That’s it for the bid. If your cost estimate and time to delivery are not completely off then you can increase your odds by posting in the private message board.

The Private Message Board

The Private Message Board is a feature on most websites that allows Freelancers to communicate with the Project Manager about the details of the job. Unless requested, this is the worst place to put your resume.

That’s right; don’t place your list of work history in your private message board. From the eyes of the Project Manager every one has the same resume unless you are getting interviewed for a job. If you have a resume, place it in your profile. The only mention of this material should be: “For additional references please see my profile located here: ___”

The rest of your communication should be about the project. Even if you already think you understand everything, ask the Project Manager about of specific details. This extra step will place you miles ahead of the competition. Asking questions shows that you are genuinely interested in getting an accurate description of the work involved. It communicates to the Project Manger that your bid will be exact and that you are excited about working with them.

In addition to asking questions, place your time zone and when you are available to work. Let the other person know that you are available via email and instant messengers. While you might be tempted, do not include your contact information. This is against most Terms of Service and gives the other person an impression of dishonesty.

The next thing you should do is repeat the same steps. It’s necessary to spread your chances over a few projects to ensure that you receive enough work. Unless you are experienced it is crucial that you start out slow. If you overload yourself with work, not only will you poorly perform on the work you were hired to do, you will receive bad reviews from everyone who hired you. The only thing worse then no feedback is having bad feedback.

How to Get All Star Feedback

Most websites rate each freelancer with a history of work called ‘Feedback’. This is a scoring system that allows Project Managers you have worked with in the past to record their experience with you. Starting out new you won’t have any feedback which will hinder your freelancing efforts. Start out slow by placing bids and communicating with Project Managers who post small, quick jobs. Go the extra mile with these people to ensure that they are happy and satisfied with the work. Check in consistently to report your progress, and make sure that everything is done to their exact specifications. When your work is complete, ask them if there is anything else you can do. Just one or two great feedback scores can boost your freelance efforts tremendously.

If you are desperate, offer to do work for free in exchange for a great review. Be extraordinary in your efforts to help and anticipate your employer’s needs. Not only will you receive great feedback but you might also gain a repeat customer.

Advanced Field Tactics

Want to get more bids accepted, race ahead of your competition and be able to pick only the best job opportunities? That is exactly what this section is about. We have already discussed the best and worst things to place in your bids and pmb. Now I will show you how to move your freelancing efforts up a few notches.

Private Message Board Tactics: Once the Project Manager responds with the answer to your question. Reply with “If I understand the work correctly, you require:” then make a numbered list of the work required as you understand it.” At the bottom “If the above is correct, I can begin work immediately and have everything completed in under ______”.

This does two things, first it conveys to the Project Manager that you fully understand the work required. Second it shows the Project Manager just how much work is really involved.

Time: If your estimate of time to completion is 5 days and under write in your description and messages the time in hours, and always put “I can have this completed tested, installed and ready in under ___ hours.” That ‘under’ statement really gives the impression of speed and excellence in your work.

If your project will run over 5 days, write out the dates that you will have everything ready, not just the number of days. “Today is the 15th; on the 17th I will complete the first mockups. Then on the 20th I will complete the admin section”. Of course the hard part comes in keeping this timeline. If you can deliver each stage on time, and to completion you will receive great feedback, more repeat customers and great work opportunities.

Portfolio Tactics: If your portfolio is online, create a completely different portfolio for each of your talents. Not just a separate page, you will need to create a completely separate website. For example if you are a website designer, create a portfolio just for flash, one for straight HTML, and one for 3D graphics work. You can even divide by style of design. When you present your work to the future client, present the portfolio that best matches his/her needs. Even if you are multi-talented, presenting a list of relevant past work will give the impression that you are a focused, dedicated professional.

Presentation Tactics: Compile the information that you have received from the project description and the questions / answers from the Project Manager into a detailed proposal for your work. While the style of the proposal can change a simple effective method is to write it out on a simple numbered HTML page. Include the title of the project, your name and a bulleted list of the work required. At the bottom place any questions you have about the project in addition to your bid and the time to completion. Upload this page to your online portfolio and then post the link in the private message board. This one act will win your more bids then anything else you can do.

Follow Up Tactics: There are two types of webmasters. Those who post a project and it closes 1-2 days later because they know exactly what they want. Then there are those who post a project and wait 10-15 days before selecting a freelancer for the job.

For these Project Managers the best thing you can do is follow up. After placing your bid and inquiring via the Private Message Board the next step is to send the Project Manager a quick note after about 2 days. Something along the lines of “Hi, I just wanted to follow up with my bid and see if you had any questions or concerns. If you do please let me know and I will get back to you promptly. Thank you, _(your name)_.”

This action shows each Project Manager that you are thorough in your work and care about getting their contract.

Additional Help

You now have all of the tools that you need to get started. Each step has been covered from signing up to getting great feedback. We have also gone over some advanced topics that will help ensure your bid is accepted over the competition. You are ready to start freelancing today.

I look forward to hearing from you and I hope that you have found this guide helpful and informative.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Thank you,
Peter Ferrigan

About the author:

Peter Ferrigan is outsourcing expert and Administrator of http://www.Contractlist.comHe can be reached at

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