How to Win Any Job on eLance, oDesk or Guru.com

By Mitchell Harper
As an employer with over 30 staff at Interspire, most of the time when I need something done I can call on a staff member in the office and they will take care of it for me. However, sometimes I need the skills of an experienced freelancer for one-off jobs, such as writing a user guide or putting together a product overview video in Flash. In these situations I turn to freelancers on eLance, oDesk or Guru.com.

After posting a job ad, the responses start to come in within a few hours. 95% of the time the candidates have no idea how to reply to the job ad and will either send over:

  • The same old copy-paste reply which they use for every job ad
  • A vague reply in which they don’t sell themselves to me

Having been on both sides of the fence – as an employer now, and as a freelancer about 5 years ago – I’ve come to learn what makes a great response to a job ad on a freelance site such as those listed above, and I thought I’d give you a few pointers in this article to help you win any and all freelance jobs you apply for.

1. What’s in it for me, the employer?

If you’re replying to my job ad for a freelancer, you need to sell me on your skills and the benefits of hiring you. The best way to do this is with a short list of bullet points, such as:

  • Expert technical writer whose written for Microsoft and eBay
  • Fully dedicated to your project with a keen eye for detail
  • 100% money back guarantee if not satisfied for any reason
  • Fast turn around time

In the example above let’s assume I’m a freelancer trying to win a freelance job relating to technical writing. First up I “name dropped” Microsoft and eBay. As an employer this would get me thinking “wow, this guy’s written for Microsoft and eBay. He must be good, I’ll keep reading.”

Next, you’re telling me that you’re a harder worker and you’re SO confident in your work that you’ll give me my money back if I’m not happy. That eliminates all risk for me from the get go.

Finally, you’ve guaranteed me a fast turn around time, which I like because I have 100 other things to worry about and don’t have time to micro manage you.

2. Does your subject line get my attention?
When I post a job for a freelancer, 99 times out of 100 the subject line will be something like “Re: Technical writer position”. If I have 85 emails in my inbox then that wont get my attention.

Be creative with in the subject line of your email and do whatever it takes to get the attention of the person who posted the job. Here are some good examples that have worked on me:

  • “You will NOT find a better technical writer than me. Guaranteed.”
  • “Delete your post on eLance – read my resume to find out why”
  • “I’ve worked with 2 of your closest competitors”
  • “I am an expert at using your product and can write your user guide with my eyes closed.”

Compare the subject lines above to this: “Re: Technical writer position”
… and you can see what a huge difference just the subject line can make.

3. Are you a real person?

You’d be surprised how many candidates don’t include contact details in their reply to a freelance position. Just because you work from home it doesn’t mean your only communication methods should be email and IM.

Employers want to know you’re a “real” person, so to get the ball rolling and have a better chance of winning the job, try ending your email with something like this:

“I’m located in Los Angeles, California, and am able to begin working on your job right away. Please feel free to call me on 555 0199 to discuss the project any time. I look forward to hearing from you.”

Even if the person who posted the job is comfortable dealing with you via email, just showing you have an open line of communication can make a world of difference when it comes to winning a freelance job. You’d be surprised by how many offshore freelancers pose as being from North America.

I hope these 3 quick tips have given you a few ideas on what you can do to win more freelance jobs in the future. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below!