The Non-Scuzzy and Totally True Story of How I Earned 6 Figures in 12 Months by Mastering the “Hidden Upwork Economy”

Author’s note: I originally wrote this post about Elance, which has since rebranded to Upwork. While the strategies laid out here remain as effective as ever, we’ve made some minor cosmetic updates to reflect the change. Enjoy.


Last year, I caught a lucky break.

One of my most trusted mentors advised me that, if I wanted to make real money and have an enjoyable freelancing career, I shouldn’t waste my time on Upwork (formerly Elance).

But the lucky part wasn’t the warning. It was the fact that it came too late. I’d already been “Upworking” for the past 24 months, and had just closed a six-figure year.

I was featured in Business Insider for earning six-figures on Elance (now Upwork)If I’d gotten his tip a couple of years earlier, I probably would have listened. And it would have cost me a major matzoball o’ cash.

Note that the mentor in question does not have some weird criteria for evaluating time-wasting activity. Even as I and many others ride Upwork with our arms stretched out, screaming “King of the world!” like Jack from Titanic, most pros still see the platform as something closer to the ship’s boiler room, a fiery pit where soulless freelancers mindlessly churn out drivel in exchange for tarnished pennies. Copywriting legend Bob Bly once went so far as to call Elance “the cesspool of freelance writing.” (I still can’t figure out where that is in relation to the boiler room, but either way, it’s pretty dang low.)

These people — including, strangely, many avid Upworkers themselves — believe that the site is nothing but a sucker bet. The gutshot straight draw of freelancing.

Popular arguments go like this…

The averages argument: The average Upwork freelancer brings home dog crap. If you check out the earnings on the site and divide it by the total number of freelancers, you’ll get an amount tinier than the universe immediately following the big bang.

The supply and demand argument: Upwork is a stone cold buyer’s market. With scads of freelancers bidding on jobs, rates (and freelancer morale) tend to quickly disintegrate.

The starving writer argument: Most of the jobs posted on Upwork pay well, IF your idea of a nice life is sleeping in your car and calling ketchup packets “meals.”

Now. I have just three things to say about these bold claims.

1) They are all true.

2) They will never change.

3) Not a one of them has got diddly shit to do with how I and many others have made money on Elance and Upwork.

Put another way, all of the anti-Upwork arguments are about what most freelancers and gurus observe when they look at the platform.

Unfortunately for them, there is plenty more they can’t see. And it’s precisely in this unseen area that the real money is being made on Upwork, right under most people’s noses.

Welcome to Upwork’s Invisible Game

Entrepreneur Brandon Gadoci says: “In life, there are two games that are always being played. One you can see, and one you can’t.”

Upwork is no exception to this rule, and I’ve been using the term Hidden Upwork Economy to describe Upwork’s invisible game for over three years.

Of course, most freelancers have no idea the Hidden Upwork Economy exists. And the ones who do aren’t likely to talk about it for fear of giving away a key trade secret. Of all the Upwork advice that’s been published (most of it junk), I’ve never once seen this idea so much as hinted at.

So, freelancers tend to land on Upwork without any kind of plan. Then they quickly get discouraged when they see all the low paying jobs — and the morass of competitors they believe they have to beat for the privilege of actually winning one.

At this point many roll into the fetal position and give up for good. Others make the more unfortunate decision to linger on. They try to make the most of Upwork’s harsh waters by working their asses off, capitulating on prices, and telling themselves that, hey, things could be worse.

But this pseudo-strategy never works.

The moment you try to win on Upwork by doing what seems natural, you’ve already lost. It’s like trying to beat poker pros by just playing good cards, attempting to outwit a car dealer by haggling harder, or making a mad dash to escape the friend zone by simply being a nicer guy. Or, to put it into Erlich Bachman terms, trying to beat Upwork without understanding the dynamics of the Hidden Upwork Economy is like bringing piss to a shit fight.

Now I’m sure you’re probably wondering just what the Hidden Upwork Economy actually looks like. Good question, especially given its invisibleness and all.

As I see it, the Hidden Upwork Economy consists of 3 key parts that fly totally under most people’s radar — a sort of perfect storm for Upwork badassery. (A word of caution: leave any ingredient out, and your Upwork-based freelancing business is likely to collapse like an ill prepared angel food cake.)

Let’s discuss.

Hidden Upwork Economy Component #1:
Sleeper Hit Clients

A Sleeper Hit Client is someone who — despite a nondramatic Upwork debut — turns out to be a rockstar client who pays well, makes a good working partner, and is likely to keep hiring you in the future. Naturally, this type of client needs to be at the centerpiece of the Hidden Upwork Economy. Otherwise, I’d be describing a Tootsie Roll Pop with no Tootsie Roll in the middle. And who wants that?

Most freelancers think there aren’t enough clients like this on Upwork to support a six-figure income, but remember, you need to go beyond the obvious.

For starters, most Upworkers would do better to reframe the question of “How can I make a full time living when there are so few high paying clients?” to “How many premium clients do I actually need to find on Upwork in order to make six figures?”

Personally, I was able to break the 100k barrier in 2014 while working with just 27 clients. And four of those were repeat clients from the previous year, meaning I only had to find two clients per month to make these numbers work.

It ain’t easy, but it is doable.

Especially once you realize that there are far more great clients on Upwork than you think. Hell, there are probably more than even I think. As I’ll explain soon, most of them are buried deep within the weeds of the Hidden Upwork Economy, but many Sleeper Hit Clients are “hiding” right in plain sight.

See the thing is, very few clients jump on Upwork and hire premium freelancers right off the bat. Most need to get their feet wet first. Yet sadly, the conventional wisdom is to instantly profile clients as “shrimp” if they haven’t spent a ton of money yet, or even if they’re (gasp!) unsure of what their budget should be. Can you see the fatal flaw in this approach, or do you need Julia Roberts to go all Pretty Woman on your ass for good measure?

Look at the screenshot below. 4 out of 5 of the clients represented there are bona fide Sleeper Hit Clients. Three of them had no payment history at all — something which most “experts” consider a “red flag.”

Examples of great freelance clients you can find on UpworkThese are by no means isolated occurrences. Forget about what clients spent yesterday, and start asking yourself how much they might be willing to invest in high quality work today.

Hidden Upwork Economy Component #2:
Repeat Business

Maybe you glanced at Upwork’s job marketplace this morning and saw only a bunch of low paying gigs.

But what you didn’t see were all the well-paying projects won by freelancers without the client even creating a post. These jobs were casually awarded after a message from client to freelancer that sounded a lot like this:

One of my Upwork clients asks me to do thousands of dollars of new workI’ve received offers like this every single week for years. Yet, again, it’s totally invisible to anyone watching from the outside.

You’ll see a similar pattern of high repeat biz from all of Upwork’s top performers. It’s a huge part of why Upwork can appear to be a dystopia to anyone following the game, while being pure cornucopia to freelancers playing the invisible game.

A very encouraging implication here is that the most talented Upwork freelancers are more likely to collect a modest amount of clients than constantly fight you for a bazillion new ones. Personally, I decline dozens of high quality job invites each month, and I know many other successful Upworkers who do the same.

So if you’re someone who knows your shit (or you’re willing to learn it), there’s as much showroom space for you to shine on Upwork as there is anywhere else. Probably more when you consider that most serious freelancers still steer clear of the joint. (Be sure to send them a thank-you note after you come in and clean up, will you?)

Hidden Upwork Economy Component #3:
Invite-Only Jobs

Invite-only jobs represent the very essence of the Hidden Upwork Economy.

While one of the biggest complaints about Upwork is the flash mob of low bidders who descend on jobs like wedding crashers, invite-only postings are a far more exclusive party.

As it turns out, Upwork’s top clients don’t necessarily put up public jobs and wait to see who applies. Instead, many silently shop around for a freelancer who fits the bill they’re looking for, and then reach out to that person privately, by inviting them — and often only them — to discuss their job.

Yes, you heard me right: you can easily be the only VIP on the guest list (see screenshot below).

One of the many Invite-Only job invitations I've received from clients on UpworkFor added encouragement, check out the opening words of the client’s message to me. If you’re used to writing proposals for public jobs, you’ll immediately notice how the roles are somewhat reversed; clients posting private jobs are usually already sold on working with you.

Over 90% of the clients I’ve picked up in the past couple of years have come from people directly seeking me out in this way, making Upwork — or, more exactly, the Hidden Upwork Economy — the most powerful lead generation tool I’ve used to date.

Next Stop: Hidden Upwork Economy, or…Bermuda Triangle?

In spite of everything I’ve just shown you, some people still insist that Upwork isn’t a beatable game. That I’m an outlier. That the relatively small number of Upwork freelancers who are kicking ass are just a blip on an otherwise empty radar.

Y’all are a pretty cerebral crew; what say you?

Hit me with your thoughts, opinions and questions in the comments below.


PS: When you’re done commenting, grab my top 5 Upwork hacks for free here.

About the author

Danny Margulies

Copywriter - Six-Figure Elancer

Want to kick ass and earn big on Elance? Check out

  • D C

    Red flag rises when he never specifically explains what it is he does… It’s obvious from a little web research that the main source of freelance income is from writing articles claiming you can make a ton of money in the freelance market to attract web traffic.
    Still, I’d love to hear SPECIFICALLY how you made $100k when everyone else gets $5/hour.

    • lili

      YOU made 5$/hour…
      What is your strategy?

      • D C

        The problem is, Upwork has so many new people bidding down the pay for most projects. And you can’t get jobs unless you have a good review, and you can’t get a good review unless you bid down your work, and there comes a point at $5 where no one will do the work, so it’s a fools errand. My strategy is don’t run fool’s errands, and recognize BS for what it is.

  • complan boydb

    Well written article. Many insights from this.

    On the same line, when applying to jobs, I find it very difficult to fill out all those crappy questions each time. We all know that the conversion rate of applying to a job vs getting hired is less than 0.1 % in general case. I used to apply for 100 jobs answering 1000 questions average.

    And some times, the guys who apply first will have the better chance to get hired. So we should always have an eye on the new job list.
    I’ve been using this to fill my job applications automatically. I strongly, it’s MUST HAVE extension by every other freelancer.

    Worth giving a try,

  • Rachel Adair McDermott

    Great piece, would have liked to hear more on section 3 and how to achieve those invites – also less of the casual sexism with the ‘friend zone’ stuff would be fab. Good piece

    • Rachel Nichols

      And the reference to Pretty Woman. Writing has not been a “guys only” club since the Victorian era. Deal with it and move on.

      • lili

        can I stop to be a woman please? That’s a picky humourless breed.

    • lili

      The invites are from returning customers.

  • Great article, thanks. I can attest to the “Sleeper Hit Client.” I found a great client and it all started with a simple “marketing postcard” job for $35. We hit it off great and he asked me to write two other projects. Before long, I was on retainer with this client for $2K a month for simple jobs that I enjoyed, and eventually I ghostwrote two books for him.

    The gem clients are out there and they do come to freelance sites. (Had two more great projects with a Fortune 50 company that I found on a freelance site.) I’m glad you mentioned they sometimes start by sticking a toe in the water. It’s worth taking the time to craft a good proposal for a client that shows potential, even for a small initial project.

    I used to think it was a matter of wading through a lot of junk jobs to find those gems. I’m grateful for the strategies you offer for shortcutting that process. Thanks! Janet

  • abbypatch

    Hi Danny:

    I checked into Elance about 6 years ago as a part time extra (I used to be a workaholic). I need to bone up on the information again but hope you can answer a question first.

    What kind of jobs would be there for someone who has done medical and legal transcription for years, typeset university books and typed and edited political press releases during election seasons? I had 6 doctors and 2 attorney’s privately plus a hospital, all done at home.. Sadly, I gave up most of my clients when I thought I found a national job with lots of benefits. It all worked out great until the economy bit the dust and my “fantastic” job went away. After that it was down hill with an illness and disability so I could never go out to brick and mortar jobs again and I’m totally BORED.

    Thank you,

    • lili

      There’s no reply for that. Read the offers, and each time they describe a task you feel you are able to achieve, send a proposal!

  • Interesting points and not just for Upwork. I have been having fun with Fiverr. I chose the platform because it enabled me to set out my own stall rather than bidding on other people’s projects. By working the system sensibly I have moved far past the $5 paradigm. Repeat business is a key to this kind of work, but also self promotion. Show people why you are good. I use whitepapers, articles and personal responses.

    As I see it the core of making a decent income in the Gig Economy is to make sure that one moves past price and onto value. If I write a presell piece that earns the guy who commissioned the work an extra 20% in revenue for that offer then he is not going to argue too much when I suggest that he need to pay a little more than he did for the first piece I wrote for him. Right now I am doing a thing for $50, way less than my normal hourly rate, but I am confident that later work will be much more in line with my expectations.

    Kinda like a drug dealer – the first one’s for free, but when you’re hooked, then you pay!

  • Prince Arhin

    I love this article very well. Am about a week old on upwork and don’t know how to go about it. Although my account has been approved I don’t know how to land a job. Please can someone help me.

    • lili

      Are you experienced? What skills are you selling?

  • Maria Christina Lopez

    Nice post sir! for me I’m still starting at upwork and just landed my first job, I want also to share this video that I found in youtube regarding on how to get hired in upwork here’s the link
    Hope it may also help others who wants to work as a freelancer. More power to you sir!

  • kathy gates

    My experience of being ‘invited’ to apply for jobs was that both of the ‘inviters’ were scammers. I did work for one actual client but Upwork had to chase up the payment on my behalf. Upwork has changed it’s policy, ie it takes 20% commission until you reach $500 with a client — ‘fraid that’s the straw that broke the camel’s back for me.

  • Zeeshan

    great article. If anyone follow all instructions and then again facing no award project situation, then?

  • Tushar Singhal

    Awesome post, I started on upwork less than a month and i landed on two low paying jobs, completed them with good review and now my latest client is high paying but is very unresponsive to my emails and i am stuck with him because i do not want to leave my first high paying job. Please contact me, I wanted to ask you some questions on choosing the right client on upwork?

  • Sumit Chakrabarti

    Great post Danny! I have an upwork or Elance profile that has been sitting idle for long as I did not get much breakthrough. I think by following the steps you mentioned I can make some headway. Thanks.

  • John Gabriel Bago

    Hello danny , i’ve recently subscribed to your newsletter and found it very insightful. Do the same things apply today? I’ve been on upwork for 4 months now and I’ve gotten 3-4 responses within that time as a virtual assistant on a free account (pretty lucky the way I see it) and I honestly have no idea what I’m doing right or wrong.

    I am currently working on getting into copywriting like you. Virtual assistance is basically the only marketable skill I have to offer on upwork and I want to dive deeper into more areas — starting with copywriting. Do you have any tips or crash courses to offer?

    your help would be truly appreciated and I’d invest my first few earnings into your 30 day course(and upgrading into a 10$/month account). I gotta start paying for myself pretty soon. I want to be independent and live my own life.


    • Hi John, great hearing from you. This article is more relevant today than ever as Upwork keeps getting better and better. Stick with my emails and you’ll get there.

      • John Gabriel Bago

        Yup I just finished your 7 email hack, but I was wondering where could I start learning how to write copies?

      • lili

        By doing it… small tasks not well paid at the beginning, and you’ll learn by doing.

  • Marys Coleman

    Elance is an ecosystem. All of the freelancers serve a purpose. The key thing in getting engagement via Elance is to make your profile as appealing as possible for potential clients. Keep in mind that editing your profile may take some time. Don’t rush into things and think all it takes is to register and the money will start flowing in.

    Digital Signature WordPress plugin

  • disqus_9bbDUzLqDG

    What price range would you recommend for setting my hourly rate? I have a bachelor’s degree and a few years work experience, but I’m going back to school to apply to med. school right now I could probably put in 25-30 hours a week tops. Thanks!

    • There are a lot of variables that can affect what you charge (industry, experience level, etc.). I recommend starting with the lowest amount you’re willing to accept for the first few jobs and then going up from there. You can raise your rate any time you want so don’t worry too much about it.

    • lili

      But what skills are you selling??

  • Pretty much!

  • Jana Allen

    I joined Elance years ago and recently rejoined. I feel like my first job offer was a scammer as they wanted me to purchase blank checks from Amazon to do the job with. I contacted Elance support and they advised against it so I withdrew. Now I am paranoid but since reading your blog I feel confident that I can avoid spammers.

    • Thanks Jana, congrats on going for it. Way to stay vigilant, if anything seems weird it’s best to err on the side of caution.

      • Jana Allen

        Yes, I wished you would be my mentor on mastering Elance. Lol

    • lili

      If you read the warnings they say, never accept to pay for a so called client, don’t pay for working!

      Just follow the guidelines and don’t accept to be paid outside the site. It’s good for them, but it’s good for us too.

  • Bryce

    Hi Danny, I liked your article thank you so much.

    I do have a question though which I would need some help with. In the case of Hidden Secret #2 you mention that clients seek repeat business from other vendors. Do you intercept these? And if you do how do you find these jobs. Is there a special search you do? Would like to know your tactics behind this please. Thanks

    • Thanks Bryce. The point is that these jobs are completely hidden to anyone other than the client doing the hiring, and the freelancer being hired. So there’s no way to intercept them. But you can get plenty of repeat business from your own clients by doing excellent work, sending them proactive updates, letting them know of any ancillary services you offer, etc.

      • Bryce

        Thanks for your reply Danny. Will surely take your advice.

  • Josh T

    Thank you Danny for this informative post. I have also read your “How to become a copywriter quickly” and it has motivated me a lot to keep growing my career with Elance.

    That said, I am always intimidated by clients with big budget and a huge long job post. I keep on thinking that I am not experienced enough to match their requirement and I don’t know if the sample that I attach will satisfy them.

    They are just scary man and I have only earned like $1.3k on Elance since I started so this self-depreciation is really getting to me.

    • Thanks Josh, glad you liked it. There’s nothing wrong with sticking with the smaller jobs and working your way up incrementally as you go. In fact Elance is great for this since you can find pretty much every level of need.

      • Josh T

        Yep. I wish I started on Elance sooner. I actually took a look at it in 2013 but somehow didn’t start til late 2014. Now that I think about it, I regret so much.

      • Hindsight is always 20/20, right? It’s even better now so you’re in the right place at the right time. 🙂

  • D2R5

    Danny, I joined Elance many years ago, but was never aggressive about it or found savvy ways to make money as I was gainfully employed and spent the rest of my time raising a family. Now that I am unemployed and the kids are a bit more independent, I am back on Elance and have bid on several jobs to no avail. After doing a google search for “how to make money on elance” I found your blog. I am a graphic designer though, not a writer. I like the tips, but in the example of the Sleeper hit clients , how exactly did you know that client would be willing to pay more for high quality work today? How exactly do you find that diamond in the rough? Is it luck, or just a numbers game, or is there some other strategy that I missed?

    • To be clear, the point isn’t to “know” for certain which clients will be rockstars. It’s to not assume. That’s because the cost of talking to a client on Elance is minimal — even free if you happen to be on a free account. So this system heavily favors someone who is willing to reach out to lots of clients. Personally when I needed work early on I wrote huge amounts of proposals, and then backed off as I got “lucky” by finding those gem clients. Hope this helps. 🙂

      • Giselle Fernandez

        I am also a graphic designer that’s bid on many jobs and have had no success. I am on a free account. Do you recommend me upgrading to the $10 a month account? I fear I’m being overshadowed by those who don’t have free accounts (if that’s possible).

        Also if anyone has the time please check out my profile. Advice is welcome!

        Thanks for the fantastic article!

      • The free account is fine for getting started but I’ve found the $10/month account to be MORE than worth it. If only for having the ability to see what others are charging.

      • lili

        Are you :clients satisfy about your service? Did you ask them why or why not, and if they are ready to hire you again why/why not. Returning clients tend to pay more and more.

  • FYI

    Danny, are you still on Elance? I looked but didn’t find your profile. Has blogging become more lucrative for you than Elance?

  • MarieMackinnon

    Any male who uses the term “friend zone” non-ironically needs to just write “I can’t get laid” across his forehead with a Sharpie instead. It makes things simpler.

    You are not entitled to attention from any woman, or women in general, just because you deign to be interested in her. There is no friend zone. You got rejected. Got that, Nice Guy™? Stop expecting attention from women because you’re “nice” dammit, and that entitles you to sex. Think about that, you bell end.

    Oh and “that person” is singular. Therefore, someone cannot invite “them.” It should be “her or him.” That’s called pronoun agreement. So correct this sentence: “…and then reach out to that person privately, by inviting them — and often only them — to bid on their job.”

    Some writer here.

  • SilentBob

    This was great. I have moderate success with Elance but I find the forums unnerving. I saw from another post of yours that you took a screenshot of one of the regulars. I actually remember the post and thought that the guy was indeed condescending and was shortsighted. The forum members bitch and moan all day about problems and the hours they spend policing the platform and I always LOL because while they are busy reporting that poor schmuck who asked a question in the forum, I’m out making money.

    I don’t really think the forum people have much business sense and the ones who are condescending know that they are outdated. I recently saw one forum member pounce on some poor guy who said he wanted to hire in the US for legal reasons (too expensive to sue someone who was outside the US in case of infringement). The woman went on her usual tirade about being xenophobic without contemplating the customer’s side, and this is where I think most forum people can’t see the forest for the trees. They don’t see it from the customer’s side at all, and this is why they are not successful on Elance.

    Anyway, I’ve had some good and bad with Elance, but I do think you can make decent money there provided you know how to sell, you can work with customers without that typical “you’re not the boss of me” weirdness you see in the forums, and you have business sense.

    • Well said my friend. I literally have nothing to add because you totally nailed it on every level. Thank you.

  • ryandetzel

    I’ve been seeing the same thing, lots of potential but you have to play the game correctly. I’ve also noticed how much work is involved with finding quality leads so I’m building a tool to help with that. I guess that’s an advantage us programmers have. 🙂

    Danny, not sure if you’re still in the elance game but if you’re interested in using my tool I would love to get some feedback. Basically you set advanced searches (jobs with these words, not these, this budget, this country, etc) and you get emailed when a new job hits the site.

    • Laura Behenna

      Ryan, I’m interested in your tool. Will it work on a Mac? You can find me at

    • Miles Whip

      I am also interested in your tool. Have you had much success with it? feel free to email me

  • I have no doubt that the various markets offer different maximum income potentials. That’s true in any business so it shouldn’t be different for us.

    But the big thing I’ve noticed is that Elancers (and freelancers in general) come nowhere near maximizing the amount they could/should be earning for the work they’re doing because they make mistakes like not targeting the right clients, not positioning themselves as problem solvers, not staying up to date on all of the latest information in their niche, etc.

    Once all of those mistakes are fixed, Sleeper Hit Clients become much easier to find because a big part of the equation of how much a client is willing to pay is actually up to us…the first step to “convincing” clients to pay more than they did in the past is by demonstrating that we offer more value than those freelancers they’ve hired in the past.

  • hungryHippo

    Well, I am one of those totally frustrated newbies to the freelancing world. I am a programmer trying to get my feet wet on elance. Admittedly, I have only applied to one job that WAS invited, but ‘invited’ over 200 people! Not holding my breath! lol. What I am waiting for is to improve my scores on skills tests hoping to stand out from the crowd. My main question for you is this: how do you go from that first low-paying job to repeat hiring from THAT client at a higher rate? Doesn’t make sense. If they ‘got you’ at a lower rate why would they pay more unless they REALLY liked you and are willing to negotiate and not go ‘to the next guy’?

    • Good question and good point. In my experience it’s much easier to continue finding clients who are willing to pay incrementally higher prices, than it is to try and raise prices (significantly) on existing clients.

  • Gabi, please forgive me as I somehow didn’t see this until now.

    Assuming it’s honest feedback there are two possible scenarios where a client will indeed tend to price shop:

    a) They’re just genuinely on a tight budget in which case there isn’t much you can do (short of lowering your price of course)

    b) They perceive you as a commodity. This means either the work isn’t very important to them (like corkscrews aren’t very important to me, so I’ll always choose the cheapest one), or none of the freelancers bidding on the job has managed to properly stand out from the pack as being someone “special.”

  • Oleg Starko

    Thank you for this post, Danny.
    I’ve just about had it with derisive snorts people make when they find out you even have an Elance profile, let alone that you can find work there. When you say that, they look at you like there’s a rat’s tail sticking out of your mouth, and you are making pleasurable chewing sounds.
    Sure, Elance has millions of cheap assholes for clients. But for every dozen cheapskates paying 1 cent per word there are good clients who dish out 4-5 figures for projects without thinking twice about it.
    And the point about repeat business needs to be hammered home into every freelancer’s head every day of the week, preferably before breakfast. It’s THE way to get any kind of sustainable income that will see you through slimmer month without getting tempted by dirt-cheap jobs. I get about 80% of my work from repeat clients, and I’ve got it down to a rinse-and-repeat process. So much so that I forget that new clients are necessary, too. 🙂
    Anyway, congrats on your 6-figure year. May 2015 bring you twice as much. 🙂

    • Thank you Oleg. It sounds like you’re thinking about freelancing from a true business perspective, and it makes a huge difference.

      You often hear “real” small business owners talk about how much more it costs to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one, and yet this lesson seems to take a back seat in freelancing. I think finding new customers is even harder on us too since it takes not only money but time, our most valuable resource.

      Thank you again for your inspiring and thoughtful comment — it’s nice to know there are more “contrarians” out there. Wishing you much continued success in 2015!

      • Oleg Starko

        And this, right there, is probably why clients love you. 🙂 The fact that you respond to comments almost 1 month after the post went up, and take the time to reply thoughtfully, shows insane commitment attention to detail.
        And here I thought my comment is just going to sit here unanswered. Thank you for proving me wrong, you’ve got yourself a subscriber. 🙂

      • It’s true we are in a relationships based business (and by “us” I think I mean everyone in the modern world). So making personal connections is definitely the name of the game. On that note I’m really glad that you’ve subscribed — looking forward to corresponding further via email. 🙂

  • Great info, thanks. I first listed on Elance when I was consulting a few years back, and then switched my profile for writing last year. Everything you say here that is wrong with Elance, I came to find out to be very true. It’s funny though, because when I was consulting, the work was coming in much easier. I like the way you laid out these strategies, and will definitely apply them to Elance activities this year. It’s my goal to crack them next for netting sweet copywriting gigs. 🙂

    • Thank you! Happy to hear you’ve found this stuff helpful. Best of luck killin’ it in ’15!

  • Alexis Holcomb

    So I’ve been playing the elance and iwriter game now for over a month. I’ve KNOWN about the hidden life (it comes with any corporate job sector), but have been unable to figure out how to step into it.

    My problem is I’m just starting out and have already had several potential clients direct-respond to me “I like your portfolio examples and your work is good, but you’re proposed price is too high.” …I was bidding at or below their listed budget or pricing according to what they posted within their description.

    I’ve even tried the “unsure” clients, but I tend to get absolutely no contact from them, or they just never select a writer. I just recently archived a proposal for one job that was over a month old because it had gotten ZERO attention from the client.

    So…what am I doing wrong? I’ve read multiple articles like this trying to suss out what’s up, but get the same response. If you do it right, it CAN give you some good money. Portfolio work, write a good introduction, and reach out/follow up with clients.

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences, Alexis. I know it can be frustrating. One of the real challenges is that 99.99% of the Elance advice out there is total garbage. Lots of it tries to apply old school tactics that don’t work, and is usually written by someone who hasn’t made any real money on Elance. For example, I don’t tend to follow up with clients — I’ve found that ineffective, at least on Elance. Nor do I have a portfolio posted anywhere online. Yet most people love to write articles about these tactics, mainly because they have nothing else to talk about. The truth is that in order to conquer Elance, you need to see the entire game differently. For example, while the gurus are busy talking about the “4 steps to a killer Elance proposal” (or whatever), the few successful Elancers understand that the entire idea of a proposal itself on Elance is a misnomer; a proposal should come after an initial meeting, not before. (How can you write a proposal for a company you know nothing about?) Most of this is beyond the scope of this particular post, but I hope you’re starting to get the idea. If you have any specific questions about this please feel free to reach out. 🙂

      • Alexis Holcomb

        Thank you for responding! I haven’t really be following up with clients on elance because, honestly, most of them CAN’T be followed up with unless you already have a contract with them.

        I totally agree about the proposal problem. I’ve avoided the posted jobs that are simple beyond funny. When they want a set amount proposed for a job that doesn’t describe how long the job will take, how much they want written, what they want you to write about… I’ve looked at a few and literally wondered “So what’s the job?”

        I’ve put in for your 5 hacks and it’s already given me a few ideas to improve my profile. It also kicked me into looking at the profiles of more successful freelancers on there to see what they’re doing (I’m ashamed I didn’t do this a month ago…). I look forward to the next 4 emails. Hopefully, one of them will be the “Golden Ticket” I need to get my foot in this too-stubborn door.

      • You’re bringing up more good points here. A vague job post is usually a clear red flag. I mean how can we expect a client to provide us with clear instructions/feedback if they can’t/won’t even post a clear job description? The first time I thought about this, I went back and looked at the proposals that brought in 80-90% of my total income, and I realized that not a single one of them was vague. Amazing eye opener! Glad to hear you’re enjoying the hacks already…based on what you’re telling me and the responses I’ve received, I’m thinkin’ you’ll like the rest too. 🙂

      • Gabi N.

        Danny, I have two questions…

        One, I’m curious about your reasons behind you saying following up with clients on Elance is ineffective. Can you expand on that? And by follow-up do you mean following up with them at pre-determined intervals after you’ve finished a job for them to see if they have more work or otherwise staying top of mind?

        And when you say a proposal only comes after an initial meeting…are you saying that even with very clear requests for work you don’t immediately submit a price/fee but ask for more information?

        Thanks! I agree with you that there are many premium clients to be discovered on Elance…and I do OK for the most part, but it’s hard to let go of the “cheaper” jobs sometimes when these cheaper jobs are the ones that keep at least some of the money coming in…especially when the feedback I get, like Alexis is, is your price is too high, your range is above our budget, etc. :/

        Thanks so much.
        Gabi N.

      • Great questions, Gabi. Thank you for giving me a chance to clarify.

        Following up with clients for the express purpose of trying/hoping to get new work is like a guy trying to get a date by calling up girls he’s previously dated. Will he occasionally book one? Sure…but if he’s hoping for fireworks, well, that ship has obviously sailed.

        Similar thing going on here. How important can a project be to a client if the catalyst for launching it is a reminder that I exist? If it really meant something then she would have tracked me down, not the other way around. Unless of course I didn’t leave a lasting impression — which is an equally big problem, see? So now, best case scenario, I’m either reengaging a client I had no fireworks with to begin with, or I’ve won myself the opportunity to work on an “afterthought project.” Neither of these are good ways to grow a healthy freelancing business (or a romantic relationship).

        About the proposals…if the job description is very clear (or if it’s an hourly job) then I generally include a price. But this doesn’t happen very often, and even when it does, there is almost always more to discuss. Number of revisions, delivery dates, payment terms, etc. Plus it’s best not to even bother getting into any of this if you don’t “click” with a client once you exchange initial messages.

        Hope this helps! 🙂

      • Danny, I’m curious about your comment that you don’t have a portfolio posted anywhere online. I just ditched my portfolio on my website, but I still have some samples on my Elance profile. Is there a reason you don’t have a portfolio on Elance? And do you still provide samples to clients, or just use testimonials to prove you can do what you say you do?

      • Hi Christine — the main reason is that I want to control the client’s experience.

        If I post a portfolio I don’t have that option; I can either post a small number of pieces and hope that a client likes what they see, or a large number and hope they don’t get overwhelmed. I don’t like either of those options.

        I do of course show clients samples upon request, though I’d say at least 50% hire me without ever seeing a sample. I think as writers we can get away with this because our Elance profile, web copy, etc. are actually writing samples, so if clients like these then we’ve won most of the battle.

        Hope this helps!

      • Great points, Danny- thank you! My biggest frustration with portfolios is that copy is never independent of other creatives’ work…whether that’s a web developer, graphic designer, photographer, etc. It becomes really difficult for clients to separate that other work from yours- but a copy deck out of context isn’t all that helpful either.

      • I never show the “finished” work — always “raw” samples. Not sure if that helps you but figured I’d mention just in case because it’s key to the experience I’m controlling.

        In general I’m a big fan of awesome design but, largely because of the issue you’re alluding to, I like my copy samples to come across as purely as possible.

  • Ali

    I’m very happy for you Danny and it’s really cool to see a copywriter have genuine succes. I really mean that. It’s just that I’m subscribed to several marketing/copywriting mailing lists, and I receive several emails a day, and I read several posts a day.

    And I don’t know if I’m the only one experiencing this, but is anyone else just really tired of this style of writing? Every email I get, every post, it’s super hyped up exaggerated post and it’s exhausting to read after a while. I’m not saying we should change this (it obviously works), it’s just that there is soooo much hype in this article. Even the terminology: the super-duper,-ultra-mega -Indiana-Jones-and-the-temple-of-doom-hidden-economy-that-no-one-knows-about, AND I AM GOING TO REVEAL IT TO YOU …..dun dun dun duuuuuuuuuun.

    The core of your article is this: 1) some clients might not appear to be big time because they are new and want to get their feet wet, so don’t ignore them because (2) they might be repeat customers which is really good and (3) when you do good work, other customers will notice and might send you a private request. Hardly any groundbreaking secrets here.

    Seriously, I get it, traffic, sales, all that. I just sometimes wish that professionals amongst one another would drop these tricks and techniques and just converse in a more, normal, human voice. But hey, maybe it’s just me being a cynic. Anyway, genuinely happy for you man, keep up the good work 🙂

    • Hey Ali — thanks for stopping by to comment. And thanks for your contrarian point of view. 🙂 In my experience, when you’re attempting to change someone’s mind — to get him to see things differently or form a new opinion — you have to pull him into a narrative. Good writers know how to do that… and not just content marketers and conversion copywriters… but writers for The Atlantic and The New Yorker, too. Danny’s post is written using the type of narrative that works for our audience. “Hype” is a very subjective thing, and depending on your definition of the word, may not work everywhere… but one person’s hype is another person’s passion… or technique for building tension and curiosity.

      • Ali

        Hey Lance, thanks for the reply 🙂

        I agree with what you’re saying. It’s just that since he’s writing on copyhackers and he’s very succesful, he already has people’s attention (seeing as this site has a lot of authority in the field). That’s why I felt he didn’t have to sell me as much as he did,. It took him nearly 800 words to get to the actual core of the article. Since a lot of people here are have at least some experience with copywriting, the tone could have perhaps been a little more ‘normal’.

        But like I said, maybe it’s just me. I prefer articles like on ConversionXL, where they have a short intro, and then dive into the core of the message immediately.

      • Hi Ali – Like Lance, I too appreciate your differing perspective. The only thing I’ll add is that there are many Elancers who have literally never received an invite-only job; some of these people have been on the platform for many months or even years. Likewise many freelancers have no clue that there are lots of premium clients on Elance — again, a lot of the best stuff takes place behind the scenes. I know because I’ve been hearing these people stories for many months as they reach out to me and thank me for letting them in on this stuff. It can be very painful to play “the game” on Elance for months or years and earn subpar wages while not having any real clue of the invisible game taking place just beneath the surface.

  • Danny, excellent discussion and absolutely on-target. Once you have found the perfect client, start submitting job proposals to them, especially if you have skills they haven’t yet been exposed to.

    • Right on Boyd! That’s a great point…oftentimes clients aren’t aware of everything that a talented freelancer can do for them. A proposal is a great place to point some of this out let them know. Thank you!

  • Hey Danny, thanks for the lovely article! I’ve been on both sides of the freelancing fence and sign under each word of yours.

    P.S. No wonder you keep getting repeat clients — your language is fantastic 🙂

    • Hey Jane — thank you, and thank you! Your endorsement means a lot to me and I’m so glad you enjoyed the piece!

  • Robert

    Thanks Danny–very helpful information! But I wonder if the kind of writing you offer also determines your success on Elance and other bidding sites. If you’re writing sales copy–if your words are making money for your client–then I can see how clients will come to you and pay you well. But what if, for example, you write case studies, white papers, brochures, articles, or other non-direct response marketing content? With a limitless pool of writers from around the world doing this kind of work, clients will surely choose the low-cost option, no? Isn’t that why they go to Elance? I don’t think there’s any getting around it: mastering the Elance economy means becoming a direct response copywriter.

    • Robert, I appreciate your comment, and I have to respectfully disagree. Strongly. 🙂 I and many other Elancers have and do continue to charge premium prices for all of the pieces you’ve named — and I’ll even add blog posts to the list to boot.

      There are a gaggle of businesses today that understand that Direct Response sales don’t live in a bubble…they are driven not just by a one-and-done sales letter or email, but (indirectly) by all of the supporting content you’re talking about. Plus, premium clients aren’t just paying for results; there are many other factors that are important to them, like service, reliability, professionalism, thoroughness, and much more. (More invisible game stuff.)

      I also think it’s a mistake to generalize all clients as going to Elance for low-cost options when looking for content. One of my favorite (premium) clients was referred to Elance by Infusionsoft for copywriting; it doesn’t take many like this for any given writer to make an excellent living. And again, this is far from an isolated example — just trying to illustrate the key point that clients go to Elance for all sorts of reasons other than bargain hunting.

      Don’t get me wrong — I see where you might arrive at that conclusion. And I really do appreciate the thoughtful discussion. It’s just that my experience has been 180 degrees the other way.

  • This paragraph is golden . . .

    “The moment you try to win on Elance by doing what seems natural, you’ve already lost. It’s like trying to beat poker pros by just playing good cards, attempting to outwit a car dealer by haggling harder, or making a mad dash to escape the friend zone by simply being a nicer guy. Or, to put it into Erlich Bachman terms, trying to beat Elance without understanding the dynamics of the Hidden Elance Economy is like bringing piss to a shit fight.”

    Reminds me of one of my favorite lessons Dan Kennedy passed onto me that he learned a jillion years ago from Earl Nightingale which is,

    Whatever the great majority are doing, do the opposite and you’ll be better off for having done so.

    This belief probably inspired the “How To Succeed In Business By Breaking All The Rules” title of one of Dan’s early books.

    If you know Dan’s stuff, you know he doesn’t mean “Break the law” but instead he’s talking about defying the normal and customary way of doing business – doing the stuff no one else thinks will work and that they criticize you for doing because it’s not the norm, and mostly because you’re succeeding in spite of using it as they wouldn’t give a shit if you were using it and were invisible and broke.

    I applaud you Danny for not being a part of the herd who brings piss to a shit fight and I wish you continued success in doing the opposite of what the majority is doing.

    • Thank you Lewis! You’re really striking at the heart of something big here. Getting attention is the most valuable skill a freelancer can develop, and blending in is the opposite of that. That is why Joanna has said (paraphrasing) “you don’t get points for being the quietest.” Really glad you liked the post!

  • How generous of you to share these tips Danny. There’s hope!

    • Thank you Leanne, generous of you to comment as well! And yes there I do think there is hope…especially for those of us who don’t like cold calling and networking meetings. 🙂

    • lili

      He was paid for this 😉

  • MorganFleurDeLys

    I’ve been working full-time on oDesk & Elance for about 2 months now. At this point, all of my clients are coming to me through invitations. I keep raising my hourly rates and they keep coming. 🙂

    People hating on oDesk & Elance are missing great opportunities. I’ll never have to get a real day job again thanks to sites like these.

    • Great work Morgan! Some people would rather stick to outdated ideas than make money. More for us I guess. 🙂

      • MorganFleurDeLys

        After reading your original post here, I felt inspired, so I raised all of my rates by $15/hour. 🙂

        I’ll catch up to you soon enough!

      • I can’t wait to be the cheaper alternative. 🙂

  • Sookie S

    I didn’t know that Elance had a “Hidden Elance Economy” until I came across Danny. For me this article gives and inspires hope in me that one day I can earn 6 figures on Elance.

    I learned a lot from this article but what stuck with me is that premium
    clients on Elance test the freelancers first. I have never thought of it
    like that. Thanks

    • Sookie I am pulling for you! You have so much heart! Thank you for this beautiful comment. You inspire me too. 🙂

  • It helps to have world-class copywriting chops like Danny has — I an always tell when I’m in the presence of one of the greats because even though they virtually all use pretty much the same techniques, they get away with it. And this is because they match technique with an intuitive grasp of what encourages people to open up their wallets.

    Much more of a challenge if you haven’t got the knack.

    But if you do, or think you do, look at it this way: if a client pays you 2K for a document that rakes in 10K, it’s the deal of the century for the client.

    • Thank you very much for the kind words, Tom.

      • Just callin’ it as I see it. By the way I suspect 100k is minimum wage for folks who can write sales copy like you do. Lots of veteran writers in standard content niches crank in $150 an hour – in sales you could probably double that because you make the cash register ring.

      • True but just want to also point out that six figures is doable with many other forms of writing too. (I’m sure you know this but just pointing out for some readers who may not be aware.)

  • Your company profile indicates “178 hours.” Can you elaborate on this figure? Did you really clock fewer than 200 hours this year to reach six figures?

    • I’m a freelancer, not an oil tycoon. 🙂

      All Elance jobs fall into 1 of 2 categories: Fixed price, or hourly fee. In the former, hours are simply not counted.

      Since the overwhelming majority of my jobs fall into the fixed price category, I tend to work only a very small number of logged hours, which is what you’re seeing in those screenshots. I hope this clears things up for you.

      • Thanks for clarifying. I’m a big fan of the project fee because, in my estimation, it’s the key to making big bucks as a writer. Nice write-up. Thanks for sharing.

      • Yeah project fees are good but if I don’t know how long a project will take going into it then I just slap an hourly price tag on it and that way I’m covered. Many freelancers torture themselves trying to guess but I closed that store a long time ago. 🙂

      • Danny, great article…and so interesting to hear you say that about hourly rates. I’ve been dabbling with Elance for just a few months. I think my first job ended up paying less than a $1/hr when I figured it all out. By the third job, I scored a rockstar client who’s been back four times. I haven’t tried hourly pricing but after reading this I think I might stop torturing myself with estimates, too. Thanks!

      • Thank you Christine! Great to hear from you and congrats on landing some good repeat business. Now all you have to do is repeat that process enough times and your schedule will be packed with good paying work. Absolutely feel free to experiment with hourly fees too, they’re great when used properly. 🙂

  • Tim Rich

    Hey, excellent write-up!
    I joined Elance in the early days but still haven’t given it the time of day. As time went on reading all those negative remarks from other freelancers had put me off, but your figures and techniques speak for themselves – if you can do it then it’s replicable!

    Thanks for the strong advice Danny!

    • You’re more than welcome Tim and thank you for the kind words! You are right, it is replicable, and I’ve found that to be true in directly helping other Elancers to kick ass using identical approaches and strategies to mine. It is a beatable game!

  • Very good story. I had a similar thing happen on a bidding site, despite everyone saying it can’t be done.

    It CAN be done, you just need to be persistent, strategic, and know your sales.

    That’s one reason though why a copywriter has it easier than say a designer: us guys, we know how to write our profile copy and bids so as to convert. For most other freelancers, they don’t have that going for them and it’s crucially important.

    So guys, if this story inspires you: PLEASE learn some of the basics of copywriting. Seriously 🙂

    • danielgonzalez

      What’s up Martin! 🙂

      • Hey Daniel! Funny to see you show up here 🙂

        How’ve you been?

      • danielgonzalez

        I’ve been good man, haha! Yeah, what can I say, my “ears” perked up when I saw it might be possible to earn 6 figures on elance. Good to hear from you 🙂

    • So true Martin and great advice! Luckily there are lots of excellent resources for designers and others who want to sell themselves better. My best tip to anyone reading this is to start right here at Copyhackers! Personally I can say that Joanna is so good that she is one of the few people who owns my attention. Thank you very much for the awesome comment!

  • danielgonzalez

    How do you tell the Sleeper Hit (good) Clients from the junk?

    • Good question Daniel! One good rule of thumb is to look for behavior over spending habits. True red flags are signs like very low job award ratio (below %20), tendency to give bad or mediocre feedback, or posts that are condescending (this can be subtle so you need to be vigilant). IMO these factors are way more important than spending habits and will tell you a much more reliable story.

  • Jennifer Adams

    Loved this article! Not least because I got my start working on Elance and know this to all to be very, very true.

    I think your point on repeat clients is one many freelancers overlook … no matter what platform they’re using. It is much, much easier to find success when you’ve got business coming to you. For example, at one point over 80% of my clients on Elance were repeat. That certainly made life simple.

    Another illusion to shatter? That there’s not great work out there. Rather than being crappy throw-away gigs – the stereotype – the work I did on Elance directly contributed to getting me the job I have now as the in-house copywriter for a great company.

    Thanks for writing this, Danny!

    P.S. Hi Sarah! Your comment reminded me it’s a small world of good freelancers indeed – since I remember you and your agency from my Elance time, too 🙂

    • Hey Jennifer, thank you for the awesome comment and support. You’re 100% right, there are lots of incredibly interesting and top notch gigs floating around on Elance just waiting to be grabbed up by freelancers who’ve got some hustle!

    • Hey Jennifer!

      It’s wonderful to “see” you again, even though I can’t see your face (okay, in all fairness, you can’t see mine either). 🙂

      It’s really nice to see so many positive comments coming from fellow Elancers, and it’s great to actually a couple. Your comment about 80% of your clients on Elance were repeat is not only spot on, but one that everyone needs to hear if they want to actually make money.

      Rather than continually looking for work, the key is to retain the clients you’ve got and leave them no other choice but to continue coming back to you.

      Anyway, I am getting preachy here. 🙂 I hope all is well with you and congratulations on busting a full-time gig! You and your writing deserve it!


  • Conner J

    Hey, great post! I knew a lot of this going in because I’m lucky enough to have worked with you for a while now, but there was still more than a few things that jumped out at me as fresh info. I’d say above all else, what’s helped me so far is the couple Sleeper Hit Clients I’ve picked up most recently.

    One of them has happened to be the most influential thing to happen to me on Elance (even helping me, though indirectly, to score my highest paying job to date–and a recurring one at that), and the other has been the most long-term and consistent employer I’ve had in my freelancing career.

    So for anyone who’s still on the fence a bit, I’d reassure you and say that this isn’t just some run of the mill advice. It really is true. Elance has pretty much given me a way to work throughout college without becoming completely overwhelmed. I mean, if a guy like me (who had almost no copywriting experience eight months ago) can land a job that pays out over $100/hr–all through the site–then there’s got to be something there, right?

    Anyway, awesome writing, Danny! Always love to read what you have to say!

    • Conner! I’m thrilled to hear about how well you’re doing, though definitely not surprised. Glad to see you here and thank you for the comment my friend. 🙂

    • It’s nice to see your silhouette again, Conner! I am thrilled to hear you’re doing so well.

      Cheers and continued best wishes in school!

  • Ha! I was just revisiting Elance yesterday (have never won a single proposal there but it’s been about a year since I tried) and was seriously checking out your profile for what to do right! 🙂 Glad to see this article on one of my favorite sites today – will definitely go check out your site as well! 🙂

    • Haha that is awesome Pauline, thank you! As you now know, Elance is in many ways its own game, with its own set of “rules.” There is a lot going on there but if you can master it then it is an extremely rewarding place to freelance! Looking forward to connecting further. 🙂

  • Definitely valid points.

    You, by all accounts, are an Elance Jedi. Statistically speaking, that’s always going to be a somewhat rare thing (just like the top end of any field is always likely to be the pointy end of a pyramid), so I understand what people are saying when they give that sort of advice.

    Maybe the advice needs to be upgraded to something like “If you’re going to join Elance, be ready to do the work others won’t. If you’re not willing to play that game, there are other, more conventional ways to do decently well as a freelancer, but none of those require less work.”

    • This is why I love Copyhackers — smart peeps. Excellent job presenting both sides of the story here in a neat little nutshell, fellow Jedi. Thank you!

  • Josh Wilkinson

    I am a decent copywriter but still new to doing client work. I don’t really have Portfolio because I have not had many clients so far (the clients I did have were the ‘pay by the word’ kind of people.) So how do you recommend positioning myself to land better paying jobs on Elance or oDesk since I don’t have much prior work to show?

    • Thank you for the question Josh. A couple of important points here. First, you don’t necessarily need a big portfolio in order to get your freelancing biz rolling; 2-3 relevant pieces is often all that’s needed to win a job. And second, no one says your writing samples need to be from prior client work. 🙂 You can write generic samples of just about any type of copy — as long as it shows off your skills you are good to go! Hope this helps.

      • Josh Wilkinson

        Thanks Danny! Helpful and encouraging. I had thought of writing some generic samples but wasn’t sure if it was best of practice to show an example letter like that to a prospective client. It certainly makes sense.

      • Absolutely, you’ve got to start somewhere right? I did this and so did many others. I also wrote for friends’ businesses just to get samples/experience so that’s another little nugget you can store up your sleeve.

  • David Couillard

    Funny your post came in my inbox following a oDesk freelancer I privately asked to work on a job. This is the second time I personally use freelancing tools to find great designers and retouchers for my web business. And I pay really well for talent. It’s worth it.

    I think you are right that for good freelancer, Elancer, oDesk or any type of these sites can be excellent lead generations. You just have to stand your ground and not get into a bidding war.

    There ARE lot’s of golden clients out there. And they want to work with talented freelancers.

    • Thank you David, that is a funny coincidence! You’re also touching on an interesting point which is that many of the golden clients you’re describing feel like there’s a shortage of really good freelancers to work with. Which makes it a golden opportunity for both sides. 🙂

  • Hey Danny!

    Great post! I really enjoyed reading it, and I appreciate that someone finally blew the lid off this tired rumor that there can be no real money made using the Elance platform.

    You and I are often told we’re outliers and that it’s just not possible for others to make the kind of money you and I make every day. Indeed many can dismiss my earnings and success because I am an agency, but as an individual to make the kind of money you make on Elance proves that it’s possible.

    And here’s the thing: we don’t have to be the anomalies. The beautiful thing is that serious clients register with Elance every single day and they’re looking for quality freelancers. We know this because when they land on our profiles, they tell us, “Oh I have been looking for someone like you and here you are!” Again, those private invitations are the best!

    I could go on and on, but I am really happy you wrote this. It will be nice to do two things:

    Put the rumors to bed that you can’t make serious money using Elance, and let others know how they, too can do it!

    Great blog and I will happily share this with anyone who perpetuates that tired rumor.


    Sarah Ratliff
    Owner, Coquí Prose Content Marketing

    • A comment from my favorite Elancer!

      Everything you’re saying is true of course. And it is time to blow the lid off it because yes, those Sleeper Hit Clients are constantly signing up to Elance and looking for more Sarahs all the time! More than you and I could handle if we cloned ourselves 100x each. 🙂

      • The real question is are people going to continue perpetuating this tired rumor or people going to take the steps to differentiate themselves so they can tap into this hidden Elance economy?

        And right back atcha! 🙂

      • As we are witnessing right in these comments, more and more are figuring it out every day!

  • Amy Butcher

    You make great points: I think that a lot of advice to writers is to stay off Craigslist, stay off these sites, yet clients still use them. Any job site can be worth your while if you have a strategy and weed through the crap. It’s like someone saying, “I made 500 cold calls, and got no response. Cold calling doesn’t work.” But who exactly were you calling? Your strategy is bad, but of course it’s the fault of the platform…

    Anyway, great post.

    (“Bring piss to a shit fight.” I think I’ll need to use this in my Christmas cards somehow. 🙂

    • Thank you Amy and well said! Blaming the platform is always a convenient excuse, isn’t it? Glad you liked the post!

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