I speak from experience – going on 8 years of online writing experience – to tell you something simple: online job platforms can be disheartening to the sturdiest of writers.

You, as a freelance writer, will go through frustration. You’ll feel discouraged. Sometimes, you might even feel lowly.

And that’s okay.

Believe it or not, there are good jobs available out there, with your name waiting to be attached.

Taboo Bid/Proposal #1: Copy and Paste Query

copy-paste cream
Photo by Tim Bartel

Any deadline for this ?

Shall we discuss ?

Dear, I can to do this job for you. message for low price.

Hey can I have a look at the document?

All of the above were taken from online job platforms, as introductions to writers. Would you hire any of them? I wouldn’t.

They are all guilty of what newbies tend to do, starting out: copy and pasting the same bid/proposal/query for all of the writing jobs available.

Clients don’t want to have to sift through dozens of offers that have nothing to do with the actual job they need done.

It doesn’t save you time. It makes you look unprofessional or sloppy, even; uninterested; and certainly inspires no confidence you can do the specific job they need doing.

Tips for streamlining your bid:

Read through the entire job description, don’t scan. Read. If there’s a link, click on it and read more. If it’s a big job, Google for more information about the company.

Compare your skills and what you can honestly deliver to what the job requires. If it’s iffy, you should probably look for something more up your alley. Otherwise it’s a waste of time, of whichever credits you have, and even if you get the job – you might not be stellar.

Don’t forget that bad reviews on an online job platform are toxic.

Taboo Bid/Proposal #2: You Don’t Ask Questions

Photo by George Hodan

I don’t mean ‘What are you looking for in your ideal candidate?’ but let’s look at a hypothetical offer:

‘I need 10 blog posts about corporate videos. They should be 100% original, native English speakers encouraged.’

I’ve got a dozen questions in mind as soon as I see this. First, I have experience with writing on that specific topic and I can send a link, at the bottom (or at the top) of my bid, because it’s relevant. But I also need to know:

  • How long should the posts be? The typical, generic word count is 500 words. Do they have a blog? How long are their posts?

My question: How many words per post do you need? 400-600 is average for a business blog post, but 1,000+ is for a detailed post and longer posts tend to do better at the moment.

This question tells them a.) I know what I’m doing (called ‘authority’ in some circles) and b.) I want to meet their needs.

  • What sort of deadline? This is important, since I couldn’t possibly deliver 10 high-quality business blogs in two days. As a freelancer, you’ll be bidding against teams and companies. Don’t try to take on more than you can actually do.
  • Also pay attention to where they are based, because if it’s a tight time frame, with 6 hours difference, you may not be able to deliver.

My question: When do you need these by, your time (i.e. UK/Australia/etc.)? Is it possible to send you two posts, daily?

I let them know my specific deliverables and it starts negotiations, if they’re interested in working together.

  • What are the specific topics? Have they got a list or is it up to me to do the research (time-consuming if you aren’t familiar with the topic)?

My question: Are you providing topics and/or titles, or would you like me to come up with a list?

This shows there’s probably more work involved than they assume. You’d be surprised how many clients think that if ‘only I had the time,’ they could successfully write a post themselves. False, for the most part.

  • What if I’m not a native English speaker? I am, but many freelance writers are international. So do you ignore the job, because you don’t feel qualified? What if you are more qualified than a native?

My question: I’m not a native speaker, but I have X and Y qualifications. I think my writing speaks for me, so here are links to http://sample.com and http://sample2.com. Is the job still open to non-native English writers?

I can show – without being salesy – my writing skills, by having them focus on the finished product (my writing), rather than my origins.

Taboo Bid/Proposal #3: Let Me Tell You More About Me

Image via Link Humans

Remember how you spent a lot of painstaking time on writing your profile, creating a brilliant portfolio and generally making yourself look like a rock star? Great. Now leave it there.

Making a bid for a job is really not the time to wax on about how fantastic you are, a listing of qualifications or quoting testimonials about you. The client has to go through way too many offers not to ignore an ‘I, I, I…’ proposal.

They don’t care about you. They care about finding a person who can do work on the job they’re advertising.

Think about how you can help, specifically. What you can offer, specifically. And back it up.

I mentioned earlier putting a link to related work at the bottom or top of your bid to live links you’ve written. It’s another perk for the client, because I don’t force them to go back through my entire portfolio: they have a relevant link and just click.

Taboo Bid/Proposal #4: Over or Underestimating Your Worth

Photo by Skeeze

A tip for all newbie freelancers: going super-low on your amounts might get you some work. Might. Maybe. And many (not all) will be crappy, insubstantial jobs. Because like breeds like. They don’t care about quality, they care only about the cost.

On the other hand, thinking you can jump into freelancing and charge professional rates, without experience, is just silliness.

By professional rates, I mean you read an article once that said ‘No writer worth their salt will write for less than $100/hour’ and you thought: ‘Fantastic! I could use a few hundred…’

Erm, just no. To both. If you’re a newbie, you don’t have the experience to back up asking for higher rates. Like any other job, you have to learn and increase skills and money as you go. That doesn’t mean you literally sell yourself short.

On online job platforms, clients are usually required to either specify how much their budget is OR what level of expertise they require. When you’re starting out on these sites, it’s always good to check out the forums for amounts or rates. If there isn’t a forum, look at the freelancers themselves and compare.

Don’t get discouraged if you see the same ‘cool kids’ getting jobs, either. Being on a platform for 3 years doesn’t mean they are a better writer than you.

It means: wow, they’ve been on the platform for 3 years. They might have some inside knowledge of what does and doesn’t work, but will it matter, if you’re an ace writer and they’re merely average? Not so much.

The best advice for setting your prices I can give you: setup a services list for yourself. For example, an article of 600 words is $X amount; a short blog post of 250 words is $X amount.

You can use trial and error to see which prices seem to work best, but at least you’ll give yourself a reference of what you think you’re worth. This is not a list for clients, it’s for you.

No matter what your skill level, never forget your worth as a writer.
What about you? Any tips you’d add for how (not) to write a bid or proposal on freelance writing sites? I’d love to hear from you. Let me know in the comments!