What Are The Drawbacks of Using an Internet Brokerage for My Freelance Design Business?

This week we’re looking at freelance design work using the internet brokerages of Elance, Odesk, Guru, etc. and while there are definite benefits of using these sites – there’s no doubt that there are some drawbacks to using them for work too. Let’s take a look at things you need to watch out for:

Huge Volumes of Rubbish

The marketing costs of using these sites are much lower than using other traditional forms of marketing. There is, however, a price to be paid for this – you’re going to have to review an awful lot of terrible opportunities to find the good ones. Some of the sites add thousands of jobs each day in each category and that means allotting time to wade through them seeking signs that the client knows what the job is worth (some of the “opportunities” are so bad that they’ll make you wince – like $200 to create the next Amazon for example).

You should always be looking for clients that have a professional take on their work.

The Risks of Being Scammed

There are countless works online that teach those who would prey on the weak how to rip off freelancers on online brokerage sites. This shouldn’t be a problem if freelancers avail themselves of protection offered by these sites for payments but in many cases they’re afraid of offending the client and don’t insist on payment protection being used.

It’s vital that you always use payment protection mechanisms where they exist. If the client won’t use them; there’s a strong chance you won’t get paid.

It Takes Time to Build a Reputation

It doesn’t matter how good you are and how much experience you have – you aren’t likely to start closing huge volumes of business on these platforms until you have established yourself and your reputation on them. In practice this can take quite a bit of time; there are exceptions to the rule – I know, personally, someone who achieved more than $100,000 in their first year on Elance but that is an exceptional case. Expect to be working for 6-12 months or more in most cases before you can rely on the income from these sources – this is because it takes time to build a regular client list too.

Feedback Can Be Problematic

It doesn’t matter how good you are as a designer; sometimes your clients aren’t going to like what you deliver. The feedback mechanisms of these sites can be very punitive to freelancers (particularly in the early phases of working on them) and this can end up with freelancers doing a ton of extra (unpaid) work or giving away products for free to protect themselves against bad feedback.

We’d recommend taking the feedback on the chin and getting paid instead. You have the space to create a professional response to feedback and smart clients are interested more in how you handle negative feedback than seeing a perfect score. And you can’t pay the rent in star ratings.

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