How Elance Works (or doesn’t work as the case often is)
Elance is a website where freelance graphic designers like myself can search for, bid on, and sometimes win jobs doing random graphic design projects for clients all over the world. It’s the best place for someone like me that I’ve found online to date.
The problems, however, are extensive and quite frustrating.
1 - The site requires clients to maintain an award rate of only 5% meaning they can post, and get bids that cost money to submit, 20 times for ever one job they actually move forward on. A vast majority of jobs I bid on never get awarded to anyone, but they do cost every time I submit a bid.
2 - I, an American living with a high cost of living, have to compete with people in Pakistan, India, the Philippines and other low cost of living places. Made in America is rare enough to work as an effective advertising campaign for those companies still doing it, and Designed in America is heading the same way.
3 - The site seems to perpetuate this notion that what I do is easy. At least half of the job posts I see start out with something akin to ‘Easy, simple, quick job.’ I don’t understand how that thinking works. First, if it’s so damn easy, do it yourself. Second, a good chef can cook a steak better, faster, neater, etc than a bad one, but you don’t pay LESS for the good chef. Mechanics are the same way - the last repair I did on my car took me an hour, but the skilled mechanics with their shop full of tools wanted to charge $380 for that hour.
In math terms: Skill = (Quicker X Better) + More $
4 - I have an extensive portfolio. I have this portfolio so that clients can see the quality and diversity of my work because odds are I’m not going to have an example on-hand of something exactly like every random project I bid on. Clients are supposed to look at the portfolio and decide if I have done the quality of work they are looking for, but most of the clients want to see their project first before they make a decision. For example, I worked on a trade show booth display graphic for 6 hours last night until 2am. The client didn’t have any high resolution artwork, didn’t have any copies of the sponsor logos they needed, didn’t have finalized text for the piece, and didn’t even have usable files for their own logo. I had to build it all from scratch in a file size so large that it bogs down my computer. It’s not easy, simple or quick. I submit my draft version and, a couple hours later, find out that the job was awarded to another designer.
The story from the client was all too familiar as well. Behind the gun, someone dropped a ball, being pressured from above, I pay bonuses, can’t ya just help a guy out?!? Blah, blah, blah. 6 hours of work for $0. Hard to pay the $380/hr a mechanic wants when I earn $0/hr. The HVAC guy I need to fix my furnace is $80/hr, so I gotta find a way to do better than $0/hr…
But what choice do I really have? Work for a felon and his sex offender cell mate? Work for a big corporation with deep, but somehow for me, always empty pockets? Keep slinging pizza and pretending that it’s all worth it? FML.