Where there are freelancers, there are clients and these two always come together. Since I started taking part-time gigs from Upwork in year 2012, I’ve came across different clients from around the world. Some of them are really good and some are not so great. There were those who only needed me for a short time project and those who were consistent on giving me new tasks which helped me a lot with my bills. As an experienced freelancer, I’d say I’ve got the knack of the dos and don’ts when applying for online jobs.
What is a freelancer?
A freelancer or freelance worker is a term commonly used for a person who is self-employed and is not necessarily committed to a particular employer long-term. Freelance workers are sometimes represented by a company or a temporary agency that resells freelance labour to clients; others work independently or use professional associations or websites to get work (source: Wikipedia).
In most online job websites that offer gigs from simple data entry to tricky web developer jobs, companies like Upwork shows you the client’s details. These information help a freelancer to decide if he or she is a right fit for the job or not, before submitting an application.
What is a client?
- The client is the person for whom the project is carried out.
- The client decides what is to be done for a project, where, when, and by whom.
- The client engages the contractor and initiates the work.
- In other words, the client is the boss.
While freelancers must continue to strive hard in order to score more online gigs, it is also important to note the things to look for in clients when applying for online Jobs. In this article, I’d like to talk about some key pieces of information that some new freelancers must mull over when applying for online jobs.
1. Client’s descriptions
Knowing your client is the key to freelancer’s success in landing great projects. The client’s descriptions have the vital information that a freelancer can view on a client’s profile. It contains some important details like the client’s name, company and their brief introduction.
Why is it important that you read this information?
- The client’s profile provides focus on the right target applicants for the job.
- It gives you the idea of what a client can offer.
- It is important that you know who you will deal with.
- A freelancer can identify if he or she will enjoy working with the client.
2. Job description and preferred qualifications
Job description is one of the most important pieces of information a freelancer must pay attention to. This outlines the main duties and responsibilities that are involved in a particular job. It allows the freelancer to understand the responsibilities and duties that are required and expected of them.
What are the important bits of information to look for?
- Position/Job Title
- Job summary
- Who the freelancer directly reports to
- Certificates, licenses, and registrations that are required
- Qualifications like the minimum amounts of education or experience
- Level of knowledge, skills and abilities
- Competencies – English proficiency, email etiquette, online exams etc.
- Other job-related requirements that must be met for a candidate to be considered for a position like required internet speed, work environment, work hours, time zone etc.
What are the questions that you should be asking yourself before bidding for the job?
- Do I meet the requirements?
- Am I over or under-qualified for the role?
- Does the role fit into my long-term career goals?
- Can I work on the required time zone?
- Do I understand the duties and responsibilities that go with the job?
3. Client’s job history
Although the freelancers’ job history is more important for a client to hire them, the freelancer can also use the client’s job history as a deciding factor for the job application. The client’s job history is a good source of reference for a freelancer to see the job success and completed projects that were given by the client to other freelancers.
I’m not suggesting that you should only go for clients with long history of hiring freelancers for projects. But while newer clients can be a good target for your online job application because of low competition, it is also enticing for a freelancer to see that the potential client is repeatedly seeking freelancers for various projects.
Why client’s job history is important?
- In my opinion, the security that comes with long term clients is higher than those with lesser job proposals.
- It showcases the number of hired freelancers in the past and that alone can motivate you to take action and bid for the project.
- You’ll have an idea of what other projects you can take part in should your skills match the qualifications.
- Most job submissions are limited and you shouldn’t waste it by applying to jobs that has no proof of legitimacy.
4. Feedback from other freelancers
Same as how we look for positive reviews on products or services that we want before fully committing to it, the feedback from other freelancers for a particular client is also important. These feedback help build trust and loyalty, and typically describe what sets the client apart from others.
Short story for you: When I was starting, I once had a client who refused to pay me because she thought that I didn’t do a good job! She demanded for a refund and threatened to give me a bad feedback that would affect my profile. I reported her behaviour and never worked for her again. Lessons learned? Do yourself a favour and read freelancers feedback. Remember to take client’s rating seriously!
Why freelancers’ feedback are important?
- You don’t want to end up with a bad client and I mean those who are not supportive, unresponsive and too demanding (they exist).
- Feedback are like the character references of the client. These feedback help other freelancers to get an idea of what they should expect in terms of the client’s attitude towards freelancers.
- You can see honest comments whether good or bad, from other freelancers who had first-hand experience working with the client.
5. Payment method and history
The client’s payment history shows the consistency of payment to freelancers. This also indicates if the payment method of a client is verified, hence it gives assurance that a freelancer will be paid for the job. As an example, there are two kinds of payment method per project on Upwork, the hourly contract and fixed-price contract. The hourly contract guarantees payment for every hour that you work, while payment for the fixed contract is initiated once the client received and reviewed the agreed upon work.
Here’s the Hourly vs. Fixed-Price Contract Differences according to Upwork’s fees and protections guidelines for freelancers:
|Creating an offer||Negotiate an hourly billing rate during your interviews||Negotiate a bid for the full project or break it up into milestones|
|Working on a contract||You need to have the Desktop App installed and running to automatically log your hours for a contract. Clients decide whether manual time adjustments will be allowed and can set a weekly limit on billable hours||You complete and submit a series of specified milestone deliverables to the client|
|Payment Protection||Covered by Upwork Fixed-Price Protection||Covered by Upwork Fixed-Price Protection|
|Payment||Hourly jobs are paid on a weekly basis. Funds are available after a review and security hold period of five days.||Fixed-price jobs are paid into escrow and released at the completion of a milestone or project. Funds become available after a security hold period of five days|
6. How much does the job pay
Let’s face it – we all work for money and this is still the number one reason why we need a job. The salary is one of the things that freelancers check themselves before applying for a job. Whether it’s short term or long term contract, it’s important to know how much money you can earn from doing a project. If the rates are not appealing, this may not be the right client for you to work with.
To help you with your decision, most of online job ads like Upwork show these three common salary levels for you to consider before applying. Each level specifically indicates what a client is looking for:
- Entry Level – Client is looking for freelancers with the lowest rates
- Intermediate Level – Client is looking for a mix of experience and value
- Expert Level – Client is willing to pay higher rates for the most experienced freelancers
If you’re a beginner, it might be good for you to take the entry level or intermediate level as a starting point. This potentially helps you build your profile little by little. And as you gain more and more experience as a freelancer, you can then raise your fees and can start to negotiate your salary.
You must also remember not to waste the client’s time and your time with the hiring process if the salary isn’t in the ballpark of what you’re looking for. It’s better to wait for the right opportunity rather than wasting your energy on online jobs that don’t meet you expectations.
7. Skills and expertise required for the job
Am I qualified? Do I consider myself expert on the required skills? These questions come to your mind when you read the skills and expertise required for the job. The answer to these questions depends on how good you are on a specific skill and expertise that the client is looking for.
Why you must always pay attention to these?
- You need to be at least knowledgeable enough on a specific skill before applying; otherwise your application will go to waste when the client reads your profile and sees that your skills do not include what he requires.
- It basically summarizes the actual job into little bits of information.
- This helps you to prepare for possible interviews and online exams that a client might ask you to take before giving you the role.
- It saves you time, and by that I mean if you are not skilled then might as well look for other online jobs that match your expertise.
What are the common skills and expertises that you can see on an online job post?
- Administrative support skills – virtual assistant and other day-to-day activities for the client.
- Customer service skills – providing assistance to client’s customers.
- Data entry/encoding and analytics skills – enter or update data into a computer system.
- Email handling skills – handling email campaigns, sending and responding to emails in a timely manner.
- Internet research skills – keywords research using Google and other search engines.
- MS software skills (word, excel, powerpoint) – knowledge of MS software.
- Photoshop expert – photo editing and enhancing skills.
- CRM, WordPress and Salesforce skills – experience in using these tools.
- Social media skills – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin etc.
- Search engine optimization expert – SEO experts are responsible in optimizing the online presence of an organization’s website.
- Digital marketing skills – Include web designing, managing google AdWords, competent project management and handling the overall online marketing for a client.
8. Other open jobs
This is where you can find other job ads of the client. Most clients are continuously hiring freelancers so don’t forget to browse this section as you might find the perfect online gig that matches your skills and expertise. The list goes on so you can check which is best and decide whether to submit an application or not.
Online jobs for freelance beginners:
- Customer Service – answering calls and emails, live chat support, help desk and so on.
- Data Entry – this job requires speed, accuracy, and attention to detail. The worker needs to be very familiar with office software such as word processors, databases, and spreadsheets.
- Admin Support – this job includes researching, managing emails, creating excel files and word document etc.
- Personal / Virtual Assistant – a virtual assistant provides administrative, technical, or creative (social) assistance to clients from different parts of the world.
- Web researcher and analyst – someone who collates researched information, especially free information on the web, or internet-based resources.
9. Client’s location
While this isn’t a big deal for some, I personally think that the client’s location is important. The main reason for me is because I’m not a fan of graveyard shifts. And working for a client in USA means I have to do the work during night time in my country and whenever I am travelling in South East Asia. I would always go for clients from Australia and UK because it is easier for me to communicate with them during business hours.
This may not be an issue for those who work on flexible schedule, but different time zones can still be quite challenging and may have some minimal impact on freelancer’s work output.
Some of the challenges include:
- When you submit your work or send urgent emails in a morning your time would mean you won’t be getting a reply until it’s evening earliest.
- The same goes for freelancers who work with a team spread across multiple countries, cities, and time zones. If you need a quick reply, you may not get a quick reply due to the time difference.
I’d like to highlight though that we all have our own preferences when it comes to what we think is the best for us. So if you feel that working at night or anytime of the day works for you, then you should go for it.
10. The client’s instructions
Most online job postings usually contain specific details of how to apply for a job. If the job ad says that you include a unique word or number in your cover letter or add it in your subject line, be sure to do so. Some clients write these instructions at the bottom of the job post to make sure that the freelancer reads everything. If the client asks for samples of your work or any specific pieces of information from you, always provide them.
Keep in mind that these are not suggestions. Not paying attention to them will likely narrow your chances of getting an interview.
Why you shouldn’t ignore these instructions?
- Not following the instructions can get your application filtered out before the client ever sees it.
- It gives clients the impression that you don’t pay attention to detail or that you can’t follow simple instructions.
- Chances are, your application will be rejected and that will lead to low job success score on your profile.
Applying for online job seems simple these days. Just hit the “submit application” button and you are on your way to scoring a new job. But some new freelancers miss their chances of landing great clients as they tend to overlook the key information to look for when submitting their applications.
As crucial as knowing what you will be doing and what is required of you before applying, it is also good to note that there is much more information that you can potentially find in a job posting if you spare more time reading it.
Feeling inspired? Remember to stay focused and increase your chance of getting hired.
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