With the economy the way it is, lots of people are looking to earn an extra income online.  Whether you are someone who is out of the job and trying to make money until the next opportunity comes along, or just trying to supplement your current pay check, freelancing is a great option.

Not familiar with freelancing? It just means that you work for yourself and do jobs with different companies, instead of just one.  In the past you have probably known or worked with an independent contractor.  Same concept, except we're going to be doing it online.

Don't be intimidated at all, Elance is probably the best website on the planet when it comes to encouraging beginners.

Signing Up

But before you go ahead an sign up, you have to figure out what kind of skill you are going to be offering your freelance services in.  The great, fun part about this business is that nearly all skills are in demand at any time.  After all, you aren't just applying with local companies, Elance can put you in contact with people on the other side of the planet.

If you have always wanted to be a writer, but thought that there wasn't any money in it, now is your chance.  I have done lots of freelance work, on Elance and on other similar websites, and writing is still where the majority of my jobs come from.  Of course, other skills are in demand also.  Any type of website development or coding is always high in demand, and very well paying too.  You may also want to do something artistic.  That "starving artist" thing doesn't have to be true- there are tons of companies with jobs out right now that would love nothing more than to have you help them out.

After you decide what type of freelancer you want to be, go ahead and join Elance with a "worker" account.  It's no more difficult than joining Facebook or any other site, and you can even have it integrate your personal information from FB or LinkedIn.


Profile Completion

Upon joining Elance and confirming your account, you are going to want to fill out your profile.  This is very important, because this is what anyone who might hire you will look at.  You can include a portfolio of examples of your work, references, etc.  If you don't have anything like this that would work, that's okay, everyone has to start somewhere.  When I first started doing jobs on Elance I did not have anything either, and was still able to land jobs.

There are a few other things you can do to your profile to make you more appealing.  You can add credentials and create a sort of resume.  If you minored in English or Photography or whatever the case may be, now is the time to brag and tell the world about it.  People are much more likely to be interested in someone with formal education.

The other very important thing that you can do to really boost your profile is take some tests.  Doesn't sound like much fun?  That's because it isn't.  However, your chances of being hired are much greater if you verify all of the skills listed on your profile through testing.  Tests don't take too long, and you can spread them out.  Don't worry about getting them all done the first day you make an account, take one every other day or something like that.  Besides, they aren't terribly difficult, if you've got a decent understanding of the concept you will do well.

Applying to Jobs

The next step of course is applying to some jobs.  Click on the "Find Work" tab at the top of Elance.  You can choose to either search for specific jobs, or you can browse what hiring parties have listed.  I recommend that, especially since you are just starting out and all, you just browse for now, and don't worry about finding anything perfect or specific.

Since you are new to the site, you are going to need to build up some credibility.  To do this, you need to apply for some basic jobs.  These will not pay as well, so do not expect them to.  The good news is that even if you aren't getting your full rate for these basic jobs, they will be pretty easy to fulfill so it's quick and simple, as well as legitimate, cash earning.  And if you have any sort of freelancing skill, the people hiring will be very impressed, because usually this cheap beginners work is not of high quality, so over-deliver and make sure they write a glowing review on your profile!

elance logo

After you get a few good reviews under your belt, you can start doing some work that is a bit higher up the food chain.  Remember, as you were doing your basic jobs and paying your dues, you should have been keeping some records and examples for your work.  These will come in handy now.

Another thing to do when applying to jobs is to write your applications individually.  A lot of guys will just copy and paste the same generic application from job hiring listing to job hiring listing.  This is a bad idea, it makes you look like a spammer that doesn't have time to think about the company's need.  So individualize everything.  If they mention something specific in the listing that would be really helpful, then be sure to tell them how you can help.

Lastly, make sure you apply some volume to your applications being sent out.  This may sound contradictory to my last tip.  I'm not suggesting you spam the same message out to everyone that is hiring.  However, you need to let a lot of people know that you are there to help them.  Get the word out about yourself, because tons of people just like you are applying to these same jobs.  You will not be picked for every one that you apply for.  You probably won't even get half of them, especially in the beginning.  So don't get hung up on one any specific listing, just apply to everything that sounds interesting or you think you could help with.

It will take work in the beginning, but that's just the time you have to put in to build your personal brand.  And once you are an established freelancer on Elance, I think you will find working for yourself, as an independent, to be far more fulfilling than your normal job.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Elance (Idiot's Guides)
Amazon Price: Buy Now
(price as of Feb 24, 2014)