How to win more bids or choose a provider on Elance, Guru and other freelance sites

How to win more bids or choose a provider on Elance, Guru and other freelance sites


I’ll admit I never fully got the hang of bidding for freelance work on Elance, Guru or You need to send a proposal, pick a price, describe your qualifications – and compete with dozens of other freelance providers. I got picked a few times, but not consistently. That frustration is probably why I developed my own service businesses instead, so that I could work as a freelancer on my own through my own website, by driving the traffic straight to me.

Now that I’m a small business owner with a steady stream of income, I find myself routinely turning back to Elance when I need to solve problems quickly. I hate to waste a few hours on some WordPress Coding issue, when I know I could hire someone to do it. I hate wasting time building up SEO backlinks or trying to get more traffic, when I could hire someone more knowledgeable and more effective.

I’m happy to throw money at the problem – If it saves me a few hours work, I don’t mind paying $100 even if it only takes someone else 20 minutes. When I started using Elance to hire freelancers, my natural instinct was to pick the underdog – to give them a chance to build up their income, recommendations, testimonials and portfolio. I know it’s hard to break into Elance, especially when you’ve got no history on the site.

But that didn’t work out well.

Several providers disappeared without completing. A few others ripped me off.

Although I still want to be helpful, getting the job quickly, getting it done right and professionally, has taken precedence.

So now when I choose an Elance provider, I try choose the best guy for the job.

But it’s so hard to choose

I just posted something on Elance; I need simple cropping and saving files done. Lots of it. I estimated the time and posted my project.

In less than 10 minutes I had about 30 bids from all over the world, and now I’m going through and declining them one by one to try to choose a winner.

How does a provider pick a bid?

I’m going slowly this time, paying attention to my own subconscious feelings and responses.

1. Picture

The first thing I noticed is the picture. It’s nice to see a real picture, if it’s a good picture. It makes me think about the other person (this makes me feel bad for not choosing them also).

It should be a good, clear picture.

The person should be smiling or looking happy (most are not).

2. Earnings

Next I’ll look at the earnings. Have they made any money yet? Do they have any feedback? My heart hurts when they’ve won no projects (because it’s really hard to get chosen for that first job). I won’t rule them out if they have the best bid, but I also don’t want to take a risk if I don’t have to.

3. Portfolio

I want to see what they’ve done. Even if they’re starting out, they could take some previously complete work and fill up their portfolio. It’s pretty obvious when someone has 2 or 3 projects up, that aren’t very well done, that they are just starting and don’t have the skills. I want to be impressed and wowed. Take some time to learn the skill. Get really good by doing free or sample work for practice. Use that in your portfolio.

4. Proposals/bid

Finally I’ll read the bid.

It shouldn’t be too short. Don’t just say “I can do it!”

It shouldn’t be a long copy+past of your history or CV.

Don’t call me ‘Sir’ or ‘hiring manager’. Talk to me like you would a friend of yours.

It should acknowledge the specifics of the project and agree to the terms. This one isn’t too bad:

We have studied you requirement about photo editing we are ready to work on your project right now kindly let us know,
and we would love to do your job.

feel free to ask anything on our bid proposal,

Let me assure you after the completion of the project, we’ll provide your logo & banner in .ai .psd .eps .jpg .png and should there occur any problem or you have a query, we will be there to attend to it.

We look forward to your confirmed acceptance of our bid proposal.

Except, it’s a little too stiff and formal. And little punctuation errors tells me he isn’t super careful to details.

This one is OK:

I will crop the little designs from the large sheet perfectly following your instructions.
Agree to work with the price tag you mentioned.
Ready to start. Hope to hear from you.

But a little boring.

Here are a couple that are better:

Hi I have gone through with your requirement and understood the work. I have very good knowledge in cropping using photoshop and other softwares also. I am sending one sample of your work. with background and without background. I can create these elements as brushes also. I am ok with your budget ie $80 for 300…

Hi! If I have to crop it like sample attached, I can do all 1000 photos for 240$.
It will not take a lot of time. So, wating for your reply.

Hi, I like working with Photoshop so, I think I’m the suitable person for doing this job. I’m hardworking too and I can start immediately. The deadline you require is easily doable.

Even though there are some grammar or typo issues, they don’t stand out so much because the text is informal.

This one stands out to me:

I am from India. I am a girl who works from my home itself.
I am well versed with latest Photoshop Cs6 & I am ready to do this task at $200 as my earnings. If you offer me this job, I will be getting a reasonable amount  & on the other hand you are getting a benefit of $80 🙂

She seems reasonable, intelligent and friendly (use of smiley face = easy way to show personality and solidarity).

Also, describing a bit about herself makes me connect with her as a real person.

As I’m thinking these over, it’s not the price that really sticks in my mind – it’s the image of the person I’d be working with: can I picture where they are from, how they live, their normal lives?

5. Where they are from

I discovered I have a whole bunch of cultural biases and prejudices.

I seem to be more drawn to the bids by women (maybe because most of the men’s bids were stiff and businesslike and showed no personality). There was a guy from the Philippines that was nice though – not for this project but I’ll save his profile. I’m very interested in Romania (applied for a Fulbright last year, was supposed to go their year but skipped from Poland down to Greece) so the two bids from Romania caught my attention. I’d love to develop some contacts there. I hire a lot of freelancers from India, but the bids this time were not so great (except for the girl above).

The posts from Vietnam and the Philippines caught my eye too, since I plan to visit both this fall. Ideally I’d meet up with freelancers I like in person and arrange something more direct, so I could just email them work (although I’m not sure how easy payment would be…)

There was only one bid from the US. In general, I don’t like to hire people from first world countries. For some things like editing, or writing, or if they have amazing skills, I definitely would. But for this kind of boring, technical work, I find they’ll rarely be happy with the money, get frustrated with the project, and under deliver. $10 an hour isn’t so great in the US, but it is pretty high for many other countries where a full-time job would pay $3/hour.

6. Going the extra mile

I had uploaded a sample file with a bunch of designs: many designers downloaded it and took a minute to crop a couple of the designs and upload them as samples (proving they could do the job, going the extra mile). One of them will probably win.

7. Linking outside of Elance

I didn’t think this was possible, but a number of proposals linked to their Facebook pages or websites.

It allows me to see they have an established presence (rather than fly by night) and are working on building up a business. It’s also nice to be able to get in touch directly if I have questions.

8. Start small

This is something I’ve not done yet but probably will do in the future. Instead of making one big project, I would start with a very small sample project. Maybe 1 sheet, 10 images, for $10.

Then I could award the job to 5 different providers, get to know them a bit more, and make sure they deliver quality.

Once you’ve worked with a provider, you can go back and rehire them without going through the whole bidding process again.

I think every month I’m going to start a $25 project and award it to 10 freelancers with no experience. Everybody needs to be given a starting chance.

What are your experiences hiring or working on Elance or other freelance sites?


  • Warden Posted

    Recently resigned to be stay at home wife and mom and want to work from home. I had no idea how to get started on guru. Thank you for taking the time to post! ~ Kim Alexandria, Virginia

    • Derek Murphy Posted

      If you’re planning to work on Guru, it’s good for getting started but you should build your own website and platform asap. If you’re hiring – I actually use fiverr, odesk or elance more; although more recently I’ve found all my employees on, much cheaper to hire by the month.

  • nick aj Posted

    hi, can i get example of bid proposal for freelancer clients. im graphic designer and im new and fresh in my career as graphic design in freelancer webs although im good in design. i have worked before but that was for my father as packaging design and made logos as well so i never wrote a proposal. to any clients, im confused what should i say and the fact i actually have made mistake when i made my 1st bid in freelancer and i just realized it later.
    i would be grateful to you if you can show me example or just sample of bid proposal to any freelancer clients so i can understand it easier and faster.

    thank you so much

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