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My Accidental Success With Elance

Did you know that it’s possible to experience success with sites like Elance or People Per Hour?

As I started to build my freelance business I was cautioned to stay away from such sites as they catered to the lowest bidder. In some respects, I think this is very true. People don’t go on sites like Fiverr, expecting to pay more than five bucks to get something done (for the record I’m not on Fiverr).

On the other hand though, I’ve had some accidental success on both Elance and PPH. I say accidental, as I never sought out to have profiles on either. I was doing fine networking, asking for referrals and bidding jobs via job boards. But then, someone in my network wanted to work via Elance (payment protection, etc). I wanted the work and figured why not?

My Experience with Elance


In order to get the gig, I set up a profile on Elance and learned their system to bid and get the job (I was the only bidder BTW). This was nice, as I was able to experiment and didn’t have to pretend I knew what I was doing when working with the client.

We started and completed the project. She left me feedback. All was good. I searched around and bid on a few other jobs, hired a few people via Elance to help me do some research and then kind of forgot about it.

Getting Invited to Bid on Jobs

Here’s where the accidental success comes in. Without any further effort on my part, I started to get invited to bid for jobs. This means that people posting a job specifically sought me out (or picked me from a list predetermined by Elance) and invited me to submit a bid.

I’m not going to lie, a lot of these were junk. They were from overseas countries that wanted me because I’m a Huffington Post contributor or the pay was unrealistic or something else made them undesirable.

But there have been a few that have been real gems. Two that I was invited to apply for at the end of October both asked me to apply based on geographic location. They resided in Minnesota and sought me out due to me living there too.

One of them I had to go and interview for after connecting via Elance and by telephone. It was to write a memoir of all things and even though I didn’t have any direct experience per say, I was super excited about it and drove an hour across town to interview in person. I didn’t get this one, but it was a great experience and would have been a very lucrative opportunity had it panned out.

The second person I never met IRL, but we’ve corresponded a bunch via email and I got the job writing profile descriptions for a bunch of service type companies for his app startup. This was a $1200 gig! Not too shabby for a month’s work!

People Per Hour

How To Get Work On People Per Hour
Get Work On People Per Hour

PPH is a newer avenue for me. I set up a profile after taking Sophie Lizard’s Client Hunting Masterclass a couple month’s back. She swears by this platform as a way to find clients. It helped her get her start in freelance writing and she now uses it both to find clients and hire writers.

Based on my luck with Elance and her success using the platform, I figured, why not? After setting up my profile, PPH does some work helping you to get endorsements and such, which boosts your profile. If you don’t secure a job within three months, then you can’t have an active profile any longer. So they try and help to make that happen.

I get invited to bid a job at least once per week on PPH. The platform tries to match me up with available jobs based on what I’ve listed as experience. Most aren’t a great fit (income-wise), but there are a few that I’ve bid on and I’ve gotten one so far.

The job I’ve been contracted for is writing two press releases. I’ve completed one of the two so far and for $50 a pop, it’s a decent wage. I’m hoping that by completing the job using the platform, that it boosts my standing and I’ll get invited for similar jobs in the future!

Being a US-based writer is one of the things that helped me to get the job based on feedback from the client. I don’t know what else made me an ideal candidate, but am happy to have the work.

Downsides of Using Such Platforms

Downsides of bidding sites for freelance writers
photo credit: daftgirly via photopin cc

Both Elance and PPH charge you (the seller) a fee. Elance adds it on top of what you charge the client and PPH take it from your quoted fee. Elance adds a fee of 8.75% on top of your bid, which is called a “service fee.”

From People Per Hour’s website:

PeoplePerHour charges the Seller a Service Fee on earnings as follows:


  • 15% (excl. VAT)  on the first £175 (or €210 or $280 USD) billed and paid by the Buyer in the month
  • 3.5% (excl. VAT) on all work billed and paid for after that in the month.


It’s not the cheapest way to do business, but you may find work that you wouldn’t have otherwise. Ideally it’d be great to find clients this way and then work with them on additional products offline.

That doesn’t seem to be kosher though! They expect you (based on their terms and conditions) to continue working with any client secured through the channel via their platform. To me, it just seems fairly expensive to do so!

Should You Use Them?

I don’t think it would hurt anything to throw a profile up on either Elance or People Per Hour. You can set your fees and decline invitations if they don’t meet your criteria.

It doesn’t seem like the most lucrative way of finding and continuing to work with clients however. The service fees can cut into your pay quite a bit. It’s fine if you can raise your fees to cover the difference, but why not just source similar clients a different way and charge them the increased rate directly. This way you’ll make more money!

I’d say throw a profile up and check in once a week or month to see if there’s anything worth applying for if you have the time or capacity to take on more clients. I just wouldn’t make it your primary marketing strategy!

Have you had success with Elance, PPH or another similar platform? Tell us about it in the comments!

Gina Horkey

Gina Horkey is a writer for hire, with a background in personal finance. She also offers coaching services and really enjoys helping other freelancers gear up to quit their day jobs and take their side hustles full-time. Please stop by Horkey HandBook and download your free copy of 8 Tips to Start Your Freelance Career off on the Right Foot!

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