Freelance In 40 Days [Day 12]: Project Bids, The Ticket To Getting Freelance Work

Posted: September 15th, 2009

Photo by Rob Barrett (Flickr)

Photo by Rob Barrett (Flickr)

This is Day 12 of the Freelance in 40 Days series where you’ll learn to freelance just by taking it one day and one task at a time. Today you’ll learn how to write a bid to apply for projects.

When searching through the job boards, the first step to finding freelance work is looking for projects that suit you. Then there’s that other step to making that project ours: the project bid. Don’t worry, its not some lengthy 20 page proposal to convince an employer to hire.

It is more like a quick letter explaining your skills, estimate and contact info. It’s not quite that simple though. Since your bids will be competing with many others for the same projects its important to get it right or it will be passed over for another in a hurry.

Let’s break down the bid some more with a sample. For this sample bid we create we’ll use the following project:

Project Description:

I need a talented, creative, efficient, organized, self-starting ghost-writer who can help me create web and published content for a variety of different topics.

I will provide the outline and ideas to which I’ll basically need website copy review, tweaks, and edits. Also, I will be needing a feature article for my next newsletter.

I need someone that is marketing minded not just a great writer. Someone that knows how to sell, write good ad copy, etc. I’m looking to outsource a few projects in order to find the right long-term relationship.

Subject Line

If you are sending a bid by email, it is important to catch attention with a catchy subject line. Some job boards, though not all, allow a subject line as well.

What luck! Now you have an expert ghost-writer published in successful websites!

Opening

Greetings, [or if you know a specific name Dear Xxxx,]

Thank you for the opportunity to bid on your project seeking a ghost-writer to create web content. I’ll be more than excited to take on the challenge and you will find all information relating to my skills and experience as well as my cost and time estimates contained in this project bid.

This is a fairly straightforward introduction but its good to begin with a mention of the project at hand.

Skills/Experience

I have ghost-written several ebooks including the sales copy on the websites used to promote them. A few of which are, “Search Engine Secrets You Never Learned,”  “The New Atkins is Here,” and “Million Dollar Jobs From Your Home.”

Here is what you can expect from me as your new ghost-writer:

  • Expert in writing content for ANY subject
  • Will meet all deadlines. Guaranteed or no charge.
  • Will accommodate urgent requests

Notice that this is as brief as possible, yet highlights only the experience that is relevant to the project, which is very important. Wordiness can be fatal here. Also, explain where the employer can find your portfolio and relevant samples of your work such as follows:

Please refer to the attached portfolio and work sample files.

OR

For more information of my skills and work samples please view here:

Portfolio: http://www.myname.com/portfolio

Work Sample (New Atkins is Here): http://www.myname.com/newatkins

Work Sample (Million Dollar Jobs From Your Home): http://www.myname.com/million

Cost/Time Estimate

I have a quick turnaround time for completion of sales copy which is three days for each 500 words of copy. Turnaround for newsletter articles is roughly one day for every 500 words of text. My rates are $0.50/word for search engine optimized sales copy and $0.10/word for articles.

Note that sometimes project descriptions do not have enough information for you to give an exact figure. In this case, it is beneficial to state “I can give you a ballpark estimate of $x” or a range of $x – $y. Then follow up this part with no more than three questions to the employer. More than three questions may be too much of a hassle to answer.

Contact Info and Closing

I am located in New York City and am able to begin working on this project right away. Feel free to contact me anytime at example@example.com, in MSN Messenger under screen name example or by phone at (555) 555-5555. I look forward to working with you and turning your ideas into dollar signs like I did for my previous clients.

Best regards and I look forward to working with you soon.

John Doe

Don’t forget to give your email, instant message screen name (and IM type), phone number and location. You give the appearance of being an easily accessible human being.

Your Homework For Today

Here we covered the basics of the bid, but in the next tutorial, we’ll go over the little tricks used when bidding on projects. So for today, relax and take a breather or have a look back at previous tutorials or catch up on that portfolio or website. Day 13 will be here before you know it.

Here you can download the sample bid used in this post.

The Week In Freelance: September 4th

Posted: September 4th, 2009

The Week In Freelance: August 17th

Posted: August 20th, 2009

The Week In Freelance: August 10th

Posted: August 14th, 2009

  • oDesk has a great post on ten ways to make more money from future clients. Take note since this was written by an employer who hires freelancers and was was once a freelancer himself.
  • Web Worker Daily has 7 things you can do boost a stagnant freelancing career. I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that most freelancers go through a period where they experience boredom in their careers. Taking it out to the open by starting a blog or offering tutorials, as the post suggests, will give it a new dimension when other people are involved and positively affected by what you do.
  • More Web Worker Daily: I like to write in a journal to keep my writing somewhat fresh. The problem is consistently keeping up with it until you eventually quit only to start over again later down the road. A solution to this: just write one-sentence entries.
  • And… Web Worker Daily: Raise you hand if you find it difficult to keep up with your social media and have time for work and a life beyond that. OK, me too. Maybe improving our social media efficiency can help us out.
  • Freelance Folder: Probably the most important step a freelancer should do before starting out is to discover your purpose for freelancing (then create your USP after). It is this reason that stays in the back of your head when times are good and especially when times get a little rough.
  • The Freelance Writing Jobs Network: A fear that is common among freelancers is worrying about your competition when applying for projects. Its a fear that really goes unfounded. The real issue is confidence, not competition.
  • Freelance Switch: If you are a freelancer, eventually there will come a time where you have to provide proof of income to rent an apartment or do anything financially related. It helps to prepare yourself beforehand.
  • Zen Habits: As freelancers, it is easy to take for granted that we can make our own work fun and not think of it like we’re in a job. Leo, not beating around the bush, put it best; “Well, the fun of learning and doing was drilled right out of us. And as adults, we were told we had to work hard to get ahead, that work wasn’t fun but that’s just how life is. Bullshit.”
  • Smashing Magazine: Has an interesting list of specific TV episodes that inspire creativity. They are also a great return to the past when you were glued to the television as a kid (ahem… for those who were kids).
  • The Simple Dollar: Some good advice for life… buy experiences instead of things that end up in a dusty corner.

The Week In Freelance: July 27th

Posted: July 31st, 2009

  • Freelance Folder on seven lies that freelancers tell themselves: We have a tendency to believe certain things about ourselves and our business that give us a false sense of the reality of freelancing. Sometimes they negatively impact our attitude and our bank accounts.
  • Web Worker Daily has five ways to tell if your clients are abusing you and polite ways to prevent it altogether.
  • From Bizzia: Its hard to say no to any work that comes your way. The drawback is that it can pile up, delay completion and stress out you and your client. Therefore, it helps to learn to say no without losing the client.
  • Web Worker Daily on finding the perfect full-time telecommuting job: One of their points that helped me personally; “While many large companies have reputations as great telecommuting employers, there are many small companies willing to consider employees who want to telecommute. While you may need to do a little more convincing, the financial benefits of working with telecommuters can be particularly attractive to small businesses…”
  • From The Simple Dollar: Trent Hamm has an insightful podcast on the realities of freelancing. He discusses his own personal habits and touches on organization, diversifying your income and the process of being able to blog for a living.
  • From The Freelance Writing Jobs Network: In case you still haven’t learned, it is always best keep negative rants and incriminating photos away from any public medium. To reinforce this further, “If you rant about all your clients or former employers on your blog or forums, we can find it. If you’re an incredible gossip, we’ll find it. If you’re stirring up trouble, we’ll find it. This may have no bearing on the job I’m hiring you for but if you’re saying stuff about everyone behind their backs, what will you say about me?”
  • From Sparkplug CEO: Need a good reason to start a blog? How about to get your freelance business found; “Image [sic] you write just three new blog posts a week. […] In a month you’ll have an additional twelve pages published to the Internet where you prospects and customers can find you! […] Now if most of your competitors only have an old outdated five page HTML website you’ll effectively eliminate your competition from the Google Map!”
  • Think you can disconnect from social media for a day and survive? It just may be good for you. [from bkmacdaddy]
  • Zen Habits on three ways to enhance your willpower: “[…] people only have so much willpower. When you have to control yourself, there is less willpower available to you for other parts of your life. This fact is a good one to know because people who lose their will-power often do things that they would rather not. They become aggressive, sexually impulsive, and give up too early on puzzles.”
  • Here are two questions to help you gain perspective on life… and you career. [from Zen Habits]

The Week In Freelance: July 20th

Posted: July 24th, 2009

  • Freelance Folder has 5 simple tricks that make you more attractive to your clients.
  • oDesk on putting a price on your services: “One of the hottest new trends in negotiation theory is “mutual problem solving” which has – to some extent – replaced the more basic bargaining-based approach. The key to mutual problem solving is looking for hidden benefits or creative possibilities for both parties when working together.” In other words, get to know your client’s needs beyond the project scope and sell your specialized skills to maximize your earnings. Part 2 of this post is worth a read too.
  • We all want to find ways to spend less time at work. Zen Habits has five ways to help you get started.
  • Bizzia on using give-aways to promote your business: “Three reasons why you should be giving stuff away to people: (1) People respond to gifts by feeling a sense of obligation.  It’s the principle of Reciprocity I talked about several months ago.  If you give them something, they will feel they should do something for you. (2) People can put the gift somewhere to remember your business. (3) They can share the gift with friends as they refer your business to them.”
  • Do you know the formula for success and happiness? You probably can already guess optimism, but grounded optimism is something we should really be applying. [from Goodlife Zen]
  • A lack of funds can be a reason your vacation might not be in Hawaii this year. The “staycation”, however, can really make you see the true point of a vacation. [from Goodlife Zen]
  • Instead of taking time off only to return to a mountain of stressful work, try taking mini mental breaks. [from Web Worker Daily]
  • Still procrastinating? Give yourself a procrastination innculation. [from Zen Habits]

Is Boredom Hurting Your Freelance Career?

Posted: June 22nd, 2009

Photo by AliceNWondrlnd (Flickr)

Photo by AliceNWondrlnd (Flickr)

One of the greatest perks of being a freelancer, if not the best, is the ability to control the direction of our careers. After all, we are the CEO of our own business and it’s success and our happiness depends strictly on the decisions we make. Unfortunately, it is easily to lose sight of this as we become busy with our day to day work.  The tendency is to fall into a routine of working just to pay the bills without really enjoying what we do. In essence, the passion in our careers begins to wane.

If you ever had a regular job at the office, doesn’t this pattern sound familiar? In most jobs, this is fairly common since your work is controlled by a higher being, namely a supervisor, leaving you to do what someone else tells you. Many have left their jobs to become freelancers for this very reason. They see themselves as a slave to their job.

The irony for freelancers is that we tend to take for granted our own directional control and fall into a comfort zone where, if we have work and are busy, we should be happy with that. What results, though, is that the work eventually becomes monotonous if it doesn’t challenge our skills. A reality is that in order to be happy in our careers, we have to grow and evolve our skill set. A conscious decision has to made to do so, though.

This is where the dilemma arises. To evolve our career, we usually need to take time off our work to take classes or learn on our own. If we’re lucky we might be able to find a “learning” project where we can learn new skills while completing it. These opportunities don’t always knock our door, though. So usually the case is that the time we use to work and make money is sacrificed for learning new skills and opting to work is done.

So what is a freelancer to do?

Ask yourself what you want to be doing one year from now? Nearly every freelancer envisions themselves being the best in their field yet find themselves doing work that once challenged their skills, but now no longer. Think about what skills you want to aquire and what type of new challenging work you want to perform.

What do you need to do to get there?  There are a million ways to learn new skills, from taking classes to finding the experts in your field and seeking their advice  or even learning on your own with solo projects. Whatever it is, there is always a way.

Create a plan of action. There is always a path to greatness yet it takes commitment on your part to go down it. That commitment requires a plan set in stone and you to actually fulfill it. Skip a few hours of TV time week and take that class down at your local college or find one of the limitless amount of tutorials over the internet. Create your own projects utilizing these new skills for your portfolio.

To go about growing in our careers and eliminating our work boredom, we have to go that extra mile and work for it. The best freelancers go out there continually advance their skills and take on new challenges. There’s absolutely no reason, though, why you can’t be one of them.

Uh Oh! What To Do When Motivation Runs On Empty

Posted: June 18th, 2009

Photo by Semihundido (Flickr)

Photo by Semihundido (Flickr)

Freelance just long enough and you eventually experience cycles of ultimate productivity followed by bouts of ultimate unproductivity. Its actually quite normal and inevitably occurs at some time or another. Our lives are not lived solely as freelancers (most of us anyway) and we have other external forces that affect our work such as sudden events, our general mood and the dreaded summertime distractions.

It is at that point when these forces can affect our motivation to work enough to cause us to get off track, or in the worst case, cease it altogether. This can be despite even having projects to do and upcoming deadlines to meet. Normally this isn’t fatal to a freelance career, though, since we eventually right the ship and move on. This isn’t always an easy task.

Luckily, I’ve been through enough of these cycles to recognize them and take appropriate action to get back on track. The following are steps I’ve used with success and could be adapted in some form should the cycle hit you too.

Go Back To Your Purpose For Freelancing

We obviously became freelancers for certain reasons whether it be flexible hours or being your own boss. It’s very easy to lose sight of these reasons, however, when we’re busy as hell and when we don’t feel like working. So this is the perfect time to dust off your purpose for being a freelancer which will help you focus on the tasks ahead and fulfill that purpose.

Take it a step further and write it down and post it somewhere where you will see it everyday.

Plan

Set up a schedule over the next week of the exact hours you plan on working and the exact work you will be doing during that time. Then here comes the hardest part: commit to the schedule as if your life depended on it. A schedule acts your blueprint to getting back on track schedule but isn’t any good if it is not followed.

It is also important to take it one day at a time. Remember, you are essentially rebuilding the habit of working productively. A good habit takes three weeks to happen but gets easier day by day. A good habit can also be destroyed in a day, too, so keep the focus on your tasks for the day at hand. They eventually will all add up.

A Half Hour of Concentration

When starting your work, focus your attention on the first half hour which will set the tone for the rest of the day. If that time is spent working diligently, then it is easy to continue working that way throughout the day. Conversely, if it is spent being distracted from work, then the rest of the day could become unproductive.

Resist Distractions

It won’t matter how focused you are in your work, there will always be the temptation to give in to whatever distractions, even as small as checking the news update on CNN. The slightest distraction has a tendency to balloon into a bigger one and throw you off for the day.

It helps to think back to the times when you were most productive and worked hours straight without even a potty break. Keep this in the back of your head when resisting the need to wander off from working.

Reward Yourself

If you are finally now able to go back to working a productive day, do yourself a favor and reward it with a Guinness down at the pub or going out for a nice meal. Then reward yourself after a full week back of working hard. Trust me, it works the same as when you were a kid and got ice cream for raking up the leaves in the yard.

What’s Your Story?

Have you ever had to deal with bouts of unproductivity and how did you handle it? If you have a great method, please drop a comment below and explain. I’d love to hear your replies.

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