How to Get Clients on Elance

So you want to use Elance and make some serious money, but you don’t know where to start? As it turns out, closing clients on Elance is not as complicated as it might seem. On the contrary, the process is quite simple, it just requires due diligence, persistence and a solid strategy.

While there are a myriad of things that you can do to obtain more clients, in this article we wanted to focus on the four things you should look into right now. These are the 4 things that bring the most bang-for-the-buck, yet remain unused by most Elancers. (and here is some info on how to find freelance clients outside of Elance)

1) Take all the skill tests you can

You must have already stumbled upon Elance’s free skill tests. There is a good reason that the Elance team tends to remind you about these tests every now and then, even though answering a bunch of questions might seem like a waste of time at this point. In most cases, freelancers are not doing enough tests to see the difference.

There are a plethora of beginners who break into the business every single day. And yet, clients are generally more willing to hire someone with work experience over someone who has nothing to show for their time on the site. How do these beginners do it, how do they break into the business without the work experience?

Elance Skills Tests

It’s simple: they do it by taking the free tests. This shows the prospective employer that you are a serious and dedicated employee, long before you have a backlog of successful projects to your name.

The secret to quick market entry

Freelancers who make a quick impact upon joining Elance are the ones who take dozens of tests every week, until it works in their favor. In fact, every freelancer is three times more likely to get hired if they do skill tests. The truth of the matter is, employers don’t really care that you have Basic English skills or enough know-how to use proprietary software. All they want to see is that you are the type of person takes work on Elance seriously.

That’s the point of taking these skill tests. They weed out the less serious, and often younger freelancers, from the people who can truly get the job done. This might ring an “ageist” tone to your ears, but it is simply how the current system operates.

Employers are often afraid of being your “first”, so to speak, in that they avoid fresh and young freelancers. So, no matter what your education promises, people will not invest their money in you if you are unreliable.

When an employer makes the final decision about whether to contact you, it all boils down to your online portfolio. Your Elance portfolio paints an image of credibility and it’s the only thing a stranger has to go off of. If you cannot have a portfolio full of past work, you can have one full of tests.

2) Play the simple psychology game

You need to think of employers as people who are primarily afraid to lose their money. They have it and they wish to invest it, but horror stories of the “big bad Internet” have convinced them that even the most credible options tend to disappoint. The employers pretty much expect to be tricked out of their money and because of this paranoia, the more you try to convince them that you are trustworthy, the less they want to do business with you.

You need to hook clients in with an indifferent attitude that says, “I really want your business, but it wouldn’t break my heart if I can’t have it.”  When you approach people with this attitude you have two advantages. On the one hand, you are less likely to repel them with any sense of neediness or desperation, and on the other hand, you are less likely to take rejection too personally.

Playing hard to get isn’t enough, you need to understand your target

While following this advice about indifference can help you come across in a better way, having a good approach is far from being a complete solution to attracting clients. If you wish to get a direct path into your client’s psyche, you have to be smarter and find a more productive route. The shortcut to connecting with a client comes from understanding how a prospective employer thinks, what he or she feels and what their fears and ambitions are.

Employer Fears

Employer Ambitions

  • Being scammed or mislead on the terms of the partnership
  • Finding a consistent contractor they can work with in the long run
  • Wasting time and getting nothing in return
  • Minimizing stress and overhead
  • Finding a great contractor, but learning they have no long-term interest
  • Getting a greal deal and return on investment

Employers are just as tired of reviewing and testing contractors, as you are trying to impress potential clients. Their ultimate ambition is that they could recognize “the one” final contractor and simply get on with running their business, knowing that the perfect worker is at their beck and call.

If you understand this typical employer profile and their fears and ambitions, you will communicate more effectively and be able to bypass all of their psychological defenses and barriers.

In practical terms, this means you need to be aware that your user profile is the first impression employers get from you. Employers love looking at profiles because it makes them feel as if they are peeking into your personality without having to meet you or talk to you.

The irrationality in decision-making

Note that humans are imperfect and make business decisions based on emotion, image and perception far more than they rely on logic. An obvious example is where a less qualified company with a prettier website will get more clients than a better company with a plain website.

In Elance terms this means that if you win over an employee’s emotions, you don’t have to work as hard to win over their logical mind. Employers know at an instinctual level that if you have invested your time and effort to pass all those skill tests and build up a fancy well-written profile, you must be diligent and responsible. Use the power of perception and image to your benefit, because this is how humans process the unknown.

elance profiles

If you focus on building up your perceived image and profile for a few weeks, you can go from being a potential liability, to being a highly sought after Elance contractor.

3) Display professional behavior

Most new contractors on Elance tend to envision it as some entity that owes them a job. Just because there are countless employers out there, one gets the feeling that work falls from the proverbial sky – which, simply said, isn’t true.

To simply break into the business, you need to be humble and grateful at the same time. Above all, you need to admit to yourself that you are desperate to land a job. Bear in mind, though, that employers would never hire someone desperate. In fact, they tend to perceive desperate freelancers as a liability to be avoided at all costs.

While it might sound a little simplistic, you can master the art of professional behavior by merely observing a few key points:

  • Be confident
  • Know your boundaries
  • Set your working conditions


  • Set a clear work rate
  • Avoid procrastination
  • Over-deliver

In practice this means that you should always show high confidence in your skills when getting in touch with a prospective client. It means that you shouldn’t be afraid to place conditions on the working partnership or refuse work that you believe unsuitable.

If you want to appear professional, you always want to make sure to keep your promises and clearly communicate what the client may expect. This means that you set very clear working rates and time estimates. In fact, you have to account for your own procrastinating tendencies and always under-promise yet over-deliver.

4) Be pro-active

Expecting work to find you is insane and begging for it is out of the question. Elance is host to millions of opportunities and thousands of them are sure to fit you. Given that all it takes is one good opportunity for you to start building your online reputation, you must admit that the odds are stacked in your favor.

People will tell you that patience is a virtue, but it doesn’t mean that you should just wait for clients to find you. Sure, there are always the lucky oddballs out there who join Elance and start getting projects in a few days.

Don’t let the exceptions mislead you however – not everyone is cut from the same cloth. The odds are that it will take you some time to land your first job. On the flipside though, if you have no luck over large periods of time, chances are that there is a deeper issue with your approach and strategy.

Don’t be afraid of playing the numbers game

Make sure to evaluate each and every opportunity equally, without getting your hopes up. Avoid putting all your eggs in the same basket and branch out. Throw a wide net and fish for clients wherever you may get them.

Bid on every project that you feel qualified for. Don’t wait for a response from any one given employer and just continue throwing the bait out there. It’s only a matter of time before someone bites, so stick to it.

You should be self-critical and constantly evaluate your efforts

If you are confident that your Elance profile is perfect, but you can’t hook a single project, it’s not perfect enough. Do more tests. If you believe that you are presenting yourself correctly, but employers seem to refuse to speak to you for a second time, something is seriously amiss.

A second evaluation of your profile is always welcome and making a great first impression is crucial. Be ready for some extra work and research, so that you become an employee that serves as an example to others.

Conquering Elance, it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3

Elance is one of those services where you should not let bad luck undermine your confidence. What matters is that you try to create your own luck. Elance is far from perfect, but it works if you follow the right steps diligently. At the end of the day, all that matters is that you expose yourself to as many clients as possible. You need to keep in mind that once success finds you, you never have to go through the painful process of building up your reputation again.

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