After leaving my corporate job last fall, I joined up with elance.com, a site designed to help freelancers find work. I submitted 29 bids and got selected once, the one time I offered to work for less than minimum wage. The economics are tough: elance is a global marketplace, so I was bidding with my high hourly rate against folks in parts of the world with much lower hourly rates. Many of those folks have similar skillsets to what I’m able to offer via elance’s framework.
So I stopped bidding as an attempt to make money and I left my profile up as an invitation. I want to meet and work with aspiring new businesses and stay engaged with companies of various shapes and descriptions. Anyone on elance can invite me to bid their job along with all the many others around the world scanning the site regularly.
Here is an actual request (client’s name replaced with the word “Client”).
Now right away, having done one or two sets of startup financials, I can see that it isn’t going to happen for $50. I’ve found that when folks give a very narrow range like this, they know very well what they want to spend. I have two choices:
- Decline the bid with one of elance’s woefully inadequate, unchangeable stock messages, like, “The budget is too low”; or
- Bid something that will fit within budget.
I pick option two, because for me, on elance, it’s all about meeting great new businesses, not making money, not yet anyway. So here is what I bid:
That’s my bid. Pretty tidy and friendly, if you ask me. (Note: I use the word “we” because part of my advertising is, “If I can’t do the job myself, I can find the expert to do it for you.” Also, I’m doing this somewhat like a realtor does it, with a mix of personal trust and business officialdom: my personal image is featured prominently but I’m working under a separate company set up for this purpose. If they want to know more, they can view my profile on the site or reply to that message.)
Here is the first part of a short, increasingly unpleasant conversation that ensued before the client blocked me (yes, they blocked me):
For the record, when I submitted my bid, 19 other bids had been proposed at an average price of $90, a high price of $548, and a low price of $22. It would have been enough for this client to decline or ignore my bid and take one of the several that likely fell within her budget. Instead, she accused me of wasting her time. You’ll recall that she invited me to bid.
(As an aside, let me say that elance could do about ten times better than it does at screening and coaching clients.)
I wish I knew what business she was starting so we could track it, but here’s my prediction: it will fail. In business, you want to be both loved and savvy. If you can’t have both, you need at least one. People who are loved will attract others who will make up for their deficiencies. People who are very savvy make it work even if they’re loathed. So you need one or the other.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that maybe this isn’t the first time she’s flown off the handle. So who can she attract to work with her? And it’s not the savviest thing for her to give her financial worksheets – the most important part of her startup planning – over to the low bidder.