As an Agency that currently works on Elance where price/timeframe are the primary criteria buyers seem to be shopping with, how can I get ahead?

I know our quality of service is far superior, and I know that all the people (or at least 90% of the people) pitching lower prices than us won't be able to deliver an end product that will be of much benefit to the client (even if they do manage to fulfil the technical requirements). We want to actually talk to buyers to figure out how and if we can actually help them, but most insist on us just sending a quote so they can screen everyone based on pricing before proceeding to discussions.


Remember when you start a business or are an established business you have to decide who is your perfect customer, since not all potential customers are equal, and not all potential customers are profitable. It is likely that the type of customer who is purely price orientated like those on Elance etc. may not be profitable to your overall business success as it is very unlikely they will pay you more in the future. You would be better focusing your marketing attempts on finding customers who do appraciate your work and understand the added value your agency has to offer, than chasing jobs, by people that only value you and your business by lowest price, which is a business model that can only lead to failure.

Answered 10 years ago

Consider that Elance is only one marketing venue. And though a segment of your market may shop there - you may find that you only end up with "bargain" shoppers.

If the product/service you provide is superior and you can demonstrate this to the marketplace then it makes sense that you should be able to price it higher.

You are currently offering a great value service to a bargain marketplace....So your current business model is bound to fail.

There are several things you can do to move your business forward.

For example - use Elance as a lead gen marketplace, offering a lower value entry level service that can be priced competitively and upsell to a higher value service.

For more ideas and a simple way to build a more profitable business model, give me a call.

Best of luck!

Answered 10 years ago

You've received a great deal of success from working on Elance, but as your question implies, it's time to get into the real world. Clients are all around, and they need your expertise. Take the plunge, you won't regret it.
Good luck.

Answered 10 years ago

Having successfully procured contracts for proposal writing through Elance, Freelancer, and oDesk, I agree with Craig that defining your targeted customer is extremely important and even more so now that competition is global and platforms such as Elance enable instant connections between clients and contractors. Many potential clients on platforms such as Elance, Freelancer, oDesk, etc. are purely looking for low-cost contractors. As your business doesn't sound like one that is willing to compete on price, then you need to pursue potential customers that are willing to pay a premium for your services.

In my experience on these platforms, you can generally tell the willingness of a potential client to pay a premium by the effort they put into the job description. A simple one sentence request for proposals is probably coming from a potential client that is looking for the cheapest contractor. On Elance you can also pay for a premium membership allowing you to see what budgets other freelancers are submitting. This will enable you to see if you can be price-competitive. Finally, I have also had clients come back after working with a low-cost contractor whose quality of work wasn't satisfactory. Some potential clients may realize that they get what they pay for. So, it doesn't hurt to submit some proposals in which you may be at the high end of cost - it's a good way to get your name out. The client may come back to you.

Good luck with your efforts. Please get in touch with me if you want more details on how I approach platforms such as Elance for my business.

Answered 10 years ago

I'll be blunt: you can't.

I've ran design agencies for years and in the beginning I was obsessed with this question, thinking our dashing service could win them over. "If only we could get in the door our problems would be solved!" I'd proclaim to no one in particular.

But over time with hundreds of clients beat the truth into me.

There are three factors in every purchase: speed, cost, and quality. Most buying decisions are based on emphasizing two. Fast food is speed and low cost, missing quality. A fancy steak house is low speed, high quality and cost. Everything is a compromise.

If someone doesn't *value* quality they won't pay for it. If someone doesn't have the *budget* to afford quality they won't pay for it.

So, the bad news: elance is filled with the above.

This is why you're not winning there. Their qualifiers are misaligned. That is not knocking elance, it is just a reality. They don't want a conversation they want a low cost solution. It is insanely unlikely that you will walk away with longterm clients who value what you do and are willing to pay well for it.

But there is a silver lining...

This means you can focus on customers who you can win with. Those that value quality. Those that believe in responding when you put some effort in. Those probably not on elance.

Love to help on the agency end if I can at all in the future too about how to find clients. Feel free to reach out to me through Clarity and you'll be helping a good charity at the same time.

Answered 9 years ago

This is an old question and I hope you've pivoted since...
However, if you haven't the simple answer is to focus less on those places. You're in the low hanging fruit section of the web so you will get the low prices-- most of the time.

If you want to be paid based on your value not your time, you've gotta do what the rest of us do. :)
--Hustle to put scalable marketing systems in place.

Begin with the basic fundamentals of mapping out your ideal client, setting up an email list, and put content out there to attract them to you.

I know what it's like (as many experts here do) to get started but you'll never grow playing small.
All the Best!

Answered 9 years ago

Might I suggest a referral program? If your service and quality are above your competition there, referrals should eventually take over as your main source of business.

Think of ways to encourage that behavior without being annoying. Offer some cool kickbacks. Give out some apple watches.

IMO, those sites are nothing but a rat race to the lowest dollar. Know your value and demand it before you take on a project.

Answered 9 years ago

I know this question is 3 years old now, but I’m new to Clarity and thought I’d answer it anyway as I think it’s a good question.

I’ve hired many contractors on Elance (believe it's now called UpWork). If you’ve ever tried to hire a contractor for a particular task, the majority don’t even read your project requirements and send in a generic description of their business credentials.

A huge mistake as typically I care about two things:
1/ Has my project requirements been read?
2/ Is this contractor(s) capable of meeting my needs?

You mention that most buyers want a price before proceeding to discussions. If you price higher than your competitors try to avoid giving away a price until you have further information.

As long as you can demonstrate that you have read the buyer's project requirement by asking intelligent questions, then they will most likely be tempted to answer your questions and engage in a dialogue giving you a higher chance of winning the project.

That is how my hiring process on freelancing sites always went. I would usually end up having an in-depth conversation with 2-3 contractors and selecting the one I felt could meet my needs.

In your question, you mentioned that price/timeframe are the primary criteria buyers use. I would also add reviews and the contractor demonstrating they understand my needs are also important factors.

I rarely went for the cheapest/fastest contractor alone (although price and lead time are important factors) but the contractor that I had confidence in to do the job correctly even if it meant paying more for that peace of mind.

For a limited time I’m offering free advice for 20mins.
VIP link:

Rob Stephens

Answered 7 years ago

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