11 tips for scoring that first job on Elance


Last week, I was griping about the lack of money in freelancing for newbie writers. I had just joined Elance and the idea of competing against more experienced writers for badly paid jobs was daunting. It didn’t seem like I would ever get my feet off the ground.

This week, I have just completed my first Elance job and have another one in progress. I’ll admit the pay isn’t great, but hey, it’s the experience that counts. That’s just one of the things I wizened to while browsing that never-ending job board. So, while it may seem cocky offering advice two weeks in, I have to say it’s been a steep learning curve already. Leaping in without a single rope to hold onto…

So, with my bounteous knowledge, I present: My 11 tips on getting your first Elance Job.

  1.  Have a complete profile. One that is compelling and demonstrates WHY anyone would want to hire you.
  2. Have a great opening line. The first sentence or two from your overview shows up under the job listing whenever you apply for one. Make sure it grabs the attention right away.
  3. Upload writing samples. Any potential employer can view your profile, and with an excellent range of writing samples, you can show them what you can do. It also helps you revise what kind of a writer you are, what you’re best at and what work you should be concentrating on finding.
  4. Take tests. Possibly the easiest way to prove your skills to an employer. The tests are multiple choice and don’t take long to do, and if you score well that will show on your profile. It also help you understand what kind of skill level you’re at, and challenge what you thought you knew about your expertise.
  5. Start small. If you have zero freelance experience and no client ratings, there is no way an employer will pay you plum rates. While qualifications and a great portfolio help, getting experience should be your first priority if you want to move up in the freelancing game. Bid low, work hard, and get those five-star ratings.
  6. Don’t sell yourself short. There are freelancers out there that charge $3 an hour, or even less. Serious employers won’t hire you if you don’t take yourself seriously. Decide on a minimum price for your work and don’t accept anything below that.
  7. Choose wisely. There are employers on Elance who genuinely want a quality product and will pay fairly for it. Then there are the ones who just want it as quickly and cheaply as possible. Consider the nature of the listing – is it well written and clear in its objective? Is the client willing to pay decent money? Being selective will also help you stop wasting Connects (you only get 40 a month to apply for jobs).
  8. Tailor your proposals. I honestly can’t stress this enough. An employer knows if you are just copying and pasting a stock-standard proposal into every listing. Read the job description carefully and respond sensitively. Take a personal approach and alter your tone to every client. Recast your qualifications, experience and interests in a light that engages the employer. Let them know that you’re diligent and imaginative and attentive to detail.
  9. Respond quickly. If a client contacts you, reply to them as soon as you get their message. If you keep them hanging for long, they will simply move on to another freelancer.
  10. Stalk your competition. Didn’t get the job? Trust me, I’ve been knocked back too many times over the past week, too. Whenever my bid is rejected, I look at the awarded freelancer’s profile and rates and see what they might have done right. It may be qualifications, experience, ratings or price – check them out and take notes.
  11. Chin up. I know it can be disheartening, applying for low level jobs and getting nowhere. But how does that Drake song go again? Every freelancer started from the bottom, with no experience, ratings or money. There are enough success stories on the site to motivate you to keep it up, no matter how slow your progress is initially.

    You will learn, you will win and you will write.

Writing for money: It’s a jungle out there.

When I was in Year 12 weighing up my options for the future, I chose writing because it seemed easy. Well, maybe not easy but certainly easier than any other career I thought was available. I wasn’t any good at maths or science, and my art didn’t have ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ is. But I could churn out an essay with a few hours’ preparation. Today, I realise that was more luck than anything else.

When you’re 18, looking forwards, all you see is the money and the glamour and the prestige that comes from a career. You don’t focus on the unpaid hours, the hand cramps from typing, the mind-numbing shifts at the store/takeaway because, no, you’re not a famous writer yet and you can barely pay your phone bill.

I realise this may sound cynical. Truly, I find it quite funny how quickly I had to come to terms with the reality of the writing world. If only someone had told me sooner… or if only I’d listened.

On the first day of my journalism course, the lecturer stood up and said, “Journalism is dead”. He then expounded on just how difficult it was to get into the industry, how much unpaid work was ahead, that the newspapers were going under because of sheer amount of cheap content online. He was unblinkling-ly, finger-waggling-ly serious.

We all nodded and laughed ruefully. Perhaps on the surface, we knew what he was saying was right. But deep down, in that sacred place where we had dreamed and designed futures for ourselves, we all wanted to be the exception. The writerly wunderkind who got an undergrad position first-off, out of sheer performance and talent. Or created a prize-winning, money-attracting blog with thousands of followers – the other type of celebrity in the media faculty.

We all had our media pin-ups – George Negus, Mia Freedman, Wendy Harmer, etc. But I wanted to be someone fictional – Carrie Bradshaw. Growing up, I was fascinating she could babble on narcissistically (kind of like me know) and still get paid enough to buy her Manolo Blahniks. Of course, Carrie is a fairytale – but there have been those to follow her business model very successfully.

Three years on from starting my degree and I am no Carrie. Sure, I own a lot of shoes but that’s where the similarities end. I get to write about the things I love for my internship and I am so grateful for that experience. But I am so broke. I don’t even have a takeaway job to pay my phone bill. So much for the independent, career-savvy city girl.

This week I signed on to eLance in a bid to make some money. Immediately, I was stunned by the amount of jobs asking for $1 per 500 words, or $20 to write an eBook. This was not the glamorous life I imagined. However, I’ve come to accept the reality – if you really want to be writer you need to put in the hard yards first. You need to do the unpaid work you love, the terribly paid work you hate, and build a career from there. There is no guarantee you will get a job when you graduate, so you need to create jobs for yourself. Even if it starts with a narcissistic blog post.

Writers – do you make money from your writing? How? (Really, tell me all your secrets). Or are you coming to terms with an unrealistic dream of your own?

Why I write better when I’m tired

It’s scientifically proven that your brain works better on a good night’s sleep. So obviously as writers we should all be trying to get good rest. That’s not something I ever want to dispute. Sleep, everybody, is good. I wish I had more of it.

But when you’re running out of time, pulling an all-nighter or simply tired all the time, how does your writing measure up? Not too badly, as I found out this week.

First of all, I had an awful night’s sleep. A toxic combo of stress, hormones and bad routine meant I got less than two hours – and I was paying for it, badly. You know that slightly achey, very delirious feeling when you pull an all-nighter? Facing nine hours of office work with this sickly feeling, I was doubting I would get through the day. Rushing out the door, my eyelids felt weighted with lead.

On the bus ride to work I was very concerned I would fall asleep and miss my stop. So I used my smartphone to stimulate my brain. The neon brights of Candy Crush were too harsh at this time of day, so I thought I would write instead. I’m not sure why I felt compelled to write some of the novel I haven’t touched in months, especially in this state.

Unbelievably, the words started to flow out of me – lyrical, honest prose that I haven’t been able to achieve in months. The section I wrote was about my protagonist’s obsession with another girl’s beauty and her frustration that she couldn’t envision it in all its glory when they were apart.

Reading over it now, I realise it’s not perfect but I was able to get a few lovely phrases – “the sadness in her eyes when she smiled, the ballet of her white fingers across the table” – that I’m really happy with.

When I arrived at work, I completed my work more quickly and they packed a certain punch word-wise that I have been struggling to achieve in my fashion/lifestyle journalism internship.

And thinking back, haven’t my best-marked works at uni been completed last-minute, when my brain is so overworked and over-caffeinated from various assignments that I’ve forgotten how to spell?

So what’s the story, then? How I can be a better writer when my brain is sluggish, my body feels like a dead weight and my emotions are haywire?

The answer: carelessness. Yes, carelessness – in my case – is the key to good writing. I have always been the girl to obsess over grammar and syntax and how others will read my writing. In moderation, those are good qualities in writers. In surplus, they make you neurotic to the point that writing is too intimidating to even continue.

The lack of sleep made me not think so much about writing, and just do it. I was so deliriously exhausted and mad at the world that I came to possess an IDGAF attitude. Being dog-tired also makes you emotionally brittle and overcharged. It brings all those deep, blazing feelings up to the surface so you can access them easier.

I think this was a major breakthrough for me. While I’m not going to forgo sleep in the name of art – and I strongly discourage anyone doing so – I will try to channel the immediacy and the authenticity sleeplessness gave me in my writing.

To just breathe in, breathe out, and write. For nobody but myself. And not caring what anyone thinks about it. Because I’m tired and right now the perfect phrasing is like a shot of Red Bull straight into my veins. And if this story’s anything to go by, I’m capable of doing it. I just have to let go.

Apologies of a Reformed Grammar Snob

Not a day goes by that I don’t doubt my writing talents in some aspect. I think that’s just part and parcel of being a writer, and as long as I have just enough drive to keep doing it, I’m probably going to continue feeling this way. However, there is one feature of writing that I KNOW I am inherently good at: spelling and grammar.


Spelling and grammar. Just thinking about it gives me that warm, wild feeling like the first sip of a really good cup of tea (I may or may not be exaggerating here). But isn’t there something so wonderful, so immaculate about clean copy?

It’s probably the part of English that most students dreaded, and yet, was my favourite because I knew I couldn’t fail at it. Now, I’m not saying that I don’t make little mistakes here and there – especially at 2am when I decide to do most of my writing – but, overall, I feel I have pretty good grasp on the difference between there, their and they’re.

Unfortunately, I am told, this does make me somewhat of a (gasp) grammar snob.

Your an idiot entry urban dictionary

Moss is so adorable he can correct me anytime.

My attempts at reigning it in have not been entirely successful. I desperately try to control it when I am around friends, or potential employers, but eventually my inner pedant comes bursting out like a red-Biro-wielding assassin. “Um, there should be a comma there,” I say politely, cursing the day I ever picked up an Oxford Style Guide. “You see, you wrote: ‘My inspirations are my parents, Barack Obama and Taylor Swift.’ It makes it seems as though Obama and Taylor Swift are your parents. Imagine that! But, yeah, that’s wrong. You should fix that. Immediately. Now. Why are you looking at me like that? It’s your fault!”

As you can imagine, such perfectionism, while always justified in my mind, is pretty intolerable to any outside parties.

It was only when I tried to learn another language, Welsh, that I realised how difficult learning a language could be. As a rule, Welsh (Cymraeg) is both very beautiful and very weird. It is made up of sounds otherwise alien to the human race (the ‘ll’ is a particularly fearsome beast). It has (by English standards) backwards grammar, and a male and female dictionary, which I find very hard to see the point in. On top of all this, the language is subject to a variety of mutations which make absolutely no sense and will immediately out you as a novice if you fail to remember. I would hate to be judged on my (mis)use of this language.

Welcome to Wales. And good luck with that.

The only thing reassuring about Cymraeg is that the rules were solid and unwavering. Once you had a grasp of them, it was simply a matter of building a vocabulary. English, on the other hand, is an entirely different bag. The rules to English are hopelessly variable, transforming from country to country, and, generally, cannot be trusted. Remember the old saying: ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’? Well, that has more exceptions than the rules that follow it. Another thing that is exempt from Cymraeg: silent letters. Now, as much as love words, I just cannot see a good reason for the ‘p’ in pneumonia. As if it wasn’t hard to spell already!

(Of course, I jest. I love those curious little spellings. I live for them.)

My point is that I never really understood the idiosyncrasies of English before I started to learn another language. I have been fortunate to have picked up English pretty easily and never have too much trouble with spelling and grammar. But that’s just me. I can’t expect everyone to have the same obsession over dangling participles! So, I resolve, unless in an environment where I would be expected to correct spelling and grammar, I must let it go. It’s difficult, but hopefully it will make me a bit less of a raging nerd in public.

Rachel xx

Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor (Review)

It’s time for Steven Moffat to throw in the towel. However, before he does so, we’ll probably hear several overly indulgent and poetic speeches about how memorable his towel was, how awfully sad it is that it will be replaced by another towel, and how much better it was than the towels before it. Perhaps Clara will even read out a pretentious Christmas cracker to highlight the sheer magnitude of the event.

The more I watch Doctor Who the more I am convinced that Steven Moffat is writing crack!fic for the masses. Remember in the 50th Anniversary episode, he retconned several series’ worth of character development and emotional investment in favour of bringing back the Time Lords? Well, now, the Time Lords are back, and they’re causing absolute mayhem. They’re waiting for Doctor to give them the go ahead to come through to his Universe, which is perplexing, as they have never given a damn about him before. The Time Lord signal has attracted all the baddie aliens (just like in the Pandorica Opens) and they will seriously go Rambo on the poor jolly Christmas town if the Doctor lets them through.

Also: Clara apparently has a family, which is a good enough reason for her to drag the Doctor out of intergalactic bedlam so he can ‘pretend’ to be her boyfriend. Well played, Clara.

The first scenes are the most lighthearted; the rest of episode features the Doctor slowly growing old and waxing lyrical about death, while Clara steadily weeps. The Doctor, in Clara’s absence, has found a new companion in Handles, a Cyberman head who is like the PA the Doctor doesn’t actually need. An unexpected nudity gag is pretty funny, if not underplayed. “He’s Swedish” is not a sentence that would satisfy my concerns if a naked Matt Smith just wandered into my sitting room.

But from here on the episode is a disappointing mixture of confusion and pomposity. 

Things happen for no reason at all, other than the obvious reason that Moffat thought it would be cool. Of course, Handles must broadcast the translation of the Gallifreyan message to the baddie aliens so that swelling music can play while they all stand around listening to the ominous chanting of “Doctor Who?… Doctor Who?”. (We get it Moffat – that’s the name of the show.)

The Doctor swallows regeneration energy (a gift from the Time Lords after Clara shamed them into realising how great he was), which now has the power to explode Dalek ships and destroy whole landscapes with all the power of Vesuvius. (Clara and the cheerful Christmas people, however still survived… because they went indoors).

Matt Smith also has the most self-indulgent swansong of all the Doctors. He spends 300 years protecting the town of Christmas from being exploded, while a voice-over phones in the emotional development. He makes friends with all the townspeople, has a fulfilling and kind of normal stay-put life, and yet still moans about how his time is ending. As the Sun goes down, he sighs to Clara: “Everything ends… and sooner than you’d think.”

Clara’s desperate mission to save the Doctor is little more sympathetic. It has only been a day for her, and, like Christopher Eccleston did to Rose, she has been abandoned on Earth for her own safety… twice. The scene of Clara crying at the Christmas table is genuinely heartbreaking as she is defeated by his friendly betrayal. It’s only unfortunate that the only thing properly developed in Clara’s personality is her drive to save and be with him him. You can tell that Moffat is trying to give her some character by giving her a wee family, but it’s not enough yet. 

In the end, like Rose, she does go back and save him, and that means he must change once again. But Matt Smith’s departure is not nearly as poignant as it should have been, even if there was poetry involved. It’s no discredit to Smith, who is an incredibly fine actor. He embodies the boyish madness and wizened regret of the Doctor simultaneously. It’s just a shame that Steven Moffat has let the brilliance of his co-creation go to his head. The Doctor’s final moments shouldn’t be about the glory and memorability of his tenure, but the fear of an experience he can only really go through alone.

Looking back on David Tennant’s emotional exit, there are a lot of things in common. Tennant also had a whizz-bang finale, had a run-in with the Time Lords, moped around a bit and said an extended goodbye to his former companions. The difference was the final sacrifice he had to make, in spite of all his Time Lord greatness, in order to save Donna’s kind and very ordinary grandfather, Wilf. We didn’t cry because he was glorious. We cried because he was humbled.