Finding freelance jobs: 6 sites for talented techies

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Elance

About the service

Elance connects freelancers looking for work with businesses looking for help.

How it works

Companies post jobs on Elance looking for independent professionals with particular skills. Service providers submit proposals and the company hires the best fit based on a combination of skills, reputation, communication skills and price. Both parties use the Elance Online Work System to set up the job, establish key milestones, deliver status reports, provide feedback on work in progress, and make payment using Elance's escrow system.

at a glance

Elance

In-demand skills

Elance's recently released hiring trends index shows that companies are seeking help building world-class websites, hiring experts in PHP, MySQL, HTML, CSS, XHTM, Joomla and AJAX.

Earning potential

Elance is like the real world, and those who are committed to doing great work and incubating long-lasting client relationships are very successful on Elance. Some providers are happy earning a few hundred bucks over a weekend, while others are banking hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, according to the company.

By the numbers

  • 26,423 New Jobs Posted in the last 30 days
  • 80,403 Active Experts

Elance makes money when the work is delivered and payments are made through Elance. When clients (employers) make a payment to their service providers, Elance deducts between 6.75% and 8.75% from the payment to cover its Service Fee and Payment Processing costs, and transfers the remaining amount directly to the service provider.

Additionally, Elance service providers choose between free and paid monthly membership plans based on their level of activity. People who hire Elancers pay no fees beyond the money that is paid to the provider for the work that is done.

Barrier to entry

In order to join Elance, providers must pass an Elance admissions test as well as get verified by phone. Once someone becomes a verified member, they can set up their profile including taking any number of free skills tests to allow them to differentiate themselves and demonstrate their technical skills. Once active on Elance, programmers develop reputations based on their past Elance performance including feedback on work completed and stats on repeat customers.

Words of wisdom

"Do some research before jumping in," says developer Nick Dalton. "Find a niche where you have expertise and where the general project price level can give you a decent income. Do everything you can to get 100% positive ratings from your clients so that you can establish a good reputation."

Dalton, who has been an Elance provider for the past year, says he was fortunate to join Elance just as iPhone application development started taking off. "I managed to establish myself as one of the first and most knowledgeable providers in that area," says Dalton. "Now I don't have to market my services since I get 3-5 invites per day to bid on interesting iPhone projects on Elance."

Average gig

The work tends to be performed remotely, although occasionally Elancers are hired for local work. The length of engagements vary from days to months. Work engagements can be set up as hourly or project-based based on deliverables.

One of the most interesting projects Nick Dalton received through Elance was a series of language programs for a company called Lingolook. "They were publishing language phrase cards and wanted to convert them into an application for the iPhone. I especially liked this project because it was an application that I would use myself," says Dalton. "When you're in a foreign country you can quickly lookup a phrase in your own language and see it translated as well as spoken in the foreign language. This makes it very easy to order food, get directions, etc."

The ideal candidate

Elance is ideal for finding work and meeting new clients. Some providers use Elance to earn extra money to augment their income, while many are fulltime freelancers who use Elance for all or some of their sourcing of jobs.

Next up: TopCoder

Also in this series: Elance | TopCoder | CrossLoop | RentACoder | Guru.com | LivePerson

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