Hacking Elance: How To Make $23,700 In 4 Weeks Freelancing Online

03/26/2015 02:05 pm ET | Updated May 26, 2015

When people ask me what the best ways to make money are, sometimes I laugh.

Not because the question is stupid -- but because, well, there really is no "right" answer.

The truth is that almost anything can make money.

But first, you have to change your mindset. You must start viewing your skills and experiences as bankable, valuable resources with paying for.

You (yes, you) can help someone with skills and knowledge that you already have.

The easiest way to do this is by freelancing.

(If you're struggling to think of valuable skills, here are some ideas + 15 specific examples you can use.)

All that being said...I have good news and bad news for you.

The good news: there are several online freelance marketplaces like Elance and oDesk that allow you to offer your services, get clients and start making money quickly, even if you're a complete beginner.

The bad news: these freelance marketplaces can be extremely competitive and overwhelming. If you don't know what you're doing, the competition can be very intimidating.

But don't let that discourage you.

Today, I'm going to show you the simple "hack" I used to make over $23,000 on Elance in 4 weeks designing simple Wordpress websites.

(Note: the strategies here apply for any freelance skill, not just web design)

Step #1: Use sneaky research on your competition

Before you start, you'll need to know what exactly you're getting yourself into.

Specifically, you need to know:

  1. Exactly what strategies your successful competitors use to stand out in the crowd.
  2. How you can completely obliterate them by being ridiculously over-prepared.
To find the answers to these questions for myself, I posted a fake job to see what types of responses I would get. I recommend you do the same!

Here's what I posted on Elance:


My goal was to attract my competitors and see what types of proposals they sent me -- then use that knowledge against them.

Here's what I learned with the results from my test...

Step #2: Analyze the results

Within 30 minutes, I received almost 100 proposals -- and I learned two very valuable insights:

  1. Over half of the applicants to my job were non-native English speakers.
  2. Most people were submitting "canned" proposals without any personalization.

Once I figured these critical pieces of info out, I knew I had a unique angle. Why?

Well, most people hiring freelancers are from the US/UK -- which means that oftentimes, there's a language barrier. People are always more comfortable communicating in their native language.

And because of this language barrier, most proposals were very dry and uninteresting.

Here's one that I received...


See what I mean? What a snooze.

You can do much better. Here's how...

Step #3: Stand out and start booking jobs

To stand out against a sea of freelancers, you have to show that you understand your potential client and provide them with a reason to give your proposal a second look. Your approach should feel warm, engaging, and above all, personalized.

Nobody wants to feel like they're #573 for the day.

Research your prospective client's profile beforehand and look for these details:

  • Purchase history -- Do they regularly hire on Elance? If so, this is a good sign that they are serious.
  • Feedback history -- What type of feedback do they have for freelancers they've hired in the past. What have they liked/disliked?
  • Personal details -- Name, interests, location, etc. Anything you might be able to relate to and build some rapport.

The knockout punch: video "mini-pitches"

Once you've rounded up all this information, use it to create a short "mini-pitch" with an unlisted YouTube video.

Your "mini-pitch" should:

  • Be 90 seconds or less
  • Introduce you and give a very brief background
  • Tell them why you like their specific project (so they know you actually read it)
  • Offer a simple "call to action" to get in touch with you
  • Bonus: if you can include some relevant personal details that you have in common, it helps

From there, the process is simple. Rather than sending a regular proposal like everyone else, just send them a quick message with a link to your custom video.

This method works SHOCKINGLY well because it differentiates you from the crowd and shows that you truly care about what they're working on.

You can't fake that.

If you're curious to see how this entire process works, including the video pitches, I've put together a detailed version of this case study. Feel free to check it out and let me know what you think!

Daniel DiPiazza is a bodybuilder, book nerd and professional waffle maker who writes at Join his free newsletter and get actionable tips to help you start a business you care about and live a happier life.

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