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By Joyce Lain Kennedy
DEAR JOYCE: My hours were cut to 24 a week, and I could use extra money. A friend who was laid off two months ago told me he got $100 for a one-hour computer repair job by bidding for it on a Web site. Unfamiliar with this job market, I was wondering if you could give me a few sites to check out? -- P.T.R.
Freelance bidding sites -- also called job auction Web sites, or talent auction sites -- offer the lure of quick cash when you're laid off, your hours have been cut or you're relocating to a new area and need money to cover budget gaps.
Bidding sites appear to be growing in popularity, probably because businesses have work to be done but are hesitant to gamble on hiring full-time workers in an uncertain economy. Especially so when freelancers and contract workers can walk in and immediately save the day because they're expert in what they do.
Grab an overview of the freelance technology, creative arts and business opportunities that may be available to you by tuning into Guru.com, one of the original job auction sites.
MORE FREELANCE SITES.
Additionally, here's an assortment of popular resources, most of which have a bidding system:
Elance (elance.com), Rent A Coder (rentacoder.com), Sologig (sologig.com), Get a Freelancer (getafreelancer.com), FreelanceSwitch (freelanceswitch.com) and Freelance Work Exchange (freelance.shwing.com). A new site, Jobaphiles (jobaphiles.com), was started by Boston-area college students who hope to take it nationwide.
Is it worth your time to bid on the talent auction sites? Based on scads of blogs and comments on the question, experienced freelance bidders appear to be in two camps: one with happy campers who see a potential for ongoing work on their timetable, and one with disgusted bidding veterans who say "never again."
If you decide to bid your hand, the following suggestions can improve your odds of success:
-- Many employers who post requests for bids expect tons of work for an ounce of pay. Not all employers are shopping for rock-bottom bids, but it happens often enough that bidders bitterly complain ("I won't write 500 words for $2"). Especially vulnerable: Americans who are at a disadvantage if the bid request goes global to service providers in cheap-labor countries.
-- To be assured of payment for their work, many veteran freelancers stick to bidding sites that provide an escrow service: The labor buyer deposits freelancer payment with the site after a deal is made, and the site pays the freelancer upon the buyer's confirmation that the work has been done to specification.
-- Some veteran bidders advise newcomers to go low a few times, do high-octane work and develop devoted clients who'll later pay higher rates.
-- If you're collecting unemployment benefits, verify that freelancing won't affect your eligibility by quizzing your state department of labor (servicelocator.org/OWSLinks.asp).
-- Two pages of nitty-gritty are well worth reading: Browse for "How freelance job bidding sites work" by Michelle L. Devon, an article that originally appeared on the Web site Helium.
The full-time contract/project approach is a variation on the freelance way of working. When starting a "business of one" is appealing but you can't stand thinking about all the required paperwork and back-office computer chores, check out a new comprehensive solution named BOTH, which stands for Back Of The House (both-usa.com).
Designed for freelancers and other independent professionals, the company's package of services includes hosted information technology with tech support, billing and collections, online banking, bookkeeping and tax services, a core health plan plus optional health insurance, a 401(k) retirement plan and a personal advisor serving as a single point of contact. The cost is $1,995 to sign up, plus a monthly charge of $399.
The idea sounds like a winner, but remember to be cautious about signing any long-term contract for service.
Coming to an employer's attention through your top-notch performance in a freelance gig could prove to be just the spotlight you need -- if and when the employer is ready to hire someone for a full-time job. If you want the regular-status employment, you won't have to compete with a thousand resumes generated by a job-board posting. These days, that's a royal flush.
Freelance Job Bidding Sites: Useful or Not | Jobs & Careers
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