December 5th, 2007
Should You Use Job Boards To Grow Your Freelance Business?
This morning I looked in my RSS reader and saw there is an article at FreelanceSwitch on getting the winning bid on a freelance job auction. When I stopped to think about it, I realized that niche job boards have started showing up more frequently on some of the sites I frequent. 37Signals has one. I think Lifehacker has one. I started wondering if these are good places for a freelancer to get work.
Let me begin by saying that while I have used Monster to get a position as an employee before, I have never used an auction site to get a contract job. When I was first starting my freelance business, I investigated Elance as a possible means of getting work. I eventually decided that people posting jobs on Elance were primarily interested in finding the lowest bidder. I’m sure there are exceptions, but that was the vibe I got.
Since I’m not interested in positioning myself as the low-cost provider of web design services, I decided it made more sense for me to find a niche and collaborate with other businesses.
Some of these new job boards have a slightly different approach. A site like Elance is built entirely around the idea of bidding for jobs. For FreelanceSwitch, the job board is a secondary feature. The biggest part of the site is a blog that writes informative, useful posts for freelance developers. As a broad generalization, the people bidding on that job board are going to be the freelancers who regularly read that blog.
I suspect it also means that people posting jobs are looking for someone who shares the same values as FreelanceSwitch. Cost is still going to be one of the primary considerations, but I imagine that someone posting a job there is more likely to be receptive to the other things you might bring to the table: code that is easy to maintain, an enjoyable user experience, or even just professionalism in your interactions.
I still don’t recommend anyone try to build a business off of a job site such as Elance. It’s just too hard to grow a small operation when you have to be the cheapest game in town. I wouldn’t dismiss out of hand, though, the idea of building one through a niche job board that is attached to a quality blog. I think you have a better chance of finding a client who is willing to listen to why you’re worth more than Brand X.