The Hidden Risk Behind Freelancer "Auction" Sites

Type in “freelancing jobs” into your favorite search engine and just watch as a slew of so-called “auction” sites pop up. A lot of fellow writers I know (including myself) have tried these places in the hopes of finding work. While many of these places have legitimate, professional opportunities, there is one major drawback to them. Other writers.

As a freelancer, sometimes you get more work than you can handle, and other times you’re wondering how you could stomach another box of macaroni and cheese. Sometimes, if you’re savings have dried up, you might negotiate for a smaller price–just to get the work. If you do, you’re not alone. It is not uncommon for a less-experienced or desperate writer to underbid everyone else for a number of different reasons; maybe they don’t know how much to charge, maybe they just simply need the money.

What happens when a writer bids too short on these sites, which may or may not charge fees for everyone, is that the buyer’s (i.e. companies and employers) expectations of how much a writer’s work is worth drops considerably. This is especially true if the company was happy with the completion of the project and the quality of the work.

How do you get around this issue? Well, there are a few things that you can do. Explore the site you’re considering thoroughly. Don’t be afraid to ask other pros what they truly think about these sites. Sometimes, another writer’s opinion can be invaluable.

By now you should know how much you’re worth. Review your writer’s portfolio to ensure your samples are in the market you’re targeting. You can check out current salary calculators or ask your references how much they would charge for a particular project, or even check with your local employment agency to help you.

Don’t be afraid to interview your employer. A few questions cannot hurt you; if a company is is afraid to answer them, then your opportunity might be a risk.

After putting all the pieces together, then you’re ready to assess your budget and see whether or not the money you are bidding is realistic. “Realistic” means, a standard rate that includes a certain level of services, which comes through your savvy probing of the employer. Is there editing or several drafts involved? Will the firm provide you with what you need to complete the assignment? Is there research involved? Is this a “group” project?

The key message that I’m trying to convey here is: do not undervalue what you are worth, because you will hurt both your chances, as well as other writers’, to earn a reasonable amount for the services you are providing. One or two projects, sure, because references are invaluable to finding new opportunities and we’ve all been known to do that from time-to-time.

If you want to make it as a freelancer or any other creative in a competitive market, it’s important for you to set standards so you not only use your time more effectively — you get paid for it, too.



Monica Valentinelli is a writer, editor, and game developer. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Firefly, Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

Want to Interview or Hire Me? Send Fan Mail?

Would you like to hire me? Because my projects and manuscripts are in flux, I am always open to discussing new opportunities with publishers and studios. As a full-time writer, I spend a portion of my time seeking new gigs–so don’t be afraid to reach out. If you’re interested, please e-mail me via my Contact Page. I typically reply to work-related e-mails within one-to-two business days.

Want an interview? If you’d like to interview me or request a guest blog post, please connect with me via the contact page, too. Due to time constraints and other communicative concerns, I typically don’t follow up on requests via social media.

Keen on sending fan mail? I am also happy to engage with readers and fans. Please note that I am unable to reply satisfactorily to certain types of queries related to the companies I work for due to the agreements I typically sign. If you have a question about a TV show or a line of books, the best way to get your answer is to contact the studio or publisher directly.

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