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Discouraged about pay rates

Active Member
Sara E Member Since: Jul 25, 2014
1 of 25
Hi. I'm looking for helpful hints/suggestions on how other US freelancers actually make money on here. I am new to oDesk, and I've spent so much time getting my profile ready, taking tests, and preparing a portfolio only to find that when I start looking for jobs to apply to the pay rates are ridiculously low! I've searched for about a week now and I've read other posts on here with people having the same problems. I understand why the rates are so low- with so many people bidding on here from different countries. I even tried looking for US jobs only, and it is crazy what some employers think a US contractor will work for. Why would I take a job for less than a $1 on here when federal minimum wage is $7.25! My point is not just to vent (although it does feel good), but to ask what other US freelancers do to make money. Do you just scour the posts until you see one that you feel you can apply to? Do you post on other sites like GURU? I've heard of it but haven't checked it out yet. Do you have to supplement your income outside of sites like this in another way? If so, how? It seems that no matter what field I look into, I see the same recurring theme where employers are used to getting MUCH LESS for jobs than they should, or the ones who are willing to pay decently have 100+ applicants with more experience than me. I appreciate any insight and help! Thank you!
Community Guru
Joseph C Member Since: Nov 5, 2011
2 of 25
What you have listed as jobs you are capable of are some of the lowest paying jobs on oDesk. Web design is good, but you really have no support in your portfolio for that. Just what appear to be personal pages and those two are not from scratch, but pick n choose type. Nothing there to say you can design web sites. Even CMS site builds can be and will be highly customized.
Community Guru
Ronald T Member Since: Sep 14, 2009
3 of 25
I joined oDesk September 2009. My first job was for $1 fixed price. My first hourly job paid $4.44 per hour (11 hours worked earned $48). I realized back then it was a good idea to work for next to nothing in order to establish a good reputation (positive feedback and 5.0 ratings). During the "oDesk Golden Years" I had built a good reputation, did quality work in a timely manner, and was earning $27 to $38 per hour. Those days are over! Read in the forums about the oDesk "mad robots." That's the nickname given to the situations that have developed as a result of recent changes here on oDesk. Things might bounce back (doubtful), but I wouldn't suggest you quit your day job just yet. Back in the day (the "oDesk Golden Years"), based on your profile I would venture to guess you might have earned $7 to $12 per hour. These days....
Ron aka LanWanMan
Ace Contributor
Nick M Member Since: Jul 12, 2011
4 of 25
As your relatively new i'd advise building a portfolio and sorts and the only way to do that on oDesk, in this day in age, is to work for a pittance - almost literally. I was designing websites for $100 or so and slowly inched up my prices and as my skills grew, ultimately i have become more of an asset for any potential employer and my profile speaks volumes - this is what you need to do too, in my opinion. People won't know your worth if they have nothing reliable to go on. Competing with Eastern European and Asian people on here is difficult, typically because they have lower living expenses and thus can charge much less to their clients for the work - but, in many cases, i have experienced the lower-end designer is often a lower-quality designer. Start off low, build yourself up and create a sustainable business.
Active Member
Marietta T Member Since: Jan 30, 2013
5 of 25
you are very right about it. you can't earn with that very very low rate others are asking. yesterday i contacted Odesk support about it, if they can just have a minimum rate, or depending on the position. you cannot make a living, even just part time, with just $1 an hour. I even find a job post asking for less than $0.10. Can you imagine that? It's like they are asking to work for them free of charge. That is so so unfair for us freelancers.
Community Guru
Tony H Member Since: Nov 10, 2011
6 of 25
Hi Sara, You must take into consideration who the majority of clients on oDesk are. They are people just like you and I who don;t have a lot of money or entrepreneurial experience, and for the first time have an opportunity to find help building their dream of owning their own small business. Their budgets are very limited and their experience levels often lead to many trial and error hires. They get burned, make mistakes, spend money when they shouldn't and eat through the budget pretty quickly. They MUST find help at the cheapest rate, or they wouldn't have a shot of following their dreams. IMHO it's a win / win... however, those types of clients are not going to be able to sustain regular work at western rates. Many of them struggle with their own day job and simply cannot hire others at the same rate or even more than they make themselves. Moving forward, you have the middle group as well, where a client may be in operation and making a little profit, but cannot yet hire staff on a regular basis. These clients are great for freelancers who want to build their reputation. Small budget / short-term contracts can give you an opportunity to go above and beyond their expectations before you burn out on them, and you'll receive great feedback as long as you create a solid relationship with them. They also rehire as needed and after you build a group of clients who use you as their 'go to' person... you can build a career around that alone. Also it's easier to ask for a higher rate with short-term contracts. People are very willing to pay for your expertise in small doses. They have a problem their regular team is struggling with, so they hire you to knock it out at an inflated rate. Only downside with this is you constantly need to seek new clients as the old ones drop off map, give up, or run out of money learning their first entrepreneurial lessons. Then you come to what I'd consider the 'professional' client, who has a well established business and can afford to hire people at western rates. Your edge for these clients will be to understand them in ways people who live outside of their social culture can. Speaking their native language fluently and with the same fun, humor and slang is a huge plus. Look for clients who have spent more than $50k, a strong hiring rate vs contract posted, and average hourly rate pay of at least your federal minimum wage. Check their profile to see what they have been paying other for similar work. These client could afford to keep you on board for extended periods, or even permanently at a rate you can live with. Again - I can't stress this enough - you need to build a relationship with them. I have had several contracts at rates far beyond what the client was hoping to pay... and they kept me on because I don't simply 'complete the job'. I talk to them, and more importantly LISTEN to them. It isn't merely a matter of acting functional (in my case, however some freelancer prefer the 100% business talk approach and it works for them). They may refer you to their peers as well, especially in areas such as design. It's a very large and growing area of expertise right now. In that case, I would not only be good at design, but I;d also learn a but about the most common platform the clients use such as Wordpress, Joomla, shopping cart softwares, CRMs etc etc These clients are the minority here, but they are still here. Yes, you need to compete with people offer the same service for less, so you need to create value in your service and then sell it. In the case of a designer, I would not only be a designer but also someone the client can bounce ideas off and be able to make recommendations for software solutions. If they have no clue, you will not only be a designer - but an asset. Very important. Hope that helps a little bit.. we could talk about this topic for days, but ya gotta start somewhere. Basically become an asset, not a quick and cheap solution. You're a business, not an employee. Assuming every other business owner selling the same product as you, on the same street, is going to sell for cheaper than you possibly can. They have a cheaper supplier (living expenses and fewer opportunity) than you, and you simply cannot keep up with their prices. You opened a mom & pop convenience store right across the street from Walmart. How will you entice customers to buy from your store instead of Walmart where they get the same thing for 1/4 the price?
Active Member
Melissa M Member Since: Sep 15, 2015
7 of 25

Its called having principles.  

Active Member
Briana S Member Since: Jan 5, 2019
8 of 25
if they cant afford it then they shouldn’t do it. it is unethical, why are we supposed to feel bad for broke small business owners trying to exploit others because they’re broke. Just like you shouldn’t sit down in a restaurant if you don’t have money for tip. If you dont have money to tip you dont have money to eat out! they need to figure out what to do until they have an adequate budget, thats not other peoples problem
Community Guru
Tiffany S Member Since: Jan 15, 2016
9 of 25

@Briana S wrote:
if they cant afford it then they shouldn’t do it. it is unethical, why are we supposed to feel bad for broke small business owners trying to exploit others because they’re broke. Just like you shouldn’t sit down in a restaurant if you don’t have money for tip. If you dont have money to tip you dont have money to eat out! they need to figure out what to do until they have an adequate budget, thats not other peoples problem

You're not supposed to feel bad for them, but there's nothing unethical about offering what they can afford and seeing if someone is willing to work for that. There's no reason this should be any of your concern. If they're not offering what you see as a fair price, move on. Other freelancers will make their own determination, and if someone decides they want to do it for what you or I deem too little, that's really none of our business.

Active Member
Melissa M Member Since: Sep 15, 2015
10 of 25

This website is ridiculous.  Discouraged and giving up.  Farewell!  And Americans have the audacity to complain about our country when they are they ones ruining it.  Outsourcing our jobs to other countries for pennies on the dollar.  Dispicable.  I am a business owner and I would never stoop to that!