A Good Source of Web Design Gigs

The hardest thing for anyone starting out in the web design business is to actually get any business in the first place. I don't know if anyone has ever tried using online freelance services such as Elance or Guru.com (which used to be Creative Moonlighter), but not only is it hard to land a gig through these services, because of the abundance of international contractors it's really hard to land a gig that actually pays a reasonable amount.

When I was starting up Smiley Cat, I bid on numerous projects and never got a bite worth anything.

One way of getting around this hurdle is to use services that overseas web designers haven't heard about or that target local contractors. A good example of such a service is Craig's List.

Craig's List has two topic areas (that I know of) that are relevant to web designers (I'm using the Seattle one as an example):

Although I have sufficient business coming my way through Google that I haven't followed up on any Craig's List advertised project, I like to see what's being posted in case any really 'juicy' projects turn up, and I regularly see quite decent gigs coming through on these pages (that actually sound like they would pay a reasonable fee).

Now that every topic on Craig's List has its own RSS feed, it is very easy to stay abreast of the projects being posted. Again, the advantage here is that the people posting the projects tend to want a local designer/developer to work with and are often looking to develop an ongoing relationship with that designer.

Of course, there's no reason why you couldn't subscribe to these feeds for every city featured in Craig's List - you just might not stand such a good chance of getting work from ones when you're competing against designers who are local to that city.

But it sure beats going up against the rest of the world where other vendors are basing their fees on an hourly rate of $10 or less.

Posted on: September 2, 2004 | 3 Comments

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3 Comments Posted

I've have some luck with craigslist every now and then. Once you learn to filter out all the fake jobs and unreasonablly paying jobs it's possible to find a few good people to work with. Subscribing to the list is handy too. It's even possible to find regular full-time positions on craigslist, with some good companies. In recent months I've been surprised to see Tommy Hilfiger, AOL, and VH1 advertising for positions. Cool. (CL should hire me as a PR lol)

Now for the bad shit: guru.com and elance - ugh. These websites, and all other freelance bidding sites are the scourge of our industry. They actually charge us a fee for the pleasure of being allowed to compete like dogs in a stupid gameshow-esque war for work. Inevitably, the winning bid always goes to the firm/individual who offers work at the cheapest price. More often than not this is some guy in India who will work for peanuts. We're talking $50 for a 5 page website. Seriously.

My argument has always been this: why the hell should the freelancer, who isn't always made of money, pay for the right to find work? I think craigslist is much more reasonable because it's only the employer who pays a fee - to advertise an opening or project. It makes no moral sense to be making money from the little people whilst allowing the big corporations to advertise for free. I'd never even link to these crappy excuses for work placement. It's just a haven for outsourcing.

This is a topic that has become far too familiar recently. Outsourcing is taking away a lot of good tech jobs, and web design is becoming more and more saturated with outsourced companies competing at unbelievably low rates. I've seen bids at GetAFreelancer.com for $10 projects.

What is there to do? I've seen that it helps a lot to advertise yourselves as who you are--a professional web design company, based in the U.S. Use good grammar, and people will start to pick up on the fact that you're not outsourced. Eventually, after having bad experiences with outsourcing, companies will start turning to designers that, at the very least, can provide them with good customer support by speaking their same language fluently.

Congratulations, by the way, on getting a first-page position on Google for "affordable web design". I hope to achieve the same after I begin my promotional campaign for DevelopedWeb.com.

I totally agree with you both about freelance sites. However, I do think that a lot of US customers are looking to hire someone locally or at least within the country because it just feels safer to do so.

When I started up Smiley Cat, I joined two local chambers of commerce, and that brought in a couple of gigs from the get go. If my current employer hadn't made me an offer I couldn't refuse (i.e. offered me a job as the manager of their web team), I have a suspicion that I could have positioned myself quite nicely as the web person to go to for both these organizations.

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