I’ve already gone on the record stating that I successfully use online freelance platforms to find clients. In fact, I have started relationships with nearly all of my clients, thanks to those types of platforms. Not everyone loves them, though. If you check out a lot of forums online, you’ll find that sites like oDesk and Elance get a bad rap.
The biggest complaint that I’ve heard is that oDesk and the rest pit professionals against one another in a “race to the bottom,” where the “winner” lands the job at an abysmal rate and the “loser” doesn’t get the job or the four dollars that it so generously pays. The truth is that this is a legitimate complaint. I’ll explain why.
A disparity in currencies
The economies of the world are fueled by many different currencies. They usually only have purchasing power in their native countries, but by exchanging currencies, you can take value with you across international lines. These transfers create interesting financial situations.
For instance, what could pay for a nice dinner at a sit-down restaurant in India might only pay for McDonald’s in the United States. That means that dollars will go much further in India (and many other countries) than they would in the U.S. This is particularly important because oDesk accepts freelancers from all over the world.
In the United States, legal minimum wage nets workers about $1,200 each month. Many here realize that it’s nearly impossible to live on that much money. However, that is approximately three times what an Indian worker earns in the same period! This phenomenon is not unique to India. In Thailand, and other countries like it, $400 in monthly rent will secure you a two-bedroom, two-bathroom, 3,200 sq. foot house just minutes from the beach!
That means low-paying jobs you would snub your nose at are still highly attractive to international freelancers.
The top contenders
You will find many competing freelancers from countries where the dollar is strong. Most frequently I see contractors from:
It’s a terrible idea to try and undercut these bidders. There are two reasons why:
- You will lose. In places where the average wages are $0.50/hour, you don’t stand a chance.
- You’re worth more than that!
The trick is to stop trying to win jobs based solely on price. There are lots of clients out there interested in dollars and cents, but there are also others who want quality material. You’ll work fewer hours and make more money finding one good client than you would working for five bad ones.
The final ruling
While it may be true that many jobs on freelance platforms are races to the bottom, don’t fret. There are plenty of other gigs that are worth your while.