When I started freelancing I created accounts on every freelance site I could find (oDesk, guru, scriptlance, etc) to get as much work as possible. However I found I got almost all work from just one source - Elance. How is Elance different?
With most freelancing sites you create an account and immediately start bidding on jobs. There is no cost to bidding so people bid on many projects even if they don’t have the skill or time to complete it. This is obviously frustrating for clients who waste a lot of time sifting through bids.
On the other hand Elance has a high barrier to entry: you have to pass a test to show you understand their system, then receive a phone call to confirm your identity, and when established pay money for each job you bid on. Often I see jobs on Elance with no bids because it requires obscure experience - people weren’t willing to waste their money bidding for a job they can’t do. This barrier serves to weed out less serious freelancers so that the average bid is of higher quality.
From my experience the clients are different on Elance too. On most freelancing sites the client is trying to get the job done for the smallest amount of money possible and are often willing to spend their time sifting through dozens of proposals, hoping to get lucky.
Elance seems to attract clients who consider their time valuable and are willing to pay a premium for good service.
Often clients contact me directly through Elance because I am native English and want to avoid potential communication or cultural problems. One client even requested me to double my bid because “we are not cheap!”
After a year of freelancing I now get the majority of work directly through my website, but still get a decent percentage of clients through Elance.
My advice for new freelancers - focus on building your Elance profile and don’t waste your time with the others. (Though do let me know if you have had good experience elsewhere.)