I have taken a secret lover. Now, I don’t want my hubby to know because it would devastate him, so I’m only going to tell you guys. The name of my secret lover? Elance. I know, I know, it’s weird. Before I did the Elance experiment for AFW, I never really considered Elance a real place to work. Through the experiment, Elance and I had some hot flirting sessions—nothing too crazy just exchanging glances, hair play and coyness. But it was fun, not too stressful and… well… I liked most of it. Naturally, the experiment did have one hitch that resulted in a .04 per word client--but otherwise I did okay.

After the experiment I laid off for a little while—you know how it is, it’s fun to flirt once in a while but you don’t want a lifetime commitment or anything. But then, I noticed my business was getting a little slow. I had been booked solid for a couple of months and as a result I hadn’t been marketing as much as I should have and I hadn’t been as active on LinkedIn or Twitter. By the time I finished up all of my existing obligations I was left without any projects other than my regulars and I wasn't as visible to my target clients.

So I turned to Elance for support and although I still haven’t found a way to get up to my normal rates on Elance I have found that it’s a great way to make what I am comfortable calling decent money without a lot of marketing effort and since I've streamlined my client selection process so I don't deal with as many nervous or controlling clients (check out the feedback the client has given to other providers before you bid), it's been a real pleasure. It’s not a long-term plan for me, but it’s a great way to get gigs quickly and pay the bills. Since they’ve upgraded their system you can now save search criteria which really helps make searching for gigs faster. Also, since my client proposal is a few pages long and has a visual element, pitching is actually less time consuming through Elance than it is when clients contact me directly.  I also save time because I never need to talk to anyone on the phone and even email exchanges are short.

The important thing about this (and the reason why I'm talking to you about it today) is that I'm not just settling into the Elance groove for the rest of the foreseeable future. With the time I’m saving on marketing, I've gotten a little breathing room to work on my own projects: a white paper, a client guide, guest posting to raise my visibility, queries and some freebies for my target clients--all of which will help me get more of those direct client gigs that are within my normal rates and aren't subject to a fee (Elance charges around 6-10% of the price of your gigs).

And that's the key--whether you are working for low paying clients right now, Elance, a content mill or any other arrangement that isn't making you feel completely happy--you've got to find the time to do what it takes to get you to your next level. If you don't then you are probably going to be stuck at your current level for... well... a long time. Because that's just how it is.

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