I'm in the US, started on Elance and oDesk and am happily making excellent pay on both sites now, with steady work to keep me busy full time. I charge much more than overseas freelancers, so how do I regularly land contracts?
The answer is simple - you have to sell yourself as better than the competition. I land contracts regularly because I am
- more honest
- more reliable
- better at communicating
and I know how to convey this to clients. I am not trying to brag, but merely to demonstrate that it's possible.
Your target market is not every client on the site. Your primary target market is U.S. based clients who have been burned by outsourced freelancers in the past and are looking to get the job done properly and domestically. In fact, many of the projects I've been hired on have been to fix or rebuild programs that were botched by overseas freelancers.
You need to explain why you are better and why you're worth the higher rate. You need to actually be better, or you'll get bad feedback on your first few projects and never land any additional work.
Charge much lower than you want to for your first few projects. When you have zero feedback history, it's better to get the contracts than to make big bucks. You don't need to go as cheap as the overseas guys, but don't try to start at $40/hr.
One final tip: if a client interviews you, but hires an overseas freelancer instead, wait a few weeks and then send them a polite message asking how their project is going. Three times this has gotten me a job that I was originally turned down for, because the freelancer they originally hired didn't deliver.