I have good experience in PHP and I want to start freelancing. I have opened accounts on Elance, freelancer, oDesk and have been trying to bid on projects for the last 2 months, but I still didn't get a reply from any projects.

Where have I gone wrong, and how I can get online projects to work?

3 Answers 3


(A bit on my background: I'm a PHP developer, and I do all my hourly contracting through oDesk - I have been doing that for quite a while now.)

First, getting started can take some time. Not having a reputation / experience contracting is similar to not having a reputation / experience being a PHP developer. Don't be discouraged; I mention this, so you won't feel like you're taking a step back when it's hard to secure a project, or if you end up bidding at a lower rate than perhaps what you're used to making in traditional employment.

Just like you built up experience in your field, you'll need to build up experience in freelancing. But that certainly can be done.

Here's what I'd suggest.

Be quick to respond: face it, on the freelancing sites a public posting will get a lot of responses. Use whatever tools are available to be one of the first responses the client sees. In the past, I'd use an RSS reader to track job feeds on oDesk.

Give away the secret: in your bid, explain to the client how you'll implement / build / program whatever it is they're looking for. If it's a Twitter application, let them know why they want to use the streaming API instead of the REST API. Give them enough information that they feel like they should use your response to evaluate the rest.

Find the right jobs: this is doubly important for oDesk, where you're limited to a fixed number of bids per week. Set up searches that either identify jobs that match your experience well, or jobs that generally have fewer bids and you're able / willing to put in the work so you become experienced enough to respond to those jobs in a knowledgeable way. (Again, oDesk search + RSS feeds can be great here.)

Bring your own clients: do you have clients outside these online marketplaces / platforms? Transition them to billing through the platform you like best. That's an easy way bring a local reputation online.

Avoid the bottom: it may be tempting (all the while frustrating) to try to be the lowest bid. Don't do that. Yes, if you're starting out with no reputation as a contractor, you may need to bid lower than you'd want - but don't get caught up in trying to compete on price. This isn't a reverse eBay where the lowest bid wins - there are plenty of clients that ignore low bids, because they understand that reflects at least something about quality. Those are the clients you want.

The first three are what I did to establish my reputation. Anymore do I rarely bid on jobs; generally I just respond to requests (called interview invitations on oDesk). Still, when I respond I try to give the potential client a detailed response that illustrates I am the contractor they want to use.

The fourth is what I wish I could have done, but I started out my freelancing career online.

I hope that's helpful.

  • 1
    +1 I never use the freelance sites but I have been there and even posted some sample jobs just to see. I never thought of posting the "secret" but I think that would be excellent advise as most posting are nothing more than a copy/paste generic response they add to EVERY post. That would certainly help you stand out I would think.
    – o_O
    Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 22:00
  • 1
    i will like to add be releastic and thank you by help of these adivce i got my first project
    – user49557
    Commented Jan 9, 2017 at 7:55

In the first place, PHP is the toughest to get jobs in since there are simply too many people.

So, I have a couple of advices for you:

Tech advice

Don't just offer PHP since competition is too high. Specialize yourself in something narrower like Symphony or other PHP things. You are a new guy, so offering something that a client can get from the experienced guy will not bring you jobs. Since PHP rates are really at the lowest, you cannot be competitive with low prices as well. I did the same thing in Java and C# - learned mobile tech.

Freelance website advice

Is your profile a quality one? It's important to fill it with all details as publish as many samples as you can. Since you are new, samples have to sell you.

Bid advice

How do you bid? Clients on those websites are sick of "Dear sir..." bids with dozens of links. Be specific and give a client what he/she wants exactly. Try to find a smaller jobs first. For example, a client is looking for a special addon which you can make in one day - take a risk and make that addon, put it on your PHP engine and show the client the concrete sample. If I get approached like this, I would give you the job.

Any beginning is hard. I see you've been trying for two months, so I see you are persistent. Just keep it that way. And always have in mind, that the two most-wanted things are: "a new hot technology from you area of speciality" and "knowledge of technology which is at the same time very wanted and very few people know it".

If you have any of these, the success is inevitable.

  • Thanks Peter for good advice! Can you tell me some freelancer websites to get jobs ? Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 9:03
  • 3
    It's hard to say. In my previous replies to someone I said that it's best you search on Google and apply to all top 5 websites. If you are hardworking, you will get the job. Especially if you further train yourself to become more competitive. At this moment you are like a dentist. You may be good, but I have my own dentist. But if you offer me painless laser cure for good price, then I may consider you. ;)
    – Peter MV
    Commented Aug 30, 2013 at 17:18
  • @PeterMV +1 for "At this moment you are like a dentist. You may be good, but I have my own dentist. But if you offer me painless laser cure for good price, then I may consider you. ;)"
    – zzzzz
    Commented Sep 4, 2013 at 11:43
  • 1
    +1 'Dead Sir...' :) Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 14:46

Here's what I would do.

  1. Contribute to Open Source projects. Some open source projects have a lot of visibility. Do great work. Companies who's looking to hire/outsource would want to bring someone with experiences on board.
  2. Talk to local business/SME. The local SME community are largely under served. Start small. Provide excellent support. They will almost certainly go back to you again.
  3. Let your friends & relatives know. The bigger network or reach the more likely people are going to give you a chance.
  4. Give away some of your best work for FREE. When people see the excellent works that you do, they are far more comfortable to give you the opportunity. Almost always try to create an unfair advantage.

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