After passionately working over 10 years in the hospitality industry, I would like to spend more time with my family. I've joined Upwork and Elance but need some help in developing my brand as a freelancer.
I do a lot of business with people on Elance (which is now being merged into Upwork and is going away, so stick with Upwork). The real challenge for US-based workers (which you may or may not be) is the price competitive nature of jobs when competing against an international workforce. There are always going to be great workers in every country and sometimes in certain areas you just can't compete on price. For example, I do a lot of business with great people in the Philippines and their work is excellent, they speak perfect English, and they are very affordable.
What I usually tell people who are first getting into the space is to be honest about that in your profile and do some jobs for near-free with private pricing so you can build up your profile with good ratings. There are some disadvantages to this approach, but I find it helps to get some jobs under your belt with employers.
One of the keys is going to be differentiation. You have your industry listed but skills, language, specific experience, and other niche items are really going to help here.
I'm a consumer of a lot of Upwork contractors so I'm happy to do a call and discuss my experience with you. I work with people all over the world on a regular basis and I've built my business around these assets.
The great difficulty with bidding sites like that is that, often, it's a race to the bottom. Many people buy based on price alone, so if you want to get a decent income, it's *hard*.
Getting your own clients, rather than working through a bidding site, tends to be a much more reliable way of getting a good income through freelancing and doing more of the work you actually want to do.
Upwork has worked for a few people I know, but by and large it seems the work there is low-quality, and the clientele is of the sort that wants to haggle over prices.
Ultimately — especially if your goal is to have more free time — clients like that are a bad idea.
Instead, look at Upwork as a stop-gap until you can land better clients. It takes a little bit more effort to get started, but the long-term benefit is better word-of-mouth, more control over your rates and time, and a generally improved quality of life.
I have about a decade of experience building referral-based sales and high-quality clientele, and I'd be happy to share my strategy with you if you'd like. Hit me up for a call if you're interested.
Also: good luck, and congratulations on putting family first!
As has been said, Upwork and Elance are very often a race to the bottom as far as rate is concerned. (BTW, Upwork owns Elance and is in the process of shutting it down so I would not focus on Elance at all.) I have used Elance to round out my portfolio, allowing me to take on projects in areas that I wanted to build experience. Thought the rates were lower, I have been compensated for essentially learning. I have also made a few contacts that have lead to better opportunities.
Three things I recommend:
(1) Use Upwork to build your portfolio while earning some income.
(2) Differentiate yourself as much as possible - I have gotten a more premium rate by demonstrating a better ability to deliver and higher quality. (Many people have had bad experiences with lower cost labor and are looking for a better option.)
(3) Take time to build relationships with customers. It will often lead to a greater opportunity.
I happen to disagree with most of the feedback here. I have been profiting very well on Elance in only a short period of time.
It only becomes a race to the bottom if you join the race.
Ask yourself, what is your value? If you believe you can offer a service that is worth more than others, then why bid the same way as them? If you're worth more, bid more. Clients want something real, they are there to fill a gap, or have something created that they cannot do on their own, otherwise they would. They don't want someone to take a few dollars from them and then provide nothing of value.
Bidding higher works because it's real. I value my time and I value my service. The clients I have gained since being on Elance were not looking for the bottom price. They were looking for the best final value in the service they needed. There's a big difference. No, you won't win every bid. (quite frankly, you wouldn't want to). What will happen though is that by valuing yourself higher than others, and offering a better service, people recognize it within your proposal.
It's not that difficult to offer something better in your niche, most freelancers are there for a quick buck and clients know it. Provide a real service, and you will get real clients who will pay for it-- that's why they are there.
As for UpWork, I have yet to get onto it, although from what I've seen it seems like a step down from Elance. Good Luck, and if you ever need any more advice, feel free to reach out.