PPHWe no longer use People Per Hour. We now offer SEO copywriting services and technical authoring services on an independent, freelance basis.

This post is out of date. It’s archived here for posterity, but please don’t rely on the strategies we’ve recommended.

- Claire (August 2013)


People Per Hour (and similar websites) are full of clients who need one-off jobs to be completed quickly.

The rates are often poor, so care is needed to only bid for the right jobs.

I won three awards on People Per Hour in summer 2011 (and I was within £15 of winning a fourth, but sadly  just missed out). It kicked off our copywriting and technical authoring business and it’s a great way to make connections. However, I certainly learned a lot about being over-worked and under-paid, and I very quickly became pretty proficient at project management.

By far the most common question we’re asked is this: how do you make money on People Per Hour? Here are a few tips that might help you get started.

Edit: Since writing this article we have been affected by fraud on People Per Hour twice (same person, fake name, stolen card). As an extra tip, I would advise anyone working on the site to only bid on jobs posted by Verified clients.

1. Get Some Freelancing Experience

Before you begin bidding on People Per Hour or other freelancing sites, it pays to have some experience. You will be asked to provide examples of your work, whether it’s copywriting, technical writing, SEO writing, design, research – whatever.

It helps to do a little work for friends before you begin. Ask them to post recommendations on your profile to confirm what you’ve done, and put examples in the Portfolio area of the site. Be honest with yourself: if you have no experience, you will really struggle to get started.

2. Set Your Rates Properly

It takes a while to find your price point, as it will be different to the price you charge elsewhere. You may well need to cut your rate, especially in the beginning. Sit down with a pen and paper and factor in all your costs (tax, fees, subscriptions, and so on) so you have an absolute minimum in mind.

Remember that People Per Hour also deduct a service fee of between 4.5% and 10% of the job, according to your subscription level on the day it starts. They also deduct a monthly subscription fee via debit card or PayPal if you want more than 10 bids per month. (Given that the average rate of bid acceptance is one per every 14 bids, it’s probably worth subscribing if you’re serious about getting work).

Having been a client advertising on People Per Hour as well as a freelancer, I can guarantee you that any client with reasonable standards will not pick a bid that is exceptionally low. A client worth working for will not ask you to produce 500 words for £2. Yes, it happens – but don’t waste a bid on that job. Don’t waste time complaining and ranting at the client, either. They don’t care what you think! Move on and bid on something else.

You will probably find that you cannot charge megabucks on a site like People Per Hour, but think carefully before you undervalue yourself to such an extent that you are competing with people who are not qualified. The last thing you need is a £600 job that should be paying you £1,500. You will have no motivation to complete it, and when a better job comes along, your £600 job will feel like a really unpleasant, hard slog.

3. Prep a Good Bid

Some jobs on People Per Hour can receive 20, 30 or 40 bids within a few hours. No client has time to read an essay from each of those people, so don’t waste your time writing one. Generic bids are a massive turn-off, and so are bids that are not proof-read or don’t address the job specifics. Bids full of links require the client to go looking for a reason to choose you. Why would they do that?

Write a concise bid which showcases your talents, and tailor it to the job description. Address any concerns or points upfront and keep it friendly and professional. We’ve paid over the average for a freelancer because their bid was keen, specific and well-written, and we felt we had something in common with them which always makes work more fun!

4. Don’t Ask For Clarification

The Clarification Board is a little area at the bottom of each job page on People Per Hour. It’s supposedly there for freelancers to ask for more information on a job. It’s usually used by freelancers to place ‘soft bids’ or promote their own profiles. This is supposedly a no-no, but it happens a lot.

Guess what: the Clarification Board isn’t the place for questions! No client will hire you off the back of a question. By delaying your bid, you are wasting your time, and you’re missing out on a valuable chance to get a bid in early (see below).

Place your bid and address any queries there. Offer different prices for different specifics. A client wants to know what you can do and how much you can do it for: if you waste their time by dithering over small details, they will be far less likely to hire you.

5. Schedule, Schedule, Schedule

There is a drop-down box on the bidding form on People Per Hour which asks you to state when you can begin the task. Clients may accept bids weeks after you place the bid: our availability for copywriting changes daily, so this is always tough for us. Check your workload before bidding, then warn any clients if your availability has changed when the job’s up for discussion.

It can be difficult to leave time to do chores, walk the dog and break for the weekend if you are not honest; it pays to be careful and overestimate the time you need. Google Calendar is a great tool for blocking out time and seeing exactly how much rest you are giving yourself.

Think hard about whether you could manage a heavy workload before you commit to starting all your jobs within a day. I’d recommend you give yourself 20% leeway when estimating how much time (and money) you need to complete a contract.

6. Beware of Subcontracting

We have worked with wonderful freelance writers, but we were almost certainly  lucky. Freelancers can be flaky. The more people you bring in, the more you are open to people being late, saying the dog ate their laptop, and so on.

Have a good think about whether you’re ready to be a project manager and take on this kind of responsibility. It’s very stressful managing people, and it may not be what you want to do with your time. You know your abilities. You know the standard you expect. If you don’t know anyone who shares that standard, think carefully before you rely on them.

If you hire through People Per Hour, you have to leave feedback. How honest could you really be? Could you sack someone who submitted late three times in a row? If you wouldn’t have the heart, it’s probably better just to work on your own. There is nothing like taking on a job yourself and completing it to your own standards.

7. Bid Early, Bid Quick

The People Per Hour website is updated daily, from the early morning right through until the evening. Jobs appear in fits and starts throughout the day, and you can scan back through several days’ jobs if you wish.

This may be a little controversial, but I’d advise not bidding on old jobs. Bidding early on a job is the best way to get noticed, especially if your bid is on the wordy side.

Keep your eye on the People Per Hour Twitter feed for fresh work, and bid as soon as you can. If you happen to be online outside normal office hours, regularly check the site and bid early on anything new that appears: there’s less competition then too.

Remember that the first bid on every job is ‘free’, so there’s even more of a reason to get in first.

8. Monitor Payment Closely

In general, it takes a week for a payment to be approved by People Per Hour and a withdrawal request processed. If your client is not Verified, it can take far longer. If a client chooses not to pay your invoice for a whole month, it could result in a delay of up to six weeks before you get paid. Be careful with this – it can really scupper you if you need some equipment or have some bills coming up.

A rather unpleasant policy is the advance service fee deduction. If a client drags a job out for longer than 60 days, People Per Hour will automatically deduct the service fee from your account even though you’ve not invoiced for the work yet. I was recently charged £45 for a £1,000 contract which had not yet kicked off. I then got a £170 payment from someone else, meaning I only withdrew £125. When that £125 hit my bank account, I had to write off part of the £170 invoice in FreeAgent, even though my client has paid it. It makes a real mess of your accounts: watch out!

9. Leave Jobs Open

Once you find a client (or a freelancer) through People Per Hour, you must continue to use the site as an intermediary for a period of one year. Don’t let anyone bully you out of this. Lots of clients have told me it’s inconvenient, and I understand why, but circumventing the site violates their terms and conditions and simply isn’t worth doing. You’ll be penalised – not the client. If they don’t understand why you’re asking them to work through People Per Hour, point them towards the excellent support desk and the website T&Cs.

When you complete a contract, it’s worth leaving the job open for a while in case you need to do any further work for that client. It means you can easily raise more invoices without having to bid on a new job.

10. Free Samples: Just Say NO!

Clients might ask you do to free samples for them – ‘just to check you’re on the right lines’. They then decide you’re not the right candidate, but not before they’ve posted your free article up on their website. There’s nothing to stop a client asking each bidder to write for free and never accepting a bid at all. Bidders who work in graphic and web design have plenty of horror stories to tell: free samples and test pieces are submitted one day and mercilessly ripped off the next.

If all you do is write test pieces or create free logos, how are you ever going to make money? You could spend days writing and designing for nothing. What’s your time worth? Never, ever work for free!

Claire Broadley is a SEO content writer and technical author. She has co-written a book on Camtasia Studio. Hire Claire to write for you.

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