How to Consult From Anywhere in the World with eLance

by Jason -- March 15, 2010

One of the topics I enjoy diving into are the different ways travelers can make money on the road. An extremely popular way is consulting. In this post, I show you how easy and risk-less it is to get started. At the end, I also provide a couple resources to help you find a skill you can use to consult. (My quick two cents on finding a skill: Everyone has a skill they can use to consult with. Just like quitting your job and traveling the world, it’s simply a matter of doing it.)

Getting Started on eLance

I’ve discussed before what an amazing website eLance is. Elance has people for hire if you’re in need of anything from web development, to accounting, to a lawyer. In the same respect, if you are able to do anything from writing, to design, to sales – eLance has people willing to pay you money.

Here’s a quick step-by-step on the sign-up process with eLance:

  1. The first decision is your membership level. The key difference between the paid memberships and the free membership are the amount of projects you can bid on in a given month and the amount of categories you can bid in. The categories are actually slightly annoying. Elance offers 8 different categories of work and as a provider, you can only bid on projects within the category you’ve chosen. If someone puts a project in the wrong category or if your skill-set overlaps multiple categories, you’re probably going to have to upgrade. But for now, I recommend starting with the free membership – you can always upgrade later.
  2. Next, add some preliminary information about your business. You can always come back to this later to really fine tune this area (which I recommend).
  3. After finishing the preliminary information there are 3 steps remaining in being able to complete your profile and begin bidding on projects. Passing the admission test, verifying your phone number and verifying your country.
  4. The admission test is very easy. There is some reading they recommend you do before you take the test and while most of it is common sense, it’s worth skimming through. Here are a couple question examples from the test.
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  6. The last two steps are self-explanatory.

Before bidding on a project

I’d recommend spending a good amount of time filling out your profile as completely as possible. As someone who’s purchased services from eLance, any information you can provide to tell more about yourself and why you’re worth the amount you’re going to charge is time well spent.

Finally, I recommend adding applicable “skills”. It involves taking a test, but again, it shows you know what you’re doing. The Microsoft Excel test I took was surprisingly difficult, but if you know your stuff, you should have no problems passing.

Finding a Project & Bidding

One of the nice things about eLance is that people who post projects can specifically ask certain providers to bid on their projects.  This means that once in a while, you don’t have to find a project, it’ll find you. But this is rare and has only happened to me a couple of times. You’re better off browsing and searching through the project list.

Tip: Make sure you’re only searching for projects within your category, as those are the only projects you’ll be able to bid on with a free account.

Once you find a project, the next step is putting together a bid. This is a critical step. Spending extra time putting together a well thought out bid that specifically addresses the project’s needs will significantly increase your chances of winning the project. I also recommend asking questions before you bid if there is something that is unclear about it. It’s great to win a project, but if you can’t get a good sense of how many hours the project will take, then you risk over or under bidding.

After winning the project, the real fun begins of delivering what you’ve promised! For advice on this, I’d recommend eLance University as a starting point.

My eLance Story

Consulting was something I was particularly excited about. After spending some time putting together my eLance portfolio, I was able to find my first client. The project was essentially a Microsoft Excel dashboard with a couple of other requirements. After a couple phone calls, I realized how difficult managing this relationship was going to be from Southeast Asia while traveling with spotty Internet connections. It just wasn’t going to work. I was able to refer the client to an ex-colleague and leave the relationship in a good enough place where I can contact him in the future. I learned quickly why it’s important to have a steady Internet connection and a more solid structure to your day. Constant travel is not a good way to begin a consulting business.


I Will Teach You To Be Rich” had a number of comprehensive articles on consulting and earning money.

Location Independent has a great community of people to help you find skills to consult with as well as transition your consulting gig to one in which you can work and live anywhere you choose.

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