As a freelancer on, you really are one in a million. One in 1.7 million, to be more precise! How can you stand out to employers and win more jobs? Start by avoiding these common profile mistakes and you’ll be miles ahead of the competition.

Avoid These 10 Profile Mistakes

Mistake #1: Viewing Your Profile As An Afterthought

Providing employers with an accurate profile is the first step of getting hired. If your profile is lacking, employers have no way of judging whether you have the skills and experience they need. In fact, if you don’t add any services, you might as well not have an account because employers won’t be able to find you on Guru!

Help clients get to know you as easy as possible by providing a profile that has character. Upload a quality profile photo (logos are OK but not as effective). Introduce yourself and your company, and spell out what you can do for employers by adding services. Remember to include keywords so your services show up for relevant searches.

Mistake #2: Letting Your Profile Get Stale

Once you’ve completed your profile, you can’t simply let it set. Your profile should reflect your current skills and best work at all times. If you haven’t updated it in over a year, it’s probably out of date.

Keep your profile fresh to attract new employers. Add new work collections to your portfolio and attach them to your services. Revisit your work terms regularly. Ask employers to leave you feedback every time you finish a job. Expand your offerings by identifying current in-demand skills and taking skill tests to prove your knowledge.

Mistake #3: Writing Generic Titles & Descriptions

If your services look identical to everyone else’s, you will have a difficult time getting hired. Focus on why you’re different or unique. How do the services you offer relate to your unique vision? Anyone can master a skill, but not everyone can offer the expertise that you’ve built up in your body of work.

Put yourself in an employer’s shoes. Use the same language they would when looking for a freelancer like you. Search for jobs that interest you, and see what keywords employers use in the descriptions. Make sure you include those terms in your service descriptions. The more you use a given keyword, the higher you’ll rank for it!

You can also take a look at what other freelancers are doing. Search for services that are like yours, and study those that are ranking well.

Finally, attach work collections to your services so employers see an image alongside your services.

Mistake #4: Lack of Personal Brand

Your profile is where you get to express who you are and how you work. The language you use is important when developing your brand, and pitching incorrectly will cost you clients. Too informal and you could come across as unprofessional, while too formal could prove too impersonal for some employers’ tastes.

Keep your intended audience in mind. How do they want to be talked to? Try to write in a way that speaks to them and their needs. If you want to work with larger companies, a formal tone is a safe bet. However if you work in a creative industry you can use a more informal tone.

Mistake #5: Empty Portfolio

Unless you show examples of your work, an employer may not feel confident in hiring you. The work collections in your portfolio help attract attention to your services. Attach a work collection to a service and its cover image will show next to that service in search results.

If you don’t have any previous freelance work to show, get creative. You can create work examples just for your portfolio. For example, if you are starting a freelance writing business you can write a sample blog post even if an employer didn’t hire you for it.

If the type of work is not visual, you can create a work collection and upload a word document, PDF or video explaining the work you did. Talk about the employer’s needs and how you met (or exceeded) their expectations. For the work collection’s cover image, design a simple image that spells out your service or represents it. For example, if you offer accounting services you could upload a photo of coins on top of a book.

Mistake #6: Cluttered Portfolio

On the other end of the spectrum, putting everything you’ve ever done in your portfolio isn’t the best strategy. If you show too much, employers could be overwhelmed and miss your best work.

Select the work you display in your portfolio with care, and organize it by project or client. Try to represent each of your services with at least one work collection. You should be equally proud of each and every piece you add. Quality over quantity!

Mistake #7: Grammar Errors

The quickest way to scare off an employer is to use poor grammar on your profile. They might assume you are as careless in your work as you are in your writing. Not to mention, poor grammar can make it hard for employers to understand you. Communication is key to success as a freelancer, so you need to be able to clearly state your work terms and expectations.

Proofread everything you write on your profile and check for these common grammar mistakes. Not a native English speaker? Consider asking a fellow freelancer who specializes in English translation to help.

Mistake #8: Lack of Confidence

If you don’t believe in yourself, who will? Employers want to work with freelancers who assure them that they will deliver quality results.

While you shouldn’t pretend to have skills you don’t, never talk down about your abilities. Prove your skills by taking skill tests and adding your best work in your portfolio. Avoid using phrases like, “I’m just getting started” or, “I hope to one day achieve…”.

Mistake #9: Charging Too Little For Services

It is a common misconception that freelancers have to price their services low to succeed. Many freelancers begin by undercharging for their work — and then get stuck in an endless cycle of mediocre gigs.

Charge what you are worth! To start, take a look at what other freelancers are charging for similar quality and type of work. Then figure out what you need in order to support the lifestyle you want using this handy calculator. As long as you’ve completed your profile, an employer will have plenty of proof that you can do what you say. The more information and work collections you add to your profile, the easier it will be to justify your fees.

Mistake #10: Marketing Yourself as “We”

If you are a one-person shop, make sure your employers know this even if you run your freelance business under a corporate name. You don’t want to give the impression that you have an entire staff working on various roles when it’s just you. Be clear on who you are, what you do, and what you don’t do.

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  1. Anthonyk747

    These would all be perfectly great advice, but they’re not! Why? Because for some damn, unknown reason, left-and-right, I keep seeing freelancers being hired on Guru and Elance with absolutely no profile, but a single sentence, or a decent profile, with no skill tests to prove their skills and no verification, or no portfolio and an outrageous price point (higher than mine), or worse, the employer will be straight-up naive and believe that someone can get something done in as little as 1 day for $25 or some crap like that.

    These do not answer my questions as to WHY employers keep hiring people for jobs that I apply to, when clearly my profile looks much better than theirs.

    Worse yet, I seem to keep running into employers that can’t even read or follow their own instructions! Heck, just recently, I applied for a simple typing job, which involved typing a digital form of 200 pages of hand-written notes/text in a direct copytyping environment. So, first mistake, was that the employer sent the message on one of the day’s of the week where I simply cannot work at all due to house chores (and I specifically state this in ALL of my applications, underneath the bolded section of “Times of Availability”), then they asked me to do a sample/trial work of the 10 pages provided attached in the message (no work was attached). So, it’s not exactly helpful if not even your own damn employers read what needs to be read!

    The next blog post should be about giving tips to employers!

    • Anna

      Hi Anthony, Unfortunately there will always be employers who care more about finding the cheapest rate than finding a talented freelancer. However we’re trying to make it easy for those employers who do want quality and are willing to invest to find the freelancers they need and understand why the rate is what it is. A big part of this is the profile (and how your portfolio and services showcase your specific skills and experience).

      On this blog we educate both employers and freelancers about how to get more out of I will keep your comments in mind. We do have quite a few blog posts planned geared towards helping employers choose freelancers.

      • Shane

        That was an awesome reply. I have been working for a long time on another really well known freelancing site and have recently been taking on some work on Guru. The quality of the responses from Guru staff is always a pleasant surprise. I had become accustomed to the copy and paste, slapdash, sometimes even completely irrelevant reply’s from the other site while on Guru it is clear both the Freelancer and Employer are valued. Keep up the great work! Please never change!

    • Fred H

      There’s a basic spelling error in your post. Perhaps the same is true of your profile?

    • Karam

      I have also noticed that employers don’t always hire based on your profile.Even if your profile is a one liner but you post a good solid proposal on a job, you might end up getting hired.

  2. Brian

    I agree with the above comment! I’ve seen some jobs listed for ridiculously low hourly pays, like $3-$5 an hour! Who in the USA is going to work for that kind of income? I also agree that some of the employers don’t know what they are doing. They seem to hire people hoping they can work their job better than they can!

    • Anna

      Hi Brian, thanks for sharing your thoughts. In fact, that’s the topic of an upcoming blog post! Keep your eyes peeled.

    • Stanley

      Yes, I have seen ridiculous posts like: “copy writer wanted with master’s or higher degree, budget is only $4 for 2500 words. Must deliver in 2 hours.” When I see posts like this I laugh and then I am sobered by the fact that the poster was friggin’ serious. Even on weeks when my bank account is totally empty and I really need cash, I would not bid on such a job. Perhaps a poor Indian or Pakistani college student can do it and actually make a living, but for a guy in the USA like me it is a waste of time. I can’t really believe that the poster thinks that they can get a quality product by paying so little from anyone whatsoever. It is saddening and devalues freelancers in general. When we accept less than we are really worth, we undermine ourselves and lower the price of the entire market. The client will think that it is ok to pay us pennies and then demand perfect at the same time.

      • Brenda

        I agree with Stanly. One massage therapist wanted to pay $3 per article for content on her website. I wondered if she’d give me a massage for $3. Another wanted articles written for free in trade “for the experience and exposure” because after all, “he could write the articles himself if he wanted to, but doesn’t have the time. I wondered if he’d clean out my garage for free just for the experience and exposure, because, after all, I could clean it out myself if I wanted to, just don’t have the time. Whenever I see “job matches” from Guru come into my mailbox, 9 times out of 10 it turns out to be a non-job, which I end up reporting. What’s strange is, I see many people bidding on these “jobs.” I can’t help wondering who is encouraging this type of listing, or if perhaps people are applying but are bidding with higher fees.

      • Ruthie Urman

        Great post, Stanley! And yes, we get paid what we feel we are worth, yeah? I also would not want to give these employers a moment of my precious time, no matter how much I have in my credit union. Not only are they delirious when it comes to expectations of time and money, they are not “clients” I want to work with or spend my time communicating with. I’d much prefer an employer that wants quality work, because then I know that I’m dealing with a “quality” human being.

        • Stanley

          Thank you Ruthie and Brenda. I have recently started charging between 10% and 20% more for my jobs and I have found that, not only do I get a better class of client, but I am able to not take on so many little piddly jobs in favor of more substantive ones that pay better. So, my experiment has paid off, but I would warn that you must obly do this when you have established a reputation with good feedback from clients. Demanding high prices right off the bat as a new freelancer is a formula for disaster.

  3. Paul

    I guess I have a different take on it. If you want to waste time and bids on something like the $2 an hour job then go for it. If an employer wants to hire someone to edit his book for $25 let him. Sooner or later both will realize they are wasting their money or time.

    You get what you pay for and give what you are paid.

  4. Hitesh

    Great Advice !!

    We are working on Guru from past 14 months and get a great response from overseas clients. but about building a good profile we need to update our new project’s designs but we saw few other freelancers download that designs and using for there portfolios. So it’s our suggestions that you can make a secure system for so nobody can download others portfolio designs.

    Thank You

    • Anna

      Hi Hitesh, glad to hear you’re getting a good response from clients! We actively go after freelancers who use work in their portfolios that isn’t theirs. If you find a freelancer who is using work that’s not their own, please contact us and we’ll investigate and, if needed, ban the freelancer from the site.

  5. Allison

    Thanks for this blog post! It is super helpful and I’m going to change out some of my old stuff in my portfolio right now.

  6. Mitchell Allen

    Personally, I think the post is spot-on. You can’t control what others will do, but you can influence them, to some extent.

    Freelancing is first and foremost a marketing endeavor. The profile and portfolio are two legs of your promotional stool. The third leg is your proposal. If you take the time to understand a potential employer’s project, you can position yourself as a valuable consultant – not an hourly worker or project hack.

    I know the focus of this post is on the profile, but don’t neglect the proposal. (Bidding is relatively expensive here, but you can practice on other job sites that have more liberal bidding allowances. Surely not all of your eggs are in the basket?)

  7. saurabh gupta

    I have been here for about 6 months or so and I did not get a single project as compared to freelancer where i got 13. Somehow I feel much improvement is needed in this site.

  8. Proprofessional

    It would be very helpful if you could post the average per hour paid and flat rate paid for a project, so we at least have an idea of what our bid should be and then adjust upward or downward depending on our thoughts about the project. I’ve been on here more than a year and I still have no idea if my bids are realistic or not. I spoke with one lady on here that bid $250 to do SEO for a person’s website, didn’t get the bid, but the person that bid $800 got the job and hired her to do it. There’s a big difference between $250 and $800, enough so someone could bid on the job and pay someone else to do it. I wouldn’t mind making $550 for doing nothing but hiring someone to bid on a project I was already awarded.

    • Anna

      Excellent feedback, I will pass this along to the rest of the team and see if we can provide some helpful rate info.

  9. Dr.K.Srilatha

    Hi Anna
    In my portfolio I have clearly given that I have done offline jobs writing textbooks,articles,and study materials and helped few people in completing their Phd.I don’t have experience of online job’s same thing I have posted in my profile so how do I go about it.

  10. Zack

    I mainly work on but have decided to work on GURU. There are different types of clients, I myself saw this problem when I projects being awarded to the lowest bidder. There are freelancers who will write a 100 page eBook for $50, but then again, there are employers who will pay $1500 for a 100 page eBook. Its up to you how you brand yourself and select your target market (employers)there is plenty of work for everyone.

  11. Tracey

    Totally agree with the first comment. This is not a site for real freelancers and I have yet to find a good one. I’d like to know how 20 people can bid on a job that the employer hasn’t even described in any detail like “need an analysis.” Add to that the endless jobs of students posting their college homework / exams, this site is a waste of time for me to find real projects. the first freelance web site that truly monitors the jobs that are posted and truly monitors the freelancers allowed onto the site will be the one that wins in the end. The current U.S. workforce is 33% freelance and is projected to be 50% freelance within 3 years.

    • Brenda

      If wants to hire me to monitor job postings and flag those that are inappropriate, that would be great, because that’s about all I do for free for them on 9 out of 10 emails I get listing supposed new jobs for my skills. It isn’t that I haven’t been chosen by a potential employer, there are no real employers here to bid to (I’d been successfully freelancing since 2000). There are only “start-ups” looking for freebies or offering insultingly low pay. Or, “must speak native English and not have no mistakes and pass all copyscape and meet all deadlines and have past articles already published on topic we looking for (then they leave out the topic) and must submit three samples of perfect and original copy first without pay and give us all copyrights for them articles to use as we please and then we decide who gets to work for us and pay you $5 per 1000 word article not counting the free three “test articles” wrote for us and we choose you.”

  12. Victoria

    These are very valid tips to follow. These ‘rules of thumb’ are something I learned early on in my freelance career and have used with my own Guru profile with the result that I have no problem getting quality gigs here on Guru. I’ve actually never had to use another freelance site because for 13 years Guru clients have kept me in business. So, Guru, you’re doing a great job! The one tip I will mention in depth is ‘pricing yourself too cheaply’ as this is a much discussed subject of freelancers. No matter how good your profile/portfolio, it often comes down, at rockbottom, to PRICE. I’ve often faced this dilemma of overselling vs. underselling my services when negotiating with a prospective client. When ad/creative budgets are tight, a start up or small business can be more concerned with price than quality AT FIRST. In cases like this, I will lower my fee to fit the budget to land the client. This practice has always worked in my favor. The lower price gets them to bite, once they realize I’m dependable and offer a good product, they keep biting and don’t mind the price increases as the projects increase. And then there’s the added benefit of referrals. So in some cases lowering your fees to accommodate budgets should not be viewed as underselling your services. It’s more a case of understanding economies and how to land that consistent fish that will feed you longer and tell their friends!

    • Daniel N. Allen

      A few good points Victoria, thank you. But I’m not sure if you are in the same way of getting the best price for your business. (Basically ) ,your still cheapening yourself.

  13. Patrick

    The post is useful. But a lot of the freelancer platforms have degenerated into modern day slave farms. Some of the projects that employers are posting are downright ludicrous. ” 1000 word SEO article for $2 to be delivered in 2 hours, we will reject and blacklist spun articles or articles with bad grammar” There is just not enough filters to keep these types from posting jobs. has many job posts like these. I am in Zimbabwe, surviving in a difficult economy but will NEVER sacrifice my talents or time for such slave wages. Sometimes employers provide job posts with vague and generalized instructions but still go on to request repeated revisions and even reject articles. More needs to be done to educate employers and also to protect freelancers from fly-by-night middlemen who hoard jobs and resell them at massive markups.

  14. Vidit Kothari

    I really appreciate and agree with Anna’s post.
    The tips & advice that she wrote are actually very basic but effective ones. Those tips can add real, authentic dimension to ones profile and thus increase chances of getting hired.

    Now about the other comments discussing about super low pay amount, poor profile getting jobs, etc.
    I’d like to share few cases:
    1) There are few people who come on portal just to make sure about the workflow and ensure security. So in such cases, a client and a freelancer (who are already acquainted with one another) sign up on the portal and create a job just for the sake of adding (or any other portal) as intermediary, just in case to bring in a checking body.
    2) Not everyone is as well informed and knowledgeable from day one. There are clients which don’t know much about the freelancing portals and do some serious blunders while starting up.

    So in brief way this outlines various cases in practical world. And eventually every freelancer has to follow at least some of the tips & advice in the post to develop and improve themselves.

  15. Alec

    I was wondering: what does a freelancing quantitative analyst put in the portfolio? The analysis? It usually contains the client’s confidential (e.g., financial) information. The code that does the computation? With today’s powerful mathematical packages, the code is rather short and, again, may reveal confidential details of the project. Images of plots? These don’t really show the analyst’s skill. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  16. Debbie

    I have found some of these comments helpful and will certainly have a look at my profile.
    My problem is that I have no idea of the best way to market myself, and whether my quotes and letter are acceptable. I have also had 90% of the work I have applied for withdrawn which makes me wonder why “employers” are posting work that they have no intention of carrying through with. I too, am fed up with people expecting huge amounts of work to be done in a short period of time for biscuits.
    I will continue to stick with it and keep trying, but obviously we are all going to be disillusioned at some stage.

  17. Jim

    This advice would work if people didn’t hire the cheapest Indian for $1 per hour, doesn’t matter how good your portfolio is, if you live in the west don’t bother, you’re competing against a billion Indians who will work for nothing, and all the employers know this, it’s a form of slave labour.

    • Brenda

      I agree, Jim. There needs to be a USA only freelancer’s site (maybe Canada included). Still, employers know they can outsource via other platforms so perhaps it would do no good. These freelance sites seemed so promising at first, but now I realize they’re just another way of sending USA jobs overseas.

      Even if, as one poster suggested, low bids produce low quality work and employers eventually discover that… meanwhile, I can’t pay my mortgage like I used to in the olden-days of freelancing… I don’t have time to wait for them to discover that and decide they’ll hire me after all. As a freelance feature writer for years, I’m suddenly in a country that won’t pay me for my skills.

  18. Lynne

    I have a question about portfolios. I’ve been freelancing for a couple of years, and have just joined Guru. I have never put together a portfolio, because, as a proofreader, the work really isn’t mine to post. Is there some sort of protocol or way to handle this? I’m kind of at a loss, but I’d really like to show my work on my profile. Any advice?

  19. Tim

    This was a helpful article thank you. Any freelance work I get is through Fiverr, but I’m practically giving away my work on there. Yet to get any work on Guru or Freelancer, but these tips were a big help. Thanks again!

  20. Shane

    When I started out I used to target jobs with a lower budget range. I am South African and figured I’d take advantage of the USD/ZAR rate. Biggest Mistake! Anyone who posts jobs with low rates are already insulting your trade and you can be certain even if you deliver exactly as outlined you will end up having to put more in and sometimes even than not receive the peanuts on offer. Employers with really low budgets complain and expect so much more while employers who set higher budgets respect you as a worker and pay when requirements are met. I am a web developer but am sure it applies to most online freelancing type gigs. Never allow someone to undervalue your work. If a ridiculously low budget is set you can be sure the entire experience will be a nightmare.

  21. Christine Brown

    I totally agree. There needs to be a USA only freelancer’s site (maybe Canada included). Still, employers know they can outsource via other platforms so perhaps it would do no good. These freelance sites seemed so promising at first, but now I realize they’re just another way of sending USA jobs overseas….I bet there may be a change in time to come. Well I really.

  22. Justin

    While I agree with a lot of the comments regarding ridiculously low budget jobs being posted Guru is still a very viable source of good paying work even for people living in the USA.

    My company has brought in over $103K from Guru in the last few years, in the web design/marketing sector. It’s worth noting we’ve done this without the best profile/portfolio, without the best website of our own, and without bidding low and taking work for peanuts. We could be and will be doing even better.

    My point is, if you really want to make this work you can. Don’t give up, and don’t settle for slave wages.

    Admittedly, however, I am amused and frustrated when I see jobs like “Need a website designed and developed from scratch with all the features of amazon, ebay, facebook, airbnb, and guru combined. Must rank #1 on Google for the keyword “insurance”. Must be done quickly. Must send wireframes, mockups, and custom working demo to be considered for the project.”… and the budget is under $250. Hahaha, sure!

    I see lots of jobs requesting mockups, or offering only to pay either commission or equity/partnership, which is against the rules. I report them sometimes, if I have the time, but they don’t seem to get removed.

    I work with others in my field from India and the Philippines and I can assure you most of them laugh at such postings too and would not work for those amounts. I do see people bidding on such projects anyway. I suspect they are either bidding much higher regardless of the stated budgets, or they do not at all understand the project description (if they’ve even read it).

    Guru isn’t perfect, but it is IMHO AWESOME and getting better, you just have to be patient and diligent. Keep moving forward people, you can do this!

  23. Toni

    Your suggestions are good basics assuming that employers are professional and know what they want and how to communicate. What if anything are you doing about the employer that fills out the “description box” with one word – marketing? I could go on and on with examples. Why not have mandatory fields for employers to complete, i.e., industry, product, or service, deliverable, time frame, etc. Not to mention a full sentence of their job.

    • Anna

      Hi Toni,
      We continue to educate employers about how to create a clear and effective job posting. We also flag any job postings with a description that is less than 100 characters. Those jobs are then reviewed. We do require a title, description, category, keywords, and budget when an employer is creating a new posting.

  24. Maryeileen Corcoran

    Do I need to do something special to receive job matches? I am not receiving job matches in my e-mail.

  25. Sheri

    I would first like to thank Guru and those few at Guru who work hard to bring work to freelancers. I appreciate you much. Your company and Elance have been the best of all the online sites that offer services like these. But now—with the oDesk and Elance merger changed to UpWork, quality on Elance will suffer and clients will eventually have to go over to UpWork. At least Guru still cares about freelencers.

    With that said, until writers refuse to work for sweat-shop wages, clients will continue to insult them by offering low pay and inventing companies to make themselves money by exploiting the effort of writers. What amazes me more than clients who offer unacceptable pay are writers who actually bid on these jobs and take them! I don’t think profiles mean much on these online writing sites. Most of my clients never even read my proposals let alone look at my profiles on these sites. They are looking for the lowest bid. That’s all. I do like the profile format on Guru, but with sites like Fiverr where every job is paid $5 no matter what, I wonder how long fair pay offerings will be made to freelance writers on any of these sites.

  26. Success

    I have found Guru to be quite useful. As soon as posted my add I started getting replies. Its true that some employers may be looking for super cheap staff and the same with staff putting unclear profiles. However the employers who post the best job ads will get the best response and the guys with the most accurate profiles will likely get better results overtime for job apps.

    Good job Guru

  27. Tom


    I sure would appreciate initial tips on how to market myself / services through GURU as I’m just getting started. I have an extensive, successful sales / marketing background. It seems, based on comments I’ve read, that most of your project searchers provide more defined attributes such as proof reader or web designer. My sales, communication, and marketing skills, while proven, are more broad thus less specifically defined.Thank you. Suggestions?

  28. wayne

    Hi Anna

    I agree with the comment, way back at the start: The help here at Guru is miles ahead of the other freelance sites, so kudos for that.It’s nice to have real people answer our questions.

    I have a related question: I got a graphic designer to create a killer cover image for my portfolio, using the recommended image size at the upload button. However, when I view the image, it doesn’t look right (cropped out of proportion). Any tips or advice? I know responsive design means you have to cater for all screen sizes, but it looks wrong on my phone and my laptop. Please help!

    Thanks so much.


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