Whether you run your own freelance paralegal business or you just want to earn some extra cash, job boards are an excellent way to find freelance paralegal work. However, to be successful using job boards, there are some things that you will need to do before bidding on any jobs.
The first thing you will need to do is get a website. Not only does a website make you appear more professional, but it is also a great way to show off your skills and describe your services. Setting up a website does not have to cost a lot of money, and you can do all or most of the work yourself. To set up a website:
1. Buy a domain (a web address, such as “paralegalalliance.com”).You may have to go through several choices to find one that is available. One thing that you can do to increase your chance of finding an available domain is to try domains ending with extensions other than “.com”. Also available are “.net”, “.info”, “.biz” and many more. You can search for available domains on any website that sells them. I use Net Firms, but web.com, and GoDaddy are also popular choices. You may want to shop around and get the lowest price possible by searching “buy a domain” at your favorite search engine and checking several companies’ prices. Most domains will cost you between $5 and $20 a year.
2. Find a hosting company. A hosting company is a company that stores websites on a server (a computer that is online 24/7) and makes them accessible via the internet. Many of the companies that sell domains also sell hosting packages or offer free hosting with your domain purchase. Some companies you might want to consider for your free or low cost hosting include:
- Net Firms – free basic hosting with domain name purchase
- WIX.com – free hosting and web design templates
- GoDaddy – hosting plans starting a just $1 a month
- Webs – free hosting and web design templates
- WordPress.com – free hosting for WordPress websites (recommended)
3. Design your website. All of the hosting companies listed above provide easy to use software and templates so that you can design your site yourself within a day or two. Many also provide 24/7 support if you run into any problems. At the very minimum, your site should include the following pages.
- Landing, or front, page. This is the first page of the website that potential clients will see and it should sell you and your services and make it obvious to users within the 15 seconds what the site is about and what you do.
- Contact page. Your contact page should contain both an email address and a phone number where you can be reached. You may also want to embed a form for easy contact or quick questions, and links to your social media sites. An address is also preferable, but if you do not want to give out your home address and do not have an office, you can leave this information off, or consider renting a post office (P.O.) box.
- Services page. Your services page should list and describe the services that you provide and some general pricing, such as “flat rates as low as $50” or “rates start at $18 per hour”. If you will be providing assistance filling in specific documents, such as divorce forms or affidavits, you may want to specify exactly how much it costs for you to help complete those. Whatever you decide, never ask clients to contact you for a quote without first giving them some idea how much your services will cost.
- About me. Your about me page should contain your degree and/or certificate information, the name of the school that you attended, a copy of your resume, and a description of your skills and accomplishments. You may also choose to include some personal information about your family and hobbies if you wish.
The second thing you will need to do is create a portfolio to add to your website. A paralegal portfolio should contain writing samples and pleadings that you have drafted, other than basic form pleadings, as well as links to anything you have published, and information about any awards or certificates you have received. You can create graphics, a slideshow of writing samples, or get creative and make a video or other presentation. However you choose to do it, you want to be sure to include a wide variety of samples and as many credentials as possible. If you have taken and passed any paralegal registration or certification exams, this is where you want to include that information.
Next you need to set up free accounts at the job board sites you will use. There are probably 100’s of job boards, but many of them are just not popular enough to really bring in any clients. The three that I have had the most luck with are Odesk, Elance, and Guru. People Per Hour and Freelancer are also good sites to use. They way it works on all of them is you get a certain number of “tokens” each week to bid on jobs. Each time you submit a proposal to a client, it costs you a token, unless the client invited you to apply for his or her job, then you can submit a proposal without using a token. Once you have had some clients and good ratings, you will begin to get invited to jobs and will not have to spend time searching for them or use your tokens to bid. Clients pay you through the site, and payment for hourly jobs is guaranteed, as long as you download and run the hourly job software. The software keeps track of your time and bills the correct client, taking a screen capture of your desktop every 15 minutes. It also gives you the opportunity to attach notes and captions to the screen captures. Payments are made to you by check or through PayPal weekly and/or whenever you request one.
Fourth, you need to make sure that you have an awesome profile on the job boards. The easiest thing to do is to complete your profile on one of the job board sites, then transfer the information to the others. You will want to come up with some advertisement blurb for a section or two and a tagline, fill in your job history, set your hourly rate, upload a photo, describe your services, choose keywords to tag your profile with, and fill in other sections of information as requested. The key to a good profile is to fill in everything.
Finally, you need to learn how to apply for jobs. Your proposals should make you stand out from everyone else who submits one and should directly address each thing that the client said in his or her job listing. For example, if the job is for drafting probate estate documents in California, and you have experience with probate law and California courts, you would want to say that in your proposal. You should also tell the client specifically how long it will take you to complete the job, what your fee will be, and when you can have the completed project to them. You can then direct the client to your website for more information about you and your services. Many of the job boards publish blogs and information to help you write better proposals and get more jobs. If you use a site that contains this type of information, pay attention to it and follow any of the suggestions that you can.None found at this time.