I’m giving up on the three freelance sites I was using: freelancer.com, elance.com, and Guru.com. None of them provide enough feedback to warrant any more bids. You bid, you wait, and you wait some more. The deadline for submitting passes but in the great majority of cases, you hear nothing further about the project. You have no idea if the work was awarded or if the assignment was cancelled. Nothing.
I like the idea of freelance sites, but until they can provide constructive feedback I think they are not worth bothering with. In particular, I would not tailor a query to the job in question, as I did with so many bids. Personalizing a proposal, while always a good idea in the print world, will not get you any positive results compared to a generic application. If I were running these sites I would require the employers to detail when the work was assigned, if at all, the winning bid, and the people that got the work.
Transparency is badly needed and without it I won’t be using these sites any longer.
May 6, 2015 update: Freelancer.com finally provides some honesty. In an e-mail, they disclose the following. “On average, it takes more than 35 bids to get a job.” 35! This reaffirms my thinking that it is as tough to get a freelance position as it is to get a regular job. You need patience, persistence, and, as always, some luck.
May 20, 2016 update: Flexjobs.com appears to be a legitimate freelance site. I write about it here (internal link)