Life as a freelancer can be tough sometimes.
While friends often see freelancing as an easy ride that lets you get up at whatever time you like, the reality is, once you do get up, sometimes finding work (in a world where it seems that everyone is a freelancer) feels like its own, often draining, full-time job.
The problem is, it’s a job that doesn’t pay bills; it often doesn’t satisfy you creatively – and perhaps most importantly; it’s a job many people don’t actually want.
It’s an inherent part, or problem, depending on your angle, of being a creative freelancer. You’re also supposed to be both artistically creative and a relentless self-promoter – two skills that aren’t necessarily naturally aligned.
So, what’s the answer?
For many of us – it’s using professional freelance job websites – arguably one of the best things to happen to freelancers since they started delivering granola by post…
Don’t get me wrong – you’re still competing with others – but the simple fact that you’re getting eyes on your work for free is, let’s be honest, pretty brilliant.
Which direction? Picture by ShonEjai
But which ones to use? Well here’s the beauty – why not use them all? It’ll take a little time to set up each account – but each site is full of clients actively looking for people just like you. The more places your work is seen (usually for free), the more likely you’re going to hear from them – a definite win-win.
Now with this in mind – I’d strongly suggest that you make sure that you’re on point with your personal branding – and you’re presenting consistent work examples across the board. People using more than one of these sites to find freelancers will, consciously or not, start to notice your work standing out more this way.
Most of these sites promote a wide range of skill sets, so there should be somewhere to showcase your work – whatever your field.
Top Professional Freelance Job Websites
Although Upwork as a brand has only been around 4 years, it’s actually one of the most established freelance sites around – having originally started in part in 1999 as Elance, and later merging with oDesk – before ultimately becoming Upwork.
With this pedigree, it’s probably no surprise to find out it’s amassed a network of over 12 million freelancers, 5 million clients, and 3 million projects annually worth over a billion dollars.
Big numbers – so probably something you should be involved with.
What’s great for users is their sliding scale commission system per project and the ability to agree on project milestones where you’re paid in part during the process. One downside is that unlike some freelance sites, Upwork isn’t curated. This means that sometimes you may have to settle for lower paying projects, but if you manage to set up an ongoing client relationship the commission system works out in your favor.
Freelancer not only takes a low commission rate, but it takes the interesting angle of presenting some projects as contests or competitions as well as the standard hourly and fixed rate approach.
Once you’ve joined, browse the jobs – and when you find something you like, sell yourself. If this sounds like it fits your outlook and approach then this should be right up your street. You’ll initially get 8 free projects bids per month – and you’ll have options to upgrade your bids to help standout.
In case the name doesn’t give it away, projects on Fiverr starts at $5 with the ability to add tiers to drive the price up to something more palatable.
Given the potentially low fees, it sees a lot of traffic – but that’s also a double edge sword – you may have to expect lower paying projects as a result. That said, plenty of quick, fairly low paid gigs can be a great way to build up your portfolio if that’s your agenda.
With a focus on marketing, social media and copy, Cloudpeeps is a little more exclusive that most. However, if you can manage to get in, you may not need to work so hard to find a project.
The free plan costs 15% on your first $100 but beyond this monthly fees apply – however, as these go up, the commission comes down – so earning $400 would cost you $29 in fees – plus $20 in commission, which works out to be quite fair all round.
Covering freelance, remote and flexi-work, FlexJobs vets its listings – so whether you’re looking for a freelancer or looking for work, you’re in a safe place.
Because Flexjobs isn’t just for freelance work – there are employers on there who are looking for permanent staff (albeit in flexible roles) or job seekers looking for roles that offer a bit more flexibility than a standard 9-5 – giving you some options depending on your circumstances or requirements. Yearly membership to the site is pretty inexpensive although the site itself feels like it could do with a slight refresh.
Similar to Cloudpeeps, Toptal runs a strict vetting process – leading to a more exclusive club. Again, while this means the site can be a little harder to become a part of, the trust that introduces means you could find yourself working for some impressive clients. Toptal is serious business – and while only 3% of applications are accepted, they boast some impressive clients – such as Pfizer, Airbnb, Zendesk – and more.
Like freelancer, 99designs also offers contests for work on top of the standard approach. While this might appeal to your competitive nature, like freelancer, one of the downsides of submitting work to a contest is that if you don’t win, you get nothing for your effort – so it’s not an approach you’ll want to take if your time is at a premium or you lose heart easily.
A great thing about Solidgigs is once you’ve signed up, they’ve got a team who’ll scour job boards and get in touch with you about gigs they think you’ll be into. Monthly membership starts from $13 per month – and the platform also offers courses and tools so you can brush up on your skills to increase your chances of bringing projects in.
Another well-known name, PeoplePerHour is also exclusive. The exclusivity crops up a lot in freelancer discussion as it can be hard to get your foot in the door (I’ve even heard about people lying about what they offer to get in!) – but it can really be a positive thing if you’re serious about what you do. Fees run at 10% of any completed project.
iFreelance is a bit of gem. While it will charge you a low monthly fee, it’ll take precisely 0% commission. The potential downside of this is that the platform removes itself from the project process entirely (leaving you a bit exposed if you’re used to being paid through a site) – but if you’re used to the old-school approach of no middleman this won’t concern you in the slightest.
The Creative Loft
The Creative Loft is squarely for photographers, so is a very focused (unintentional pun – but I like it – so it stays!) place to find freelance and full gig jobs without any of the other stuff that caters for other creative roles. Membership isn’t free – but given the concentrated nature of the site – the time you’ll save by using it may well pay for itself.
Cover image of woman walking on sand dunes by Katerina Kerdi.