Joining The Freelancers Marketplace
The freelance economy is growing at a rapid pace. Freelancers now make up 35% of the American workforce and that number is only expected to rise.
Most freelancers at some point will use a freelance site to help their career along. Freelance sites are basically online market places where there are jobs listed or networks that connect freelancers with companies looking to hire.
There are many freelance site available. The downside of this is the time it takes to invest in learning which are the best for your needs. Each has it's pros and cons. Some require monthly subscriptions just to participate while others take a percentage of whatever you make through their site, some do neither.
To make it easier, we reviewed the most popular freelance sites and break down the pros and cons to so you can decide which is the best for you.
Upwork is one of the most popular freelance sites. Previously it was called oDesk which then merged with Elance and rebranded as Upwork.
It’s vision is; "to connect businesses with great talent and to work without limits".
Almost all jobs are virtual and can be work from home setups. Upwork boasts that they have millions of jobs posted annually and freelancers are earning mored than $1 billion via the site each year, providing companies with over 3,500 skills.
They have an easy to use dashboard that helps you get started right away. There are plenty of jobs to choose from with varying degrees of hourly and salary compensation options. The variety of the work is also very good. Their rating system helps freelancers get rewarded for good performance. Their customer support is fairly good with a quick response time.
The biggest Con with Upwork is their fees, coming in at 20%, that is a significant chunk of what you make and it has resulted in a lot of grumblings from freelancers. Upwork used to charge 10% but they have continuously raised their rates. What's more, getting jobs in the beginning when you have no ratings can be difficult. It is a highly competitive space and there are quite a few low paying jobs. This forces many first time freelancers to use low rates to get ratings which is not the best first impression.
Freelancer is a crowd-sourcing marketplace where businesses can post job ads, which freelancers can then bid on. Another popular site that has more than 14 million registered users, this site has it’s headquarters in Sydney Australia. Like with most freelance sites, posting a job is done similarly on Freelancer. Their payment structure is where they differ. Payment is determined by the hourly rate or by a fixed project fee and both the freelancer and employer get charged a fee . There are also different membership levels which affect fees. Entry level employers will need to pay $3 or 3 percent of the total project cost, whichever is greater, standard and premium members are waved an project fee. Freelancer charges basic freelancers $3 or 3 percent and sometimes up to $5 or 5 percent of the project cost, whichever is greater. Payments by employers are protected by their escrow system. The Milestone Payment system releases payments according to a schedule of goals you set.
Freelancer has a good dashboard as well as a large database of jobs being posted frequently. They have also provide a time tracking app that helps keep things transparent between freelancer and employer. They have a chat messaging system that helps keep you connected to your freelancer or employer. The variety of jobs is quite good and it seems to be a little less competitive than Upwork in some respects. Payments rates are similair to those on Upwork.
Freelancers using the free service can only submit up to 8 proposals a month, which is not a lot. The paid version allows for more of course. There have been some complaints about the payments system. Although it is setup to protect both freelancer and employer there are loopholes that have left some freelancers having their payments reversed. There are also several hidden fees that are not obvious when signing on, such currency exchange fees and inactivity fees even if you are a paid member. Another complaint is that freelancers that prefer to bid on project are not fans of the time tracking system.
Guru is a freelancing site that has around 1.5 million users. LIke Upwork and Freelancer, it is a global site that helps businesses connect with freelancers to complete technical, creative or other business projects. Like Freelancer, they have developed an escrow system called SafePay where employers pay Guru, which then releases the funds when a project is verified. Like most freelance sites, freelancers create a profile through the site and bid on projects that match their skills. Guru gives freelancers all of the professional tools you need to define milestones, set tasks, communicate with employers, share files, and agree upon payment schedules.
The dashboard is simple to use and the notification system makes it easy for freelancers to find projects that fit their skills as they become available. There are small projects listed but also large ones that pay well. There is also a lot of volume and also is less competitive than Upwork.
There is a limit to how many projects you can bid on with a free membership. There are a lot of jobs posted but you will need to spend a lot of time combing through and finding which jobs are right for you. There are quite a few low paying projects and both Guru and PayPal will take a small percentage of what you make. Ratings can also not be done until after a payment has been completed which means employers that stiff on a bill won't be flagged.
The idea behind Fiverr is that it is a marketplace where people are willing to do something for $5, hence the name. It is a crowdsourcing website that is basically another place for freelancers to post their skills. The tasks range from serious to the bizarre. Many of the jobs posted are similar to what you find on other freelance sites; blog editing, content writing, tech help etc. Servies are divided into 8 categories: graphics & design, digital marketing, writing and translation, video & animation, music & audio, programming & tech, business, fun & lifestyle. Within each category there are also sub categories. Now you might be thinking that $5 is not very much and you would be right. $5 is usually just the starting point and most freelancers offer enhanced packages for an increased price.
Fiverr provides secure communications between buyers and seller and handles payments transactions. You can also pay via PayPal, credit card or other electronic payments. Fiverr has a fun atmosphere and is a good place to start if you are just beginning to test the waters with freelancing. Their open community let’s you easily see what others are doing in your niche which is a good thing. It is very inviting and fairly easy to use.
When you advertise $5 jobs you are going to get offers that are not the best for creating a long term working relationship or possibly enough work to make a career out of using this site. The profile section has a very limited set up for adding parts of your portfolio. Only 3 images, 1 video and one pdf are allowed. There is also issues with the feedback system. Apparently it is easy to create fake accounts and give yourself good ratings when really you can be terrible at paying people or doing the work agreed to. The verification process is fairly non existent, all that is required is an email to sign up. Reviews are mixed with some people very happy and others very unhappy.
99designs is the world’s largest marketplace for graphic design, including logo design, web design and other design contests. There are 444,306 uses, 1 million designers and a money back guarantee for buyers. It starts with the buyers putting out a contests which is basically a request for services and a budget they decide in advance. They work through a questionnaire that builds their service request which is then sent out to the 99design freelancers. From there, the freelancers will brainstorm ideas for you. The buyers have a week to decide and the winner get’s the prize (money). The designs are released and the buyer get’s full copyrights.The freelancer get’s the full budgeted amount.
This is a great site for buyers and designers that want to get down to business. It is also pretty affordable for buyers so smaller to midsized companies and startups will make up the bulk of the buyers. The processing time is also very fast, making it an appealing place to buy custom designs. The payment system is also as fair as it can be. The buyer decided on the budget and “prepays”, the funds are held and then if the buyer chooses and accepts the design, the funds are released. If a design isn’t chosen they get their money back. This way the designers get the money agreed upon if they do the work requested. Seems pretty fair and there doesn't not seem to be a lot of complaints online.Customer service is excellent.
Communication can sometimes be tricky since 99designs is very international. Conveying what you want changed with a logo can be a process sometimes if you speak a different language. However, for the most part, buyers seem to be pretty happy with the set up. There are some reviews that showed that some designers felt ripped off but we also noticed in most of those reviews someone from 99Design responded and was trying help with the issue.
Toptal is an exclusive network of the top freelance developers, designers, and finance experts in the world. Their mission is to connect business and freelancers that are serious about working and are honest. There is no riff raff found on Top Tal. They do not allow for just anyone to join.
The reviews of toptal online are very positive. There is transparency with pricing, work is usually done quickly and efficiently on both ends. The interface is easy and intuitive to use and they offer flexibility as well allowing companies to scale up (or back) as needs change. In general the freelancers that are found on Toptal are more talented and have more experience.
If you are just starting out as a freelancer, this is not for you. If you wanted to expand on some new skills, again, not for you. You need to be a highly experienced freelancer. There is a screening process that says that only 3% of freelancers pass.
Simply Hired is an employment website but can have opportunities for freelancers.
This platform is easy to use and the quality of jobs is very good. If you are a freelancer looking to transition into more steady industry work, this is a good place to look.
Many jobs are not remote.
Peopleperhour is a UK based freelance job directory that was created in 2007 and also has offices in Athens. Like most freelance directories, it to aims to connect freelancers with businesses that need support on projects that are short or long term. Since it is based in the UK it has dominated that market more and become the top freelance site in the UK which is seeing a big growth in their freelance industry right now. The setup is pretty similar. Buyers post jobs, freelancers bid on projects but also have the option of posting “hourlies”, a concept close ot what Fiverr does where freelancers can offer a menu of projects with a cost. The categories of projects are typical of what you would find in the larger freelance sites; Admin, design, development & IT, Marketing & SEO, Social Media. Translation & Tutorials, Video, Photo & Audio, Writing. The profile set up is simialri to Up Work and Freelancer.
Online reviews of this site tend to be very positive. The quality of work offered seems to be very good. It is free to join and has a hybrid of bidding on projects plus posting a menu or services is popular amongst most it's freelancers. They have a ranking system that rewards good freelancers and buyers. This is important to weed out bad users and always results in a better system. THeir rating system seems fair and works well. They also have an escrow deposit system to help ensure freelancers get paid for work they did.
The fees associated are pretty high. 20% on the first £175 and then 3.5% after that. Also the exchange rate they have through their site is also not great. Some minor complaints with the dashboard and missing features like a time tracker. If you are not good at freelancing, you might have issues with the ranking system.
Contena is a directory for freelance writers. It scouts out and lists the best quality writing jobs out there. Jobs are posted but order as they appear but are further categorised by industry such as lifestyle education, marketing etc. They have a monthly subscription fee that is comes in different levels
If you want to make a career as a blog writer or copywriter, this site is probably worth the money. It will save you hours of searching for writing gigs. It has a lot of jobs and they are very high quality. The “academy” they have helps set you up to look like a good writer, supporting you on creating samples, teaching you how to pitch etc. If you feel like you have good experience and can pitch well, Contena will probably be worth the money.
They are super expensive. The platinum membership fee is $997. You better be booking a lot of gigs for that amount because you pay whether you book a job or not. Considering they advertise “no experience necessary”, this would attract a lot of first time bloggers, however to get the jobs you still need to have the necessary skills and most companies will ask for examples of published work, so there are many freelancers that end up paying for a few months before landing any work if they do at all. What’s more, to really see the full use of the platform you have to subscribe and although they offer a trial month, they don’t really. They require you to fill out numerous forms and training sessions through their “Academy” that can’t be uploaded in some cases, and if you can’t upload the they tell you to print them up and fill them out by hand. Basically they really don’t make it easy for you to have a free trial period with them and it comes off a little sneaky and dishonest. It would be better if they really did just offer a free trial month, no credit card required, but they don’t.
Freelance Writing Gigs
Freelance Writing Gigsis one of the most popular sites for freelance writers to find writing projects. It is a fairly simple website. Not fancy bells or whistles which is why it is also free and a great place to start your writing career.
The website could use a little makeover but it works. As mentioned, if you are just starting out on your writing career, this is the perfect place to get your feet wet and get into a groove. Compared to Contena’s high priced subscription, many freelance writers might find it worth it to spend a little more time with Freelance Writing Gigs. They have helpful writing tips and keep a directory updated of all the websites that pay for writing. They do hand pick the jobs they list to overall the quality will be better than some of the large freelance sites.
The fact that it is free means that they offer a very simple relationship. Unlike Contena which offers a lot more support such as creating a professional portfolio and helping you with your pitch. With Freelance Writing Gigs, that is up to you to figure out.
Another freelance site that is rising is popularity is iFreelancer. They don’t take commission but charge a small membership fee. That quality of work is equivalent to some of the bigger sites, the competition is just the same.
iFreelance does not charge a commission fee which is a big bonus but they do however charge a monthly membership fee. iFreelance membership fees are very affordable and they are: Basic $6.25/month, Silver $9.00/month and Gold $12.00/month. The different levels allow for more or less subcategory listings, work samples and bids
The monthly membership fee isn’t huge but it can be annoying if you are a) not booking any jobs and b) you have become busy so you don’t need to look for jobs for the time being but you are still paying for membership. IFreelancer also comes with a lot less bells and whistles. They have minimal customer support and the only option available is there is by email. They don’t offer a hotline number, live chat, business address or even a forum unlike other freelancer websites and the response time is usually long. This makes it especially frustrating when you are trying to cancel your subscription.
Crew.Co is a freelance worksite that puts the focus on the buyer needs. The buyers submit a project that first has to screened and then the freelancer are matched by Crew.
The screening with this site is heavy on both sides which is great as it really get’s rid of a lot of the bad projects or cheap freelancers that clog things up on some of the bigger sites. Freelancers know that the jobs that are coming their way really do match their skills and buyers aren’t going to get dozens of proposals from freelancers that would never work out. This helps the speed of which the projects get completed and in general that is a much more satisfying work environment. They also make sure that all members are satisfied with their work relationships, ie. getting enough work and being matched well. It’s like they care, which is nice for a change.
Getting into the system can be slow. Crew.Co makes it a priority to get people already in the system work first, so if you are trying to get in, there might be a bit of a wait. Also, this is not a place to start on your freelancing career. This is more for the seasoned freelancer with years of experience and a solid portfolio. Don’t apply if that is not you, you probably won’t be accepted (yet).
Truelancer has set its site on startups. It recognized that start ups rely heavily on freelancers so it marketing to them. It has a safe pay system, good customer support and offers a 100% satisfaction or money back guarantee to it’s buyers. As most startup have to be super careful with their startup capital, this is a nice offer.
The money back guarantee means that there will be work to be found. It is free to sign up.
The headquarters are in India and some of the english translation on this site is not done well and can be confusing. There is also a heavy presence of freelancers from countries with a much lower minimum wage than North American or European countries have so you will find that there will be the low paying issues here. You can only be paid in USD or INR.
One of the newest freelance sites on the scene is Sage Groupy. Sage Groupy aims to allow freelancers and clients the ability to work together at no cost.
No hidden fees, no upcharges, nothing off the top for both the freelancers and the buyers. Sage Groupy also allows for freelancers to collaborate on the platform and create virtual agencies. The dashboard is easy to use and provides a step by step guide on setting up a profile. This site is ideal for freelancers that have had a bit of experience. They are comfortable with taking payments and handling invoices nad know how long projects would take them. Whereas other freeelance sites charge to hanlde project milestones and invoicing, Sage Groupy does not play a role in any money exchange or project details.
A recent startup, Sage Groupy will not have the customer support systems of the larger and more established sites. IN addition, they are very hands off with finaincial arrangements and merely provde the space for buyers to find freelancers. All arrangements made are entirelt up to the buyers and sellers. For first time freelancers that are unfamiliar how to process payments or collect payments, this platform will not offer support for them.