Navigating Freelance Jobsites

Business advice
Estimated read time: 4 mins
Published: 18/05/2016

Often the decision to go freelance comes once you have gained some experience working in an industry, meaning you will (hopefully) have a lot of industry-specific contacts in hiring positions, all of which could be possible avenues for your freelance job search. However, a lot of people will go freelance as a result of certain lifestyle/professional choices without ever gaining such extensive experience working in their chosen industry first. This means facing the first few years of freelancing without clearly defined paths to profits; without a pile of work simply waiting on your doorstep.

There are, of course, a whole host of freelance Jobsites out there, where you can search for roles and projects you think you could fulfil. A lot of these will be US-based (not that this would stop you working remotely, or stop people local to you publishing details of freelance work on there), and the aim of this post is not to run you through each potential job site one-by-one. Rather, the aim in what follows will be to give you a general taste of what these sites offer (generalising across small differences where necessary); the things you should be doing on any/most of them; and what you might what to be wary of.

Both sides of the coin:

Bonus: As suggested above, most of these websites draw global audiences, making them global platforms for people to post about jobs/projects where they are looking for input from a freelancer, such as yourself.

Drawback: The nature of such a global platform will also make the competition among freelancers fierce. There will be a wide range of freelancers, of differing experience and expertise, all vying for each position advertised. But nobody ever said that going freelance would be easy!

Drawback: The diverse grouping of freelance workers applying for each and every job can drive down prices. If you’re looking at ways to make your millions, it might have to come from somewhere else. With freelancers from different backgrounds and different economic conditions all applying for one position, there will be a variety of opinions on what constitutes ‘a fair price’. Those willing to work for lower rates will undoubtedly attract a lot of attention from hirers, and this could count against you (depending on your experience and how much you would like to charge). The same goes for people looking to build up a portfolio of work – with people being willing to do work for well below the odds just to bulk out their CV. These aren’t fatal problems, but they can be a damned nuisance.

On Balance: If you are experienced in your industry and can command a strong price, then these sites may only see you being undercut by less experienced workers. Then again, if you are an experienced freelancer then you are more likely to have a line of work waiting, or contacts you can call upon. Being an experienced professional may make these sites seem inconvenient, but more than that they would seemingly be surplus to requirements anyway. These sites are incredibly popular and for people looking for part-time work, or just beginning to freelance, it makes sense to explore all options! If there are people hiring it is only logical to throw your name in the hat!

Most of the large freelance jobsites are free to join (perhaps with paid membership options unlocking further features and options), making their money by charging a slight commission on jobs advertised (which tends to be around 10%), meaning there is no large capital outlay for freelancers looking for work. There’s no payment until you’re earning!

Points to Remember:

The work won’t start pouring in straight away.

This is true of starting freelancing full stop and isn’t a feature which is only connected to freelance jobsites, but it is worth mentioning here all the same. You might have great belief in yourself and your ex-company may have highly valued your work, but now you have to convince people who you have never worked with before. On jobsites you will have to set up a portfolio of your work, or at least include links to your website, but even this won’t see clients breaking down your door to get to you. The right people may not even know about you, which is why you have to put in a little effort to make yourself known. This is why you reach out to people at networking events, and it is why you need to keep bidding for work on jobsites (if you should choose to use them). It can often be a case of slowly building up a reputation, taking the time to establish your brand and then (hopefully) reaping the rewards when you start to get your name out there.

As a freelancer you get paid what you negotiate, not what you deserve.

As a freelancer you have to be a single person fulfilling many roles, and negotiator is definitely one of them. You cannot at a later date decide that you deserve more money than was agreed (at least not unless you believe you have activated a clause in a pre-agreed contract, or something like this). This is why it pays to work out a minimum price you can work for before even pitching for projects and refusing to go below this level. However, as discussed above, the problem with freelance jobsites is that this can often see you being undercut. But if you rate your work and back yourself, it is worth being persistent. You need to persuade people that you are worth your asking rate, explain what you can bring to the business – and don’t just appeal to the fact that you need to charge that rate to get by! As sympathetic as people might be, you need to show that your quality is worth the price.

Further reading

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