It’s no secret that freelancers enjoy certain liberties unknown to employees of the 9-5 variety: work schedule autonomy, choice of one’s clients, and the option of digital nomadism among them. However unlike their full and part-time counterparts, for whom the “job search” is typically no less than a biennial occurrence, freelancers must grapple with one important side-effect of their professional freedom: the recurring project hunt.
Luckily for freelancers of the digital age, the struggle of searching for engagements on a daily or weekly basis is characterized not by having too few places to look, but rather too many. To help you narrow down the sea of freelance job site options, we put together this list of ten tried-and-true, up-and-coming, and niche job sites for freelancers.
BREAD & BUTTER
The recent lovechild of Elance and Odesk, Upwork stands tallest among the giants of freelance hiring. Over four million businesses and 10 million freelance workers use this platform to connect on short- and long-term, hourly or fixed-price projects involving “anything that can be done from a computer.” Once they’ve set up a free profile, freelancers can submit applications to projects, interview, and use Upwork’s time tracker to ensure automatic payments and resolve disputes if needed. Unsurprisingly, this level of legitimacy comes at a premium — Upwork deducts a ten percent fee from each of your payments.
If you’re not afraid of a little (okay, a lot) of competition, join the 15 million users who compete in project contests across every category imaginable on Freelancer. Like Upwork, Freelancer makes it free to create a profile, bid on projects, and enter contests, but charges a project fee relative to the value of the selected bid if you are in fact awarded a project. Those with a winning streak can also choose to upgrade to a paid membership plan, which drops project fees to three or five percent instead of ten percent.
Covering an array of skills from coding to financial and legal services, Guru is another leading freelance job market offering free as well as paid memberships that determine project fees. Despite concerns about having higher (and additional “transactional”) costs, Guru is lauded especially for its easy-to-use Work Room, which allows freelancers to track their commitments and work hours, as well as its daily job matches.
Launched in 2009, Thumbtack is a consumer service that connects users with the local professionals they need to accomplish personal projects. Their 700 categories range from catering, to photography, to personal training, and it only takes a few minutes to set up a free profile specifying one’s freelance skills. When your skills look like a match for a new customer request, Thumbtack sends you the full request information at no cost, and charges you only for each customer quote you send (with no further fees on completion of the job or on future jobs with the same customer or their referrals).
Though geared specifically towards freelancing for website projects, online marketplace PeoplePerHour features work for more than just designers and developers. Some of their less obvious freelance work categories include writing marketing copy and SEO articles, creating video, photo, or audio content for a website, or social media promotion. Freelancers apply (for free) to be part of the PeoplePerHour network, and once approved they may send 15 free direct proposals for already-posted projects, or post their own “hourlies” (snapshots of what they could accomplish in an hour, and for how much). As usual, commission fees apply once you’ve landed a job.
Despite its cheesy name and slightly outdated website, iFreelance differentiates itself among the freelance marketplace competition by allowing freelancers to keep 100 percent of their earnings. You will have to choose among three levels of membership starting at $6.25/month, but there are no additional costs associated with applying to jobs, communicating with leads, or completing projects.
7. Campus Job
For those rocking a “.edu” email address and looking to freelance during the school year or summer, Campus Job offers a free and fun-to-use platform for students to find work with the likes of Airbnb, Dropbox, Red Bull, and more.
If you’re an experienced software engineer aiming to work with high-profile clients, it’s worth a go at the competitive Toptal screening process. Though only three percent of applicants are selected, the chosen ones enjoy a wealth of high-quality opportunities, competitive pay, and a lack of bidding contests.
Similar to Toptal, Working not Working is a membership-based marketplace for creatives, accepting about ten percent of the portfolios they receive. Members can either be nominated by a current member, or apply independently online, and they take pride in not deducting any fees or commission on work booked through the site.
Regardless of where you find your work, remember to make sure that you have a clear, written understanding of the terms of the engagement. Many of these sites don’t involve themselves in the legal paperwork that should govern these kinds of relationships. Shake’s freelance agreements could be a good resource.