Depending solely on marketplaces like Upwork to find work is one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a freelancer.
Why? Because you can’t trust these big corporate websites.
You’ll never know when a marketplace will change its platform fee, change the terms of service, or even ban your account for no reason.
Ditching Upwork and freelance marketplaces was the best decision I’ve made and it’s the reason why I was able to earn more as a freelancer.
I’ve included an entire chapter in my book, Freelance Like Pro, about ditching freelancing sites. But I wanted to shed more light on the topic through this article.
The Problem With Freelance Marketplaces
Freelance marketplaces can be brutal when it comes to banning accounts. A good example is told by the Reddit user kastar23.
In this Reddit post, this freelancer shares the story of how their account was suddenly permanently banned without any prior warning.
This user had a top-rated Upwork account which they used for over 4 years without any issues. And then one morning, they discovered that the account was banned.
The reason for this ban was that this freelancer was trying to contact the client outside the platform to process a bonus payment. It goes against Upwork policy but it can’t be a justifiable reason to ban a 4-year-old top-rated account with over 700 hours of work.
This story is a few years old but it’s not the only instance where freelance platforms have banned accounts without proper reasons.
Getting banned is only one of the many downsides to using freelance marketplaces. The heavy platform fees that these sites charge from every payment you receive is like robbing you blind.
My Experience Using Upwork
I’m not saying all this to attack freelance marketplaces. I certainly don’t have anything against Upwork, Fiverr, or any other site.
In fact, I started my freelance career on Upwork as well. Back then it was called eLance and I used Upwork long after it merged with ODesk to become Upwork.
I landed some great clients on Upwork and other freelance sites. But once I started developing my skills, I learned that my skills are more valuable than the price I asked.
So I decided to increase my prices and then it all came crashing down. Almost all the jobs I applied to on Upwork got rejected. Clients laughed at me for asking for higher prices.
That’s when I decided to quit Upwork and promote my services elsewhere.
Looking back I’m glad I made that decision because otherwise, I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t decided to leave UpWork.
Take First Steps Towards Your Freedom
Most freelancers don’t realize that there are other ways to find freelance jobs than using marketplaces. That’s what keeps them from growing.
Having said that, you shouldn’t quit Upwork right away. I still believe sites like Upwork are a great starting point for freelancers to learn the basics.
When you’re ready to level up, follow these tips to gradually move away from freelance marketplaces.
1. Build Relationships With Clients
Building a lasting relationship with your clients should be your main goal as a freelancer. When you have better relationships with clients, they will give you more work.
You can start by communicating with them more regularly. Greet them before every email, ask them how their weekend was, and share a short personal story about yourself to make a connection.
2. Create Your Own Client Base
Next, find and connect with your clients outside the freelance marketplaces.
But, don’t ask for their email in Upwork chat or Fiverr messages. Just search for their email using other tools and send an email.
You can use a tool like Hunter to find the email of anyone using their name.
Use an Excel sheet and collect the emails and info about the clients you’ve worked with to create your own client base. It’ll come in handy later.
3. Learn To Write Killer Proposals
When applying for jobs outside marketplaces, writing killer emails is very important.
So improve your writing skills and learn to write and create great project proposals. It’s the only way you can convince a client to give you the job.
4. Level Up Your Skills
Find and learn new skills that complement your main service. For example, if you’re a web designer, learn graphic design. If you’re a coder, learn UX design.
These complementary skills will go a long way to make your services more competitive. And give you an edge on winning more clients.
You can use platforms like Skillshare to learn new skills at an affordable cost.
How To Find Jobs Without Marketplaces
The good news is there are plenty of ways to find freelance jobs without having to use marketplaces like Upwork or Fiverr. Here are just a few methods you can try.
Ask For Referrals
Reach out to a client you’ve worked with before and ask if they have any work for you. If not, ask them to refer you to any of their friends or companies they know of.
If you ask nicely, they will always help you out. And remember, building a relationship with the client is important before making a request like this.
Use Job Boards
You can also use job boards to find projects outside marketplaces. When using job boards, you don’t have to sign up for an account or have high rated profiles to land a job.
You can view a job and directly contact the client via email with a proposal.
Check The Careers Sections
Visit any business or startup websites in your industry and scroll all the way down to the bottom of the website. On the footer section, see if you can find a link called “Careers”.
This link will lead you to a page that showcases the open positions at this company. If you see a position you can apply to, give it a shot.
Don’t Be Afraid To Cold-Email
If the careers section of a website doesn’t have the right position for you, send an email to the HR person at the company and ask them if they would like to hire you.
Again, don’t use the contact form on the website. Use a tool like Hunter to find the email of the person in charge of hiring and then contact them personally.
Use Facebook Groups, LinkedIn, and More
Facebook groups, LinkedIn, Reddit, and many other sites can also be used to find freelance and remote work. You just need to look for them in the right places.
Instead of spamming on general Facebook groups begging for a job, join mastermind groups and provide value. Convince others in the group that you have the skills to help them grow their business.
Over To You
Sites like Upwork and Fiverr are run by corporations with the main goal of earning money off of you. It’s up to you to use it to your advantage and leave when you get the chance.
As I’ve mentioned before, plan your exit and gradually work your way towards ditching freelance marketplaces.
Images via Freepik