Starting to freelance is a lot like starting a business.
First, you have to develop skills and build your portfolio. And then you have to figure out what kind of services you’re going to offer.
But, the key to getting more work and winning clients is to find the “right” market to sell your services.
Imagine Apple coming out with a new iPhone and going to a market dominated by Android phones to sell it. Would anyone want to buy it? Of course not.
It’s pretty much the same in freelancing. It’s important for a freelancer to find the “right market”, or in this case the right freelance site, to sell their services from the very first day to start a successful freelance career.
While most experts and more established freelancers may advise you against using freelance sites to offer services, I believe it’s the perfect way for a beginner to start freelancing.
There are both upsides and downsides to using freelance sites to sell services and find work. But, as long as you find the best freelance site that fits your category of work, it will make your life so much simpler. It’s how I started my freelance career as well.
In this post, I will help you find the right platform to offer your services as a beginning freelancer. Let’s begin, shall we?
Freelance Marketplaces vs Job Boards
Before you go any further, it’s important to understand the difference between freelance marketplaces and freelance job boards.
Freelance marketplaces are platforms that bring clients and freelancers together. Sites like UpWork, Freelancer.com, and PeoplePerHour are examples of popular freelance platforms.
These sites allow you to create a profile and apply to jobs posted by clients. All of your negotiations with the clients and payment process is done through the platform. You are not allowed to contact clients outside the platforms.
In exchange for this service, the freelance platform will charge a platform fee. For example, UpWork charges a 20% platform fee. So when you complete a job and receive your payment from the client, UpWork will take a 20% cut.
On Freelance job boards, however, you are free to contact the clients via email and you can get payments directly to your PayPal or bank account. Job boards are like the advertisements page on the newspaper. And these sites don’t charge a platform fee from freelancers.
Ideally, freelance job boards are the best way to find jobs. But, as a beginner, you won’t have much luck finding jobs on such sites. Because the clients who post jobs on job boards only look for experienced freelancers.
So, using a freelance platform is the most suitable approach for a beginner to get started.
Why You Should Use A Freelance Platform
Ask any established freelancer and they’ll all give you the same answer. Almost all established freelancers don’t use freelance sites. And they will also advise you to avoid them as well.
It’s true, freelance platforms such as UpWork, Freelancer.com, and PeoplePerHour can be toxic and it’s never a good idea to depend on such sites.
It’s easier for a freelancer with a steady stream of clients to tell you to avoid freelance sites because they already have a plenty of clients and don’t have to look for work on freelancing sites anymore.
However, this is not the case for a beginning freelancer who’s just starting out. New freelancers have to put up a fight to find work and win clients. In this kind of a situation, a freelance site can be a great place to not only find work but also to gather some freelancing experience as well.
For example, on freelance sites, you’ll learn how to write great proposals to convince clients that you’re the best. And you’ll work harder to deliver high-quality results to get better reviews from clients. It will pave the path toward a successful career.
Should You Sign Up For Multiple Sites?
One of the biggest mistakes most beginning freelancers make is joining every freelance site they can find and creating profiles all over the place to increase their chances of landing a job.
It makes sense, right? More platforms you use, more jobs you can apply to, right? Wrong! You will only be setting yourself up for failure with this kind of thinking.
Think about it. Freelance sites such as UpWork uses intelligent algorithms to rank their freelancers. Highly-rated freelancers are the ones who reply to their clients immediately and have better client reviews for delivering high-quality results.
If you want to increase your chances of landing jobs, you need to build your reputation on the platform and create a complete freelancer profile with great reviews from clients. Can you do this on 10 different freelance sites? No, you can’t.
You should pick 1 or 2 of the best platforms and choose to build your profile there. This will help you narrow your focus. Write great proposals for jobs instead of copy-pasting the same message to different sites. And pick better jobs that promote your career growth.
In fact, if you carelessly try to apply for any job you can find or even try to use bots to submit proposals automatically, your account might even get banned forever.
The Pros & Cons Of Using Freelance Sites
Unfortunately, freelance sites are businesses built by corporations and companies. Even though they provide a valuable service by connecting clients with freelancers, their main goal is to make more money. Which doesn’t always mean well for neither the freelancer or the client.
Benefits Of Using Freelance Sites
- You’ll be able to find work more easily
- You’ll have a platform to build your reputation
- You’ll learn how to do great work and deliver projects on time
- You’ll learn to communicate well with clients
- You’ll get paid easily (most of the time)
Downsides To Using Freelance Sites
- You’ll pay expensive fees for the platform
- You’ll have to compete with other freelancers
- Some clients will scam you or make you do more work
- You’ll run the risk of getting your account banned
How To Find The Best Freelance Site For You
So, how do you find the best freelance site while avoiding highly competitive sites and scams? Well, there are a few ways you can recognize a good site from a bad one. Here’s how.
Check The Pricing Model
If a freelance site uses a fixed pricing model, then it’s most likely a place you would want to avoid. For example, sites like Fiverr forces you to put a price tag on your services. The site has already decided the price for you. Want a logo designed, it’s $5! Want a website built, it’s $5! This is not only unfair but also demeans your skills. Don’t use such sites.
How Many Freelancers Are There?
The more a platform is popular the more difficult it will be for you to land a job. Finding a freelance site with low competition is the best way to avoid having to get into bidding wars with other freelancers. Find a fairly new site with a low number of registered freelancers.
How Much Does It Cost?
Keep in mind that freelance sites will charge you a platform fee for letting you use the site to offer your services. UpWork charges up to 20% from each of your jobs. For example, if you finish a job of $500, you’ll only receive $400 after the platform takes its 20% cut. Check the platform terms of service pages to learn about the platform fees.
Is It The Right Platform For You?
Do a quick search on the freelance site to see if it has enough job listings related to your job category. Try to find a platform dedicated to a specific industry. For example, Toptal is a site that’s dedicated to freelance software developers. Find a similar site that focuses on a niche.
Which Freelance Site Is Best for Beginners?
When it comes to freelancing sites, you can’t point out a platform as “the best site” to find work. Because it all depends on the type of skills you have and the services you offer. Some sites are best for writers, some are more suitable for coders, and some are great for designers.
Whichever platform you end up choosing, it’s always best to avoid the most popular ones like UpWork, Fiverr, and Freelance.com. As those are the sites with highest competition and full of freelancers who go into bidding wars to do work for the cheapest price.
Instead, try to find a site that’s fairly new and has low competition. On these sites, there will be fewer freelancers and clients, but you’ll have a higher chance at landing jobs.
Here are a few of the sites that are ideal for beginning freelancers.
Tips For Getting Your Profile Approved
As long as you avoid the most popular sites and the platforms with a large number of users, you won’t have trouble registering an account.
Massive sites like UpWork get way too many account signups every day that they now have very strict rules for accepting new accounts. Avoid those sites altogether and you won’t have any problems.
However, you can improve your chances of getting accepted and getting more clients by following these tips.
- Choose a smaller niche as your job category (Eg: Instead of using “graphic designer” as your category, choose a niche like “infographic designer”).
- Write a compelling bio and a profile description.
- Use a real photo as your display picture.
- Provide proof of your work (fill the portfolio section).
- Take skill tests if you can (Even though it’s not necessary, it will improve your chances of getting approved)
Follow this guide to learn how to create a complete freelance profile on any site.
Don’t Depend On Platforms
Freelance sites are great for establishing your ground as a freelancer and learning more about how things work when you’re working online. However, you shouldn’t always depend on these platforms to find work.
These platforms constantly change their rules and pricing schemes. And you’ll never know if or when your account might get banned for some ridiculous reason. Not to mention that there will always be another freelancer competing to beat you.
So, once you learn the basics and you’re comfortable with the way things work in the world of freelancing, slowly find alternative methods to find work and eventually leave freelance platforms completely.
Then, you will never have to pay platform fees or compete in bidding wars. You can use job boards to find work and you will have access to high-quality clients who will appreciate your skills and hard work.
I left freelance sites a long time ago and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. Although, I’m still grateful for those sites that allowed me to establish myself as a freelancer in the first place.
Images via Freepik.com