If you’re a freelancer, you’re in charge of your own business. This can be the greatest high and the greatest low of self-employment.
On the one hand, you get to decide what you do, how you do it, and when you do it...which means, if you want to take that meeting whilst walking your dog, you can. But it also means you’re in charge of securing the job opportunities.
Knowing what’s out there that can help you search for these opportunities - such as online job boards and websites specifically for freelancers - can be one of the best ways to keep work flowing and your stress low.
What is an online job board and why are they popular?
With a salaried job, work will come to you, but with freelancing, you must be the one to seek out new opportunities. So, how do you do that? Freelance websites are a popular option, and a good freelance website can help you no matter what stage of freelancing you’re at; whether you’ve just started, freelancing is something you want to just dip your toes in, or you’re a long-term freelancer. They’re also great if you’re always finding that clients want work that you can’t necessarily give them on top of work that you’re great at - outsourcing and finding freelancers is what these websites are for. Some of these websites also double up as social networking sites, which means they can help you find fellow freelancers and create a remote network of sorts to help you have a team at the touch of a button!
These job boards are incredibly popular because - to put it simply - they filter your options. When approaching freelancing, finding a secure client who pays at a rate that works for you can be extremely difficult. These online job boards provide you with automated notifications, updates on work that might suit you, refined searching abilities and sometimes even tips and tricks on how to adapt your CV or gain employment - so it’s no wonder that so many freelancers use them.
Whilst the other most popular option, networking, has less sign ups, it also results in less clarity. Places like Twitter have no reason to post rates, or to stick to an ethical rate, and some clients may even be advertising for non-paid work - which you may only find out halfway through the discussion process.
Job boards cut all of this out for you. Jobs that are posted are vetted, and often sorted so that you can see whether these clients have paid out money before or not, and you know exactly what their asking price is. There are also a wide variety of search options available, which is helpful if you’re new to freelancing and know what you enjoy, but not necessarily what to look for. If you’re new to freelancing you may also find it useful to look at these websites to help you determine your own rates against others in your field.
However, for that aid, you are going to be giving a commission on the work that you do. Most people who use these jobs sites to succeed, however, find this minimal, as you only incur charges once you’ve earned money.
Are there negatives to using online job boards?
Job Boards sites remain popular for a reason, with freelancers of all kinds signing up to find work. It makes sense to have multiple sources to find income - as every freelancer knows that there may be months when work can be more difficult to come by - and these job boards are great for finding your specific niche, and more regular work, rather than the spontaneous clients that can come from networking.
With that being said, if you’re a freelancer who has more skill under their belt, and more years of experience, it may be wise to check which job board you’re posting for, as some job boards cater more to the freelancer who is working as an additional side job to a salaried role, and therefore may be undercutting your rate.
Job boards also take a fee from the contracted work. Some professionals do choose to stay away from job boards for this reason, as well as the fact that they do not want the time consuming hassle of keeping a polished profile, chasing reviews and improving ratings.
Upwork is one of the most prominent marketplaces online in fields such as writing, marketing, web development and graphic design, though it hosts any conceivable freelance job. The website helps professionals find projects they’re interested in, bid on them, communicate with clients, and get paid.
This online freelancer website is especially a positive place to visit for those looking for experience without trying to cold pitch people or places, however the website is full of people around the globe who are willing to do the work for a very low rate, which means it is not always the best for earning potential. Therefore, it’s best to think carefully about the work that you want to apply for, especially as with longer projects, the rate Upwork takes is lower.
Upwork also gives a great opportunity to safely interact with clients, through messaging and video calls, and gives you the opportunity to be talent scouted if you sell your profile well enough. Upwork verifies both freelancers and those hiring, so everyone knows they are in a safe environment, and has such a huge place on the market that it isn’t a job site to ignore.
Upwork however does eventually cost to use, with each connect being used to apply for a job costing money after you use up the free selection at the beginning. But it is consistently known in the industry as one of the key players in the online job board market, and has a huge selection of opportunities.
Freelancer.com is advertised as a simple and straightforward freelance marketplace, attracting clients such as Amazon and Google. For employers, they can post any size of project with any kind of payment method on the site, and only pay when they’re satisfied with the work, but as a freelancer, this doesn’t always work as well as Upwork’s more secure payment system.
However, with Freelancer.com, freelancers can choose their hours, as well as if they would like an hourly or fixed priced rate, and the site also has modules for learning around different subjects to upskill yourself whilst you’re on the site - to make sure that profile is attracting all kinds of clients!
The company claims that it has a global pool of fifty million users who have an expertise in more than 1800 different skills, and you will find anything from writing to feng shui. Freelancer.com also has an app to take care of your work on the go and get alerts about new job listings.
People Per Hour
PeoplePerHour has a similar method of verification to Upwork, meaning that it is a reliable way to find small or large projects in anything from voiceovers to marketing. Freelancers have the choice to post adverts to attract clients on this system, with AI matching freelancers to clients for potential projects, which means that there is less work on pitching and browsing through the job board.
What is most popular about this website, however, is their organisation. PeoplePerHour uses Project Streams, which allow easy communication, file sharing, project management and invoicing. Everything that makes freelancing more difficult is simplified into this section of the website. PeoplePerHour are also known to set the lowest fees in the industry, so this website is also great value for money for a freelancer.
Fiverr is another popular brand in the industry, second to none. Having been around since 2010, it claims to have been used by more than three million employees, including giants like Netflix. Its scope means that freelancers will surely find what they’re looking for, no matter what kind of work it is that you do - but it does mean that, due to free listings, there may be some sifting through low-cost opportunities to be had first.
However, it is free to join the site and Fiverr is a great chance for new freelancers to see what is out there, protected by Fiverr’s 24/7 support and protected payments. Fiverr did, however, get its name from the starting price of $5 and therefore those wanting to make a living from freelancing may have to put a bit more time into these listings.
99 designs (for designers)
99designs is one of these job board sites that has a niche. If you make logos, brandings, book covers or websites, this is the place to look, as there are over ninety distinct design categories on this site. Freelance creatives are reviewed for legitimacy, and you will have to pay extra costs, and there are even extra fees when designers start working with a new client - so this website is not the cheapest from the freelancer’s end - but as it is a specialist website it is bound to find you a great role in a design field of your choice.
Toptal is exclusive, only 3% of its freelance applicants end up listed. Companies such as Microsoft and Salesforce use Toptal for a reason: it’s rigorous at finding talent. There are high barriers of entry, which are extremely time consuming - we’re talking personality reviews, skills tests, live screenings, test projects and so on - but this means that at the end of the rainbow only lucrative projects are offered. If you’re the best in your field, and you’re looking for high end jobs, start here.
We Work Remotely
We Work Remotely has over 250,000 visitors a month and posts over 900 new positions, posting about remote jobs that don’t require a desk. With the pandemic showing us how we can switch to remote working, We Work Remotely is a great place to pick up freelance clients, with over 20,000 jobs posted to the platform.
Behance (for designers)
Behance is part of the Adobe family and has become one of the best places for creatives to showcase their design work for the industry. This platform is a specialised job board that posts international job opportunities from a range of different creative fields and is easy to use and is intuitive for those who are used to adobe programmes.
Dribbble (for designers)
Dribbble advertises itself as a social network for those who care about design. The company is for digital designers and creatives and serves as a portfolio platform, as well as a job and recruitment platform, for people to share their work online. The website is fun and creative but is perhaps a better place for inspiration and community than it is for job hunting.
Authentic jobs are another leading job board, specifically great for software developers, though it has jobs for creatives and designers also. The great positive of this freelance site is that you can look for everything, it doesn’t just limit you to freelance work. This means that if you’re dipping your toes into freelance - but you’re not quite sure yet - or open to other opportunities, then this could be more helpful for you.
Elevate (for IT contractors)
Elevate is specifically for IT contractors and has a hidden positive - there’s no fee. This is a great bonus that most job boards don’t have, and means you’ll probably earn more than you would finding jobs on your own, even if the rate is a little lower! If you upload your CV, you will receive job matches automatically, so the process really couldn’t be simpler with this one.
Journalism.co.uk (writers and journalists)
Journalism.co.uk is a news source and job resource for writers and journalists that has great other resources such as training and highlighted jobs to apply for. With journalism being a tough industry to break into, this breaks everything down for you, and has big names contributing - such as The Times. Many journalists, however, still prefer using networking sites such as Twitter to find roles.
Flexjobs is an online job board for people seeking flexible roles - homeworking and remote roles. The jobs come from various sources including company and employment agencies - so they’re not always strictly freelancers - but it’s usually packed full of freelance opportunities, and they’re all hand-screened for legitimacy, so you will always find something trustworthy and relevant for you.
Flexjobs also have pretty much every industry going, instead of other sites which may focus more on creative industries, and companies receive verification so that freelancers know that they are working with employers that they can be confident in.
Flexjobs also go above and beyond, offering career coaching, events, and articles to help their customers, however this is for their paying clients. For paid subscribers, this gives you more information, discounts, and the ability to apply for positions right there on the website.
The Dots is a social media type platform of professionals - which include freelancers, entrepreneurs, creatives, and teams, although anybody can create a profile to promote their work. People can post job opportunities, as well as collaboration opportunities, and credits teammates in projects they have worked on. This website is for those in the creative industries, and although it is not just for freelancers - you will find full time work advertised on there, too - much of the jobs advertised on this site are catered towards those who live a more creative, atypical lifestyle that is not 9-5. For those that are truly interested in expressing creative passion, this website is for you.
General tips for setting up your profile on online job websites
A professional profile can be what makes or breaks your success on a job board website. It is, after all, your way of introduction to prospective clients, and how you will grab their attention. How can you set yourself apart from the competition? Many clients will begin their search by typing in the skill that they need - writer, designer, videographer - and then sorting through their profile, so it is proactive for your business that your profile grabs attention successfully.
First, you’re going to need a professional profile photo. Something that shows your personality, without being too imposing, and that is well-lit and friendly.
Secondly, you’re going to need to make sure your expertise is shown, rather than told. Show your client how the quality of your work matches your niche, including employment history, academic history, and even particular projects if relevant. If you have a visual niche this is a particularly great way to creatively use that to your advantage, but if your skills aren’t as visual, try to explain how your work had an impact and why you had value on the project. Make yourself indispensable!
Make sure you particularly focus on projects that you know you would like to do more of in the future, as this will attract the type of clients that you will wish to continue with. If you’ve done a lot of work in the past that you haven’t found very interesting, it’s not worth showing this off to clients unless it was for a particularly spectacular brand.
As you continue to grow your business, keep adding new entries and make sure that your profile stays up to date - as this will show that you’re proactive and credible, as well as active on the website!
Getting better rates and clients on freelancing websites
To go about getting better rates, you must first know what kind of client you would ideally be looking for. Start off by creating a comprehensive list of what your ideal client would look like; what are their pain points? What is it that you, as a freelancer, are fixing for them? What sectors do they operate in? Are they even on the website that you are trying to network with them on? Are they from large corporations or small businesses?
Once you know what client you want, you need to show them how you are different from everybody else out there, by having a niche. Some call this a Unique Value Proposition. Something that you offer, that nobody else offers in this exact way. You should market everything on your freelance job market to this niche and to this client, adding a social media presence, a website and even case studies, if you have existing clients. This will all help your personal brand to shine and show that you have a real passion and interest for your subject that will attract your ideal client. Once you have the client that you want, putting up your rates to a fair rate that you think shows your worth, shouldn’t be a problem, as you’ve proven that you are worth it.
However, with freelance job websites, there are always going to be others out there who are willing to do the same job you are for much less money, and this is the negative that many freelancers have found. This does not necessarily mean they will be doing it as well as you, but due to finances, some companies are still going ahead with the cheaper option. If you are finding this is the case, consider other options of revenue if online job boards aren’t working, as remember if you were working a regular job, you wouldn’t want to work the same salary year after year after year anyway, and if your rates are already too high now, they will only increase.
One option is that once you build up connections with these freelance clients on job websites is asking if they’re willing to take the work off-site, once they’ve gotten to know you. This can relieve the pressure of the job site taking some of your income and puts the power back into your hands when it comes time to up your fees during your annual review. However, this can breach the terms and conditions of these websites, which can cause you to get thrown off the website, if you’re not careful about how you approach this, as platforms specifically try to stop this from happening.
Ultimately, freelance job websites are extremely useful to an extent, but they are often best used in combination with other tools in finding revenue. The best online job board is going to depend on what it is that you’re doing as a freelancer and what it is that you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a short-term project to gain some experience in a field, any of these job boards will provide this for you, but if you’re looking for more long-term substantial paid work, then you may have to be more selective in what website you choose, as job boards have exploded in recent years and have become extremely competitive. The best thing to do as a freelancer is to remember that your own time is worth a lot, and that if you’re putting in more time than is worth scrolling job boards to get only a little profit out if it, then that job board isn’t for you - and so it’s worth giving some of these a try to see whether they will work for your business.
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