If you’re going to sell your skills online, you need a market to sell them to. In other words, you need somewhere to source new clients that are looking for the kind of work you provide. Luckily, that’s exactly what freelance websites are for.
As ever, the internet provides. There are lots of these sites, specializing in connecting service providers with businesses and clients. Once you understand how to make use of these, you can bring in a steady income and become a full-time member of the gig economy.
You can bring in a steady income and become a full-time member of the gig economy.
In this post, you’ll find a host of the best freelancing sites, as well as some tips on how to make the most from each one, and choose the best market for you.
Freelance websites: the basics
Before we go any further, what precisely is a freelancing site, and how does it work?
Essentially, freelancing sites work by connecting skilled service providers with companies and individuals that need those services. This creates a market, that works a little like a dating site, only for services.
The big advantage of a freelancing website is that it provides a single place for organizations to find the precise professionals they need. By adding your name to the index, you have the opportunity to appear in those searches.
Organizations can likewise place job listings on these sites. Here, they will outline the precise type of work that they need, their budget, and the timeframe, then invite professionals to get in touch with their proposals.
Most of these sites will take a commission.
Freelance websites aren’t perfect, however. Most of these sites will take a commission, and most will restrict your ability to communicate with clients outside of their platforms. Competition can also be fierce on these platforms, especially as workers based overseas are often able to offer their work at much lower rates.
Still, as the easiest place to find clients, many online workers feel these are compromises worth making. The key is to assess each freelance website on its own merits, then choose the one that provides the best terms for you.
The top freelance websites in 2020
Here are some of the best freelancing sites for finding paid work online.
Upwork is basically the Facebook of freelance websites.
Upwork also invites professionals from a large number of industries to take part, including:
- Video production
- Web design
- Social media managing
- Graphic design
- Software development
- Art direction
- General labor Content strategy
While that’s true though, Upwork also offers one of the worse deals for its members. Upwork takes a hefty 20% commission on the first $500 earned, though that drops to 10% up to $10,000 and then 5% for anything more.
Upwork is also one of the most competitive platforms, with over 12 million registered freelancers. This can make it difficult to stand out – especially if you are looking for that elusive first gig. Of course, some industries are more competitive than others.
There are actually over 5 million businesses using the site today.
As a website/app, Upwork works very well and is fairly intuitive to navigate. On the other hand, it is also a little bloated and some of the more innovative “features” benefit the clients more than the freelancers. For instance, you will be encouraged to use Upwork’s in-house “Work Diary” tool to log hours worked, which can be somewhat invasive. This counts keystrokes and even takes screenshots six times an hour. I find that this undermines some of the benefits of being freelance in the first place!
Upwork also offers tests that professionals can take to demonstrate basic levels of proficiency in everything from basic English to Java. This can be useful for gaining the trust of clients, but it can also result in Upwork becoming something of a time sink.
This undermines some of the benefits of being freelance!
Upwork also now has a screening process, which limits the number of professionals that can join offering the same skills. This helps to slightly reduce the competition, though it means that some people may be unable to sign up.
Freelancer is an alternative to Upwork that is also fairly well-known. It is slightly smaller, though still no slouch with over 16 million registered users across 247 countries. Fees are also significantly lower than Upwork, starting at just 3%.
Fees are also significantly lower than Upwork, starting at just 3%.
Freelancer is a little less feature-packed, and the quality of clients and jobs is generally a little lower. The competition on Freelancer can also be a bit stiff, seeing as it lacks the vetting process over at Upwork. That said, Freelancer can be a useful place to find quick, lower-paid work if you want to build a portfolio. It’s also great for those that aren’t permitted to join Upwork!
PeoplePerHour is a lesser-known freelance website again, but you shouldn’t discount it. Typically, PPH yields slightly higher-paid work compared with the competition, and especially if you are located outside of the US. It can also lead to some longer-term gigs and even full-time work.
The pool is smaller than Upwork or Freelancer, but this means it is a little easier to find work in many cases. The fees charged fall somewhere in the middle: starting at 15% for the first $280 earned, and then falling to 3.5% after that. There are some additional hidden fees incurred, which is frustrating for some, but it still adds up to a better deal than Upwork.
And perhaps my favorite thing about PeoplePerHour? There’s no time tracker! That said, if you like the simplicity of logging hours, then you may miss this feature.
Fiverr is a freelance website that is a little different from the competition. That’s because Fiverr used to have a very distinct USP: it was a place where you could find gigs for just $5. Hence the name!
While there are still some gigs available for a fiver, that name is today a misnomer by most accounts. The site made a little bit of a U-turn by introducing “Fiverr Pro” for serious professionals looking for bigger gigs. To become a pro, you need to first become “Pro Verified.” This involves applying with details of your expertise and portfolio. Like Upwork, users also have the option to complete small tests to demonstrate their expertise.
Here, gigs are organized into the following categories, though more will be added over time:
- Graphic and Design
- Programming and Tech
- Writing and Translation
- Video and Animation
- Digital Marketing
- Music and Audio
One thing that helps Fiverr to stand out from other freelance sites like Upwork, is that it allows you to set the terms for the kind of work you provide. Rather than offering “programming services,” you offer to “build a small Android app in Android Studio with 5 screens.” These conditions allow you to limit the kind of work you do, and to streamline your workflow.
It allows you to set the terms for the kind of work you provide.
Fiverr has a modern design and applies to a slightly more youthful audience. If you’d like to offer thumbnail design to YouTubers for instance, this is probably the place to look.
Fiverr is somewhat smaller than Upwork but has a great ratio of buyers to sellers at 5.5 million versus 830,000 respectively. Unfortunately, Fiverr charges the same high rate as Upwork, at 20%.
Like Fiverr, Toptal is a freelance website with a USP: it claims to pay the most and features only the very top talent in the industry.
Only 3% of applications from sellers are successful.
The platform boasts that only 3% of applications from sellers are successful, which ensures that the talent on offer is truly the cream of the crop. This instills confidence in the higher paying clients, which historically include the likes of Motorola, HP, Thumbtack, AirBnB, Zendesk, Shopify, and other heavy-hitters. Generally, reports from sellers on Toptal are good, and in theory, this could be a great site for finding higher-paid work and fleshing out a portfolio.
Rent a Coder
Rent a Coder is the first industry-specific freelancing site we have looked at so far. As the name may suggest, the site is aimed specifically at programmers. Accounts are approved manually, ensuring a higher quality of professionalism, and a higher quality of the client.
While the site is smaller, this is to be expected given its niche-nature. In general, programmers will find more high paid work here as compared with sites like Upwork.
99Designs is a site for freelance designers and artists that allows them to “win” work. Rather than simply applying for a gig or selling a service, you will instead need to respond to client posts with bespoke logos, book covers, character designs, etc. The client will then choose the one they like best, and only the creator of the “winning” design will receive payment.
The nature of 99Designs may appeal to some creators, but of course, it comes with the caveat that you could spend a day working and not receive any remuneration for your efforts! On the flip side, if you are new and you’re struggling to get noticed, 99Designs will allow your talent to do the talking for you.
Top tips for success
Keep in mind that this is just a selection of the freelance websites available. There are plenty more, including industry-specific options such as Cad Crowd for selling 3D design skills. We’ll add more to this list from time to time, so be sure to keep checking back.
Of course, there is nothing to stop you from listing yourself on multiple sites, though you do need to prepare to juggle a large number of clients and orders coming from different sources. Likewise, you can combine the use of freelancing sites with other strategies: such as advertising, reaching out to potential clients directly, or using forums. Even LinkedIn is a viable source for freelance gigs!
Aim to be the best in the business at what you do, and select work that you are confident you can produce to a high standard.
In many cases, a more focused approach will prove the most successful, and it can pay to keep this in mind while rounding out your CV and portfolio. Aim to be the best in the business at what you do, and select work that you are confident you can produce reliable and to a high standard. This will not only help you to stay sane but also ensure you gain positive reviews.
Finally, if you don’t find success right away: keep at it! Freelance websites are a powerful resource for making connections, but the rest is up to you.