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How to Make the Best Freelance Websites Work for You

Last updated: June 19, 2019
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Going into freelance work can be a very enticing idea. The ability to work for yourself, choose your own clients, be your own boss, and determine your own hours can be an alluring one, particularly if you’re feeling a little jaded from full-time employment.

The good news is, the rise of the internet has made freelancing work a lot easier than it used to be. Gone are the days where you need to scour job postings on old-fashioned job boards and are generally limited to a set geographic area.

Today, freelancing websites outdo the work of job boards but on a much grander scale, with some freelance sites boasting millions of potential clients for you. There are also plenty of clients who are willing to hire freelancers as remote workers, which means you could even have international clients.

In this article, we’ll investigate how you can find the best freelance website that’ll suit your needs. More importantly, however, we’ll discuss some of the things you should consider to make the best freelance websites work for you..

The Best Freelance Websites

With so many freelance websites on the internet, just how do you choose the best one? One of the most crucial things to look for is its popularity with businesses — the more potential clients there are, the faster (and easier) it’ll be for you to get a job.

You should take fees and commissions into consideration as well. Sites that charge exorbitant membership fees and take a large commission will put a huge dent into any of your earnings.

With those factors in mind, here’s a look at our top three.

1. Upwork

Formerly called oDesk, Upwork is the granddaddy of all freelance websites. It’s popular and with 1.5 million clients, is one of the biggest freelance marketplace around. You can virtually find any type of freelance job, no matter what your skill set may be.

2. PeoplePerHour

If you have graphic design, web development, writing, or marketing skills, PeoplePerHour might be the freelance website for you. UK-based, it boasts some 700,000 potential clients. You can either post a profile on the site and wait for clients to contact you, or pitch for the many projects listed.

3. Hubstaff Talent

Unlike most other freelance websites that charge freelancers a percentage of your earnings, Hubstaff Talent prides itself as being a completely free resource for both clients and freelancers. You can choose to apply for jobs listed on the site, or set up a profile so that potential clients can contact you.

Create a Solid Business Plan

Yes, of course you can simply jump onto a freelance website, set up an account, go through their screening process, and start applying for freelance jobs. But to make sure freelance websites really work — and work well — for you, it can be prudent not to simply jump in.

When you start freelancing, you’re essentially embarking on a new career — one in which you are working for yourself. And as every small business owner knows, a successful business begins with a solid business plan.

To come up with your freelance job plan, think through these questions:

  • What’s your unique selling point?
  • What’s your skill set?
  • What other skills will you need to learn?
  • What type of freelance services will you provide?
  • Will you jump into freelancing full-time? Or will you dip your toes into it as a part-time freelancer, perhaps while still holding down your day job?
  • What kind of plan do you have in place to seek potential clients?
  • How will you manage said clients?

Take the time to answer this and other questions, so you have a clear idea of what you would like to achieve once you enter the freelance marketplace.

Know Your Market and Be Money-Savvy

The best freelance sites will give you an idea of how much money people are charging

Deciding how much to charge is simultaneously the easiest and most difficult task ahead of you. It can be as easy as saying yes to any project and offer that comes your way, but it can also be as difficult as trying to charge a fair fee without overpricing (or undervaluing) yourself out of the market.

This ties in with your business plan as well. What are you hoping to do with the income from your freelance opportunities and how long are you giving yourself to achieve your goal? How much do you need to earn in a year and how does that relate to how many hours of work you’re willing to put in, as well as how many freelance gigs you think you’ll get? Are your happy with an hourly rate or do you prefer to be paid per project?

Researching the typical rate of pay for similar work in your industry will not only give you an idea of the amount of work you’ll need to put in, but will also help you if you happen to find yourself bidding for work on freelance platforms such as Freelancer.com.

When deciding on how much to charge, don’t forget to factor in vacation time, health insurance, retirement funds, and any other types of benefits that might come with being a paid employee.

Take the opportunity to take stock of your savings as well. How long are you able to survive on them while looking for freelance jobs? (A good rule of thumb is three to six months’ worth of expenses.)

Have Accounting Systems in Place

A successful freelance career will likely mean many projects and most likely, multiple clients at once.

You’ll need to figure out a system to keep track of all your expenses and invoices. Charging your clients will ensure you get paid, but you also want to make sure that you are invoicing them accurately. Of course, if you’ve gotten a job through one of the many freelance websites such as Guru, they’ll actually pay you the project fee through their site (after taking a cut), which may ease some hassles of ensuring invoicing accuracy.

Provide your clients with an easy payment method so that invoices can be paid promptly. While PayPal may be a popular and common option, you may want to shop around to see if you can get something equally convenient but with less fees. (The same can be said of the freelancing sites as well. How much are you willing to pay for transaction fees and membership fees?)

Invoicing platforms such as Zervant or Zoho are two of the many available to help you with your basic accounting needs that will come with managing your own business.

Of course, being paid also means having to pay taxes, so be sure you have a system in place to do so in a timely fashion, while keeping tax-deductible work-related expenses recorded. (A tip: Keep all receipts!)

Maintain an Up-To-Date Portfolio

Wood table with laptop, notepad, smartphone, and cup of coffee

This is especially essential if you are looking to get a creative job, such as a freelance writer, a graphic designer, or even a job in web development. You’re simply not going to get the job if you don’t have any evidence of past work to show.

Creative gig website MediaBistro actually requires you to upload your portfolio, but for others, simply being able to direct potential clients to view your portfolio online may be enough. This of course means creating your own website to host your previous work examples. The good news is, you don’t have to be an expert in web design (unless of course, your specialty is meant to be in web design) to create a simple website on content management systems such as WordPress, as these offer plenty of high-quality pre-designed templates.

If you truly don’t have any previous experience and are just starting out in the industry, you may want to consider accepting entry-level or lower-paid jobs, or doing some pro bono work for the short term.

Offer your services to people you know or small businesses in your neighborhood in hopes that you may be able to get a small writing job to get you started. If you’re wanting to become a freelance designer, you could even enter design contests — winning one will give you plenty of bragging rights!

Using Freelance Websites Effectively

Using the best freelance websites will improve your chances of securing work

Whether you’re simply looking to make some money on the side or actually working towards transitioning to full-time freelance work, the sheer amount of freelance sites available provides you with ample opportunities.

Remember that there are also plenty of people who are looking for freelance work, so you need to not only work harder, but smarter, to cut through the crowd and present yourself as the best person for the job.

The beauty of the freelance marketplace is that while some projects may not be long-term, there are always possibilities of repeat customers. At the same time, word-of-mouth referrals can also make a world of difference.

Give yourself an advantage by considering the advice above, and you could be on your way to freelancing success.

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