Although the number of freelancers skyrocketed in 2020, freelancing was already a significant trend in the 21st century workforce. Thanks to the wonders of technology, more professionals are realizing they don’t need to sell their services through a standard “9 to 5” grind. In fact, recent statistics suggest at least 59 million Americans did some freelance work in 2020. As more employers adjust to this “stay-at-home shift,” freelancers have many options at their fingertips.
However, if you’re used to a more standard work routine, veering off-course could be a bit daunting. Indeed, one of the most common worries would-be freelancers have is how they’re going to score their first gig.
Below is the list of the best freelancing platforms we’ve reviewed in-depth:
Getting Good Gigs Online — Eight Top Freelance Websites
While there is a bit of “hustle” involved in freelancing, plenty of services can make the job hunt easier. In fact, now that freelancing is going mainstream, there has been an explosion in sites designed to connect you with employers. Whatever your skills or interests, the sites below should make the freelance application process as smooth as possible.
When it comes to online freelancing websites, UpWork is the elephant in the room. Previously called Elance-oDesk, this San Fran-based company has millions of freelancers and clients from around the world. With an estimated $1 billion worth of gigs per year, there’s no question UpWork has a lot of freelancing work to go around.
While it’s free to apply for UpWork, please note that it has a “credits system.” You will have to spend a set amount of “credits” to bid on a job. Therefore, it pays to strategically choose your job applications and refine your proposals well in advance. If you spend all of your credits, you will have to wait for them to refresh or buy more.
There’s no question that UpWork has attracted a lot of attention, which could be good or bad news depending on your preferences. On the downside, UpWork is incredibly saturated—hence, it’s pretty competitive. Also, UpWork uses a sliding scale to take its payment cut, which means the less you make, the more they take.
However, if you’re new to freelancing, UpWork is one of the easiest ways to get your name out there. This company’s sterling reputation and large client pool make it easy to find reliable job proposals every day. As you gain a reputation on UpWork, you may even build a “legacy pool” with dedicated clients.
Even if you’re not a freelancer, you should know the importance of having a LinkedIn account. As one of the world’s largest professional social platforms, LinkedIn gives you exposure to the world.
But LinkedIn is far more than a résumé posting site. If you haven’t been on LinkedIn in a while, you may be surprised by all the job postings here.
While you could use LinkedIn’s search feature to find freelance gigs, the company also offers a neat LinkedIn ProFinder feature. This freelancing portal proactively links marketers, graphic designers, and developers with interested clients. LinkedIn now claims over 70,000 freelancers are using ProFinder with great success.
But even if you don’t use the ProFinder tool, you could post proposals, blogs, and examples of your work on LinkedIn to promote yourself. After all, this is a social media site!
If there was an Ivy League for freelance websites, Toptal would be the first company in the club. Freelancers who go through Toptal’s screening process will have to pass multiple trials, including an English fluency test and live interviews. According to the company, only about three percent of applicants succeed.
So, besides bragging rights, what’s the prize for going through these intensive tests? Well, since Toptal is so exclusive, it tends to attract big companies willing to pay big bucks for your skills. Just a few corporations that have used Toptal include Airbnb, Shopify, and Bridgestone. A Toptal membership will give you exposure to some of the world’s most profitable companies.
Currently, Toptal offers freelancing jobs for developers, designers, financial experts, and project managers. Even if you think it’s a stretch to apply for Toptal, it doesn’t hurt to throw your hat into the ring. Indeed, considering all of the influential companies Toptal attracts, it may be a bigger risk not to try and get in.
Fiverr gained both its name and fame for offering five-dollar freelance digital services. While the name remains the same, this Israeli-based company now allows sellers to share their skills for more than five bucks. Indeed, as the Fiverr community grows, freelancers can post a wide range of gigs for whatever price they choose.
Admittedly, Fiverr may not be as “professional” as other freelance sites on our list. Buyers on Fiverr sometimes complain about getting subpar talent from sellers with fake reviews or credentials. Many sellers also don’t like the fact that Fiverr takes a 20 percent commission.
Despite these cons, we’d still recommend giving Fiverr a chance. With its long history and high-profile brand recognition, Fiverr remains a fantastic way for new freelancers to “get their feet wet.” There are also reports that people involved in web design, social media management, and proofreading can make serious side cash using Fiverr’s portal.
Sure, Fiverr may not be as polished as Toptal, but it’s not aiming for the same market. If you deliver professional results to clients, chances are you could make well more than five bucks with a Fiverr account.
With a history dating back to 2007, it’s safe to say FlexJobs has a strong reputation in the freelance industry. Indeed, FlexJobs is most famous for hand-screening every job application that comes through. This feature saves you the risk of dealing with scam artists when scanning FlexJobs’ comprehensive portal.
The catch is that you’ll have to pay a subscription fee to take advantage of FlexJobs’ services. Whether this entry fee is justified will depend on your current situation. Just keep in mind that FlexJobs has a long roster of high-profile clients, including the likes of Intuit, Dell, and Aetna. Also, if you don’t like FlexJobs for whatever reason, you could ask for a refund within 30 days.
As a bonus, FlexJobs offers training resources like résumé reviews and mock interviews. If you need a refresher in basic job application skills, these features could be an invaluable resource. FlexJobs also posts events throughout the year to help users network.
While it will cost a bit extra to use FlexJobs’ website, this company has a long-standing reputation for high-quality job postings and customer care. Even if you’re starting out, it may be worth the monthly fee to join the FlexJobs community.
Guru is another well-known freelancing platform that has been around for decades. In fact, this Philly-based company first hit the scene in the late 1990s. Throughout its years of operation, Guru has built a solid reputation for its transparency and ease of use. While Guru has a premier subscription plan, you can create an account for free.
Often, Guru is compared to the equally popular site Fiverr, and it’s true that they share many features. However, on Guru, sellers will seek out gigs rather than posting their services for buyers to browse. This feature should make it easier for you to select a job listing that fits your skillset.
Guru also claims to offer the lowest transaction fees in the industry at 2.9 percent. The company will also recommend job listings that meet whatever skills you list in your profile.
Arguably, Behance is the best website to join if you’re a designer. Whether you’re into photography, illustration, or graphic design, there’s a way to share your projects with prospective clients on this website. Plus, since Adobe owns Behance, you can seamlessly integrate your work with platforms like Adobe XD.
To make your job search easier, Behance has a Job List page where customers request various creative services. As you fill out your profile and build your portfolio, Behance will help you land the ideal gig with tailored recommendations.
Behance is a phenomenal site for creative types to network and grow their professional portfolio. Even if you don’t have a personal website, Behance can help you organize and present your work to the world.
Dribbble is sometimes considered the “trendier” version of Behance. While both platforms help digital designers find work, Dribbble has a more casual “Instagram-like” feel. Indeed, many creatives use Dribbble’s platform to gain inspiration from the latest trends in digital design.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get work on Dribbble. Thanks to this website’s “Shots” system, you could easily upload a snapshot of your project for the world to see. There’s no need to build out a fancy case study with each “Shot” you upload. As long as you’re happy with your work, you can send it out to prospective clients.
While you may have a more difficult time building a professional portfolio on Dribbble, this website should be on your radar. At the very least, you could gain a strong sense of community by sharing and reviewing the countless works on this website.
No question: Freelancer.com has the most “in-your-face” name in the freelancing business. Is it any wonder this website is the first that most freelancers run across when Googling for gigs? But it’s not just Freelancer.com’s SEO-optimized name that gives it a competitive advantage. From its founding in 2009, Freelancer.com has become one of the world’s largest online freelancing platforms.
Freelancer.com also has a Contests page where you could compete for tantalizing prizes. Follow the instructions on each Contest page, submit your application, and wait to see if you win!
Of course, since Freelancer.com is so large, it’s also one of the world’s most competitive platforms. Also, although it’s free to sign up for Freelancer.com, be prepared to pay 10 percent of any payments you receive.
On the plus side, Freelancer.com has a mobile app to help keep you in touch with clients. The company also offers reliable 24/7 support if you have any questions or concerns.
Now owned by VistaPrint, 99Designs is an online freelancing platform “designed” for designers. In fact, this website began life as a Melbourne-based online designer community. Eventually, 99Designs started allowing employers to post contests for designers, and the site has grown exponentially since then.
99Designs still hosts these famous online contests, but it also allows employers to work one-on-one with freelancers. In addition to web design, 99Designs offers many projects such as product label creation, iOS app development, and even book covers.
While it’s free to sign up for 99Designs, the company will charge an introduction fee of $100 spread out through your first $500. This fee helps support 99Designs’ curator team, which is tasked with matching your profile with potential clients. 99Designs also charges a varying percentage for each project you complete.
Want Better Gigs? Get Some E-Credentials!
While all of these freelancing websites can help you find work, please don’t forget to take advantage of virtual training opportunities. Nowadays, all you need is a solid Internet connection to get a high-quality education. MOOCs like edX and Coursera offer plenty of tailored classes in anything you’re interested in. As a bonus, many MOOCs provide college credits and professional credentials. Adding these skills to your résumé could bolster your success in the increasingly competitive freelance market. Want to learn more about the best educational apps? If so, be sure to check out this previous Skillspot post.