A new freelancing site seems to pop up every day. So how do we know which one to use? Upwork, Guru, Freelancer, Fivver, Freelanced, and so on and so on. I hate to be the one to break this to you but… they all suck. They’re garbage.
I’m not saying that you can’t dig around and find the 1 real client in the sea of cheapskates, and people have done this successfully, but you’re just as likely to get lost in the noise of the 300 applications on that real client. I’d avoid them entirely.
Why do they suck?
- They almost all use a bidding system. This is the worst situation for a freelancer to be in. Clients will receive hundreds of applications and the most concrete information they will have on all of them is price. It’s always best to try to avoid competing directly on price but these sites make it difficult to be seen if you do not.
- They’re oversaturated. Freelance platforms are easy to use. But that makes a very low barrier to entry for every amateur and wannabe that cares to spend 5 minutes making a profile. Even if these newbies can’t compete with higher quality freelancers they still create noise and drive prices down.
- They have significant time and financial cost. Ideally, you find freelance work spending the least amount of time and money possible. Because of the noise to signal ratio with freelancing, you’ll likely have to spend serious time searching and applying and almost all freelance platforms take 10-20% of your earnings.
- These situations have attracted a very low caliber of client. Do you think Nike hops on Upwork when they want to hire a graphic designer? Of course not. The bidding systems and over-saturation on these platforms make them appeal to clients who have small projects they want done on the cheap. It doesn’t rule out bigger or better clients, but the conditions make them the exception, not the rule.
There is no perfect online solution at present. Is it possible that someone will build a decent freelancing platform at some point? Sure, but I’m not holding my breath.
If you want to apply to jobs online, I’d suggest using a traditional job board like Indeed. There is a lower concentration of freelance work but it attracts a much better quality of client.
While job listings are an appealing way to get started, eventually they should make up a small percentage of the business you earn.