Now that you’ve done everything you can to show that you’re determined to become a freelancer: you’ve quit your job; put aside an emergency fund; polished your skillset; meditate daily in order to be more mentally prepared for the uncertainties yet to come. But, if no one knows about you, all of your preparations will have been for naught. These, of course are indispensable for a successful career as a freelancer, but the ultimate key to make it as a freelancer is building exposure across different channels (i.e. freelance platforms).
Freelance job sites are like marketplaces where supply meets demand. According to the Global Gig-Economy Index that was released last year, more than a third of all US workers – around 57 million people in total – are currently employed as independent workers and 63% of the companies surveyed hire remote workers online from freelance websites. In 2018 alone, the market share of the gig economy generated a whopping $1.28 trillion for the US economy.
With all that said, how do you land on a freelance job in 2021? The Internet is a huge virtual global talent pool and there are two main ways for you:
Building your personal portfolio site is a wise move for the long run; you can build your reputation to a point where you can get a steady supply of projects through word-of-mouth alone.
Your website can also show off your personality and values to companies who want to get to know their freelancers. However, for someone who's just starting out, it might be hard for your website to show up on the first page of Google search results, making you practically invisible for those who need your talents. It may take a year or two before you become highly sought-after in your chosen field. So registering in a few freelance websites to build your clientele is a more sensible way to secure clients.
There is a huge demand for side hustlers; as you can see on freelance job sites, companies are tapping on freelance talents ranging from finance consultants to bitcoin developers, UX designers, translators, etc.. All kinds of demand keep emerging. It’s true that some freelance job sites charge fees when you search and bid for projects on their platforms, so I’ll make sure to clearly state the terms of the different platforms.
1. Monthly Traffic: How many people visit the website per month?
2. Target Audience: Is it limited to expert contractors within a narrow field or is it open to freelancers across all kinds of industries?
3. User Experience: How much do these platforms charge freelancers and buyers? Are they level playing fields? Are the websites easy to use?
Instead of creating an account on all platforms, I recommend choosing and focusing on two or three of these sites in order to establish a strong profile. This way, you can build up a great reputation which will eventually help you better attract potential clients.
Let’s get started.
Freelancer.com uses a milestone-based payment system that protects both buyers and freelancers. In fact, payment is only released once you finish all required milestones. Progress can be monitored by time spent working or set project milestones; the live chat function makes communication between both parties possible. Freelancers also have a downloadable app that includes a time tracker, which can be both efficient and frightening at the same time given that you’re under pressure to finish a deadline within a certain amount of time.
It has freelancers from over 240+ countries and cater to competitive job-seekers who’re willing to bid on the projects they find most promising.
There is a subscription fee for FlexJobs. It’s small -- somewhere between the cost of a Starbucks coffee and a modest dinner out, depending on which package you choose. Jobs are screened before being listed on the site. It stands at the vanguard protecting the rights of freelancers, writers in particular, as the website filters out questionable and low paying writing jobs so that writers are never lowballed and forced to work for below-market rates.
There’s also a learning center that provides classes that help you sharpen your skills—a definite bonus. Over the years it has added a lot of new features and even revamped its design.
While it’s a relatively new platform, don’t let the smaller scale fool you: CakeResume is steadily growing and has lots of offer. It’s a Taiwan-based startup that aims to expand its reach to the overseas market.
CakeResume is a platform tailored for full-time and part-time job and internship-seekers looking to work in either industry heavyweights or lean startups. It may not be the first platform that comes to mind when you think of freelance opportunities, but with a third of the jobs offered in the software engineering or design field, it means that there are numerous opportunities for remote workers and freelancers alike.
The best part is that CakeResume offers chic templates to help you build your highly-customizable portfolio in order to distinguish yourself from the crowd. Creative souls and freelancers, this platform may just be what you’ve been looking for.
Like CakeResume, Glints is also an Asia-based website where its main market is also located. Geared towards the huge talent pool in Southeast and Southern Asia, Glints lists opportunities in industries like software engineering, operations, human resources, marketing, and business development. Internship, full-time and part-time employment are offered.
For companies in need of outsourced talents in Asia, Glints can help find the perfect candidate from its pool of 570k resumes. The platform also has a Glints Academy that trains job-seekers, helping them hop on the coding bandwagon.
Guru is the easiest platform to get in for freelancers; however, its transaction fees, commission rate, and monthly fees are all higher than most of its counterparts. The good news is that it offers a free trial so you can feel it out before investing your precious time and money in it.
Besides, it’s also good to have a free account here as great-paying jobs spring up here from time to time. It's good to note that some freelancers have questioned Guru’s system, claiming that sometimes you will be left in a clutch when it comes to their payment.
As the name implies, 99designs is exclusively for freelance designers. It is a platform where companies go for all design-related needs—from logos, websites, product designs, business cards, packaging designs to anything you want designs on. The site hosts 'contests' wherein freelancers submit their designs to fulfill client briefs, and the winners of the design contests will receive monetary rewards. If you're a bit more risk-averse, this might be the cutthroat environment that you need to level-up your skills and snatch up future projects.
You might have noticed that I've introduced some lesser-known platforms. In fact, websites like Upwork, Fiverr and PeoplePerHour are kinda saturated, making it hard for freelance newbies to stand out of the crowd and compete on these platforms. The websites that I've listed have are less saturated so you will have fewer competitors while retaining a steady stream of potential projects.
Now that you know where to find jobs, how can you make the most of the platforms? The 6 aforementioned websites are all very different and are tailored to a diverse range of skill sets. Some have low-entry barriers while others require you to compete in order to bid for one project. Some cater to a wider global pool of talents while others tap specifically into the Asian market. What you should do before registering is dig deeper into the two or three platforms that you think best suits you. This way you can ensure that you have the highest chances of finding like-minded clients.