Finding the best freelance sites online can be the key to a successful job search. After all, the Internet has become one of the most versatile and widely used resources for locating most any kind of work, including freelance. But we all agree that sorting through the overload of information available online can be frustrating, time-consuming and even confusing - things job seekers really can’t afford.
This guide will introduce you to the world of freelancing and the best sites to connect you to your job of choice. While there are different types of freelance services, focusing on different areas of expertise, the entire gig economy is rising fast. In fact, according to Forbes, it’s experiencing epic growth, with over 57 million Americans currently doing freelance work. A study by Intuit predicts that, during 2020, over 40 percent of workers will be independent contractors and by 2027, they’ll comprise the majority of the workforce. This is great news if you’re a freelancer, or thinking of taking the plunge, especially if you’re in the 18-34 age group.
Of course, all freelance job websites are not created equal. Not every site offers the vital information you need, or even the types of jobs you’re seeking for that matter. So we want to help you conduct a smart search. We’ve reviewed six websites we consider the best for freelance job seekers and compiled information to help you zero in on those that not only offer the greatest value, but will lead to jobs that are just right for you. Our research considered user-friendliness of the sites, relevance to your search and other pertinent tools and resources that are available to ensure great results and real job satisfaction. Without wasting your time.
The Best Freelance Sites
- UpWork - Best Overall
- Fiverr - Best For Finding Multiple Gigs
- Craigslist - Best Freelance Sites With No Fees
- Freelancer - Best Freelance Site With A Free Trial
- 99Designs - Best Freelance Site For Designers
- Toptal - Best Exclusive Freelance Site
- Arc - Best For Developers
Reviews Of The Best Freelance Sites
Upwork - Best Overall
Upwork caters to freelancers who want to work digitally in just about every niche - from accountants to designers to copywriters - and everywhere in between. Within this site, there are various tests you can take to strengthen your profile and you are rated after each gig is complete so employers can see how reliable you are.
The best way to get started (without any ratings) is to successfully complete jobs that are below your pay grade. You’ll find that once you get one rating, it will be easier to get two, then three, and so on.
What Upwork Charges
The way Upwork makes money is by taking a percentage of your earnings. The more you work, the less they take:
- 20% for the first $500 billed with the client
- 10% for lifetime billings with the client between $500.01 and $10,000
- 5% for lifetime billings with the client that exceed $10,000
On top of that, there is something called Connects that you are required to purchase in order to apply to job postings. This is not to say that employers can’t contact you with proposals, but it is very unlikely when you are starting out. Finally, there is a $14.99 a month Freelancer Plus option that allows a monthly allotment of Connects, membership perks, and visibility into competitor bids.
Bidding on Gigs and Getting Started
You can even bid against other freelancers on different gigs that are posted, naming your price per word or per project. This makes the service quite competitive, especially when you’re trying to charge a rate that you think you’re worth.
Once hired, you need to complete your work within the Upwork app, where your time and random screenshots are recorded to make sure there is no time theft.
Pros Of Upwork
- A huge variety of gigs available
- Access to a global client base
- Flexible working hours
- Secure payment system
- User-friendly interface
- Direct communication with clients
Cons Of Upwork
- Can be hard to get started with no experience
- Service fees
- Dependence on reviews: Success on the platform is heavily reliant on client reviews, which can be stressful and sometimes unfair
- Project quality variability: The quality and seriousness of projects can vary greatly, with some low-budget or low-quality postings.
- Profile approval and maintenance: Getting a profile approved can be challenging, and maintaining it with regular updates and competitive rates is necessary.
- Limited control over terms: Freelancers often have to adhere to the terms set by clients, which can sometimes be unfavorable.
Fiverr - Best For Finding Multiple Gigs
Fiverr is a site that lives up to its name, where you can complete gigs for $5 a pop. Like Upwork, you get rated based on past performance. But unlike Upwork, the array of services branches into areas like musical composition and acting. In 2013, Fiverr lifted its base price and began allowing freelancers to charge more for their services.
How Fiverr Makes Money
Fiverr makes money through transaction fees and service fees to both the buyers and sellers. The best, most consistent sellers become “Pro Verified” by Fiverr and get special placement on job searches for buyers within the site.
What You’re Looking For in Gigs
This site is better if you’re looking for multiple gigs as opposed to an ongoing project. You can find someone here to do just about anything, so if you like thinking outside the box as far as your talents go, it might be worthwhile to post here.
Fiverr is not as formal as other freelance sites and you can see that within the layout of the site, and the manner in which gigs are posted. This is better if you’re looking for multiple short term, set-priced projects.
Pros Of Fiverr
- Diverse Market: Fiverr caters to a wide range of categories, from digital marketing to music and audio services, offering diverse opportunities.
- Flexibility in Pricing: Freelancers can set their own prices for services, which can be adjusted as they gain more experience and credibility.
- Gig-Based System: The platform operates on a gig-based system, allowing freelancers to offer specific services with clear descriptions and deliverables.
- Global Exposure: Fiverr connects freelancers with clients from around the world, providing international exposure and client base.
- No Bidding for Jobs: Unlike some other platforms, freelancers don’t need to bid for jobs; clients approach them based on their gig offerings.
- Opportunity for Upselling: Freelancers can offer different service levels or add-ons, providing opportunities for increased earnings.
- Ease of Use: The platform is user-friendly, making it easy for freelancers to set up gigs and manage their work.
- Portfolio Showcase: Freelancers can display their work and skills through their gig descriptions and portfolio, attracting potential clients.
- Secure Payment System: Fiverr ensures payments are secure and released to freelancers upon successful completion of work.
- Feedback and Rating System: The platform’s rating and review system helps freelancers build credibility and reputation over time.
Cons Of Fiverr
- High Competition: Due to the popularity of the platform, there is intense competition, making it hard for new freelancers to get noticed and secure their first orders.
- Commission Fees: Fiverr takes a 20% commission on each transaction, which can significantly reduce earnings, especially for lower-priced gigs.
- Limited Pricing Control: While you can set your prices, there's pressure to keep prices low due to competition, which can limit earning potential.
- Difficulty in Building Client Relationships: The platform's structure can make it challenging to develop long-term relationships with clients, as interactions are typically transactional.
- Dependence on Reviews: Success on Fiverr heavily relies on client reviews. A few negative reviews, deserved or not, can significantly impact a freelancer's ability to get new work.
- Gig-Based Restrictions: The gig format can limit the scope of what you can offer and may not adequately reflect the full range of a freelancer's skills and services.
- Risk of Account Suspension: Violating Fiverr’s terms of service, even unintentionally, can lead to account suspension, impacting income and reputation.
- Limited Client Interaction: The platform's communication system can sometimes restrict in-depth discussions with clients, which can be a barrier to understanding complex project requirements.
Craigslist - Best Freelance Site With No Fees
Craigslist has been around since 1995 which makes it the grandfather of freelance sites. You can go to this site to find permanent, full time positions, or part time gigs, by looking up the various types of job postings; you’ll find they differ depending on the town you’re in. Think of a digital job bulletin board that you’d see in a coffee shop, or near a college campus. And since most freelance work is done on a computer, you don’t have to be limited to your town for your job search. This opens the door for you to search multiple cities for job postings that match your experience.
You can contact each job poster through a special Craigslist email which is kept anonymous and exclusive to the posting.
Pro: There are no fees associated with your job search or taken out of your pay
Con: Not as much variety of postings as other freelance sites
Freelancer - Best Freelance Site With A Free Trial
Freelancer is a site that is similar to Upwork, and offers digital jobs in 1350 different categories. It is similar in the way jobs are posted and bidded on, but different in the way they make money and work with a paid, monthly option.
How They Make $
The silver lining is that you can get a month free to give the site a trial run. But the bottom line is that the more you pay, the more jobs you can apply to, which, in turn, increases your chances of getting hired. As of this writing, the free option lets you apply to eight jobs per month and the $9.95 option allows you to apply to 80.
There are also fees that vary depending on the type of project you are doing:
- For fixed-price projects – 10% or $5.00 USD, whichever is greater, and 10% for hourly projects
- For contests – 10% or $5.00 USD, whichever is greater
- For services – 20% fee of the total service price
- For the Preferred Freelancer Program – 15% project fee
While this may seem like a big headache if you’re a freelancer, the site seems to be pretty popular. One of the benefits is the contest option which allows you to compete with freelancers in skill tests relevant to the posting. Like Upwork, there is an app that you are supposed to work in so your time can be recorded.
Pro: A wide array of services and a steady source of gigs.
Con: Monthly fees to apply to more jobs.
99Designs - Best Freelance Site For Designers
99Designs is a site that is specific to designers, with two ways to get hired: win a design contest, or get selected by a potential buyer. Founded in 2008, 99Designs has become the mecca for freelance designers because with this service, the cream truly does rise to the top.
How They Make $
The service makes money by taking fees from 10-40% of designs from either a contest winner, or an agreed-upon design, so it’s pretty much the same idea as the other freelance sites. For the contest portion of the website there are four tiers:
- Bronze $299
- Silver $499
- Gold $799
- Platinum $1,299
The higher the price, the more designs the buyer gets to choose from, with the most (platinum) being 90 designs. So if you compete for a lower price, you have a higher chance of winning, and if you compete for a higher price it means you have a lower chance of winning.
Join The Break Community
What You’re Judged On
To get hired without starting a contest you need to be selected by a buyer who has reviewed your portfolio and submit a quote based on the specifications the buyer provides. 99Designs segments the talent levels into entry, mid and top level designers. The designer level is determined by four categories:
- Execution of design principles
- Conceptual thought
- Technical skills and deliverables
- Client communication and satisfaction
There are three main criticisms of 99Designs: The odds of winning a design contest are low, the fees they take are too steep according to many freelancers, and their payments come in the form of credits that need to be transferred to cash via Paypal for a three percent fee.
Toptal - Best Exclusive Freelance Site
Toptal is an exclusive network of the top freelance software developers, designers, finance experts, product managers, and project managers in the world,” according to their website.
According to Toptal, their platform receives thousands of freelance applications a month and typically fewer than three percent of the applicants are accepted. So if you’re a master of your craft, and think you’ve got what it takes to join this exclusive network, you might want to give it a try.
If you’re accepted, you won’t have to worry about bidding on jobs or haggling on price. Toptal does the matching for you, and they do it quickly. Depending on the job that you’re selected for, you can either get hourly, full, or part time work.
Pro: If you get accepted, your hourly rate will be between $60-$95 an hour, or with part time work, $1,000-$1,600 a week.
Con: *If* you get accepted...
Arc - Best For Developers
Arc helps developers access better remote opportunities faster. They skip straight to interviews with hiring partners, from Silicon Valley startups to Fortune 500 companies. From full-time positions to part-time role to freelance, you can choose the best fit for your skills, interests, and lifestyle.
Arc takes the friction out of the freelance process. Their site makes finding gigs simple. They also manage all of the logistics, client management, operations, and invoicing - so you can do what you do best.
If you’re a developer and are looking for work, the Arc platform may be a great fit!
Honorable Mention Services
How to Build Your Freelance Career
Once you’ve decided to ditch the nine to five workforce and join the world of freelancing, it’s essential that you know the details of how to become a freelancer such as how to market, price, and work effectively. Your goal always is to land clients who value your services, not to place yourself in the position of having to take whatever comes along. Yes, this requires a boatload of hard work, but there are tools and resources available to help you create a sustainable business. Here are 10 tips from Customer Think that are worth your while to follow
Consider This Your Business Enterprise
First and foremost, to build a successful freelance career you need to approach it as you would any other business. Create short- and long-term goals, along with actionable tasks. The last thing you want to do is lose your direction. Use every free minute to market and promote yourself.
Grow Your Network
Always remember that you’re only half of your business. The other half is your clients. And the sooner you start building your network, the better. Use prior business connections and referrals, join networking groups, attend workshops and occasionally venture out to a co-working space. Socializing is great for your growth and, who knows, you may hit the jackpot and gain a few more clients.
Build an Online Presence
Set up a powerful website and create professional social media accounts. The website will serve as a virtual sales pitch to prospective clients (especially when you can’t be there in person). Meanwhile, social media will help you network and keep in touch with industry experts while building a strong profile.
When creating a profile, in Upwork, for example, there are a multitude of things you can to make your profile stand out. You can take tests within your niche that show which percentile you score in (e.g. how many words per minute you type), you can showcase previous work, and, if you’ve already had a job through the service, a potential buyer can read reviews (both starred and written) of your previous employers.
On Fiverr, once you sell a certain amount of gigs with positive reviews you will get awarded with “Top Rated Seller” or “Pro Verified” stickers on your profile which will substantially increase the amount of purchases you get through the service because of the validation.
All the services on the list, except Craigslist, have some kind of evaluation of past work via the service. The trick is to get your first gig, after that it should be easier to find steady employment.
Find Your Niche
We all have unique strengths. And everybody seems to have a specialty in which they excel. You will go far once you identify your specific creative strength and cultivate it into an in-depth service for your clients. For example, if you’re a writer, maybe developing out-of-this-world web content is your niche. As you fine-tune your specific niche, you’ll find that you are delivering better quality work to your clients. And really enjoying it.
Create Your Unique Style
Build upon your niche by creating a specialization with a unique flair. Then refine, refine, refine it so that clients will prefer your services over those of a competitor. It’s a great way to ensure that you stand out from the rest.
Know Your Clients
Build and nurture the relationships you create with your clients. Don’t consider them as temporary employers. Remember, they’re the ones who can make or break you, keep coming back or ditch you, refer you to friends, or drive business elsewhere. Create a database of all your past, current and potential clients and keep them apprised of your presence in the industry.
Collect Client Testimonials
As you set up your online presence, showcase client testimonials along with your work portfolio. What can be better than a glowing recommendation from a happy customer! Testimonials not only add a personal touch to your website and social media, but can also serve as referrals that may motivate potential leads.
Maintain Smart Numbers
Freelancers need to be masters of many arts. Besides building your business, you’re in charge of marketing, prospecting and maintaining client relationships. Plus taking care of the finances. You can’t just pull numbers out of a hat when providing quotes. To avoid the risk of underpricing or overpricing your services, you always should research the competition first regarding rates. To help with this important task, it’s smart to invest in an invoicing tool.
As a freelancer, it can be easy to throw schedules to the wind and opt for a little more leisure time. Avoid that trap. Set up time structure for your tasks to create a good work-life balance for yourself, as well as to maintain deadlines and work deliverables for your clients.
Build Your Brand
Strategic thinking and strong marketing are keys to a successful freelancing career. But you need to go beyond a good website and an active social media profile. Write blogs, invite guest bloggers, and run ads on social media for your target demographic. Incorporating this, and all the tips above will help you build a reputable brand known for professionalism and quality. It may seem daunting at first, but if you stay positive, plan and put your energy to work, you’ll go a long way.
Continue To Learn
To be a successful freelancer, you must always be willing to learn. There are many freelancing courses and business-related courses that you can take to keep learning and improving yourself and your business.
How to Nail a Freelance Interview
Congratulations! You’ve landed an interview with a potential client. As an independent freelancer, you’ll probably be doing this a lot. The clients may want you to visit to get a feel for their company/product (while they get a feel for you). They may want to see how your experience and expertise match their needs. Or they may be “hopeful” clients that you’ve contacted on your own.
This meeting is likely to appear casual on the surface. Maybe something as simple as getting together for coffee, or a phone or video chat. But don’t let your guard down and go in unprepared. It really is a formal job interview where the client will be determining whether you can deliver on their project. Similarly, you should use the time to assess whether or not the project is a good fit for your skills, as well as to sense any red flags.
Keep in mind that this could be the single most important conversation you’ll have with the client. So be prepared, be confident and, of course, be yourself.
If you need a resume to apply to jobs online, check out our guide to creating a freelance resume.
Typical Questions Your Potential Client will Ask - Be Ready with Solid Answers:
Tell me about yourself - how long have you been a writer, designer, marketer, web developer, accountant, etc? Where did you work before, or have you always freelanced?
Clients will want some background in order to get a feel for who they’re talking to. Tell them about the choices you’ve made to get to this point in your career and what you’ve learned along the way. Don’t be the person who name drops or dwells on qualifications. Professionalism, skills, experience and a killer portfolio are what make an impression.
What types of projects do you typically work on? What’s your ideal project?
This is the time to talk about your specific services and experience. And to wow the client with the expertise you have in your special niche. Of course, be sure to also let them know you can handle anything else they might need. Discuss the clients and projects you’re most passionate about (making sure their type of business is included). And if you can mention another client you’ve worked within their industry, all the better.
Can you tell me about a project you’ve worked on that you feel went well and why it was a success? Do you have any examples of other projects you’ve done that are similar to mine?
If you’ve been dying to show off your work, do it now. This is the point where you can showcase your portfolio case studies and build a mountain of trust and confidence. Highlight two or three successful projects that are similar in function, scope, or style to the client’s and walk them through any challenges you faced and the solutions you chose to implement. Adding specific metrics that show the success your work brought to a project is a bonus. The potential client should be able to recognize parts of these projects that mesh with their needs, giving them confidence that you can deliver similar results to them.
What’s your process for completing a job? What tools do you use to organize your workflow? How do you gather information and feedback? Exactly what will you deliver?
Start at the beginning and take the client through your ideal process all the way through to the finished product. Discuss the tools you might use to stay organized and keep feedback focused. Equally as important, explain to the client how they fit into the process and what their responsibilities are. Lastly, tell them exactly what your deliverables will be and the value they will bring to the project. Be as specific as you can. The client may never have done this before so don’t assume they know everything - or anything - that’s involved.
How much will it cost?
This topic is best saved for the end of the interview, by you and by the client. If cost is the first thing the client brings up, beware. You’re probably dealing with a “cost client”. A “value client” will have built enough confidence in you before cost comes up, which will make your pricing a formality rather than a decision making factor.
Your preferred pricing method will determine how you discuss cost so know how you intend to handle this before you meet. Once the discussion starts, there’s no room for uncertain pauses. Explain how and why you price the way you do and encourage the client not to judge you on price until you’ve had a chance to put together a formal proposal and price estimate. Connecting price to value is key.
How soon are you available?
This one can be tricky. For example, let’s say you’re booked two months out and learn your potential client needs work done immediately. If you’ve built a strong enough level of trust and confidence, the client may be willing to wait, even if it’s outside their original timeframe. If not and they have a deadline that absolutely must be met, you may have to politely decline and walk away. There’s no harm in saying no. If possible, try to get a feel for the timeline before you meet so you don’t waste time on something that you know isn’t going to work. If you are available immediately (translation - need the work) don’t be shy about saying so. You might say something like, “I’ve just finished a big project and am ready for something new.”
Questions You Should Ask the Client
How did you hear about me?
This question is really important. Referral? Social media? Your website? General Google search? It’s huge to be able to gather data on the performance of your marketing efforts.
Can you tell me about your business?
If you want to do an exceptional job serving your client, you need a thorough understanding of their business. So feel free to inquire about things like how they operate, who their customers are, who they employ, what their values and passions are. Anything that will help you get a feel for their work - ask away. And listen to the answers. You’ll be instilling confidence in your client that you completely understand their processes. Remember, you want to be perceived as a long-term partner, not a one-time gig worker.
What are your goals for this project and how will you measure success?
You should never start a project without knowing the metrics for measuring success. It’s crucial that you are aware of the parameters and what the client ultimately wants to achieve. Is it simply personal satisfaction with the project? A certain percentage in growth? The ability to solve a particular problem? Who’s the target market? Keep in mind that the client might not have thought about these things yet and may need a little time to provide you with the answers.
Do you have a specific budget for this project?
As with pricing, try to get a sense of this before you meet with the client. While you don’t want to lead your meeting with talk about budget, you also don’t want to go too far without an indication of whether it's in your range. Because if it’s not, the meeting will only waste everyone’s time.
Have you been involved in this type of project before?
In order to keep the project and the client relationship running smoothly, you’ll need to know if you’re working with a savvy, experienced customer or a newbie who will need a lot of hand-holding throughout the process.
Do you have a written brief explaining what the project entails?
Good clients know that documentation is necessary for a successful project. Bad clients will expect you to pry every nugget of information from them. Avoid those. And be patient with the ones in the middle. Your responsibility is to let them know your requirements and then give them time to put their documentation together.
What is your role in the feedback process?
Clients often don’t have a clue about the part they play in the progress of their project. It will be up to you to tell them when you require feedback, what kind of feedback is most useful, and the expected timeframe for providing it. The success of the feedback process can greatly impact duration of the project.
What’s your timeframe for the job? Any specific deadlines to keep in mind?
This discussion goes hand-in-hand with the topic of your availability. So, up-front, you’ll need to know exactly what the client has in mind. Is there a special promotion or product launch to consider? Any other reason for a firm deadline? What is their expected timeframe? Answers to questions like these will make it much easier to align your schedule with the client’s, or even determine if it’s feasible to take the job.
What You Need to Know About Freelance Employment Law
You may be surprised to learn that employment laws generally do not apply to freelancers. Nor do wage and hour laws. Instead, because freelancers are considered as a business, not an employee, business laws and regulations apply. If you are a freelancer - also known as an independent contractor, subcontractor, contract worker, or gig worker - you are essentially your own small business.
Determining if you have freelancer status is often complex. Employers sometimes misclassify employees as independent contractors to avoid paying certain taxes and benefits - sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally. It’s wise to get an employment lawyer if you’re unsure of the category you fit into.
As a freelancer, taxes generally are not withheld when you get paid. You are responsible for tracking and paying your own taxes and, yes, you DO need to pay federal, state, and possibly local taxes each year. So be sure to keep a record of all income, expenses, and receipts. Tax payments then need to be made four to five times a year, not just once, depending on whether you are or are not an LLC. Any business that paid you $600 or more in a calendar year must send you a Form 1099-MISC unless you are incorporated. In that case, the business doesn’t need to do the 1099.
Most work done by freelancers falls under copyright. If you haven’t signed a contract with your client stating that the copyright belongs to them, then by default, it belongs to you. To protect your rights, you should get a good contract drafted by a lawyer to spell out exactly what the terms are when a client hires you. It also might be a good idea to form an LLC or corporation to protect your assets and possibly save on taxes.
Besides federal regulations, individual states may have additional laws for freelancers.
Getting Hired on a Freelance Site
Freelance job sites are a great place for finding gig employment. As you’ll quickly discover - if you haven’t already - the number of sites at your fingertips is immense. And it’s safe to say that most are reliable. But others, not so much. Navigating your way through freelance sites just might be one of the most difficult and time-consuming parts of finding your dream job. By using the sites we have recommended, you can be confident that we’ve weeded out those that are not the greatest and verified the legitimacy of those that are. So you can rest easy and know that you’re guaranteed a safe search free from scams and fishy opportunities.
Being a freelancer means you’ll be spending a huge chunk of time hunting down jobs and gigs. We’re happy to take some of the legwork out of your search by helping you focus on the sites that will serve you best.