As the number of people looking for freelance jobs online continues to grow, the demand for their services has spawned a new industry in its own right. Freelancing platforms have been around for years, and we’re now beginning to see the first signs of major consolidation and diversification. Notably, the recent merger between oDesk and Elance has created Upwork, the biggest open freelance marketplace on the planet.
However, another apparent trend is the rise in big players hiring freelance talent, a distinct shift from the small businesses that were traditionally known to use freelancers. This has created a high demand for highly skilled freelancers, and has correspondingly led to an increase in the pool of skilled professionals willing to start freelancing.
Although we already covered some of these networks a couple of years ago, since the freelance landscape is evolving quickly, we’re now taking a closer look at old and new leaders in the industry.
Here are the best websites to find freelance jobs:
Toptal is a relatively new freelance network aimed at connecting talented, experienced software developers with top-notch clients with budgets who are in need of immediate guaranteed quality talent.
Unlike other platforms, Toptal is not an open network, and applicants must pass a screening process to enter the network. Provided you pass the screening, you gain access to quality clients like Airbnb, J.P. Morgan, KDDI, Pfizer, and others. You’ll also enjoy being part of a tight-knit community of Toptal engineers that hosts frequent meet-ups and tech talks around the world.
How does it work?
You can’t simply register to become a Toptal member. Once you apply to join the network, you’ll undergo a few tests and interviews to test your technical skills, communication style, etc. If you make the cut, you’ll be able to set your own hourly rate and engage with tier one clients. Additionally, an internal team of engineers will contact you with opportunities meeting your skill set, and you’ll often be asked to integrate into teams rather than working solo.
- Good compensation; no low bid contests.
- Access to premium clients.
- Opportunity to gain valuable work experience with big brands.
- Opportunity to network with other professionals, publish blog posts, and increase your professional exposure.
- It’s not for everyone; Toptal is designed for (very) experienced freelancers.
- You need to pass the screening process before you get started.
- It’s a specialized network for software engineers, so it’s not currently useful for freelancers in unrelated niches.
Upwork is the consolidated platform resulting from the merger between market leaders oDesk and Elance, so it’s the biggest freelance platform out there. However, does size guarantee quality? Almost 10 million freelancers use the platform and from a technical perspective, the platform is very strong.
The process from sign up to engagement is streamlined and easy to master. However, depending on the type of project, it may involve a lot of notifications and online time.
How does it work?
The sign up process is quick, although you may need a bit of time to complete your profile. You don’t have to complete your profile to go job hunting, but it helps. As soon as you sign up, you can start applying for jobs. It sounds easy, and it is easy, but the sheer size of the network can be daunting, and newly-registered freelancers may have a hard time scoring their first job.
- Access to millions of clients worldwide in various niches.
- Relatively simple to use and sign up.
- Chat interface allows you to get in touch with prospective clients in real-time.
- Due to the sheer size of the network, it can be difficult to get your first job and rating.
- New members are often forced to drop their rates just to get a job and some positive ratings before trying for more serious engagements.
- The chat interface may require a lot of online time.
- If you work on multiple small projects and have lots of milestones, the process can be time-consuming.
With millions of projects listed and a huge selection of freelancers to choose from, Freelancer is another very popular platform. The service is also known for its competitions, in which freelancers compete against each other in an effort to attract more clients.
If you believe strongly in your skills and want to prove it, you’ll be able to use Freelancer to compete with other freelancers to win notoriety and engagements. With millions of projects posted, winning a contest is a great way to get your name out there as a top freelancer and attract more clients.
How does it work?
Upon creating a Freelancer profile, you’ll be free to browse various job offers and contests. With useful job search features, narrowing down your job hunt is quite easy.
- Freelancer excels at small jobs or project-based engagements.
- The network boasts more than 15 million registered clients, so there are a lot of projects to choose from.
- Regardless of your skills, you may have to be flexible with your rates to score your first few jobs.
- Winning Freelancer contests can be difficult if you are new to the industry.
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A few years ago, Guru used to be the network of choice for many freelancers, but since then it has been overtaken by competing services. While its popularity may be waning, Guru is still a very good platform, with a simple user interface and ratings system.
How does it work? Guru keeps it simple: you sign up and start looking for work – that’s it. Basic membership is free, and there are a few good options for people new to freelancing. You can also set clever notifications to stay on top of new bids.
- Popular among U.S.-based clients and freelancers, so it’s a good option for freelancers in North America.
- A lot of features for newbies, including bid templates, how-to guides, and clever features.
- Good notification system.
- May be costly if you decide against paying a monthly fee.
- Withdrawal process may involve a lot of additional costs.
- Limited global appeal.
99Designs connects clients and various types of designers, so it’s specialized to a few niches. However, it’s a relatively big network, and you should have no trouble finding a wide variety of design projects..
How does it work?
99Designs operates on the principle of design contests, allowing clients to specify budgets and requirements before selecting the winning bid (or bids). Clients can thus see ideas and sketches from a large number of bids.
- Specialized platform, so lots of competent designers and good clients to choose from.
- Contest approach ensures you get the chance to prove your skills.
- Limited size of network due to its niche focus.
- Frequent complaints alleging plagiarism.
Unlike most freelance platforms, Staff.com does not focus on small, one-off projects, but on long-term engagements and hiring. While this is not exactly freelancing in the traditional sense, Staff.com can serve as a backup of sorts, and freelancers use it to commit to a few hours a day and gain a steady source of income while using other platforms to make money on the side.
How does it work?
If you choose to join the platform, Staff.com will help you connect with employers and help employers set up their remote teams. The focus is on full-time work instead of short-term contracts, and there are no intermediaries.
- Easier to secure a steady source of income than on other platforms.
- Good for people who don’t like to bid and get swamped in notifications.
- Strong time tracking features help reduce the number of disputes.
- Salaries can be lower than on traditional freelance sites.
- Limited number of clients and job listings.
- Not good for people who are reluctant to commit to steady hours.
Craigslist is definitely an outlier here, as it is not a specialized freelance platform. However, due to the sheer size and popularity of the service (especially in North America), it can be useful for many freelancers, especially in some niches that are not well represented by major freelancing platforms like Upwork or Guru.
How does it work?
There’s really not much new to say about Craigslist, as the service hardly needs an introduction. It’s a classified advertisements site with numerous sections. Whether you want to buy a home, adopt a pet, or look for work, Craigslist has it all.
- Very big user base.
- May help you find jobs in niches that aren’t covered by major freelance sites.
- No specialization, no additional freelance services.
- Craigslist simply lists jobs, you have to do everything else.
- Lacks most features found on specialized freelance platforms.
The freelance landscape is changing quickly, so staying informed on the best sites out there is critical for any freelancers looking to advance their careers. Use this list of the best freelance websites to jumpstart your freelance career.
About Drew Hendricks
I’m a tech, social media, and environmentalism addict. I’ve written for many large publishers such as National Geographic, Technorati, and The Huffington Post. I have also worked with a variety of startups around the globe as well as large advertising agencies in the United States and the U.K. I currently live in San Francisco, where I attend as many tech and business conferences as possible to gain knowledge and transfer it to others. In my free time you’ll find me in a disc golf course or at the dog park with my dog Zeus.