When you are used to working for a boss, it can be scary to walk away from that ‘security’ and follow your own path. Sometimes getting laid-off (there goes your ‘security’) is the best thing that can happen to you, because then the decision is made for you.
Once you are on your freelancing way though, you’ll see that all the fears you might be experiencing now, gradually disappear. So stop worrying and let us help you get started with this walkthrough guide, offering you a list of best freelancing websites and expert tips.
Put your boots on and let’s go!
What is a freelancer exactly?
A freelancer is someone who is self-employed. Meaning; people who find their own assignments, and work for several different clients or companies. Freelancers determines their own hours and their own rate.
Benefits of freelancing
The benefits of freelancing are numerous: you can work for yourself, make your own schedule, work from home or from some tropical island (as long as you have good wifi, you can work from literally anywhere).
Before you start daydreaming about working under a palmtree (be careful for those coconuts; they kill about 150 people a year), you need to realize that it does take work. It takes a lot of discipline and effort. Not only to land jobs, but also to remember to take care of yourself.
It’s easy to work for 60-80 hours a week because you’re passionate about what you do or worried about the next paycheck. So be careful not to neglect yourself. Yes, freelancing isn’t perfect either, but nothing beats doing what you love on your own terms.
What services can you offer as a freelancer?
Typical freelance jobs are found in writing, photography, editing, programming, website designing and consultancy. The best freelancer jobs are the following:
- Marketing: marketing manager, marketing consultant
- Social Media: community manager, social media consultant/coordinator
- Business Project Management: project manager
- Web Development: software developer
- Writing: blogging, copywriting, editor, content writing/managing
- Photography / Video: photographer, content creator
- Graphic Design: website designer
- Administration: professional assistant
3 Steps to Success
Ready to kick-start your freelance career? We’ll show you 3 important steps that will help you to build a successful business.
1. Promote yourself
You need to make sure the world knows that you’re open for business. If nobody knows that you have killer writing or web developing skills, you won’t go very far.
- When your skills match your current site, you can add a page to your website where you explain your services, show (part of) your digital portfolio and tell the world you’re up for hire. You can call the page “Work with me” for example.
- If your skills don’t match your site, or if for some reason you want to keep your freelancing work and your blog separate, create a new site.
- Tell your friends and family about your freelancing activities via your private network and social media. Keep it professional though. Even with close relatives or friends. When you’re talking business always use a clear, polite, and friendly tone.
- Promote your work and your skills on your public social media channels.
- If it’s appropriate, reach out to former employers and colleagues and tell them about the (new) services you offer. You can use our template from our lesson “Learn How To Reach Out To People” for inspiration.
2. Communicate clearly
Effective, regular and clear communication is key to a successful freelancing (or any) career. In a ‘normal’ or conventional work environment like in an office, good communication is already a challenge. Messages get interpreted wrongly, or sometimes you have to wait forever to get an answer from your manager or colleague.
As a freelancer, the challenge is even bigger due to the physical distance between you and your client. You can’t just hop into each other’s office for a quick face-to-face meeting. But, fortunately there are lots of digital ways to stay connected.
- Stay on top of things by initiating communication yourself, and regularly check in with your client to see if everything is still clear and going according to plan.
- Be available via email, phone or video chat (e.g. Skype).
- With that being said, do give yourself a break and avoid being available 24/7. You can do that for a little while, but after a couple of weeks or months (depending on your stress axis) you’ll burn out.
3. Ask for feedback
You need to build up a network to grow your business. When you’ve finished a project, that doesn’t mean that’s the end of it.
- Ask your client for feedback and ask them to recommend your work to others (provided the feedback is positive).
- If your client doesn’t reach out to you again for another assignment, you can also ask them yourself if they have any opportunities available. At least let them know you’ve enjoyed working with them and are open to any future projects.
- You can also ask them to endorse your skill(s) on LinkedIn or send you a review/testimonial (can be one or two sentences) that you can place on your website.
10 Best Freelance Websites
Want to start looking for work? Check out our list of best freelance websites. Some of them are specifically targeted to writers like yourself, but you can find many different jobs on most of them.
1. Upwork (our pick!)
Our top choice is Upwork. With over 1.5 million clients, Upwork offers jobs for every type of freelancer. You can find short- and long-term projects, hourly or per-project work, and entry-level, intermediate-level and expert-level jobs.
Upwork is a great way to start your freelancing career. Don’t expect to get rich quick, you’ll probably have to start with accepting low-paid jobs. This is how you build up your portfolio. Your profile overview will list your projects, including feedback and star reviews from your clients.
You can look for the work you want to do and then send your proposal. Sometimes a hirer contacts you with a proposal. A proposal includes a cover letter. Check out our lesson “Freelance proposal template” to find a template and filled in example that you can use for inspiration.
- Pros: the amount of jobs, and high success rate in finding a job.
- Cons: they only pay you when your earnings reach $100.
- What do they take: 20% of the first $500 with the same client, 10% of $10,000 with the same client and 5% of anything exceeding $10,000.
Guru (in this case meaning a person who has a lot of experience in or knowledge about a particular subject) works kind of the same like Upwork. You create a profile, define the freelance services you want to offer and then either clients can find you or you apply for jobs that interest you. Every day they highlight jobs for you that match your skills.
They use a secure payment program called SafePay. The employer pays them before the work begins and if the employer approves the work, Guru pays you.
- Pros: secure payment program.
- Cons: relatively expensive.
- What do they take: they have different fees for different memberships. For the basic free membership, the job fee is 8.95%.
Craigslist is a ‘glocal’ online platform for individuals buying and selling products and services. Choose your country or city to see all the local offers. They have sections on housing, personals, for sale, items wanted, services, community, gigs, discussion forums, and jobs. It’s a great source to find freelance jobs. Craigslist offers all kinds of jobs from accounting/finance to writing/editing.
- Pros: direct communication between the job offerer and you.
- Cons: no secure pay method or safety net.
- What do they take: 0%.
4. LinkedIn Profinder
The famous LinkedIn set up a new service in 2015 called LinkedIn Profinder. This is where they connect clients to freelance professionals. Although LinkedIn is huge (over 420 million members in over 200 countries), their LinkedIn Profinder service doesn’t really do what you expect it to do. For example, they’re not available yet in every location and are still working on improving their platform. But, keep an eye on them in the future!
- Pros: huge network via the well-known LinkedIn.
- Cons: not available yet in every location, and they’re still working on their site.
- What do they take: your first 10 proposal responses through ProFinder are free to submit. After 10 proposals, a LinkedIn Premium Business subscription is necessary for unlimited responses to project requests. The Premium Business subscription costs $59.99 per month, or you may wish to purchase annually and save up to 25%.
5. Freelance Writing Gigs
What’s in a name! Freelance writing gigs is a site specially for writers, editors, bloggers and publishers. They link to writing jobs on different websites, so it’s not an independent platform.
- Pros: specifically aimed at writers.
- Cons: not an independent platform, so not very efficient to use.
- What do they take: 0% because you are directed to a different site.
The best thing about iFreelance is that they let you keep 100% of your earnings. The bad thing is that they only have a handful of projects available. At the moment of writing, they only had 2 projects in the category writing/editing.
- Pros: you can keep 100% of your earnings.
- Cons: few projects.
- What do they take: 0%.
SimplyHired offers location-based jobs and freelance ‘work-from-home’ jobs. They have projects in lots of categories, from sales to construction. Writing is one of them. They also offer a blog with hiring tips.
- Pros: many different categories.
- Cons: more a recruitment site than freelance jobs offer site.
- What do they take: 0% because you are directed to a different site.
On Fiverr you won’t find projects from clients to apply to. Instead, you create your own job based on your skills. It’s almost like being in a marketplace selling your products. The starting point of any project is $5 (hence the name Fiverr). For example, most writers ask $5 for a blog post of 500 words, but prices go up for posts bigger than 500 words.
- Pros: you can advertise yourself and your skills in a short video introduction, and create different product sets (e.g. one post for $5, 10 posts for $45 – get one free, etc.).
- Cons: high competition (not necessarily in quality, but more in quantity) and low prices
- What do they take: 20% of each transaction
LocalSolo is a platform that connects freelancers in major cities to clients from all over the world. The best thing about LocalSolo is that they don’t take commission from freelancers. All the money you earn with a project is for you. LocalSolo is free to use. You can look for remote jobs and onsite jobs.
You need to apply to get your profile on LocalSolo though. They even ask for your application reason: why you belong on their site. Also, at the time of writing there weren’t many freelancers who have lots of recommendations. Most of them have zero. Maybe that will change soon as they’re still growing.
- Pros: you can keep all the money you earn with a project.
- Cons: application process and relatively small network.
- What do they take: 0%.
Freelancer is one of the big names in the online freelance world. They have lots of jobs on offer, including many writing gigs. To apply for a job you need to place a bid (your rate) on the project, including a short cover letter.
→ Freelancer is not free to use though. They say it is, but it’s not. You need to pay for membership. The cheapest membership ‘intro’ is $11.88 for 12 months. They take those $11.88 directly from your PayPal account after you’ve signed up. With an ‘intro’ membership you can place 15 bids per month.
→ Note: when you sign up without choosing a membership first, they automatically put you on the ‘professional’ membership, which is free the first month. After the first month, you pay $29.95 per month.
→ They also take 10% of your completed projects. If you have a project that earns you less than $50, they don’t take just 10%, but $5.
- Pros: lots of jobs.
- Cons: expensive.
- What do they take: 10% of projects or $5 for projects <$50.