Finding freelance work is by far one of the most challenging parts of being self-employed. A quick Google search will yield an almost endless list of results.
Freelancing platforms now provide literally millions of work opportunities in virtually every field you can possibly imagine. Consider the largest of the group, Upwork, pays out a billion dollars every year to its army of freelancers.
But Upwork is only the beginning of the freelancing story, there are several other specialty freelancing platforms that we will discuss here today where you can find freelance work.
Before we get into some of the lesser known places to find freelance work, let’s start with the most obvious: Upwork. This platform was created in 2015, as a result of a merger between Elance and oDesk.
There are currently more than 12 million freelancers registered on the site. And the work these freelancers do in a year is worth over 1 billion dollars.
Not too shabby amiright?
Over five million hiring clients have registered on Upwork over the years. As such, for beginner freelancers, it’s critical to get your digital butt on Upwork. Create, develop, and nurture your profile, and start applying for jobs.
This is because Upwork has no shortage of jobs posted; we’ve seen three million over the course of 2016 alone.
As you can tell, Upwork is like the Silicon Valley of the freelancing world. The most reliable clients go there because they know that’s where reliable groups of freelancers hang out. And this is exactly why you too should be present there.
The challenge with Upwork is its commission structure. Over time, it can add up to a good portion of your overall earnings.
Upwork charges 20% for the first $500 you bill a client across all your contracts with them, and 10% of your total billings between $501 and $10,000. Once the work you’ve done for someone hits the $10,000 mark, you’ll only have to give Upwork 5% of the income you get from that client.
Now, this is a pretty good deal given that Upwork gives you the platform for endless employment opportunities. As a beginner freelancer, an Upwork presence is a must. If you’re engaging in a longer term relationship with an Upwork client, it is possible to eventually move off the platform.
The below advice is tailored for Upwork, but remember that this advice applies to all freelancing platforms that we will discuss.
What exactly happens once you’ve made an account? Well, you should start by linking your other accounts. And by that, I mean your LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, DeviantArt, Behance, Dribble, etc.
By doing this, you verify your identity, establish your online presence, and validate your credibility for potential clients. This is what we like to refer as social proof, and when trying to find work as a new freelancer, any validation you can give yourself is critical.
As a freelancer, your presence on various sites, not only Upwork, will be an advantage. Potential clients will see that you are a real individual with actual experience.
No freelancing experience yet? Don’t worry, we’ll cover this in the next chapter. Remember, credibility is the ruling currency in the freelancing world. The more you can do to add to the former, the higher your latter’s return will be.
The profile picture must be professional, yet friendly. A good profile photo will help establish trust with your clients, all that while being relevant to your personality.
OK, maybe tone it down just a bit. At least he’s smiling!
Always go for a high-quality photo, and don’t forget to smile. In fact, imagine you’re meeting a client in real life. How would you react? How would you want them to see you as? There you go. That’s exactly what you want to convey.
None of this looking off into the distance deep psychology stuff, that doesn’t play well with potential clients. Be genuine and confident, and show them you’re ready to help.
One mistake I see people making time and again is having their family or dogs in their pictures. Although some feel this personalizes the photo, let me tell you it won’t help find clients. Unless your expertise relates to dogs or parenting and children, don’t put it in your picture.
The next topic to consider is your job title, what is your expertise in a couple words?
This is part of the freelancing profile that most people don’t give enough attention, but your potential clients certainly do. After the profile picture, this is the next piece of information they associate with you.
You are labeling yourself, so make sure it’s a good one. Like Ninja Researcher, or Coder Assassin. The goal of your picture and job title is to attract people to your profile to read further.
Take some time to find the right words to summarize exactly what you do. Ideally, your job title should be simple and to the point. Maybe even a little witty, if the circumstances allow it. But that’s definitely not a must. Endeavor to use keywords related to what you do.
A good way to do research on this is to search through LinkedIn and see what other freelancers are calling themselves. You’ll notice folks are getting a little creative these days with their titles.
Got it? Ok, let’s move on.
Now comes the overview. Again, you shouldn’t be too long-winded, but you can get a little more in-depth about your specific skills. Many platforms will limit the characters you can use in these descriptions.
Make sure to hit the following points:
This is your time to shine. Talk about what you’re doing, and don’t forget to mention how many years of experience you have in the field. Make sure you get across how passionate you are about it.
At the end of the day, you need to present yourself as a problem-solver of their needs. How will you make their lives easier?
You will notice on Upwork that you also have to list your skills. This makes it easier for you to find the right jobs, and easier for Upwork to suggest to you the best ones.
Now, regarding your employment history, list your previous employers and mention what you were responsible doing. Exactly as you would in a resume. Make sure to link it to the pain point your expertise solves. Something like, “As XYZ specialist at Acme Corp., I helped clients solve ABC problem by using my in-depth knowledge of 123.”
The same goes for your education. If you’re only just getting started, you might as well show off that fancy college degree that you’re still paying off.
Your portfolio is crucial. Clients love to see examples of previous works, and it’s always better if they can find them on your profile even before they ask you for them. Be sure to pick only one or two to highlight up front in your profile. Pick your highest profile examples that will impress potential clients. Don’t overwhelm them with 12 work samples; busy business people simply don’t have the time, or care frankly, to review your entire work history.
Try to be objective when setting your hourly rate. It’s always a good idea to check out the profiles of other freelancers with similar experience to get an idea of what the going rate in your field is. As high rates scare off some clients, so too does lower rates because it oftentimes indicates low quality. Don’t sell yourself short.
A good average to start out with is somewhere between $20-30 an hour. This can be adjusted as you move forward in your freelancing career and gain more experience. For instance, when I first started as a freelance writer, I worked for $20 an hour, and $50 an article. This rate is now $100 an hour, and $300 an article.
There are also tests you can take on Upwork to showcase how well versed you are on certain topics. Be sure to take as many of these as possible to give you further validation that you’re the right person for the job.
Just because you have a profile on Upwork doesn’t mean you’re done. You should be present on more than one site. They all have unique features, and some of them are specific to certain freelancing niches.
The best thing is that the same rules can be applied across the vast majority of freelancing platforms available at the moment. Some of these include:
But let’s not stop there, we also canvassed the Casual Capitalist community to uncover some hidden gems to help you find freelancing work quickly. Here’s what some of the top freelancers in the field had to say about finding work.
While Upwork remains a good platform for finding work, it’s crowded – and there are good alternatives. One I’ve used a lot lately is Hubstaff Talent – there are hundreds of jobs rather than thousands, but it’s a far quieter place to do business and get noticed – and it’s also free for contractors.
For freelance writing work, individual job boards such as ProBlogger is a great alternative to check out. And, for all kinds of freelancing work, I’ve found making an effort to become active on LinkedIn pays dividends. Your connections there usually “know” you, so it does no harm to share work you’re proud of on the platform – it keeps you on their radar.
There are many sub-Reddits to check out depending on what type of freelance work you are looking for. Consider browsing the following:
I also really like Fiverr for doing quick consultation as it’s completely hands off for me, I just sit back and let the orders come to me. It’s a nice role reversal for a freelancer as we all know how much time we spend looking for work.
Aside from the online places local business forums have been a great source of business for me. I’m based in London so UK Business Forums is a great place for me to show my expertise and offer advice (which has led to many of them becoming my clients).
LinkedIn is an obvious option for many people who are looking for more freelance work. Instead of following as many people as possible, asking your network insistently or posting comments about anyone needing any help, you should approach those who are actively seeking for help.
On the LinkedIn mobile app, you can use the search bar to that starts with ”looking for,” or “recommend,” and fill in the space at the end. For example, “looking for web developer” or “recommend graphic designer.”
Click on ‘Posts’, followed by ‘Filters’ and aim to look for posts within the past 24 hours. Once you tap ‘Done’, you can then see a list of posts that other people have posted who are looking for someone with your skills within the past 24 hours.
This is your opportunity to reach out to warm leads looking to actively hire freelancers.
Where can freelancers go online to find work?: Easy! I am a full-time freelancer Fiverr. I work as an online dating consultant and I absolutely love the platform. It’s easy to use and brings in a steady number of clients. I would recommend it to anyone.
Freelancers who have any teachable skill can register on platforms like Preply to start teaching their particular freelancing skills. For example, if you have language, design, or academic skills you can start teaching that.
EFynch is a freelance-friendly platform for those in the home improvement niche, from licensed workers down to college students. Home improvement has always been a freelance economy. Most of us hire independent workers but there is no centralized platform where these workers can congregate.
EFynch serves the entire Mid-Atlantic area (Washington D.C, Baltimore, Northern Virginia). We have roughly 3,000 members and our primary tool is a competitive bidding system for homeowners to get bids on construction projects and compare prices of hiring a pro vs. handyman or amateur.
Freelancers, depending on the level of expertise have a few options in the tech field.
If on the other hand, you are a hard-core consultant, you can use these resources to find contracts that are up to a year in length.
Realistically, searching for freelance work yourself if you are a seasoned worker is counterintuitive. You should match yourself up with a consulting or recruiting firm, and let them reach out to their contacts and share a few dollars per hour with them to find you an infinite amount of work.
There’s no limit to the number of recruiters you can use, and best of all. It’s free.
Our business has only three full-time team members who keep the trains running, and the rest of our team is comprised of freelancers. I think a lot of people don’t realize how diverse of a services offering many virtual assistant (VA) companies provide.
Freelancers looking for work think, “Oh, I don’t want to book someone’s travel; that wouldn’t be a good fit for me,” but most agencies need freelance writers, graphic designers, social media managers, editors, event planners, and podcast producers in addition to the traditional VA skillset.
For certain types of IT developers, Hacker Leads is a good site to check out. I try to go
to meetups and talk to my clients directly, as an in-person chat has a way higher conversion rate than cold emails. There are also Facebook groups for freelancers, and AngelList can be a great way to find potential clients.
I have been a freelance content writer and social media consultant for nearly ten years. I started out using Elance (which later became Upwork) – this of course was filled with a lot of competition and job postings by those who really didn’t want to pay well for my services.
I have gotten some of my best and longest lasting clients by posting my own ads on online classified sites. I’ve also responded to job postings (some were looking for freelancers, but others were looking for part-time and full-time employees when I pitched the freelancing idea to them).
I am more than a blogger, but because I have honed my copywriting skills I am of more value to public relations and design clients. This is why I suggest freelancers find work using Facebook groups. Also, people think Twitter is dead, but honestly, if you connect authentically with your following you not only grow it, but your inbox lights up with offers, questions about services, and product submissions.
Lastly, don’t ever forget about LinkedIn. People are afraid of using it outside of the corporate landscape, but there is a ton of recruiting and connecting going on at LinkedIn.
As a freelancer, most of my clients come from referrals, social media, and direct marketing online. So, I find new clients mostly by emailing them directly when I find a website or client I think I could help and offering my services directly.
As a freelancer looking for work, you can use Facebook ad leads to target and attract highly
relevant prospects for your business. Lead ads simplify the lead capture process by allowing freelancers to collect information such as name, email, telephone number right from within Facebook.
The good thing about Facebook advertising is that it can be very inexpensive run ads. You can create a campaign and have it running with a minimum budget of $1.00 per day.
I have had great success with LinkedIn outreach. I put together a few versions of my portfolio and I reach out to project managers via LinkedIn to see if they need any help. In a few cases, I gave them 20% discount off their first invoice.
For a large agency, I even provided them the first landing page development for free as a way into their system.
As someone who has worked as a project manager in the past, there are a lot of times where a task or a project launch is stuck due to lack of resources so providing value at such a critical stage can make a big impact.
Also, I would like to say that this LinkedIn method allows me to charge around $60/hr and work with some great clients whereas on Upwork and Freelancer.com, I would be lucky to be able to bill at $15/hr due to the competition and based on my experience.
LinkedIn ProFinder is LinkedIn’s professional services marketplace that helps freelance or independent professionals find jobs in their areas. The platform connects consumers and small businesses looking for white-collar professional services – such as design, writing and editing, accounting, careering coaching and more – with top quality freelance professionals best suited for the job.
As a copy editor and writer for 13 years, Kim Jones was one of the first freelancers to join ProFinder in Atlanta, Georgia. Within a week of joining, she got her first project. Jones said she prefers ProFinder to a host of other job boards and platforms because she doesn’t have to wait at her computer to apply in real-time to openings. Rather, LinkedIn takes care of the matching for her.
She also likes that freelancers can negotiate their own pricing and that it takes her about 50% less time to secure a project on ProFinder than it does on Upwork.
On ProFinder, you can count on the fact that you’re going to get a living wage that is indicative of your experience. On LinkedIn ProFinder, the clients are serious. They want the work done fast, and they’re willing to pay fast.
As you can see, there are dozens of platforms and tactics you can employ now to find more freelance work. Despite being the largest freelancer platform paying out a billion dollars to freelancers, Upwork isn’t the only game in town.
Add the above platforms to your list of where to find freelance work, and make prospect and sales outreach a part of your weekly tasks. Even if you have a full freelance workload, ongoing outreach is critical to filling unexpected gaps in your freelance work.
You don’t want to have one of your larger clients suddenly cancel their work with you, leaving you scrambling to find new clients on short notice. Start building those relationships now, and you’ll be surprised at how easily finding freelance work can be.
Glenn Carter is a sharing economy expert and is sharing his passion for side income through new digital platforms with his readers.