I’ve been working online for four years now, and I’m still amazed by how many freelancing sites are available. When I first started, I relied on one site for all of my work because I earned enough money to pay the bills. Once I started branching out though, I was able to get significantly higher paying jobs, many of which required less time than what I was already spending on work, which was a huge win.
I can’t say I’ve used every freelancing job site on the planet, but I’ve certainly weaved my way through the major ones. Some of them did wonders for my savings account, and others made me think about getting a day job – yes, they were that bad. Lucky for you, I’ve compiled a list of the good guys so you know where to turn without the headache – I hope. Here are the best places online to find work as a freelancer.
1 – oDesk
oDesk will forever be my favorite freelancing site because this is the one I first started getting work from. It has jobs for beginners to professionals, with clients and employees from all around the world. You’ll see plenty of low-budget jobs on here, but you can also find great clients who are willing to pay well.
Fun fact: I’m the pale girl with her hand on her chin on the home page – bottom row. Hollywood here I come!
How it works: Simply sign up for an account on the site, and you can browse through thousands of job postings. Search by category based on your skills, and fill out applications for anything you like. If you get interviewed or hired, you can track your hours or project status on oDesk and then get paid directly through the site.
- Fill out your entire profile, with samples and references. Clients may contact you about jobs, so you need to make your profile as enticing as possible.
- Take multiple tests. You will have to take the oDesk Readiness Test before you can apply for jobs, but then you should take others related to your skills. This shows clients what you can really do.
- Link a withdrawal option to your account. This takes a long time to set up, so you should get it going while you work on your first project.
- Include a cover letter for every job you apply to, just as if you were applying to a 9-to-5 gig.
- Request upfront payment. Without any experience or feedback on the site, no one is going to trust you to just give you their money.
- Get discouraged if you don’t get a job right away. You may have to take something cheaper than expected to gain experience and feedback.
- Forget to leave feedback after a project is complete. When you leave yours, your client’s will show up on your profile.
- Be afraid to apply for something different. Some of the best jobs I’ve ever gotten were for topics I had to learn more about.
Final takeaway: oDesk is a great site to start off with, and it still provides steady income for the pros. I’ve stuck with it for four years for a reason. It works.
2 – Elance
I used Elance when I first started freelancing, but I stopped because I liked oDesk better. Nevertheless, this is a great alternative, with a huge assortment of job postings for all sorts of freelancers. If you find that oDesk doesn’t tickle your fancy, definitely give this site a try.
How it works: Sign up for an account and complete your profile. When you have the basics in place, you can browse through jobs and bid how much money you could realistically do the project for. If you beat the other applicants, either in skills or in pricing, the client will choose to work with you. Payment and project completion are all done through Elance.
- Look at the average proposal bid, located above the applicant list on each job. This will help you gauge what you might want to bid.
- Complete your profile entirely. The more people can see about your work, the more likely they are to hire you.
- Communicate with your clients. You’ll see your messages on your homepage, so this should be easy to keep track of.
- Set up your payment account. Whether it’s PayPal, a bank, or something else, you’ll have to wait a few days to use it.
- Get intimidated by the average bids. If they seem low, you still might get the job because of your experience.
- Take on more than you can handle. Clients need to know they can trust you with deadlines, and one piece of feedback could be all she wrote for you.
- Forget to withdraw your money. It takes several days to process, so when it comes through, withdraw it.
Final takeaway: Even though I prefer oDesk over Elance, there are plenty of freelancers that think the opposite. It’s worth giving it a shot.
3 – Craigslist
Wait, what? I thought Craigslist was only for buying and trading random stuff in the neighborhood…?
Believe it or not, Craigslist is actually a fantastic source for freelancing jobs. I have found five of my top ten highest paying clients through Craigslist. That’s because I’ve developed a system, which I’ll explain below.
How it works: You can either choose the city you live in from the list, or you can select one of the major cities in your country. I use the U.S. cities list that pops up on the right hand side once you actually go into a city’s page. Check both the “jobs” section and “gigs” section for the city and see if anything fits your skills. Freelance writers look in writing – developers look in web / info design…etc. Read the posts and follow the instructions for applying. If there are none, send an email with a cover letter and resume to the address next to “Reply to this post” at the top. If you hear back, you can proceed like you would a regular job interview.
- Look in as many cities as possible. I check all of the U.S., Europe, and Canada when I apply for jobs.
- Read each post carefully. Some give you words to put in your email to make sure you read the whole thing.
- Include links or attachments with your work so employers can see what you can do.
- Fall victim to a scam. Craigslist offers tips to avoid this matter here.
- Go back too far in the postings. I usually limit my searches to the past week, and then I move on to another city.
- Sort by telecommute. Even though this would be logical to do for freelance work, many clients don’t click that option for their posts. You may miss out if you limit your search this way.
Final takeaway: Craigslist isn’t the obvious choice for freelancing jobs, but it can lead you to some extraordinary opportunities online. Best part of all – you don’t have to pay anything to use it.
Other sites to check out
Need more than 3 options to land your next freelance gig? Listed below are 14 more freelancing sites & job boards.
Designers and Programmers:
About the author: Heaven Stubblefield is a wife, writer, and self-proclaimed know-it-all who makes a living working online. She started her writing career in an attempt to make a little money in college, but she found the lifestyle too tempting to get rid of. You can see her on oDesk and countless other places on the internet.
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