Using online platforms for work as a freelancer

Using online platforms for work as a freelancer

Kristi Doran's Layout avatar

Finding freelance work is often all about who you know and can be difficult when you first begin. Every once in awhile, I see ads on Facebook or someone will mention these online platforms that are used to help freelancers and clients connect.

I’ve created a profile on three of these sites and explored each enough to know how they work, how freelancers are paid, if they have any cool features, and their pricing.

Elance

elance

How it works: Create an account, complete your profile, and include samples of your work and experience. Browse through projects, see what other freelancers have bid on jobs, and submit your proposals to clients. The client will contact you if you’re chosen.

Payment: Elance handles all payments on its site and you can set up an account, such as PayPal, to make withdrawals. Projects with a fixed-price are left to the discretion of the freelancer and client for payment dates, while hourly jobs are paid each week.

Cool features: The Tracker Tool helps keep track of hourly jobs. Payments and hourly tracking are handled within the site, eliminating the hassle of invoices.

Cost: Free to register. A service fee of 8.75% is deducted from the amount the freelancer quoted the job at. There are also memberships ranging from $10 – $60 a month.

oDesk

oDesk

How it works: Freelancers sign up with an account, complete their profile, and browse the open jobs. You’ll want to take some tests, including the oDesk Readiness Test, which has a few questions about how to use the site and proper etiquette. In order to give clients an idea of your knowledge level in particular skills, you’ll want to take the relevant tests, such as the Adobe InDesign CS5 test. Then you can search for jobs, filter by skill, apply with a resume and cover letter, and the client will contact you for an interview and/or hire you.

Payment: The client will either hire you by the hour or at a fixed-price for the given project. Payments are made safely and securely through the site and can be received in a variety of methods, including PayPal. oDesk also states on its site, “When working hourly jobs, you’re covered by the oDesk Guarantee that an hour worked is an hour paid. On fixed-price jobs, pre-funded milestone payments are secure with oDesk Escrow Protection.”

Cool features: oDesk has a free app to help you track your time if you’re working on an hourly basis and an automatic, weekly payment guarantee. There aren’t any invoices to mess with since payments are handled through their site and the app tracks your hours.

Cost: Free to join, but 10% is deducted from each payment.

Outsource

outsource

How it works: Sign up with an account, complete a profile describing your work, and create a portfolio. Receive jobs matching your skills based on what you include in your profile, and then submit quotes to clients.

Payment: Clients determine the payment at the beginning of the contract. For hourly projects, freelancers are paid weekly, and for fixed-price projects, clients are charged on a per-diem basis throughout the contract. Specification on where payments were made was unclear, but I’ve deduced they’re handled via the site.

Cool Features: None.

Cost: Outsource asks freelancers to purchase credits in order to submit a quote. They offer a refund if the quote isn’t ready within five days. Credits are purchased on a monthly basis, but you may purchase more credits if you run out.

Craigslist

craigslist

How it works: Craigslist isn’t necessarily an online platform for freelance work, but jobs are still posted. The trick here is to expand your search outside of your home city and to search multiple cities in multiple countries, like Canada and the U.K. Read the postings and apply with the instructions provided. If there aren’t any instructions, then send your resume, cover letter, and either a link to your online portfolio or samples of your work as a PDF by clicking “Reply to post”.

Payment: Craigslist is slightly more risky because payment is determined between you and the client. Definitely be cautious of scams and ask for half of the quote or a deposit before you start working.

Cool Features: None.

Cost: 100% free.

What are your thoughts on these online platforms for work? Have you used any of these sites, or any that are similar? Tell us about your success or what you learned!

Comments ( 3 )

  1. Roger

    April 10, 2015

    I've had great success with Thumbtack. Essentially you recieve an email when someone requests bids on a project. You pay a fee to submit a bid and that's it. The rest (payments, contracts, details, etc.) is between you and the client. With a little practice, you get better. My advice would be to stick to local bids. It's about $20 to bid on a web project, so if you start bidding on projects all over the place, you're probably throwing your money away. But if people know they can meet with you face to face, you'll have a better chance.

  2. Sandra

    April 15, 2015

    The list is great, and I especially like the fact that you didn't include Fiverr. Maybe it's just a personal opinion, but I think Fiverr is a giant slap in the face to any new freelancer and anyone who actually wants to earn money and not starve to death.

  3. Rachel

    May 2, 2017

    I guess this article is a bit out of date now, as the freelancing platforms Elance & Odesk merged to create Upwork. If it gets updated at some point I'd also add TopTal to the list which has emerged as a freelancing platform where you can get paid higher rates from more premium clients. I found another super useful platform is PayPact, you can't find work on there but you can bring your existing clients, you get payment protection with escrow, for way lower fees than the other platforms. Hope that helps!

Join the discussion