Before we begin introducing you to the most popular platforms for freelancers and their primary pros and cons, let’s start with the pros and cons of actual freelancing. Also, we’ll mention 0-hour contracts and would love to hear your thoughts on it! Now, my dear freelancers, both the struggling and well-suited, read this list carefully.
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1. Time flexibility and working when it suits you best. Not a morning person? Kinda grungy in those early hours? Don’t worry about it. A friend called you in the afternoon for a hangout? Don’t worry about it. Go for it. You can be a night owl all you want. Or whatever.
2. Earn as little or as much as you want, depending on your money appetite and the will to work. Don’t want to overwork and stress about it and earn just enough to humbly enjoy your day? Done. You’re ambitious and want to work 10-12 hours a day. Done. Then go raid Amazon.com. Or the mall, if anyone even goes there anymore.
3. Working from home, obviously. Sit in your pajamas, sip your coffee, eat those cookies, listen to heavy metal loudly, get up and stretch, and take a break whenever you want. Simply – enjoy working the way you want. And there’s no boss to troll and nag you all the time. No one will care how you do it so long as the work gets done.
1. Extremely hard for beginners to get any gigs. Since you still don’t have any ratings, naturally, buyers are gonna hire sellers with the more favorable rating. Because they seem more trustworthy and reliable.
2. No contract. Meaning no security, medical or life insurance, and much more than a traditional job offers.
3. You’re technically unemployed unless you register yourself as a firm or something. But that simply costs too much, so most freelancers are unemployed, meaning that in most cases, they can’t get a loan from the bank, and even worse – they have no pension from working service. Sure, who cares about pensions when you’re young? But those years will inevitably come, my dear freelancer. And then what?
Now, if you still want to be a freelancer, let’s help you get started in full detail.
Hundreds of platforms offering freelance jobs are currently active. When looking only at the “most popular” ones, it is still possible to single out dozens of them. So, for someone new to freelancing, this can be intimidating. That’s why we’ve created a list of the Top 5 freelance platforms to make it easier for you. And we’ll get to them in a second. But first, how do they work?
All platforms essentially work the same way — a client posts a job offer on the site, and freelancers compete by providing their skills, talents, and terms on which they would do the work. The client then chooses the freelancer he wants, and the platform itself solves all that boring technical stuff. In this way, both the client and the freelancer can focus only on work, and the platforms usually take a percentage of each completed service. The differences between the platforms are numerous. Some take higher, some lower commissions, some specialize in specific jobs or set various restrictions, and some have rigorous registration requirements. Most platforms offer multiple account types — free and paid. The latter brings benefits such as applying for more jobs per month or getting access to a larger client base. For those posting freelance ads/jobs, the advantage is clear. They have a vast selection of workers with a large number of references, and at the same time, they do not have to employ them long-term. They can just hire them once if they please and ask for many revisions.
On the other hand, freelancers with a paid membership have much more control than when employed. They choose which tasks they will perform and when they’ll perform them. As mentioned, the hardest thing is to get started, but once you do and you fill your portfolio with lots of great reviews, the earnings can be pretty good. And now, let’s give you a deeper insight into what it looks like to engage in this type of digital work. The good and the bad of the 5 most popular platforms.
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Looking solely at the number of users, Upwork is the second largest freelancing platform after Freelancer. Its advantages are a simple search for freelancers by a large number of parameters, a large offer of jobs, and accessories such as a “work diary” that helps you keep records when you collaborate on projects that are paid by the hour. So, let’s explain how Upwork basically works. Clients log into the network and set up a job with all the details. They can search for freelancers themselves and inform them about their offers. In the background, the Upwork staff promotes the client’s offer on the “stock market.” It informs individual and well-rated freelancers from that industry about the offer. Freelancers bid their work price until the client chooses one or more of them for their work. The work is billed on a fixed or “hourly” basis, and the system is automated. The staff only gets involved if there is some abuse or dispute. The greatest advantage of Upwork is a new set of rules which practically excludes freelancers and clients who devalue the work and time of all members. In other words, you’re protected. The biggest flaw is the Android application, which is imperfect, and the notification system sometimes does not work well. Also, on the upside, Upwork encourages long-term cooperation with the client, as it reduces the commission to the amount of money charged in that business relationship. Thus, for the first $500 charged, the commission is 20%, and when $10,000 is exceeded, the commission drops to five percent.
Everyone’s heard of Freelancer, right? It is the platform with the largest number of users — almost 60 million in 2022 — and gathers freelancers from at least 247 countries. On the one hand, this guarantees that freelancers will have many jobs to compete for and that the employer will be able to find a suitable freelancer. On the other hand, obviously, there’s a lot of competition on Freelancer. It is a common problem – freelancers from economically developed markets cannot match the low prices offered by their colleagues from less developed regions, such as India, Pakistan, etc. This is, of course, an issue with all major platforms. Anyway, Freelancer is very simple to use, which indeed contributes to its popularity in the world.
A profile is created, and the person and the payment are verified. After that, they choose the job they want to do and make offers. Then you wait to see whether someone will like your proposal. Freelancer has a set of rules around charging commissions. Most importantly — if you are a freelancer for projects with a fixed price, the platform will charge you either 10% or five dollars (whichever is greater). For hourly projects, the commission is 10%. However, many users believe that the platform does not protect freelancers enough and that this is its biggest flaw. It happens that the client withdraws money after a paid and concluded job. It’s called Cashback, and when they do it, you run out of money and the ability to contact anyone but the Freelancer support. And we all know how customer support is always helpful in any matter… They might make a request, but usually, nothing comes of it. If you don’t have a good rating, you get fewer jobs, and that’s normal.
Given that the number of offers you can make is limited by their Membership program, this can be a problem as it sometimes takes 20-30 bids to land a job. As the rating increases and jobs are completed, you get “badges” and some credits that can be used to buy various things, as well as the number of new offers. However, you must always be careful with the clients. Some of the clients come back to you. Still, they don’t want to do business through the platform, so they ask for cooperation to continue outside of it through another personal app. Freelancer warns you to avoid that, and for a good reason – to not get scammed. So don’t work outside the platform. And before you start the work, ask for a Milestone to be created for you. It is, in principle, a prepaid job, but the funds are in a temporary Freelancer account that neither you can receive in advance nor can the client withdraw arbitrarily. When you’ve done the work, and the client is satisfied, he “releases” that Milestone, and you get money in your account. There is also something called Preferred Freelance. It can only be entered if you have a certain rating and you have to apply, so your request might or might not get approved. Jobs there generally pay better.
Freelancer has categories for most jobs that can be done online. Some are IT & Software, Writing, Design, Data Entry, Marketing, Accounting, and many others. Therefore, it is ideal for employers and freelancers who must collaborate on different work types.
The idea when Fiverr was launched, as the name suggests, was to charge five dollars for all jobs. This did not last long, as the community rebelled against what they saw as a labor cost reduction. Fiverr has changed the policy so that five dollars is now just the base price, and the ability to bid has also been introduced.
How Fiverr works? For freelancers, the model is straightforward. The service you offer is called a gig. Each gig is charged from five dollars and up. The customer orders the gig immediately or first inquires about something called a custom offer if what they want is different from the original offer. Basically, you can chat with the worker before ordering and agree on a custom offer. The clock is ticking from the moment the gig is ordered. The ordered item must be delivered by the end of the time defined by the freelancer himself. After that, the money is deposited into the Fiverr account. Clearing takes two weeks, and after that, the money is active and can be transferred to your bank account, PayPal, or spent on the learning platform offered by Fiverr, such as Coursera. Also, there is something called Seller Level — every month, a cross-section of performance is made based on which one can advance. That brings certain benefits: shorter money-clearing time, the possibility of being featured in searches, better chances of getting hired, and so on. As the biggest advantage of the platform is its simplicity. There is no profile approval. Anyone can be a seller, and gig setup is very, very easy for any industry you want to be in. You are charged a five percent commission when you buy freelance services on Fiverr. If you earn less than $20 for the job, the commission is fixed — one dollar. The platform takes 20% of every job done by freelancers, which is one of Fiverr’s main downsides. There is an unjustifiably high commission on the platform. Rude customer support. As a seller, you have to follow very rigorous rules, which due to bugs in the system itself (not to mention the application), you sometimes break (which can cost you your Seller Level) without the possibility of a quick fix. The customer can cancel the order and keep both the order and the money if the situation escalates, where Fiverr is also not on your side. In this case, you literally wasted your time. Because it has a low starting price, Fiverr is perhaps best for freelancers who want to do “small” jobs, which does not mean that it is not suitable for larger ones.
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PEOPLE PER HOUR
People Per Hour gathers the largest number of its clients from the UK. Companies that decide to look for workers here are mostly startups and small or medium-sized enterprises. Clients can, as always, post ads for projects and wait for offers from freelancers. But they can also choose from predefined tasks that a freelancer will perform for a predetermined price. Although, as the biggest flaw of People Per Hour, we would single out the slightly worse synchronization of the entire system. Meaning they don’t have a good app for mobile phones, data updates are very slow, and transferring money takes a bit longer than the Upwork platform. Still, People Per Hour, compared to some other platforms, has a very low number of fake ads, which is probably the biggest advantage.
Regarding the commission, the platform has recently set new rules. Now there are “limits” to which percentage of commission is taken by People Per Hour. Basically, it’s reduced. For jobs that the freelancer charges $500 or less, the platform takes 20%; for prices between $500 and $5,000, it takes 7,5%. And for all successfully completed jobs over that price, it takes a 3,5% commission. Which is pretty decent compared to other platforms.
What sets Toptal apart from other platforms is the rigorous freelancer registration process. It is estimated that only the “elite” 3% of those who apply are admitted to the platform. This provides clients with selected workers, most often in IT, engineering, and finance, which is why some leading companies place projects on Toptal, such as Airbnb and JP Morgan. What stands out as a disadvantage on many other platforms is also the biggest advantage on Toptal. The relationship between the platform and the freelancer is very good. Toptal is really trying to direct its resources toward the education of freelancers. This means that we have open access to many online courses (Udacity, Udemu) that are normally paid, but Toptal refunds the fee for some paid certificates (AWS, Microsoft, Google Cloud, Salesforce…). Of course, there are other in-house courses, not just IT, for many topics that are important to a freelancer — preparing a freelancer for a presentation, helping with creating a CV, etc. Another advantage is that the Toptal community is particularly active on Slack, where you can find answers to nearly all questions that bother you both personally and professionally. If you love to travel, you can always connect with Toptal from the place you are traveling to, ask about the place itself and get all the information you need to lead a true digital nomad life. Though, as we said, the registration process itself is a huge flaw that has the potential to deter freelancers from the platform. Freelancers often complain about the difficulty of the interview. Questions at the interview may not be relevant to the daily work that a freelancer does, but all of that is forgotten once you get on the platform. Therefore, Toptal is ideal for those who are not beginners in their business and want to seriously dedicate themselves to working on the platform. And earn big.
So, based on everything you’ve just read, have you decided which platform you will use? If any? Also, what do you think about 0 hours contracts? Many believe it’s unfair, as you never know how many hours you’ll have to work that week. It might even be a violation of human rights. It’s slightly similar to freelancing, so please do share your thoughts.
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