Today’s best freelance websites allow clients and freelancers to meet in a safe space, negotiate expectations with a safety net, and conduct transactions via an escrow service.
This online marketplace accounts for almost a third of all freelance matchmaking. (Freelancers still find a great number of clients with traditional social circle and professional networking methods.)
In a survey funded by Upwork and the Freelance Union, researchers found freelancers currently make up over a third of all U.S. workers.
Remarkably, almost half of all young (18-24) workers include freelancing as at least one of their income sources.
With 55 million people in the freelance industry today, both clients and freelancers can leverage today’s best freelance websites into entire careers.
Freelancing sites offer a level of security and convenience that make off-site work feasible for a vast array of companies.
From writing and graphic design to web development and app creation, a growing number of industries are rapidly moving to the freelance model.
Freelance jobs can mean massive flexibility for both clients and workers!
When you hire a freelancer to handle a task/project, you may pay a little more than you would to an hourly employee.
However, these costs are offset by massive savings in payroll taxes, benefits, overhead, etc.
In fact, many companies work entirely remotely and no longer maintain physical premises.
Alternatively, business can use freelancers to handle spikes in demand without having to officially employ more staff members.
The best freelancing sites make it quick and easy to onboard people quickly when needed and pause work relationships in slow times.
As you read through the list, consider the pros and cons of each option.
Today’s best freelance websites have gone through many growing pains – and have more to endure in this burgeoning—but infant—industry.
More than anything, I advise trying many of these sites before selecting the one or two on which you will do most of your business.
Just ask your management consultant – with new options arising every day (especially in niche freelancing), it pays to keep your finger on the pulse of this market sector.
Upwork stands alone in the industry leader in the freelancing market. (Full disclosure: I’ve made the majority of my freelance writing income on Upwork for many years.)
Many sites have attempted to emulate its success and get a share of the freelancing escrow dollar. Some are succeeding, to an extent, but the Upwork megalith appears to have risen to prominence (at least, for now).
Upwork arose from the merger of two of the best freelance sites in the 2013 marketplace: Elance and oDesk.
This new company combined Elance’s top-quality reputation for quality and oDesk’s robust collaboration platform.
The Upwork company, though it experienced some setbacks along the way, eventually leveraged this merger into a leadership position in the freelance industry.
Like any freelance website, Upwork has its flaws.
However, it maintains a solid reputation among both freelancers and clients (perhaps due more to lacklustre competition than its merit as an escrow site).
For example, Upwork had trouble managing its transition from two companies to one; according to Medium, it lost a substantial portion of its pre-merger volume.
I consider Upwork one of the very best freelance websites available; however, it certainly could have delayed its massive 100% rate hikes (another reason for Upwork’s loss of market share) until completing the merger.
Yes, Upwork charges a 20% fee to freelancers (who can decide whether or not to pass it on to clients).
However, this only applies to the first $500 a freelancer earns with a particular client. Workers who maintain long-term relationships with customers qualify for 10% fees (and even 5%, in extreme cases).
Upwork clients will need to sort through the many low-quality freelancers who post on this site.
Typically, you can do this with one glance at their cover letter; many low-end professionals don’t make an effort to communicate with proper grammar.
However, some workers‑especially in IT—can have wonderful skills in everything but English.
If you’re looking for a bargain in this area, look for agencies (groups of freelancers who work and market themselves together). For example, you could explain the job to a bilingual manager who supervises expert, non-English-speaking workers.
This site boasts an interesting gimmick: everything costs $5 (or is priced increments of $5).
In general, this means bargain-seekers can find great deals on services. Freelancers often use this site to get their feet wet and try out new income streams.
Clients typically place orders for pre-specified, packaged services on Fiverr. This site best suits quick, cut-and-dried jobs that require little customization.
I chose Fiverr as one of the best freelance websites in this article for its flexibility and low barriers-to-entry.
Full Disclosure: I’ve used Fiverr as a supplemental income source (to Upwork) for the last few years.
I find many clients who shop on this site are new to their businesses and need a certain amount of extra support from freelancers. For example, someone who hires me to write a product description may also need help with the mechanics of posting it on Amazon.
I recommend using Fiverr if you’re new to freelancing. It’s a great place to get started, try out various offerings, and find your niche.
Once you’ve established yourself, raise your base price from $5 to $10 (or more), and consider applying for higher-paying jobs on other platforms.
You can also bring in new customers with low-priced options and offer more-expensive upsells once you’ve demonstrated your skill and professionalism.
As a client, use Fiverr when you need quick, low-cost services – especially easily-repeatable ones.
Be careful – always audition freelancers on small projects before purchasing upsells (or a large number of small items).
With some searching on Fiverr, you can find a number of top-quality professionals. However, you will also run across many inexperienced freelancers.
Remember – balance the savings you generate by hiring on Fiverr with the time costs of finding skilled, reliable people.
Looking for services on freelance sites takes time – especially when negotiating expectations, deadlines, and payment terms.
Freelance websites continue to offer more and more options – and opportunities.
As the market expands, companies like Guru offer alternatives to Upwork’s fee structures. Some freelancers love this site and others find it difficult.
Like its competitors, Guru creates fierce competition for jobs with bid-for-hire system. Typically, clients post job descriptions and potential workers offer proposals.
Of course, this can create a race-to-the-bottom in fields with more supply than demand.
Be aware – certain freelancers report that both Guru.com and PayPal take substantial percentages when you withdraw money from Guru.
For more information, visit the appropriate Guru.com site page. Though I haven’t used this platform as a freelancer, it appears to offer lower rates than Upwork – at least in the early stages of client relationships.
As the list of the best freelance websites continues to grow, Guru and other smaller sites will continue to innovate and pick up more market share from the big companies. Keep an eye on the up-and-comers.
A list of the best freelance websites wouldn’t be complete without this site.
With a name like Freelancer.com, this URL attracts a lot of attention.
However, in my experience, you should approach this site with extreme caution. It seems to get a good amount of traffic, and cater to companies who want inexpensive IT help from Southeast Asia (even more so than the other sites on this list).
I’ve used this site both as a freelancer and a client. No matter what role you play on this site, look out for hidden fees.
Freelancers, this means you’ll have to pay to take tests that qualify you to apply for jobs. Clients, you need to watch out for transaction fees; unlike other sites, Freelancer.com applies fees to both parties in a transaction.
To be fair, this site boasts over 25 million users; consider giving it a try if the fee structures I described don’t feel false to you.
I’ve signed up for this site twice, once in 2015 and once in 2017. Both times, I deleted my account right away when I realized the scope of Freelancer.com’s fees.
However, if you consider that just a part of doing business, you can certainly find a great number of opportunities on this site.
5) Niche Sites
You can find job-specific freelance sites in many fields, from copywriting to code writing.
99Designs, for example, allows clients to choose from designs proposed by many creatives and choose the ones the like the best. You can also use their new Designer Search that connects you with designers who match your style, have experience in your industry, and are available to work right away.
People who sell handmade products online use Etsy and Zazzle. Workers on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk do a great number of simple tasks that add up to dollars.
For example, Constant Content offers pre-written and customized web content; it features hand-edited documents by approved writers.
Editors and copywriters may find more-steady employment on niche sites like this than on free-for-all sites that cater to all industries.
However, beginning freelancers may find it hard to break into vetted sites without substantial skills and expansive portfolios.
For businesses, niche sites add an extra layer of protection, especially if the site pre-approves freelancers. If you can afford to buy from premium, vetted sites, you can avoid many of the common headaches associated with some freelance workers: low quality, poor attention to deadlines, off-topic work, etc.
Some of the best freelance websites only serve single niches; if you don’t find the quality or professionalism you want on a general site, consider these boutique options.
Toptal.com offers vetted services from the top 3% of freelancers in a variety of niches.
Clients enjoy a great deal of security when hiring at a premium from sites with only approved freelancers.
Freelancers, if you want to work for name clients like Airbnb, ZenDesk, and JPMorgan Chase, it may be worth going through the rigorous approval processes on some of the best freelance websites like Toptal, Constant Content, etc.
6) Remote Companies
Remote businesses provide an alternative to the a la carte online freelancing model. Toggl, like many modern companies, boasts a broad, global workforce. Our diverse and experienced team spans five continents and nine time zones.
A quickly-growing group of companies like Toggl have adopted the no-physical-facilities model and created exciting career options for their employees!
On WeWorkRemotely.com, companies can post jobs for $299 a month.
Freelancers, these jobs span many categories, not just the typical Internet Marketing, Coding, and Design.
For example, you can also find work in Customer Support and Executive Services. If you want a little more security than solo freelancing while still enjoying location flexibility, remember many of the best freelance websites now offer remote work options.
Workers for remote companies often enjoy perks like location flexibility, long vacations, and generous maternity/paternity leave.
They don’t hold back on equipment budgets for their employees because they save so much on overhead.
Many businesses offer companies who hire freelancers as full-time remote employees know this level of freedom translates to loyalty – especially among millennial employees.
Freelancers: If you want the stability of a full-time job with location flexibility (and all the other perks of remote companies), consider this hybrid option.
Consider the level of risk with which you feel comfortable. Freelancing, traditional employment, and all-remote companies offer a wide range of location flexibility and job permanence options.
Remember, you can also combine a freelance career with another, traditional job.
7) Support Services
As a remote work company, Toggl has a ground-floor perspective on what freelancers and clients need to get ahead in the marketplace.
As you expand your list of clients (or freelancers), you need easy-to-implement software solutions to suit your growing business.
Better yet, you can use Toggl’s time-tracking app to manage your growing team. You can create reports in seconds to understand exactly how your people spend their work hours – and bill each of your clients for the appropriate time.
By 2027, experts estimate freelancers will make up over half the U.S. workforce.
Others say 40% of American workers will be self-employed by 2020.
Business owners – don’t miss out on this opportunity to jump ahead of the competition.
Freelancers – take advantage of the fascinating array of lifestyle options made available by online freelance (or remote company) work.
Keep an eye on the best freelance websites—both general, and in your niche—to keep taking advantage of new opportunities when they arise.