Helping Mums and Dads create a career that fits into family life.

How to find clients with freelance job sites

Freelancing job sites

The next strategy in the Finding Clients series is to target the websites that freelancers seem to love and hate in equal measure – the freelance job portals. Yes, they’ve usually got a fair proportion of clients with unrealistic expectations and freelancers who are willing to do a three month job for ten quid – but they can also be a great source of work if you spend the time to identify the genuine clients.

What it means :

Freelance job portals offer a place where freelancers can promote their skills and clients can advertise their current projects. If you and a client agree to a project, the website will usually act as an intermediary for the project communications and payment, then charge the client a percentage of your fee. There are hundreds of freelance job sites out there, but here are some of the best known:

UK-based sites

www.peopleperhour.com

www.freelancer.co.uk

www.freelancers.net

www.3desk.com

US-based sites (you’ll be working in dollars, but there are plenty of relevant jobs on there)

www.elance.com

www.guru.com

www.odesk.com

 

How it works :

  • You select the job sites which seem to have plenty of current projects in your field. It has to be said that these sites do tend to focus on the traditional freelancing areas (IT, design, writing, translation, marketing, business support, project management, etc), so may not suit you if your service doesn’t fit this mould or is aimed at the general public.
  • You set up a profile on the job site, describing your skills and showing a portfolio of work if it’s relevant.  Many sites allow you to pull in information from your LinkedIn profile to save you time.
  • Some sites also offer the opportunity to take skill tests to provide independent proof of your abilities.
  • Clients will be able to browse your profile alongside all the other freelancers (and invite you to make a proposal), or they may just advertise their current projects to all freelancers.
  • You should browse through the available projects on a regular basis and submit proposals for the ones you fancy.
  • The client will consider all the proposals they receive from freelancers and awards the project to the one they like best.
  • The freelance job site will charge the client a fee for acting as the middle man (and may require the same for any follow-on work you do for the client).

The Freelance Parents View:

This looks like an easy strategy on first viewing (certainly for an introvert like me). You can sit at your computer, browsing and applying for specific projects without having to do any face-to-face elevator pitches or that other scary stuff.  However, it’s tricky to get that first proposal accepted whilst you have zero feedback on the site. You’re also competing with a wide range of other freelancers – both those with a vast amount more experience than you and those who are willing to offer a very low price (which might be an excellent rate of pay in their own country). You may decide to pitch at a low price yourself initially, just to win your first gig and lose your newbie status.

Creating profiles and proposals can be seriously time-consuming. Although you should tailor each proposal to give it the best chance of success, you need to set up an efficient format for doing this and don’t get too absorbed in any one pitch.

Despite these downsides, I do believe these sites are well suited to freelancing parents  – the fact that all communications are online makes it easy for you to both search for, and undertake, work during hours which suit you.

Lastly, a note on why I haven’t suggested using standard job sites to look for short term contracts of work. Some freelancers – particularly those in IT or Design – do indeed work as ‘contractors’ (usually based at the client site and requiring you to be set up as a limited company).  As this requires a more complex set-up, and isn’t the best option for guaranteeing flexible hours, I’m not going to recommend it at this point. However, I will cover the pros, cons and how-tos of contracting in more detail in a future post, including how I negotiated a full-time contract into one which was much more flexible.

What other freelancers say:

Although it wasn’t my very first client, my first big break into the freelance writing world was having a bid accepted on People Per Hour. The pay was low but at that point in time that wasn’t what mattered to me – pitching and winning a job opportunity, based purely on my portfolio and CV was enough to convince me that I could choose this as a career path and turn it into a living.

Stacey Corrin, Freelance Writer
@SJ_Corrin | staceycorrin.co.uk

People Per Hour makes it easy for me to search for and find jobs that are suitable for my skill set. You can use the Filter and Sort by options to quickly find job matches and if you would like to submit a proposal this can be done without complication. The messaging system and email notifications also make client communication straight forward. Using an environment like People Per Hour also offers a certain amount of protection for both clients and sellers, giving me that extra peace of mind.

Michelle Field, Web Designer
@athenaweb1 | www.athenawebdesigns.co.uk

To round up:

While I’ve dabbled in these sites, I’ve never put in the real effort required to set up an excellent profile and focus on pitching proposals. As such, I’ve never actually won work this way myself (although the very transparent stats on the sites show that a great many other people do). However, I have hired other freelancers through these sites (including the uber-helpful and friendly Athena Web Designs quoted above!) and found the process to work very smoothly.

It’s definitely a client-seeking strategy I intend to use more in the coming year (and will be sharing an in-depth comparison of the sites with you when I do).

What’s your view of freelancing job sites – love  ’em or hate ‘em? Would be great to hear your views in the comments below…

Next strategy: Turn your boss into your first freelance client

Image credit: www.freelancer.co.uk

Comments

  1. Great post, I have used Odesk, elance and gumtree to find outsourcers with varying degrees of success, but one guy I found via gumtree I worked with for 6 years! ;)

  2. You don’t need to be a limited company to be a contractor, but most clients require it. Although some are requiring you to be a sole trader now because of the IR35 rules (aka AVOID, AVOID!)

    I’d suggest also that freelancers look at the individual contracts on sites as with some of them you’re contracted with the site and not the client, which could cause problems.

    • Hi Rosie,
      Thanks for clarifying those points – hadn’t heard about the issue with contracts on freelance job sites. Must look into it.

      Yes, all of the agency-mediated contracts I’ve seen seem to require you to set yourself up as a limited company or at least go under an umbrella company. Oh, the wonderful IR35! Am touching on that topic (very scantily as I’m no expert!) in tomorrow’s post…

  3. I agree that jobs sites _can_ be useful, sometimes, but my goodness they contain an awful lot of low-paying / low quality jobs. So you need to be prepared to spend a lot of time sifting through to find something suitable. In my opinion, don’t waste a lot of time on your own profile. It’s more important to be proactive and seek out the jobs that sound interesting and spend more time crafting a good proposal. Being able to address the needs of a client in your proposal will get you ahead of 90% of other “cookie-cutter” proposals.

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