Best Freelance Job Sites for 2019
Wow! 55 million Americans now work for themselves full or part time. Many use top freelance sites like UpWork, Freelancer and Guru. Find out more!
America is going freelance: 55 million Americans, or 35% of the workforce, are now working for themselves full or part time and the figure is expected to reach 50% by 2050.
If you're one of the writers, editors, designers, coders, or other professionals who have made the leap into independent work, you're not alone, and like the others, you're probably looking for clients. Freelance websites, designed as brokers that bring together people who need work done with individuals who can do it, are one of the best places to look.
How Do Broker Sites Work?
Freelance websites are pretty straightforward. Clients post jobs; workers browse and bid on the opportunities and customers can hire and pay through the platform. There are several major platforms, but they all have a few things in common.
Service fees - Most of these sites make money by taking a percentage of your earnings. That's normal but look carefully at how the fees are structured to see if you're getting a good deal for the amount and type of work you do.
Bid limits and paid memberships - The sites usually limit the number of jobs you can bid on each month. You can increase your monthly bids on most sites, and get other perks by upgrading to a paid membership.
Payment protection - Most sites require that all or part of your wages are paid into an escrow account before starting a contract. Payment disputes may still happen, but the system provides at least some security. Be very careful about sites that don't offer payment protection.
Bad reviews - Freelance websites are like the bus: when they're working smoothly they're taken for granted, but as soon as something goes wrong people get very frustrated. Don't be alarmed if you start doing research, and all you find on the internet are horror stories: rest assured, there are lots of people using these sites successfully.
UpWork is a streamlined and easy-to-use site, and one of the best platforms in the market. That means there are lots of jobs of different quality. However, there is stiff competition.
Lots of jobs - New jobs in all fields are being posted on UpWork all the time. You'll never be unable to find something to apply for, but you may find it hard to stand out and even to get an application in before the other applicants flood the posting, and it closes. You'll also see a fair amount of low-paid work, but there is well-paid work available as long as you search for it.
High fees - For the first $500 you earn with a particular client, UpWork takes 20% of your earnings. For all you earn after that, it's only 10%, which is bad if you do lots of small projects with different clients, and fine if you have mostly long-term customers. At least there are no hidden fees beyond that, as UpWork has a very functional free membership plan.
Easy user interface - UpWork makes it easy to keep your jobs and applications organized, find client information, search for jobs that fit you and have the information you need at the ready. Their policies are easy to find and clear, and it's easy to get set up and start working.
Freelancer is exactly what it says - a site that connects freelancers with available clients and freelance jobs. Register, build out your profile, upload samples of your previous work, and start reviewing and bidding on jobs that fit your skills.
High volume, inconsistent quality - Freelancer has a lot of jobs, but user reviews show a pattern of complaints about low-paid, exploitative, and scam jobs. Those reviews can't be verified and aren't necessarily representative, and there's certainly lots of legitimate work, but you'll need to be alert.
Service fee charged up front - You'll pay a flat rate of 10% on most earnings. You pay that when you accept the job, though, not when you get paid. You don't get that money back if the client disappears or refuses to pay, which is pretty frustrating.
Lots of paid services - From tests to prove your skills to promoting your applications to additional bids (because the few you get for free each month won't go far), it's hard to be competitive without paid services on Freelancer.
Complicated interface - Basic information and FAQs you need to get started aren't always easy to find and aren't always clearly written when you find them. Lots of widgets and complex organization can make it hard to understand job postings, too.
Guru is a smaller, predominantly American freelance website, an alternative to giants like UpWork and Freelancer. That means better pay and support, but fewer job choices.
More U.S.-based - In addition to offering a search feature that filters jobs by the client's location, Guru has a larger percentage of North American users than some other sites, which means better pay.
Reasonable fees - Guru's 8.95%-4.95% service charge is pretty low. The 120 bids you get for free each month won't last long, but Guru offers several paid membership options to increase that.
Limited volume, but good variety - Guru is a relatively small operation, and you won't see fifty new jobs every time you hit refresh. That said, there's still a lot of variety representing most of the best freelance niches.
Simple - Guru does not offer as many features as some other sites, but the features it has mostly work well, and the site's staff update it frequently. It's easy to use the critical functions like managing your jobs and applications, getting paid, and communicating with clients.
PeoplePerHour is another mid-size US-focused American site, with features that help clients find freelancers and not just the other way around.
Post the jobs you want to do - PeoplePerHour lets you post jobs you want to do, and lets clients place bids. The whole site is set up to make it easy for clients to come to you, which could save you some time and effort on proposals.
Sliding service fee - PeoplePerHour takes 15% of earnings for the first $580 you earn each month and 5% of profits after that. If you're working part time, that 15% may apply to most of what you earn. You'll probably have to pay for additional bids beyond the 15% you get for free each month, too.
Hard to find information - Basic information and FAQs on PeoplePerHour can be difficult to find. You may have to comb through the service agreement for information.
Job and support quality varies - PeoplePerHour is another site that has moderate traffic and mostly North American users, meaning you'll see more well-paid jobs and less competition for them. However, some users complain of unprofessional clients and postings as well as unhelpful site support.
iFreelance uses a different overall model, acting more as a service to connect clients and freelancers than a full-service job platform.
No free memberships, no service fees - Rather than taking a service fee from your earnings, iFreelance only offers paid memberships, from $6.25 to $12.00 a month.
Less restrictive - Because the service doesn't rely on commissions, they don't care what you do off the site. You're free to handle payment, communication, and future work through any channels you want to - unlike on other sites where taking their business away can get your account deleted.
No payment protection - Handling cash any way you want means no payment protection. Nothing up front when you are hired, which means if they take your work and then walk away without paying you, there's nothing you can do about it.
Looking for work on large brokerage sites is a lot like looking for work out on the street. It's competitive, not all the offers are jobs you want, and you may not be able to get the jobs you want when you want them. The advantage, of course, is that you can look without leaving your home, and as with any job search, persistence, competence, and strategy usually bring the best results.