One of the toughest obstacles to overcome when you’re freelancing is how actually to go about finding the work.
Freelancing can be a rare treat, primarily if you’re usually working 9-to-5 on the same floor of the same building for the same company for a decade or two.
Bursting out of the corporate lifestyle to being your boss working your schedule from your home office, design studio, or even the local Starbuck’s is a whole new way of doing business and enjoying what you do best – being creative!
When we’re busy, and job offers are flowing in, freelancers have the luxury of picking and choosing based on what pays the best and what sounds the coolest. However, when times are lean, the pursuit of work can fray nerves and gray hairs quickly. Competing with dozens, if not hundreds, of freelancers for that next best gig can be extremely stressful, mainly when you’re freelancing full-time and your finances, or those of your family, are dependent on you bringing home the proverbial bacon.
For freelancers, time is their most valuable resource outside of their own ability to create. Things like invoicing, scheduling, communication with clients, updating portfolios, updating user profiles, and more are a constant drain on your time. While all of these tasks can benefit a freelancer’s long-term finances, none of them are making him or her a single dollar in the short term, and that is frustrating.
Getting great jobs quickly and with the confidence that your clients are real people who are going to pay you in real money is thus paramount to every freelancer’s success. And just like you wouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket, you can’t expect to look for work from just one source. Not only are you limiting yourself in the potential diversity of clients and projects you could be getting, but you’re also running the risk of something cataclysmic happening to that single source, leaving you up the creek without a paddle.
To spread the wealth and give you a diversity of potential sources of income, here are 10 great ways to seek out freelance work.
Online freelance marketplaces
Upwork currently rules the roost in this category, surviving a rocky merger with Elance that included a public relations nightmare in 2015 when the company announced it was doubling its take on profit for the first $500 of each contract. Since then, Upwork has upgraded its features considerably, with a mobile app for instant messaging, video and audio call capabilities, and better filters for job searches. Chief among these is the right for clients to request US only freelancers apply for the job.
The screen has not played so well for the rest of the world, notably Canada and the English-speaking parts of Europe, but has cut down significantly on the number of unqualified freelances applying for some jobs.
Fiverr is a stable source of income as well, although its system is 180 degrees from most job sites and can take some time to understand. On Fiverr, freelancers sell themselves by posting gigs such as “I will design a graphic for you for $50.” Clients seeking to have work done browse profiles for the perfect fit, but never post actual jobs online.
Fiverr takes 20% off the top in perpetuity, while Upwork lowers its cut to 10% once you’ve reached $501 with a client, and to 5% if you reach $10,000 in lifetime earnings with the same customer.
Surprised? Don’t be. Craiglist is cheap and simple to post on, which makes it perfect for employers seeking a fast job or a quick fix. Every city has classic freelance job categories including:
Craiglist has recognized the swell of people working from home and included filters for telecommuting and contract in your job quest.
What better place to look for jobs than the website that networks you with other professionals in your field. There are two ways to go about searching for jobs on America’s largest professional network site. The first is the traditional way, by punching keywords into the site’s search engine and seeing what comes up.
However, if you sign up for LinkedIn’s Premium service, you can get qualified for the network’s ProFinder service. When LinkedIn members are looking for services from local professionals, you’ll get leads in your Inbox and be able to submit proposals. The LinkedIn member will weigh offers and contact you for more information. You and the client determine the method of payment.
The downside is that LinkedIn’s Premium service is pricey. Its least-expensive business plan is $59.99/month, which translates to $720/year. On top of that, you can’t search for the jobs on your own; you only get the emails when LinkedIn matches you to a lead.
FlexJobs got out in front of the competition early and is still one of the best resources for remote and freelance jobs out there. Its listings are updated every day, and it gives you a great search bar with options for what kind of work you’re looking for, what schedule you’re on, and where you live. It goes the extra mile by listing any plaudits that the companies behind each open job have won – such as being in Forbes 500.
The site boasts 3 million members but charges $14.95/month or $49.95/year for membership. Without it, you can’t see the full details of any job. Like LinkedIn above, it comes down to you, your budget, and how much value you put into a membership to view job openings without any guarantee that you’ll be interviewed, let alone hired.
Temporary agencies have been hiring part-time, contract laborers since they began. Plenty of them, such as Creative Circle, has extended the olive branch out to freelancers in an attempt to help them find work and reap the benefits. Creative Circle will conduct a phone interview with you, and usually have you come into their office to knock out all the paperwork, and then begin actively putting your name and portfolio out there as their clients have job openings.
It can be a lengthy process at times – you might have a short phone interview with your Creative Circle rep followed by another discussion with the actual company doing the hiring, but when you get a job, it’s usually great. Why? Because the clients are vetted by Creative Circle just like you are, and you get paid through direct deposit, no worrying about delays or checks in the mail.
Newspapers might be struggling to survive thanks to the Internet, but local magazines and circulars, particularly those in suburban areas, are popping up all over. Because they are usually monthly by nature, these publications seldom have a full-time staff, but rather contract out the work of writers, photographers, graphic designers, etc.
Look around to see what magazines or newspapers are active in your area and reach out to them with your portfolio and skills. At the very least, you’ll go on file for them for future opportunities.
Assuming you left on good terms, there’s no harm in reaching out to a former employer to see if they have any contract work that needs doing. Often even the biggest of firms will prefer paying handsomely for freelancers rather than onboarding a new employee, with all the costs attached.
Startup firms are all energy and excitement, and that usually means they need people to help get their message out there. The situation can be ideal, particularly for freelancers with coding, marketing, sales, writing, or design experience.
Startups often are comprised of just a few employees doing all the big-picture things that make it a struggle for them to keep up with the day-to-day. A common obstacle here is agreeing on a price.
Many startups sink most of their capital into technology and means of production, which often leaves the budget lacking for payroll. Establish your price early on; don’t let startups make you wild promises of riches down the road when they start making up. After all, what if that day never comes?