Most people who decide to investigate what kind of work they can do from home soon discover the freelance job boards. These huge sites, such as Upwork and PeoplePerHour, contain thousands of freelance job opportunities – covering everything from simple admin tasks to advanced programming projects.
Once you start to probe a little deeper, you inevitably find horror stories about these websites. You may find yourself concerned by tales of high fees, or clients who waste time and expect the earth for very little money. People looking for online jobs often email me and ask me if the freelance boards are a safe place to find work.
The truth is that these sites certainly aren’t perfect; Yes, there are scams to be wary of, and clients who are best avoided. The plaforms do charge significant fees too, so you have to be prepared to lose a percentage of the money you earn.
However, the freelance job boards are also places where thousands of new opportunities appear every single week. Any one of these opportunities can turn into a long-term relationship with a client – and these build the foundations of a freelance career.
The most important thing to do is to proceed with caution and professionalism. Many people give up on the freelance sites before giving them nearly enough of a chance. Meanwhile, there are people out there genuinely making six figures on Upwork.
The tips in the article are intended to help you succeed before you throw in the towel…
Freelance Job Board Tips
1. Take Time Over your Profile
On every freelance job board there’s a detailed profile section, where you list your skills and experience, and give examples of your work. These effectively act as a resumé, a portfolio and a first interview – all in one!
As such, they deserve a serious amount of time and attention. Completing one of these profiles is something that should be taking you half a day, not half an hour. There’s considerable competition on these websites, and if you don’t polish your profile, you won’t stand a chance.
You’ll find plenty of advice online about how to make a perfect profile. You should also take time to look at some of the existing profiles for people already active on the platforms. These are the people you are going to be competing for jobs with.
2. Carefully Consider your Rate
Something I hear all the time is that it’s impossible to make good money on sites like Upwork. This is nonsense, however it is fair to say that there can be a bit of a “race to the bottom” in terms of price.
With this in mind, think very carefully about the kind of hourly rate you want to pitch at for your services. This will depend on a huge range of factors, particularly your skills and experience. Don’t sell yourself short if you have something special to offer – because it’s a lot less work to do one hour for $50 than five hours for $10.
Having said that, you must also be realistic. If you have an “entry level” profile, you will need to apply for “entry level” jobs, and expect “entry level” money – at least until you build more experience.
3. Search, Don’t Browse
Something many freelance job board novices do is make the mistake of browsing through endless job listings and applying for things without enough consideration. It certainly does no harm to have a very thorough look at what’s out there, but there are better ways of finding gigs that are targeted to your skills.
For example, if you’re a writer with specialist knowledge in something, search initially for that something. Perhaps you’re an expert in cupcakes, cryptography or Cuba? Search for the things you really know about first, before scrolling endless job roles in the hope of finding something relevant to you.
4. Research Potential Clients
There are, sadly, a lot of scammers and bad clients on these job boards. However, you can avoid most of them if you’re careful about doing your research.
Exact features differ from job board to job board, but there’s always a feedback rating. You can also generally find out if clients are new to the platform, whether they have a verified payment method, how many other jobs they’re advertising, and how many people they’re paying and interviewing. Spending a bit of time joining the dots can give you a good overview of a client, and an indication of whether to apply or to run.
5. Pay your Dues
The biggest mistake I see people make with Upwork and the other sites is giving up before they’ve paid their dues. Until you’ve done a few (usually low paid) gigs and built up your feedback rating, people will be very cautious about hiring you.
Getting and completing those first few jobs is the hardest but most important part of becoming established as an online freelancer. That means sending out perfectly crafted applications to jobs that are a perfect fit for you. It also means going far “above and beyond” in pleasing those first clients, to ensure your feedback starts on a solid footing and sets you up for bigger and better things.
All of those six-figure Upwork users started off with an empty profile and the challenge of landing that first gig. Whether you join them, or give up because it all seems too difficult, is entirely down to you. Giving up would be a shame, as online freelancing is a great way to combine work with family life.
Ben Taylor has been a freelancer since 2004 and is the Founder of HomeWorkingClub, an advice portal for aspiring home workers. He also provides coaching to aspiring writers and bloggers at WriteBlogEarn.com.