My first attempt at making a living online came to a crashing halt when my client almost died of a heart attack. Although I doubt it was due to my writing, at least I hope it was not. That was my introduction to the online freelance marketplace.
Last week I wrote about 11 Ways to Earn Money from Your Website. One of the options I discussed was selling a service online, using your site as a portfolio. At a pinch, you can sell your service online even if you do not have a website. I was surprised to discover how vast the online freelance marketplace is.
To be honest, I never even knew an online freelance marketplace existed when I started out looking on the internet for a way to reinvent myself. I came across what was then oDesk (as they used to call UpWork) by accident, after reading a self-help guide. So, I signed up, filled in my profile and waited for my first client.
I have had friends who became stuck at that point. When you have no online reputation and millions of other people as your competition, you do wonder why anybody would select you. I suppose I was lucky. A Canadian was looking for somebody in Australia. Australia, New Zealand, what’s the difference! Just a narrow band of water in-between!
If you are not from my part of the world, I had better clarify, New Zealand is an entirely different country from Australia, and there is a gap of more than 4,000 km between the two countries.
A Canadian web development company had a taken on a client from Australia wanting them to build them a website for their tech company. The Canadian company wanted somebody to write the copy for the site, who knew Australian English. They must have searched ODesk and came up with me. All right, I am a kiwi. They must have thought I was close enough.
It was a win-win situation. The web company gained somebody who could write their website copy (even if they did edit a few parts from Australian English back to American English). I won because I got paid for my first job (and I was happy enough to start at $US15 per hour). Above all, it gave me some hours to show on oDesk, a good recommendation, and some credibility.
And, it was great – until the Managing Director had a heart attack and pulled back his workload. I am not sure that I ever saw that finished copy online.
So, What is the Online Freelance Marketplace?
There are a surprisingly large number of sites that you can sign up to online to take on short-term freelance contracting work. The largest is UpWork (which grew out of oDeesk when it merged with another site, Elance). But, there are many more, depending on your skills and requirements.
Yes, the pay can be low for long hours if you are not careful. But, that is more of a case of you being cautious and not applying for slave-type jobs.
Moreover, yes there are plenty of those slave-like jobs in the online freelance marketplace. You will see positions (known as gigs on most of the markets) proposed for as low as $1. One of the most significant sites, Fiverr, operates on the concept of $5 jobs (and Fiverr takes $1 of that as their fee). You compete with people from around the world, including those in low wage economies whose currencies and internal prices are such that $US1 per hour provides an ok income.
Yet, it is still easy to make a living income while working at these marketplaces. You just need to be selective about the gigs to which you apply.
I have earned up to $40 per hour working in the online freelance marketplace. Although in saying that, one of the first rules of success is avoiding targeting hourly-paying gigs. You will find it more lucrative to focus on gigs that pay a set amount for a particular job.
Some Considerations for Starting Your Freelance Journey
There are many marketplaces where you could consider register as a freelancer ready to take on and perform gigs. There is no point in splitting yourself too widely, though. You need to establish credibility at one site before you should consider moving to another one. You will always find yourself competing with other freelancers. Anybody who is advertising for a freelancer to work with them will go for the best option within their price range. They will focus on your experience and reliability ratings.
Getting your first gig can be tough. I consider myself lucky to have got my first gig within a day or two of setting up my profile.
So you need to focus on perfecting your profile on one site, and then finding your first few clients there before you try to set up on another site.
I will look in more detail on how to set up your UpWork account in a forthcoming trilogy of posts.
What are Some Online Freelance Marketplaces?
JobMob has assembled a comprehensive collection of Top 85+ Popular Freelance Marketplaces Online in 2017.
I will look briefly at a couple of the sites here but will review others over time.
UpWork is the largest and arguably best-known freelance marketplace. You will find thousands of fellow freelancers offering their services in a wide range of niches. If a business needs to work with a freelancer for a particular purpose, they will create a job listing for the role. You can search for positions that match your skills and interests and then apply for each position.
You create a profile page describing yourself, as well as a portfolio highlighting some of their past work. If you are a complete beginner, you can add samples that you did outside of Upwork. If all else fails, you could create a website where you show your skills if you are a writer, coder, designer or have other talents that you can showcase that way.
The whole contracting and payment system occurs within Upwork. UpWork charges a 20% commission on gig receipts (although this rate reduces once there is a long-term relationship between you and a particular business). Although Upwork is free for freelancers to join, you can get extra services if you pay $10 per month to join their Plus plan.
Fiverr is a micro job website where you can offer products and services for $5. People provide a wide range of services. Despite the low price, there are many talented people on Fiverr, and it is ideal for doing one-off jobs. You create a $5 sales offer – your core gig. It is up to you to decide what you consider to be worth $5. Many things you do are worth more than $5, of course, so you may do best to decide upon some base $5 gig, and then create add-ons that people will need for a complete job. For instance, a designer may charge $5 to design a simple eBook cover, and then offer add-ons for including a photograph, converting the file to a particular format, or providing a 24-hour turnaround.
Cloudpeeps is an online freelance marketplace that operates in the 25 countries that work with the payment processor, Stripe. They call freelancers ‘peeps’. Peeps offer services that relate to social media and content marketing, design, web design and development, public relations and tasks as virtual assistants. Cloudpeeps works similarly to Upwork. Businesses set up gigs. Peeps search for positions that match their skills and talents. They then make an offer for the contract. Alternatively, firms search the Cloudpeeps database and approach particular peeps about taking on a gig.
Try Out the Online Freelance Marketplace
If you want to reinvent yourself, but lack money today, the best starting place is to head to one of the online freelance marketplaces and create yourself a profile. Once you get your first gig (always the hardest position to start), you will at least have some income coming in while you try to build your website or find some other form of passive income.
My next three posts will show you how to start your freelancing journey on UpWork.