Tag Archives: online freelancing

Freelance Job Boards: Why They Should NEVER Be Your Only Option

When I started freelancing, I knew early on that I had to branch out.

I began as a “freelance writer”, my first two “clients” being content mills. Work wasn’t always stable, but I managed to get by. During the slow times when I wasn’t fervently writing to clock up a survivable hourly wage, I would research more about freelancing. More specifically, online freelancing.

A little later down the line, I also began “in person” freelancing as a TEFL teacher. While better paid than content mills, TEFL also wasn’t the most stable job. Of course, now being a seasoned content mill writer my original thoughts of “Great, I can sit at home all day, sip wine and write for cash!” were now long gone. However, as much as I enjoyed TEFL I didn’t really see a future in it.

peanuts
That is unless I didn’t mind earning peanuts for the rest of my life.

So, I sipped a lot of wine. I wrote for (not so much) cash. And I did more research into freelance job boards.

Upwork, oDesk, eLance, Guru… whatever. There were almost too many. After a lot of fumbling around, I managed to find my feet and actually snag a few decent-paying clients. I even forged one or two long-term (business) relationships. Content mills remained my “slow time” fallback (when work was available). In general, I made an alright living for someone in a cheap city with few expenses.

Between working with freelancer platforms, my own clients, content mills and teaching English, it dawned on me just how much work freelancing really is. It was a good education, to say the least. The searching, the bidding, working on projects just to get an interview… I spent hours of work without even a guarantee of getting a job.

In many ways, it sucked.

Finding work as a self-employed person is just as tiring and as much work as finding a full-time job – actually, probably even more since you always have to be hustling alongside your own projects.

When it comes to freelancer sites, really try to remember:

They should never, ever be your only option.

Get out on social media and the real world and network – forge relationships, maybe do a bit of pro bono work here and there to build up your portfolio. At the same time, do pick at least two or three platforms you feel will work and put some time and effort into crafting a profile.

Why? Well, because…

At the very least, a freelance job site offers you free advertising.

This all comes down to personal branding and a bit of advertising. After all, the more your face and profile pops up on the internet in the right places, the more likely it is that the right people will see it. The same can be said for publishing a portfolio on these sites.

Freelance Job Boards: The “keys” to increasing your chances of success

I cannot give you a 100% guaranteed formula that will definitely land you a list of clients so large you almost can’t keep up with the work. If I could, I’d probably be selling ebooks and courses on it (it’s what all the cool kids are down now, apparently).

However, I can give you the methods I used in order to land clients. Sometimes they worked like a charm, sometimes results took longer to materialize. Either way, they are reflective of the business world. You have to get the right target audience, sell the right product and market yourself the right way. Additionally, there are slow times and times when you have nothing but work to do.

When it comes to freelance job boards, however, these points are non-negotiable. They’re important, even if you just want a basic smattering of visibility.

Define what you ARE and what you’re SELLING

DO NOT write “Online Freelancer” as your job title, followed by “various freelance services – online!”. Anything in the area of too vague and too general is either going a) get you a bunch of jobs no where near your field of expertise or more likely b) get you absolutely no response whatsoever.

Define what you ARE. Are you a copywriter? Are you a digital strategist with a focus on writing good copy? Are you a JavaScript engineer, with a focus on front end development? Write this down, make a bullet-point list. Let your clients know what your expertise is, what you are selling and exactly what kind of pain they have that you can solve.

Your profile(s) are important

No matter how many freelance job boards you sign up to, craft them with a whole lot of love. While the actual structure of your profile can vary from one platform to the other, in general you should…

  • …have a clean, professional profile photo. This doesn’t have to be a photo of your face although I would highly advise it for individual freelancers. You are the friendly face of the business you’re running. Alternatively, you may want to consider a logo.
  • A comprehensive tagline that defines what you ARE. Harking back to the previous paragraph, are you a digital strategist? A web developer? What’s your focus, what’s your specialty? Try to think of a creative but clear way to send the message, too.
  • Fill out your bio/profile description. It’s amazing how many freelancers neglect to do this. You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) detail every aspect of your job history but you should provide a comprehensive view of your professional background, your services, skills and the type of “pain” you can solve for your prospective clients. If possible, try including testimonials.

What I would advise is briefly forgetting about freelance platforms and simply crafting and online resume with at least the above points. Additionally, include a portfolio of your work and then create a website and publish it there.

You can then take this “core” professional profile and adapt it to whatever platform you’re using.

Beyond Freelancer Sites: Be your own “command central”

Ultimately, you should view each freelance platform you sign up to as one of many “channels” through which you can spread your message. People may either reach out to you on these platforms, or you may have to do a bit of job bidding to at least get your face out there (and who knows, you may end up scoring a client/gig or two).

Ultimately, this will ensure that you have a strong presence on these platforms and additionally can spread your personal brand.

However, you should maintain your “central” profile. Publish a blog posts every now and then (once a month at least). Share this post on social media (Instagram is great for photographers, LinkedIn is good for most professionals).

Join a few online communities, get involved in discussions and publish your opinion in different (relevant places). Get to know people and build relationships online – really make a name for yourself.

Ultimately, freelance job boards are really little more than a gimmick. It is possible to get a lot of clients through them, but they shouldn’t be central to your strategy (at least when you’re starting out).

Thoughts on Freelancing and Stability

I originally became a freelancer because I didn’t like working in a kitchen. The only other skills I had besides cooking were speaking English and being able to write. Since work as an English teacher was scarce, I turned to “writing for the Internet”.

welcome to the internet
My first day on the job.

This really meant content mills – Textbroker, The Content Authority and MediaPiston (who were actually pretty decent, but it’s dead now so don’t get any funny ideas).

There was no guarantee of work, but I turned the computer on every day. I wrote most days – sometimes very little, sometimes far, far too much.

I read many resources on freelancing. How to get clients, where to find them and new places to find work. As time went on, I managed to pick up a few of my own who paid better and delivered more consistent levels of work. At the end of every month, however, I was still living hand-to-mouth.

peanuts
In being paid peanuts, it was sometimes all I ate (this may or may not be true).

I loved the freedom of being able to work from anywhere. I enjoyed being able to shift my hours so I could meet friends who usually worked night shifts in bars. I had a lot of fun adventures disappearing off to another city and still being able to make an income. Yet at times, I was wondering if I could pay my rent next month.

Instability and Freedom, or Stability and Being Chained to a Desk

At some point, I realized that experience in a company might be valuable. So, I managed to blag my way into a job where I became a full-on online marketing manager. It was nice to have a stable salary, regular working hours and my own desk.

carol beer
I tried my best not to impersonate this person. It didn’t always work.

Unfortunately, the charm wore off pretty soon. I went into the office every day. I sat in the same place. While I still appreciated the stability and loved learning new things, the feeling of “sameness”, of being trapped in one room for forty hours a week, began to creep in.

I started to miss freelancing, or so I thought.

In truth, I wasn’t missing freelancing at all. I had diverse projects to work on (admittedly within a very niche industry). I was constantly learning new things and training my SEO muscles. I was making lots of money from our affiliate partners. What I was really missing, in fact, I was simply the lifestyle I had been accustomed to. While my hours were flexible, my presence was required in the office because it was the done thing.

When it comes to freelancing, people often make the choice for two reasons. The first is having their own business, trying their hand at being successful and seeing how much money they can make. The other is simply freedom. This kind of freedom is traditionally not thought to exist in most companies.

However…

…these days, the online industry has made full-time jobs as flexible as freelance positions.

Things are different now. If you’re adamant about the option of working in your underwear (or in the Sahara or eye of a hurricane or wherever gives you the most “inspiration”), you don’t have to go at it alone. Remote jobs are plentiful – if a little competitive.

In essence: Things nowadays are not as clear-cut as “freelancing = freedom” and “employment = imprisonment”. There are freelance positions which require you to be on-site, and permanent employment contracts that let you work from anywhere in the world.

If you are looking for that kind of freedom, the key here is your perspective. If it is easier to find a freelance job, it’s best to build up long-term partnerships which can similar to regular employment. Forget about security for a minute and focus on regular pay. After all, you can still be fired pretty fast on a permanent contract. Though you’ll most likely receive some “I’m sorry” money.

So, What to Do?

Research!

Have a look at your industry. What are the most feasible options for you? Do you mind going into an office maybe only once or twice a week, but having partial location independence? If so, you may luck out on finding a local job. Are you so utterly fantastic that companies and clients will come to your door, begging for your services? Then maybe freelancing is the best option.

There are a lot of possibilities out there. How much money you make and whether you can live on it also depends on how in-demand you are. Those with programming skills will make more in a shorter amount of time – SEO experts fall somewhere a little lower in the pecking order. Unfortunately, writers tend to be seen as the grunts (unless you’re so fantastically good that you’ve written for Vogue, or something).

So, what’s my secret? Well, I mix it up.

I have freelance work which ebbs and flows. However, I strive to maintain some kind of “basis” income. Theoretically I could get a job in a coffee shop, though since I prefer location independence I went for a part-time remote job. Having at least a guaranteed coming in every month covers my bases – train ticket, health insurance, candle supply (I light a lot of smelly candles).

So, when it comes to flexibility there is a lot of wiggle room. It just means that you have to add a dash of creativity to your work strategy. Which shouldn’t be a problem… We are creatives after all, aren’t we?