Once you discover the top freelance sites for finding paid work, you can open up a world of online opportunities.
You don’t need to be an expert coder, or come up with a genius new app, service, or website. As in the real world, the vast majority of successful internet entrepreneurs got there simply by using tried and tested businesses models. You could call it boring, or you could call it sensible!
Often this means using the top freelance sites for finding paid work.
The vast majority of successful internet entrepreneurs got there simply by using tried and tested businesses models
Why reinvent the wheel, when there are countless examples of successful online businesses you can model your own on? If you have a skill that doesn’t require physically meeting with a client, you can sell it online. This gives you an incredibly flexible potential source of income, letting you decide precisely how much work you want to take on, and how you want to progress your career over time.
All you need to make this work is a sellable skill and knowledge of the top freelance sites for finding paid work.
What is a freelance site?
A freelance site is a platform where freelancers can sell their skills. There are several different types, as you will learn, but they generally all offer similar features. Employers can add job listings, and freelancers can create profiles and list their skills. From there, either party can contact the other in order to secure work. That way, freelance sites provide a convenient and easy way to connect with a large market of potential clients.
These sites aren’t perfect, though. Most will take a cut of your profits, and many will try and make it difficult for you to contact your clients without their platform. This is fair enough, it’s how they make their money after all, but it’s still something to consider.
Some freelancing sites also boast additional features. Some include online tests you can complete to demonstrate your skills to clients without certifications. Others will offer time-keeping software you can use to log and report your hours. Whether these features are beneficial depends on the type of work you are looking for, and the workflow you prefer.
A list of the top freelance sites for finding paid work
Here are some of the top freelance sites for finding paid work. Included are a number of “general” freelancing platforms, as well as a host of platforms specific to particular industries.
Back in the day, there were two major freelancing sites: Elance and oDesk. Then one day, they did the fusion dance and became Elance-oDesk. A name change later, and we have Upwork.
As you can imagine, Upwork is now very much the “Daddy” of freelancing sites, in terms of the numbers and the features. Over 4 million businesses use the site today, so it’s a very large market to sell your services.
At the same time, it also makes this a more bloated option. Upwork lets you take a number of tests to demonstrate your proficiency in anything from PHP, to English, to WordPress, to “Email Etiquette.” While this might be a perk for some, it also ultimately results in more work for freelancers; if the competition is taking these tests, you need to do so as well.
Users can also upload screenshots and photos of previous work to populate their portfolios.
The timekeeping tools can also be frustrating. Some clients will ask you to use the platforms “work diary,” which invasively counts your keystrokes and takes screenshots of your monitor six times an hour. For me, a requirement like this actually negates some of the benefits of working from home in the first place! Overall, these features benefit the clients more than the freelancers.
Upwork takes a 20 percent commission for the first $500 earned, which drops to 10 percent for the next $10,000, and 5 percent for anything further. Despite its shortcomings, the sheer size of Upwork makes it one of the top freelance sites for finding paid work.
PeoplePerHour is a less-known competitor of Upwork, but is superior in a few ways. In my personal experience, PeoplePerHour will yield higher-paying work, especially outside the U.S. PeoplePerHour is a considerably smaller market than Upwork, but there is also less competition for work.
Charges are considerably lower: 15 percent for the first $280 earned, and 3.5 percent afterward. There are some hidden costs to contend with, but they still ultimately rack up to less than Upwork’s.
PeoplePerHour has no time tracker, which might be a negative for some, but you already know I personally consider it an advantage. If you want time tracking software, there are plenty of options out there. However, because it’s not baked into the experience here, most clients won’t expect you to use it.
Freelancer does very much what it says on the tin. It also charges the lowest amount yet, with commissions and fees for transactions beginning at 3 percent. There is a desktop tracking app to contend with, but because it isn’t baked into the site itself, it isn’t always mandatory. Freelancer is another large market, with 16 million registered users across 247 countries.
College Recruiter is another freelance site with a twist. This time, the focus is on college and university students looking for experience, part-time employment, seasonal work, or a way to earn cash on the side. This is a brilliant option for students, and employers can often find passionate and affordable talent.
Toptal is the freelance site that claims to pay the most. Its name is a portmanteau of “top talent,” and the pitch is based on exclusivity. The platform will only accept 3 percent of applicants, ensuring freelancers are top-tier only, with impressive qualifications, certifications, and experience. It also means only really serious clients visit the site, resulting in better pay.
This solves a real pain point for entrepreneurs working online. The problem with freelance sites like Upwork and PeoplePerHour is competing with professionals from all around the world, including areas with much lower costs of living, which can drive rates down. The sites also vary greatly in terms of the quality of professional, seeing as anyone can sign up (and it’s certainly not hard to “fake” one of the tests).
If you fit the bill, Toptal is worth a look. If not, build your CV and consider it something to aspire to.
Fiverr is a website with a unique pitch: you can buy a wide range of gigs for just $5. The site was marketed as very much an “amateur” and “quirky” platform, but with time it has grown and matured to attract more serious businesses and professionals. The pay limit is now gone (though most usually offer some form of gig for five dollars), and this has quickly become a good place to find work as a voice over artist, photo editor, graphic designer, personal trainer, and more.
If you are a designer, 99Designs is one of the best places to find work. It has freelancers enter competitions to “win” design jobs. When a client posts work they need completed, designers will be able to submit their attempts to meet the brief. The client only accepts one design, and the creator of that design will receive the payment.
The nature of 99Designs means it has potential to waste your time with no results, but it can pay well, and if your work is high quality, you will hopefully stand out from the crowd.
Rent a Coder
Rent a Coder is a freelance site designed specifically for programmers and those looking for programmers. The accounts are hand-approved, which ensures a certain level of quality, and the work is typically higher paid than what you might find on a “general” freelance site like Upwork.
Finally, Cad Crowd is a place to sell your 3D modelling skills. This is a well-paid and somewhat less saturated niche, so if you’re a techie looking for an area to get into, it’s a great choice.
By the way, you can find an introduction to creating 3D models on this very site!
There are many more freelance sites out there, especially in the more obscure niches. Bookmark this page, because we’ll be adding more over time (and feel free to share your favorites in the comments!).
For now, this should be a varied enough selection to get started. Sign up for an account on one of these top freelance sites for finding paid work, and you might just be taking the first step on an amazing journey.