What are the best freelance websites and platforms?
Freelancing now represents nearly one-third of the global workforce. Freelance websites are at the forefront of this global revolution. Along with making freelancing more accessible with digital tools, the top freelance websites maintain an equitable marketplace online for both clients and freelancers. In the year 2023, this trend is on a foreseeable upward swing. The recent mass layoffs have left professionals seeking interim opportunities, and companies looking for part-time help. Let's break down some of the popular choices!
Written By Scott LuscombeQuestion? Talk to Scott
What are the best freelance websites and platforms?
A comprehensive guide to freelance websites and platforms in 2023.
You've got the skill, and each site in this list is a great pick to build a freelance career on. Some of these sites are better for a particular niche compared to others. They all have their points of distinction but sites in this list are job boards for remote work, which can be done from anywhere regardless of location.
As one of the two publicly traded freelance websites, Upwork is a behemoth for freelancing. Just in 2021 alone, Upwork observed $3.5 billion exchanged between clients and freelancers. This is a testament to the trust that both clients and freelancers put into this site. If there's competition for the best freelance websites, Upwork arguably takes the crown.
Upwork, formerly known as Elance-oDesk, has virtually never-ending jobs on its platform. Often regarded as the jack of all trades, Upwork is a platform that hosts almost all types of digital jobs on it from a wide variety of fields. Job seekers from virtually all professions including software development, graphic design, data entry, law, writing, and customer support can thrive on Upwork. The platform has a learning curve, which primarily requires perfecting a proposal to convert more clients. Once you get your first job on Upwork, however, you can see progress with continued effort. In my opinion, it's the best freelance website out there.
Upwork in principle is probably the best one, but it's not without its faults. The variable Service Fees are complex and still a substantial portion of your earnings. The recently added boosted proposals have been looked down upon by the freelance community and hurt its credibility as an equitable marketplace. Despite that, it remains one of the most dependable freelancing websites currently available. If building a freelance career is on the books for you, you can't go wrong with Upwork.
Check out How to get more Upwork connects for free?
Freelancer is arguably the strongest competitor to Upwork and a great platform in general. Upwork and Freelancer share a lot of features, advantages, and disadvantages. Professionals in tech, design, copywriting, and data every and virtual assistant fields can find many jobs on the platform.
Freelancer is more favorable to clients seeking value for money. Freelancer is identical to Upwork with the added contests feature, all other elements are nearly identical. You are however not limited by a connects system, unlike Upwork, which requires connects to apply for jobs. Contests allow clients to attract multiple submissions for one job post and award the winner. Clients can also find freelance talent directly without creating a job post and hiring them. In addition to this, Freelancer also has jobs for multiple linguistic backgrounds including Spanish, French, German, and Portuguese.
Freelancer enjoys the first mover advantage, as it rose to popularity very early. It's a good platform, but the likelihood of succeeding on Freelancer as a new freelancer is quite low. The high competition, low-quality clients, and underpaying clients make it difficult for new freelancers to flourish here. Finding recurring jobs is possible given time and effort, but you are better off with Upwork or other freelance platforms. If you want to build an Agency on this platform, you will find a regular supply of jobs here, and the turnaround time will determine your earnings.
To learn more, read Is Upwork better than Freelancer.com where we cover both platforms in detail.
Fiverr is one of the earliest companies to exist in the freelance website landscape. Founded in 2010, conceptually, you could get something done on Fiverr for $5, hence the name. In reality, however, services on Fiverr, like any other freelance site, can start at $5 but can go into thousands of dollars. Often the $5 ones are small tasks or ones with inferior quality. The average price of a service on Fiverr is $25.
Fiverr does get points for novelty because it is certainly different from other freelance sites. Clients can post custom jobs to attract applications, but it's largely a marketplace where products are already there, at least in essence. Fiverr relies on Freelancers to put up gigs on their profile and their cost for the same. It is from there that a client can place the order on a premade service offering. Once the task is complete, 80% of the payment is released to the freelancer, with 20% being the service fees.
This makes the expectations clear to both the client and the freelancer but also curtails customization in work done. If a client wants long-term support, Fiverr won't be ideal to find a service provider for the same. Unlike Upwork and Freelancer, Fiverr does not have a project management tool or an hour-logging tool for long-term contracts. You get project management with Fiverr business, and even then, hourly tracking is not an option.
Fiverr is a good marketplace for beginners where they can offer low input services in volume to work on multiple projects at once. Which is not so great for larger projects that require flexible budgets and a high degree of collaboration. Fiverr is a good starting point, but at the opposite end, you can likely generate only a couple thousand dollars a month while working on Fiverr. Compared to other platforms, Fiverr doesn't make a strong case for itself for clients and freelancers.
Toptal stands for top talent. The site prides itself on hosting the top 3% of freelance talent in the world. Combined with the intense screening process; it's a great place for people with extensive experience in their fields. On its home page, Toptal shows how it has freelancers from some of the largest companies now providing services on its platform.
Toptal can be difficult to get into, but once you are in; you get access to some great companies as your clients. These include Airbnb, Shopify, and Duolingo. Freelancers in the fields of design, development, tech, and finance can find the most success here. Freelancers can expect the highest industry rates for the jobs they get hired for and also guaranteed hours every week
Tortal is not for everyone and they make it clear on their site that most freelancers on Total have 2-3 years of experience on average. It's a selective pool of clients and freelancers, only reserved for the most qualified professionals. Being on Toptal can be a solid gateway to strong earning potential, and opens the possibility of working with some of the largest companies in the world. This in some circles, has earned a bad name for Toptal with some calling the site discriminatory in its practices. The interview process has also been flagged as inefficient and time-consuming.
LinkedIn and LinkedIn Pro Finder
LinkedIn by itself is a great professional platform and may even be one of the best freelance websites currently available. Especially as a creative freelancer, you need to be on LinkedIn. If used correctly, LinkedIn can present virtually limitless freelance work opportunities through inbound and outbound outreach. The search box on LinkedIn is a powerful tool, allowing you as a freelancer to find and apply directly for multiple projects. There are not many downsides to using LinkedIn to build your freelance career. If you know how to leverage the platform, you can generate great business for yourself.
LinkedIn Pro Finder is a freelance offering from LinkedIn. You get ten free proposals, after which you must pay for LinkedIn Premium to continue writing proposals. Depending on where you live, this can become an expensive ordeal. LinkedIn Premium in the United States cost $60 a month, which adds up to $720 a year, almost a month's rent in some places. Even with LinkedIn Premium, you may get more direct InMail opportunities, but job postings on the platform itself are scarce. This makes paying to find jobs even less likely for someone who may consider paying for it.
LinkedIn by itself is all a freelancer needs to build a network, find jobs, apply for them, and get hired. LinkedIn provides all the tools you need to grow your career, full-time or freelance. It is quite capable as a platform, and while LinkedIn Pro Finder may seem like a good extension, it's not. If you choose to build a freelance career through LinkedIn, I would suggest that you focus on building your profile and a strong inbound strategy through content on the main LinkedIn site.
99Designs is a platform created for creative professionals and, more specifically, freelance designers. Created in 2009, it's one of the oldest platforms to exist. All forms of digital designers, including graphic designers, web designers, illustrators, and 3D designers, can find jobs suitable for them on this freelance platform.
A large number of clients specifically looking to hire creative talent to choose 99Designs to fill a position. This means that as a creative on the platform, you will find plenty of opportunities to find and apply for new work.
Unlike some of the popular free choices, 99Designs charges the freelancer $100 to start on their platform, which means the talent pool is largely vetted and consists of actual professionals. Some freelancers can find it difficult to find clients early on because a saturated talent pool leads to higher competition. Putting in $100 toward an untested site may be a big ask for others.
99Designs is a great spot for designers to find clients who are specifically looking for creative talent and vice versa. The specialization is good for clients looking to hire creative talent, but it can be a double-edged sword for freelancers. It is a great platform for creative professionals to seek design work, but the upfront $100 fee may not be ideal for most.
Designhill is like Freelancer and has a talent pool similar to 99 Designs. Designhill combines features like direct outreach and contests from clients with design talent on the other end.
Unlike Freelancer, however, Designhill is more neutral. Claiming that their contests are a great way to onboard new clients rather than simply crowdsourcing design. In addition to this, they allow creatives to sell custom T-Shirts on their website, which is a fun way to monetize your work on the site as a freelancer. This means having a dedicated spot to seek all things creative for a client. It doesn't have to sign-up fee like 99Design, so is ideal for someone looking for a specialized marketplace without a hefty signup charge.
Designhill is a solid platform for designers to find freelance jobs and sell their work on T-shirts on the side. Employers can seek talent directly and also host contests. If you are a designer who is looking for jobs in the field of design and don't necessarily want to shell out $100 on 99Design, DesignHill is a good alternative.
People Per Hour
People per hour markets itself as a better alternative to the traditional freelance hiring processes, on which sites like Upwork and Freelancer thrive on. They are talking about the immense number of profiles and proposals a client may have to go through before hiring a freelancer. People Per Hour claims that they use AI to analyze client briefs and only invite a selected set of freelancers to apply for the job. This, in turn, saves time in trying to find the right fit, leading to a faster hiring process and delivery. Freelancers choose their prices, and clients get a curated selection of talent.
They also integrate payments on the platform, which helps avoid any disagreements concerning payment and the work done. There are no immediate advantages to the platform, but it is quite popular, and you can choose to offer your services here. The only downside is that the platform offers web developers and freelance writers more opportunities. Creative professionals will likely find more success in a different marketplace.
Apart from the AI-powered matching, it is identical to Upwork and Freelancer and suffers from the same pitfalls. Users have reported a lack of benefits for freelancers, which makes it seem more biased toward the client.
Behance, an extension of Adobe products is primarily a portfolio website where creatives from all over the world showcase their work to clients and other creatives. It's extremely good at that, and arguably the best portfolio site, short of having a custom domain, its visibility as a freelance website is debatable.
Chances are that if you have a strong Behance profile, you will find some inbound leads from recruiters reaching out to you with Full-Time and Freelance roles. However, these are few and far between. The search tab is useful since it matches you with jobs in your creative field but the selection of jobs is still scarce. With new listings being days, if not weeks apart from each other.
Behance is a great portfolio platform; you should add your work there as a young designer. It's a great alternative to building a fairly discoverable portfolio, and just a link away when pitching to clients on other freelance sites. As a freelance platform, however, it's not very successful and I don't see any tangible success in using Behance for that purpose.
Dribbble is the perfect amalgamation of a portfolio site plus a freelance marketplace, which many designers swear by. As a designer, it's imperative to be on dribble either to post work and seek clients or simply seek inspiration.
Dribbble gets a lot of traffic and has many clients looking for freelance services, in the creative field. Graphic Designers, Web Designers, Illustrators, and a whole set of creative freelancers can find clients consistently on the dribble. You can even choose to turn availability on or off as you, please.
If you sign up for the Pro version you get access to a freelance job board, similar to other freelance sites, where you can send proposals for jobs you'd like to work on. Dribbble is a great platform to begin your freelance career. This can mean more visibility for your work and consequently more clients. However, if you choose not to sign up for the Pro version, it's advisable to also pursue a platform like Upwork which has a more outbound approach to finding clients.
Wellfound; Formerly: AngelList Talent
Wellfound is a great place for freelancers looking to work with startups in the tech sector, where you can get fired on a freelance or full-time basis. This can be a great opportunity to get hands-on experience working for an up-and-coming company.
You can expect to find freelance jobs with companies that have a certain level of track record behind them and can potentially be the next big name in the tech industry. You don't need to apply for multiple jobs however, you provide one application which can then be shared with employers.
That being said, most jobs on the platform are for developers and designers; so other freelance niches may not find much value here. With the tech sector and the listings being largely concentrated in the United States, most jobs require local candidates in the same time zone or country as the post, which can be discouraging to international freelancers.
Design crowd is exactly what it sounds like, it's crowdsourcing design work. Depending on how you feel about that, you can choose to work on the design crowd and participate in contests on the platform.
Design crowd is a website similar to the contests feature on Freelancer, where a client shares a brief and reference. Designers can then share design work in line with the creative brief. Based on the designs, the client can request more designs from one specific designer and ultimately award the winnings to the chosen Freelancer.
Design crowd lacks any Unique Selling Point and for some reason has a free logo generator tool on the same site. This defeats the point of having a freelance marketplace to hire designers right next to it. As clients who want to get a quick fix for fairly cheap, it's a good choice to attract multiple submissions. For most freelancers, this platform is not worth the time. Design for the most part requires a deep understanding of the problem and a design contest is certainly not the right way to go about it.
There are 100s of other freelance sites and you can choose to pursue the one that best fits your needs but the ones mentioned in this post are the popular choices. They all get a lot of traffic but only a select few of these freelance websites accomplish the goal of matching clients to the right talent while maintaining an equitable marketplace.
There is no perfect freelance marketplace, and the only way to accomplish an ideal freelance career would be to transition to direct contracts with clients and manage them yourselves. That being said, in my opinion, Upwork comes the closest to being the ideal marketplace for most freelancers and it shows. LinkedIn is a great professional tool as well, and if used correctly, it has the potential to pay huge dividends in the future.
A freelance website is an intermediary in finding and building relationships with clients for most freelancers, especially new ones. A platform that has a recurring flow of new jobs promotes an equitable marketplace and provides the necessary tools to successfully run a job is crucial to success. All the platforms on this list accomplish this to varying degrees, and while there is no perfect freelance website, my pick is certainly Upwork with LinkedIn being a close second.
What are the best freelance websites and platforms?