Where and How to Find Freelance Work
Freelance jobs offer the opportunity to work on your own terms. Our guide can help you get started on your freelance journey.
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Ready to start your journey?
- Freelance jobs can allow you to work wherever and however you want.
- To get started freelancing, assess what services you can offer and build your portfolio.
- Freelance websites connect freelancers to potential clients.
- We'll walk you through everything from red flags to best practices for freelancers.
Freelance jobs offer creative self-starters the opportunity to work on their own terms.
As employers push for a return to the office, a 2022 report from Microsoft suggests that employees value flexibility and mobility now more than ever. Of the 31,000 workers surveyed, 59% indicated that they expected to earn additional income from "a side project or business" in 2022. For the Gen Z workforce, that percentage was even higher at 70%.
Enter freelance work. Freelancing can offer the flexibility, mobility, and extra income that so many desire. But how do you start freelancing? And, once you get started, where can you find freelance work online?
What Is a Freelancer?
You might be wondering: What is a freelancer? Freelancers are self-employed individuals who provide a specific set of services to their clients. Freelancers work on a contract basis, meaning they are hired to do a specific job for a set rate and amount of time.
Freelance jobs are not typical 9-to-5, long-term positions at a company or institution. Rather, freelance work involves offering your specific skill set to different clients as an independent contractor.
Freelancers set their own hours, market their services to different clients, and determine what kinds of projects they want to take on.
Freelance Workforce Continues to Grow
The labor market has seen great change over the past three years, including shifts to fully remote work, hybrid offices, and the Great Resignation. But amid all this upheaval, freelance work has only continued to grow.
In 2021, Upwork found that 36% of the U.S. workforce does some kind of freelance work, up from an estimated 33% in 2015. In March 2022, 68% of independent workers surveyed by Harvard Business Review reported feeling that freelancing provides more security than traditional employment.
Freelancing thrives during periods of economic instability as workers transform uncertainty into innovation and profit. Today's freelancers are highly skilled and educated. They may be attracted to freelancing because, rather than reporting to a boss or commuting to an office, freelancers can choose where they work, when they work, and what projects they take on.
Greater earning potential is also a draw. In 2022, Upwork found that, in general, a freelancer makes 70% more than the average worker in the U.S. Freelancers' earnings in fields like technology, IT, marketing, and customer relations can break six figures.
Tips for Finding Freelance Work
Popular Freelance Jobs
Data Analyst. Data analysts discover the stories behind the numbers. They gather and interpret data for companies, showing their clients how data can inform their business strategies. In 2022, Upwork estimated a freelance data analyst can make $55-65 an hour and up to $100,000 a year.
SEO and SEM strategists. Search engine optimization and management strategists come up with game plans for clients who want to make sure their businesses or content are getting noticed by sites like Google. In 2019, CNBC projected that an SEM strategist can make about $50 an hour and up to $100,000 a year.
Graphic Designer. From logos to entire advertisements, graphic designers create visuals for brands and products. In 2022, Upwork estimated that freelance graphic designers can make $40-45 an hour and $90,000 annually.
Mobile App Developer. These software engineers work exclusively on creating and programming apps for devices like smartphones and tablets. In 2022, Upwork estimated that mobile app developers can make $55-65 an hour and up to $100,000 in a year.
Writer. All organizations need sharp copy for their website landing pages, blogs and articles, and social media accounts. Freelance writers provide written content for their clients and, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, earned around $33 an hour and up to $69,510 a year in May 2021.
Best Freelance Websites to Find Jobs
On Upwork, clients post freelance jobs that freelancers on the site can apply to. Upwork jobs typically require the freelancer to submit a short cover letter addressing why they would be a good fit for the opportunity.
No longer just a site to host your professional profile and network, LinkedIn now offers a freelance marketplace. LinkedIn's Marketplace lets freelancers showcase their services to their existing network and connects clients looking to hire to relevant freelancers.
Fiverr started as a marketplace where freelancers could post their services for $5 or more. As the platform has grown, it's become the place for independent workers at all levels to break into the freelance industry.
There are many specialized Facebook groups for freelancers where members can share opportunities and leads.
Freelance workers can join the Contra community to build sleek profiles and spaces to showcase their portfolios alongside services clients can buy. This site offers the best of LinkedIn and Fiverr.
Like Upwork, Freelancer.com allows users to create profiles and browse jobs posted by clients. Freelancers can apply to different opportunities by placing "bids," short pitches that tell clients the freelancer's rate and what services they provide.
A more exclusive freelance website, Toptal puts freelancers through a lengthy vetting process to ensure clients connect with the "top 3% of freelance talent."
SimplyHired is a job board that frequently attracts companies looking to fill freelance positions. Signing up for a SimplyHired profile is not necessary, but it does come with the added bonus of a free resume builder.
How to Avoid Freelancer Scams
Remote work. Not reporting to a boss. Getting to choose the perfect gig for you from numerous freelance websites.
Freelance work can sometimes sound too good to be true. In most cases, online freelance jobs are perfectly legitimate. But there are still some things to look out for when sourcing freelance jobs online.
If a potential client is asking for personal information like your bank account numbers or social security number upfront, this should be an immediate red flag. Scammers might also request access to your accounts on websites like Upwork or Fiverr. Keep your sensitive information safe. Don't share passwords or account information directly with clients.
Sites like Upwork and Fiverr protect the transactions between clients and freelancers. These sites ask clients to verify their payment methods or have them pay upfront, holding the money until the work is complete.
If a client approaches you asking for free work on their terms ("Write a sample blog about hypoallergenic dog breeds for me!") or has poor ratings from other freelancers on the site, be wary.
Frequently Asked Questions About Freelancing
Beginning to freelance can be as easy as pulling together a few samples of your work and creating a profile on Upwork or Fiverr. Draft a solid resume and cover letter you can send to clients.
If you don't have a portfolio of work samples yet, try working up some spec pieces with specific clients in mind. You might design a few logo options for a startup or write a blog article about a topic you would like to specialize in.
Freelancers work on a contract basis, meaning they get paid per job upon the completion of the work. There are as many ways freelancers get paid as there are freelance jobs online.
Freelancers might invoice clients directly, accepting payments through checks or apps like PayPal, Zelle, or Venmo. They might sign an ongoing contract with a company and get paid as they submit work. Or they might get paid through the website on which they're advertising their services, like Upwork, Fiverr, or Freelancer.com.
For the right person, freelancing can be a welcome challenge. Although you won't show up to an office every day, you'll still put in plenty of hours pitching clients, completing orders, and bolstering your skillset. Self-motivation, organization, and creativity are all assets that can make freelancing easier.
Seek out opportunities where you can apply your skills to gain experience in the area you would like to freelance. You can create spec pieces or samples of your work with different prospective clients in mind to build your portfolio. Network with local businesses in your area. Once you've established a relationship with them, offer to provide your services at a discount to gain experience.
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