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.

portrait of Rachel Miller, Ph.D.
by Rachel Miller, Ph.D.

Published on May 9, 2022

Edited by Giselle M. Cancio
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Where and How to Find Freelance Work
Feature Image: Klaus Vedfelt / DigitalVision / Getty Images


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

Are you a pro when it comes to audio editing? Do you have a passion for writing? With freelancing, you can transform your skills, talents, and passions into services you can offer clients. Take stock of what skills you have and develop two or three services from them. If you love audio editing, for instance, you can offer services like podcast editing and audio file conversion. In addition to a solid resume, clients typically want to see a portfolio of work that shows you have the skills to deliver what they want. You can carve out a space for showcasing your work on your personal website or utilize a platform like LinkedIn or Contra to build your portfolio. Aim to have about three work samples for each kind of service you offer to show potential clients. Freelance jobs online are plentiful. If you're just starting out, you can post services on a site like Fiverr or apply for Upwork jobs. But you might also consider pitching those same services you're offering online to small businesses in your area. Offering your services to local businesses for a discounted rate is a great way to build your portfolio. Professional certifications can help you demonstrate to potential clients that you have the skills necessary to meet their needs. Especially if you are looking to freelance in a field like graphic design or app development, where staying current with the latest software is a must, verifying your skillset with certification can increase your credibility.

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

Upwork.

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.

LinkedIn.

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.

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.

Facebook Groups.

There are many specialized Facebook groups for freelancers where members can share opportunities and leads.

Contra.

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.

Freelancer.com.

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.

Toptal.

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.

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

true How do I start 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.

true How do freelancers get paid?

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.

Is freelancing easy?

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.

How can I start freelancing with no experience?

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.

Taking time off between jobs benefits workers. And it can be easier to ask for time off than you think. Learn more about scheduling a break between jobs. Networking with someone in the career you want is a good way to see if it might be the right fit for you, too. However, there are right and wrong... Dissatisfied with your career? Learn how to recognize the eight signs you're ready for a career change and what steps to take.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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