If you’re getting into freelancing for the first time, then you might be wondering which freelance website you should be looking for work on. Well, the answer is complicated – we’ve seen a lot of lists online that pretend otherwise but it is complicated.
This is because the word “beginner” might mean “new to freelancing” or it might mean “new to working at all”. Those are very different starting positions, so which freelance website is best for beginners in our book? We’d say Upwork if you’re new to freelancing but if you’re new to work at all – Fiverr might be your best bet.
Let’s take a look at some of your options and why we’ve chosen our “winners”.
The 10 Best Freelancing Websites For Beginners
The world’s biggest freelancing platform online is freelancer.com and yet, it’s not one of our top picks, why?
Freelancer’s size is down to the fact that it was designed to hook up developed nation businesses with developing nation talent. Why pay for something to be made locally when someone overseas can do it cheaper?
This means that most of the opportunities on the site are, by design, badly paid. It’s true that you can squeeze out a living on Freelancer, but you’ll be working much harder than you have to and for some of the worst clients in the business.
To add insult to injury, if you want a hope of success on this platform, you have to pay them a monthly fee – on top of their commission on the work you do.
We see Freelancer as a line of last resort and not a starting place for most freelancers.
We don’t like competition based freelancing. Sure, if you “win” you get paid a, sort of, decent rate by 99designs’ customers but you’re going to lose more than you win. In fact, you’re going to lose a lot more than you win.
If you are a college student with a lot of time on your hands and want to flex your muscles a little in design competitions – this might be fine for a hobby. But this isn’t what work should be. How do you feed your kids knowing that you have to win 3 contests a week to stay alive?
Yes, it’s true that there is now a “go straight to designer” option on 99designs and we can’t see any harm in signing up for it but we’d bet that if you’re not participating in the contests, you’re not getting much work on that site.
We think Toptal is one of the best freelancing sites out there and if you’re “new to freelancing” but not new to working – it’s a great place for coders, programmers and those with related skill sets to seek work.
You have to go through an assessment on Toptal and your earnings are capped but they are a reliable and well-respected platform.
The only reason they don’t make our top slots is because if you’re “new to work”, there is almost no chance you will be accepted to Toptal. This is a playground for experienced, professionals and not total noobs.
Guru is not the biggest of sites which is odd, because it’s been around for a long, long time. It tends to slant towards coding and programming opportunities though there is other work on there occasionally.
Even back in the days when I used online freelancing websites a lot to find work, Guru never worked out for me – it just never had the opportunities.
It has a better reputation than our two top picks, but we think that the lack of general opportunity is a reason to keep it out of our top slots.
People Per Hour
It’s true that People Per Hour connects people with freelance work on an hourly basis and for some freelancers, that’s a big deal.
However, it’s also true that their “opportunities” tend to be lower paid than on many other job boards and there are fewer opportunities than on the biggest player’s boards too.
They have a decent reputation for getting freelancers paid, which is very important but overall, we still think you can do better than People Per Hour.
Craigslist is a haven of wretched villainy at times and while it’s true that if you’re in a market that Craigslist serves you can find opportunities on there – it’s also true that you need to be very careful about how you conduct business or you will get ripped off.
This is not really Craigslist’s fault – it’s an online equivalent of the classified ads in the back of the newspaper. You read the job advert; you take your chances with the outcome.
You can definitely make money on Craigslist and it’s why it makes our big list, but it could never make the top of the list – the risk vs reward ratio is too far out of whack.
CloudPeeps is a more professional environment but you pay for it. It’s a subscription-based freelancing service. We’ve never worked with a CloudPeeps client nor paid for membership. It appears to be a good place to look if your professional experience matches the groups of people they hire.
We reviewed their pricing and membership plans and thought they looked like poor value for many people – if you expect to make $300 a month through them – they want $9/month, 10% of your revenue (from their client base – if you are daft enough to put your existing clients on their platform they only want 1% of that) and another 3% in transaction fees.
That is they want a total of $50 out of $300! That deal sucks in our humble opinion.
It’s also not going to be a good fit at all if you’re new to working.
You can also, if you work in design, sign up with Envato Studio. There you can sell your own creations or get hired as a freelancer to work on other people’s projects.
The good news is that it’s the biggest online marketplace of its kind and there’s a lot of work to be had. The bad news is that much of your competition is based in developing nations and willing to work for less money than you – this is, however, the reality of nearly all online freelance websites, so you might as well get used to it.
Fiverr: Our Top Pick For Those Freelancers New To Work
OK, Fiverr is fairly simple. As the name suggests you can work for $5 and provide a service to clients. In the early days – $5 was all you could earn but now, you can add as many services (at whatever price you like) as you want.
If you want to make larger sums, you need to pay to become a “professional” on the site, but basic use is free.
Fiverr, in our book, is the perfect place to get some experience doing small jobs – if you have had no experience before.
We think that it would be hard to base a digital nomad life on Fiverr earnings alone, but you have to start earning somewhere and when people are only risking a few bucks on your work – they’re more likely to trust a new person or a person without a significant reputation.
The best way to approach Fiverr is to study other people’s offerings and then make some samples in a similar style that can attract clients.
There does appear to be a group of freelancers making decent money on Fiverr nowadays but it concerns us that we’ve never met any of them in real life. They may be selling a dream more than a reality for experienced freelancers.
However, given the wide range of opportunities and the low barrier to entry – Fiverr is a great place to start work and freelancing at the same time.
Upwork was born out of the merger of Odesk and Elance. I used to do a lot of work on Elance, where I was one of the top 5 writers on the platform. I’ve done no work since the merger as I started doing more work with clients directly at that point.
I have always felt that Upwork was more of a reskin of Odesk than Elance and I don’t like the way it presents opportunities, freelancers or clients.
Having said that – it is massively better than Freelancer and other sites in two respects – the first is that while clients on Upwork won’t make you rich – there are clients who will pay a reasonable rate and the second is that apart from Freelancer, you won’t find a wider range of opportunities anywhere online.
If you use Upwork’s safety measures properly and have a decent portfolio – you should be able to earn a living on Upwork and you should be able to ensure that you get paid too.
For that reason, we think Upwork is the ideal place for an experienced worker to cut their teeth as a freelancer.
One Final Thing – Starting Points Are Not End Points
All of these platforms introduce you to clients that are not the highest paying, they all have scammers on their books too. Then they take a cut of your pay and another cut when it goes to the bank. They often want a monthly fee on top too.
That means that while starting a freelance career on these platforms is fine, in the long run – you should be learning the sales and marketing skills needed to find clients from other sources. This will make you wealthier and far more secure than online freelancing websites ever will.
Fiverr is our best site for new workers who want to freelance and Upwork our best site for those looking for their first freelance jobs with real work experience. However, in the longer-term we always recommend that you learn to sell yourself and win clients directly, it’s the best way to work.