The online job market is one of the most useful tools the modern freelancer has for securing a steady workflow. In this post we explore what we believe are the best freelance websites, apps and job boards currently available to independent professionals of all specializations. We also detail important considerations relevant to each resource.
In a recent study commissioned by Freelancers Union, 69 percent of self-employed workers affirmed that new technology has made finding gigs easier. Freelance websites and job boards have blown open the gates to consistent and steadier income for non-traditional workers of many backgrounds.
But if anything, the modern freelancer has perhaps too many options! We have so many resources we can build profiles on, network within and pitch our services from that the self-employed professional faces some serious option paralysis out of the gate.
In response, we’ve once again updated our encompassing and critical list of best freelance websites and marketplaces for the independent contractor.
Exciting newcomers: The best new freelance websites
2017 is a very exciting year for new presences in the project-based market. The platforms below represent a new breed of more selective, seller-focused freelance marketplaces that bring fresh ideas and opportunities to a hungry talent pool. They may not be the biggest names on the scene, but that certainly isn’t all that counts! The best freelance websites in 2017 are the ones that offer innovation, specificity, fairness and quality to users on both sides of the aisle, and in that regard, the choices below definitely deliver. Don’t sleep on these!
“The one with the slick app”
Work Market is one of the new “for-everyone” project markets we’re most excited about. The platform boasts gig offerings for a very wide array of disciplines and is one of the few freelance websites that currently offers a responsive mobile app (Work On-Demand) for browsing projects on the go and processing payments right at the close of projects — regardless of whether the client ultimately pays for the work (for a small fee).
“The lightning rod”
Coworks is a freelance marketplace that allows creatives to showcase their portfolios in the public sphere, much like they would on LinkedIn, but instead of collecting generic recruiter messages, they’re matched up with gig opportunities that fit their distinct abilities and preferences by Coworks’ recruiters. The 12% commission rate is also competitive within the industry.
Businesses can directly approach freelancers with curated project proposals that they can either accept or pass along to friends. And heads up on the referrals — according to their website, the average referral bonus is $1500.
“The steady stream”
No proposals; just an application — this is the general idea behind Konsus. As many of us who have used freelance websites and job boards in the past can more than attest to, applying for project after project can be exhausting and drain us of the time and energy we need to actually do the work we’re hired for.
Konsus gets the vetting step over with right at the beginning of the membership process and then affords approved applicants (which the site claims to be a slim 2 percent) a steady stream of project opportunities they can claim as many of as they like, whenever they choose.
It’s a novel idea and one that offers a potential solution to an issue freelancers have dealt with now for many years. One caveat, however, is that Konsus uses fixed hourly prices that cannot be adjusted.
“Payment AND equity”
Ever imagine that you could do freelance projects online in exchange for pay and equity in clients’ companies? It’s a pretty interesting idea to say the least.
Entrepreneurs often lament the lack of “skin-in-the-game” freelancers can seem to have with their work, and freelancers often feel excluded from the inner-workings of their clients’ businesses and their large-scale successes.
“The freelance marketplace — free of fees”
Hubstaff Talent is a relatively new freelance website that offers a unique vision of fairer compensation and greater time accountability to the independent contractor.
Some distinguishing features of the platform are their strict no-commission fee policy for their talent and their transparent time tracking model.
Hubstaff Talent uses their own screenshot monitoring system that their clients can check in on whenever they like. If you’re not familiar with this kind of time tracking model, make sure you know what to expect so your clients don’t catch you checking Facebook on the clock!
“The creative’s sanctuary”
High quality clients . . . no commission fee on payments . . . do we have your attention? Working Not Working lives by their mission statement — “WNW was started by creatives and we look after our kind.”
This invite-only freelance marketplace is a slick and impressive-looking project board that grants its thoroughly vetted 10 percent of applicants access to a number of perk-laden projects with no “behind the scenes” costs.
Working Not Working is highly selective, but well-worth the effort if you have a portfolio that you feel speaks for itself.
“The talent swap”
Simbi is a little different from the rest — while it will not “rake in the bucks” for you so to speak, the new “talent as currency” marketplace offers members an interesting twist on the standard job board or Craigslist outsourcing.
Simbi lets users freely trade services with each other or opt to pay for work with Simbi credits. Need some things updated on your website? Design a couple logos for a developer. Need some tuba lessons? Make a t-shirt quilt! It’s pretty darn cool.
You get 100 Simbi credits when you join and offer a service (if you couldn’t tell — it can be as obscure as you like!).
(Collaborizm) “The Craigslist of Collaboration”
Collaborizm is wild — and wild in a good way. It’s a public collaboration board for creatives, engineers and entrepreneurs.
Anyone can post projects ranging from app development, to game design, to robotics work, and freelancers across the globe can claim specific roles in the given project (at the creator’s discretion). Collaborators can be paid in either money or equity in the project.
There’s some pretty cool stuff going on here. It isn’t all paid work (you’ll find a lot of passion projects in the mix), but for freelancers looking to get their hands in some cutting-edge creative work, Collaborizm is really worth looking into.
Sorry Apple users, Collaborizm’s app is only available for Android at the moment.
The best freelance websites for industry-specific searches
Many of the cool, new faces in the online project market are industry-specific. Freelancers, especially in design and web development fields, have long bemoaned the treachery of spec work, and with good reason — it can all too often result in a lot of work for no pay . . .
These freelance websites offer compelling alternatives to talent contests by delivering higher quality projects to smaller pools of thoroughly-vetted freelancers, in addition to a multitude of new ways for them to creatively sell their services.
For Designers and Web Developers:
“The exclusive club”
Toptal in the last few years has become one of the undisputed heavy-hitters on the elite talent front. If you aren’t familiar with this “cream of the crop” freelance marketplace, Toptal accepts only the top three percent of applicants in the web development, design, consulting and finance fields.
Following an extremely rigorous vetting process, the platform hooks up the worthy three percent with some very lucrative and sophisticated projects for many resume-boosting companies.
One could make a compelling argument that Toptal is the best freelance website on the market (however exclusive it might be). If you think you have what it takes, get your application in there!
“The online craft fair”
We agree wholeheartedly — spec work sucks. The design contest model is great for businesses, but pretty crappy for frelancers. While it is possible to repurpose elements of rejected deliverables, it often amounts to free work, and many hours worth, at that.
Designs.net offers a simple, but fairer alternative to the iffy model: you post your design products — whether themes, templates, fonts, or many other offerings — at whatever price you fancy — and sell your goods to their expansive client base.
The 25-to-30 percent commission is not insignificant but beats the fees many other design marketplaces charge (up to 40 percent — yikes!).
“Moving beyond the design contest”
Soply is a rising name in the freelance marketplace niche, and it’s another refreshing deviation from the familiar high-risk, high-competition model mentioned above.
As in real life, buyers create project briefs and hire photographers, videographers, illustrators, and animators based on the quality of their portfolio work, rather than a sea of spec contributions.
Per industry standard, Soply takes a 15% commission on hired work.
For Writers, Editors and Translators
“The exclusive club (for writers)”
You might be wondering: is there a Toptal for writers? Scripted is a newer talent market geared towards high-caliber writers of many specialties. The dynamics of web design and writing are different enough that making a direct parallel here between the two isn’t quite on point, but Scripted does offer a very steady flow of available projects for many notable clients to the two percent of vetted writers that make their cut — much in the vein of Konsus’ model mentioned above.
“The everything-writing marketplace”
Looking for something a little more open? TextMaster is a good place to explore, especially for translators and editors. The site uses a fixed price per-word model, and while there can be drawbacks to this, it does help insure that scammy flat-rate articles and lowest price bidders are kept at bay.
“The branded content hub” (also for writers)
Skyword’s unique angle on the freelance website niche is their focus on content marketing for noteworthy clients, including Fortune 1000 companies. They also work with an unusual talent pool — videographers and writers.
In spite of the impressive clientele and high earning potential for many of their gigs, the platform is not closed off to casual creatives who simply want to put themselves out there and explore the marketplace.
Once a freelancer has submitted a portfolio, Skyword’s community management team assesses the work and recommends prime candidates for a second, more-thorough vetting process that unlocks more consistent work on the site and projects for Skyword’s elite clients.
Needless to say — if you want to reap the maximum benefit of using Skyword, a top-notch portfolio is virtually a necessity.
“The camera and video marketplace”
While killer photo and video work are more in demand than ever before, it can be mighty difficult to find work in the online realm. Very few freelance websites give honest consideration to these very hands-on disciplines.
Smartshoot specializes in this underdeveloped corner of the talent market. With no membership fees and ties to big brands like Yelp, Airbnb and Groupon, Smartshoot is a worthwhile resource for those of us who live our lives through the lens.
“Fashion, photography, and forward-thinkers”
If you’re a fashion photographer, you know you’re a different breed from your generalist peers. You need your own outlet to find the right clients and connections for your career.
The Swipecast app aims to service these unique needs for the freelance fashion photographer, model, hair stylist, and makeup artist. High-brow, risqué, and artistic are the house rules here.
Most users spend some time on the waiting list, but it’s worth putting your name in the queue if this niche speaks to you. Swipecast charges a modest 10% commission fee.
“The chef’s marketplace”
Other freelance websites leaving you hungry? This might be the dish you’ve been looking for. CookUnity is one of the first of its kind — a platform that connects foodies with any number of restaurant-quality chefs who either want to pick up some work on the side or build a name for themselves independently.
You might think of this as the indi version of Blue Apron. People can join as either employed chefs or amateurs who “can cook amazing food.” CookUnity takes a 15% commission on transactions.
The Big Ones (you probably know):
When you think of freelance websites, these are probably the heavy-hitters that come to mind. Most of these marketplaces have been around for many years and have very active buyer and seller bases. There’s a lot of competition, but also a lot of work to go around for freelancers that make the extra effort to stand out from the pack.
“The basic utilities”
With over 10 million users, 3 million jobs posted annually and 1 billion dollars worth of work done each year, Upwork is one of the biggest freelance websites around. Users search for desirable gigs and bid on them with a competitive rate (paired with their qualifications, which potential clients assess). After a member secures and completes a job, Upwork takes its variable commission and the client pays the freelancer’s hourly fee or project rate.
The site features an intuitive and well-organized user interface and communication system as well as a relatively high number of hourly gigs and various certification tests that are free to all users.
However, there are some limitations to Upwork as a free user, such as a finite number of application bids per month, which can be expanded via the $10 monthly fee. Customer service can also be somewhat slow when handling inquiries and there can be a bit of lag in their payment processing.
Be wary of, but do not get discouraged by, bottom-dweller clients looking to get hard work done for pennies on the dollar. Don’t give them the time of day.
“The á la carte menu”
Freelancer is a longstanding and respected presence in the online project market, as well as one of Upwork’s biggest competitors.
The veteran freelance board offers a wider resource base (15 million users, 7.4 million annual jobs, 2.2 billion dollars in work done yearly), but at a few costs. Freelancer is more limited in its free features than Upwork, and it offers users premium plans that range up to $199 annually. Despite its greater reach, there is also far more competition for jobs, with many independent workers competing from international territories.
Freelancer’s commission sits at 10 percent.
“The wise old sage (who’s a little past his prime …)”
Here’s another very solid platform that uses the familiar bid system. Guru is a bit smaller than the aforementioned job aggregators but still has a fairly high ratio of candidates to gigs — meaning quite a bit of competition.
While the site’s job notification features and general ease of use are great, you might have to look a little harder to find the right gigs that really bring in the cash. Conversely, Guru’s commission is below average and varies from 8.95% to 4.95% depending on the user’s membership level.
“The pay-per-view option”
Paying just to explore job listings leaves a bad taste in the mouths of many freelancers, but as far as monthly subscriptions go, Flexjobs can give you some significant bang for your buck.
Depending on your plan, the monthly cost can range from a high of $15, to a low of just $5 — if you take the yearly subscription. The average listing is higher quality than those on many comparable websites, and the robust search features let you preview the gig offerings before committing to a subscription.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that not all listings on Flexjobs are telecommute. If this matters to you (it probably does if you’re a 1099-er!), then make sure you specify this in your searches.
“The Uber of freelancing”
In this case, the Speedlancer brand actually uses our description!
Speedlancer takes a lot of the time-consuming processing out of freelancing by offering clients discrete services at predetermined rates. Speedlancer’s unique hook is that their workers complete many of their services within just a few hours. The fast, streamlined system works well, but gives members limited control over their pricing.
“The packaged service”
PeoplePerHour is a bit more traditional in its format — a huge lot of jobs are up for grabs across numerous professions and skill levels (entry level, intermediate, expert), and freelancers can pitch their rate and services to whomever they please. Pitches are generally limited to 15 a month, with freemium credits available for purchase.
“Hourlies” are where things really get interesting, though. You can think of these as packaged services much like those sold on Fiver, except you can promote them to a client base that will be open to paying you a lot more than five-bucks a pop.
The commission rate comes in at an agreeable 15%.
Get out there!
Phew! Quite a few freelance marketplaces out there, aren’t there?
2017 is a new year to explore exciting uncharted territory in your solo career — if you’ve been put off of freelance websites by the massive scale, rigid rules, or intense competition many of them have, give some of the new options above a shot and let us know what you think of them! Do you have any favorites we missed, or an experience with one that you would like to share? Let us know in the comments below!
Ben Shanbrom is a freelance writer, musician, and copy editor who works with artists and clients within his native New Haven scene and well beyond (ask him about tracking drums in the studio where Europe recorded “The Final Countdown”). Ben is a tried and true “coffee rings on his notepad” freelancer, and wouldn’t have it any other way.