There’s 100s of freelance sites out there. When you’re new, it can be overwhelming trying to sift through all of them to figure out which ones are actually going to get you clients and give new freelancers a fighting chance against all the established ones.
One of the things that annoys me about this topic is the articles you see with “73 Best Websites for Beginners” and that ilk. How does that help you any? Are you really going to apply to 73 different websites? So, I’m not going to do that.
In my opinion (and experience), these are the three freelance sites you should start with:
Now, let me explain why:
The first site that I recommend, the one I recommend you start with, is Fiverr. The reason why is it’s going to teach you how to create compelling service offers. The more that I do this, the more I’m convinced that Fiverr is the place to start.
It’s not because it’s the best platform or that you’ll necessarily even get a ton of work from it, although you could. It’s because it forces you to think about your services and learn things that will be critical to your success as a freelancer.
You’ll learn how to market your services as products
If you look at how Fiverr is built, you’re essentially offering micro-services that end up looking more like products. So, for example, I happened to be looking at podcast art the other day on Fiverr and all the people offering those services are presumably graphic designers.
That’s ultimately what they’re doing. But what they’re offering is podcast art. So they’re doing graphic design and it’s a service, but it looks more like a product. And positioning your services as products is the key to making more money as a freelancer.
Making more per project.
Being happier because you’re being asked to do all these crazy things.
So it just makes life a heck of a lot easier, as a freelancer, when you learn how to sell micro services as products. So that’s the first thing about Fiverr.
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You’ll learn how to upsell your services
If you’re not familiar, the original premise of Fiverr was you could pay $5 for some sort of core service. And then, you can pay extra for certain add-ons. Now it’s changed a little bit because now you can charge more than $5 for the core service.
But it still operates in a similar way.
It’s core service plus add-ons. Now this forces you to break down the services you’re offering and understand what the core offering is, understand what your upsells are and what they’re worth, and understand what the “features” of your service are.
The way Fiverr is set up, it forces you to think all this through. And, it helps you figure out the kind of things that people want from you as a service provider. And by doing this, you’re just going to be much better at crafting compelling offers and much more able to put offers together that people naturally want. Where you don’t have to do a ton of selling, because your offering is so spot on.
And, again, Fiverr naturally forces you to do this with how the site is built.
You’ll learn how to deliver
The last thing then that I like about Fiverr and why I think you start here is delivery. One of the questions I get asked a lot is: how do you get experience without experience? How do you get good at delivering and doing good job for clients without first getting clients?
And, it is a catch 22.
But, the way through that is you start with smaller, more well defined projects with a really strict scope. Fiverr forces you to do that. And, what happens is you don’t get in over your head while you learn to interact and deliver for clients.
It gives you a safe space to learn how to be a freelancer and learn how to deal with clients and learn how to deliver and do good work.
For all those reasons (and there’s several more) I think you should start on Fiverr.
Fiverr is also a great research tool. Even if you’re not going ever offer services on Fiverr, it’s a really great place for you to reasearch. Look up a particular service or topic, look at what others in that niche are offering for core products and services — especially the top listed gigs, the ones that are top rated or have the most purchases, etc.
Look at those and see what they’re offering as their core services.
That will give you a good idea of what people in that niche are really looking for. And if you really want to go on a deep dive, then hire those people and get a feel for how they deliver, so you can get some sense of what people in that that niche actually want.
Once you’ve been on Fiverr a while, then I recommend you head over to Upwork. I’m going to get pushback on this, but eventually you’ll want to move into larger, higher, paying jobs. And as of right now, Upwork is still the largest freelancing platform out there to do that.
The thing about Upwork is it’s competitive. No question. So, once you’re in, you do have to compete. And that’s the main reason why you want to go to Upwork next. Yes, access to the larger jobs, the higher paying jobs, the ones with the high revenue ceilings on them; but also to teach you how to compete with the big boys and girls out there and how to deliver on big projects.
You’ve done the micro services over on Fiverr and you’ve learned how to deliver there. Now it’s time to take that next step and get those big projects. And it’s going to teach you how to compete for those and how things are different when you start bidding on bigger jobs.
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The nice thing, for you, is if you do go to Fiverr first and you spend some time over there and you build up a clientele and all that, then you’ll have a client history; you’ll have a portfolio; you’ll have some of those things to bring with you to Upwork which is going to make it easier to get approved on Upwork and also start getting clients there.
That’s why I think of this as a process, because one builds on the other and makes the next step easier for you.
Now just as a quick aside here. If you’d like to get a leg up, I do teach a course on Upwork which the #1 freelancing course on all of Skillshare. It shows you how to build your profile, how to bid on jobs, how to get work outside of Upwork. And it’s all in the context of understanding that Upwork is an algorithm-driven platform. It’s like a search engine in that sense. So, I show you how those algorithms work so that you can rank higher from the beginning, you can stand out better, and you can get more work. Anyway you can get no cost access of the course on Skillshare. Just go to upwork101.com to learn more about the course, see all the reviews, and then also get that link for no cost access. Again that’s upwork101.com.
Finally, the last site or type of site that I recommend is Toptal or something like it. We’ll talk about that in the second. But, Toptal is a curated platform. So they don’t just let anyone in. In fact, Toptal specifically boast that they only let in the top 3 percent of talent and they do have a very rigorous and picky application process.
I happen to be an affiliate for them. So I can see when people apply to be a member of Toptal through my affiliate link and how many of those get approved. And it’s very, very few that actually get approved. So they do have a very picky application process.
But, the thing about these sites is they’re different from the open networks. The open networks are easy to get in but more competitive once you’re in. These ones are a lot harder to get in, but once you’re in, you’re “in the club” and it becomes a lot less competitive.
Plus, they work with you more to try to help you get work. So, if you can get in… even just one site like this can be all you need for your freelance career. This could be the one thing that you do if you can get in.
With that said, the reason I say Toptal or something similar is Toptal tends to be oriented towards tech and the financial world. So, it has a specific niche in that sense and that may not be the kind of freelancing that you’re doing.
If so, you just want to find another one; but what you’re looking for is a curated freelancing site. There’s several of them out there and there’s probably ones in your niche that I don’t even know about. Just do some looking out there for curated platforms and a lot of times you’ll be able to find some.
My pro tip with curates sites is research, research, research. It seems like a lot of people go into this and they underestimate what the application process is going to be like. It’s not good enough to be a good freelancer if you’re want to get on Toptal
You can be a really good freelancer and not be in that top 3 percent. So, you really have to go into this being prepared for what the application process is going to be like and the way that you do that is to research. Try to find out as much about the application process and what it takes to be successful before you apply. I know Toptal specifically you can find posts out there from people who applied and have been rejected and people who applied and have been accepted. That information is out there.
So, research as much of that as possible before you apply so that you can have some idea of what you’re going to need to do going into the application process. It’s worth it to go through that extra work because once you’re in, like I said, that could be everything that you need for your freelance career.
So, do the research and don’t just think, “Oh, I’m a stud on Upwork or Freelancer or whatever. I’m a great freelancer. So I’m good”. The sites are extremely picky and they’re looking for reasons to exclude you, not the other way around. Be prepared for that.
So, that’s my thoughts on the best freelancing sites out there for beginners. Fiverr, move into an open platform like Upwork, and then ultimately try to get into a curated platform like Toptal or something else. That’s the route that I would recommend in order to grow your career and grow your talent and learn things in the right order — in a way that’s going to set you up to be successful as a freelancer, long-term.
Now, that you have this down, check out this article on the highest-paying freelance jobs to help you figure out what services you might want to offer.