Work your way: Online destinations for freelance work
If you have a talent or skill, chances are someone out there it is interested in what you can do.
You could be an artist, coder, writer, social media operator, voice actor, video editor, marketing guru, administrative assistant, handyman, lawyer, engineer – the list goes on and on.
You’ve spent time refining your skillset, so why not increase your income avenues by selling those skills to a global customer base?
The good news is, there’s a near-limitless pool of opportunity available to Australians with a skill to sell.
Access to high speed internet is ensuring Australians are no longer hamstrung by geographical boundaries when selling their skills. You can market yourself to anybody, anywhere in the world.
Even better, to facilitate this new world of trade, a host of global online hubs have appeared that can act as a storefront for freelancers.
These hubs are destinations where you can showcase what you’ve got, find a buyer, negotiate a rate and begin working remotely.
In this article, we’ll explain the “why,” “how” and “where” of using internet access to help take your career and earning power to the next level as a freelancer for hire.
Why work as a freelancer online?
Traditionally, many Australians work nine to five, five days a week.
However, that expectation is being challenged by factors such as the arrival of the nbn™ network and accessible, fast internet.
From video conferencing to large file swapping to cloud-based co-working spaces, it may no longer be necessary to have a physical storefront in order to sell your wares.
In fact, you’re not even restricted to selling your wares in Australia!
Whether you want to go full freelance or simply supplement your income, selling your skills online could broaden your business opportunities. It could get you more experience, more runs on the board and more connections, all of which potentially equals more money in the bank account.
For any small business, or individual with an eye to starting a business in the future, these are huge benefits. You’re ultimately building a brand around your talent that could one day become big enough to fund your entire lifestyle.
Finding work as an online freelancer could also allow you to work on your own terms – to be your own boss. This means you can shift your working hours to suit the other important things in your life, such as children, sport or holidays. You can take as much or as little work as fits your lifestyle.
With greater access to fast broadband, freelancing online also allows you to stretch your customer base to almost anywhere in the world. Depending on your particular line of work, this can free you up from competing with likeminded Australians in a small local space flooded with talent.
Finally, and most importantly, it allows you to potentially get paid for doing something you love.
How does freelancing online work?
While each of the many centralised freelance hubs online – many of which are detailed below – have their own particular nuances, the core concept remains the same.
As a seller, you might create a portfolio on one (or many) of these websites. This showcases the work you are offering, your work mantra, previous examples of completed endeavours, customer testimonials, and your rates.
Often, freelancers will set up a number of portfolios that talk to specific niches. For example, an illustrator might have one profile as a logo creator, and another as a children’s book illustrator, to maximise their discoverability.
When a buyer arrives on the site, they can search for their needs or browse the various categories on offer. They will compare your profile and rates with others in your niche, and if they like what they see they might engage you.
Alternatively, a buyer might list what they need done and invite freelancers to bid for the job. This allows you to directly put your skills in front of the market as it emerges.
Depending on the job, initial contact might involve a form of interview in advance of locking in the work.
This might occur through an in-site messaging service, for example. You can discuss any technicalities and ensure that both parties are on the same page about the task that’s being set, any milestones and the amount being charged.
Once all is agreed, the job can be officialised and the buyer pays. The payment is often held by the website or service until the delivery of the work is complete and approved, at which time the money is transferred across.
Any international currency conversions are usually handled in this process – either by the holding site or PayPal – and in many cases the US dollar is used to create a standard playing field.
During this process, the hosting website will also often take a cut as the facilitator of the business exchange. That cut varies between sites, but is often between 10 and 20 per cent.
Some places to sell your skills
Here are five of the more popular online destinations for marketing and selling your skills:
Upwork: Previously known as Elance, Upwork is beginning to tier its offerings towards larger contract jobs, providing income opportunities to the best freelancers. You can be found by buyers browsing, or the site’s algorithm might show your profile to buyers based on their needs.
Freelancer: A mix of low and high contract offerings are available on this, one of the oldest freelancing sites. Freelancer retains the original model it set up years ago. However, it does allow live chat between freelancer and client.
Toptal: This site touts itself as dealing with the cream of the crop – “the top 3% of freelance talent.” Is that you? If you’re a major player in your industry already, as opposed to an up and comer, this could be a site to take a look at.
GoLance: One of the newest destinations in this field, GoLance is looking to differentiate itself by offering more personalised services to buyers and sellers. Somewhat untested, this site is worth keeping an eye on.
Fiverr: As its name suggests, this site allows you to sell jobs for just $5, but it scales. It weighs heavily on client reviews, and is more of a storefront than the other sites, where buyers are encouraged to browse for freelancers.