Freelance work is a form of self-employment, where an individual takes on contract work for a company or client. Often referred to as “contractors,” freelancers are not employees of any individual company and may work independently for several companies or clients at one time. Freelance work offers more flexible work arrangements, including remote work, and can help business owners control their schedule, workload, and income.
Finding a quality freelance site to book contract work includes understanding what types of jobs are available, the types of clients using the platform, how freelancers get paid, and the fees involved. The best freelance sites offer simple-to-use tools, quick payment, transparent pricing, and security for both the buyer and seller.
Best Overall : Upwork
Over $2 billion in revenue earned in 2020 by freelancers
Large selection of professional industries to choose from
Easy-to-use platform with a dashboard to keep jobs organized
Easy to get paid
High fees, up to 20% of earnings
Highly competitive, especially for beginners
Many low-paying jobs
Upwork is one of the largest freelance marketplaces around, with freelancers bringing in over $2 billion in revenue in 2020 alone. Upwork started in 2015 as the merger between freelance marketplaces Elance and O-Desk. With millions of freelancers and clients on the website, Upwork is the largest freelance marketplace in the world.
Upwork has freelance jobs for almost every industry, including finance, IT, design and creative, sales and marketing, writing, translation services, and more. Upwork works with some of the top companies in the world including Microsoft, Airbnb, and GoDaddy.
Upwork offers many types of jobs such as one-time, fixed-payment projects, hourly, and ongoing engagements. Billing and payments are handled on your Upwork dashboard, making it easy to get paid. Upwork also offers payment protection, with hours logged in your dashboard for hourly work, and fixed-fee jobs paid within 14 days if the client does not approve or request an update on work submitted.
To get started with Upwork, you can sign up for a free account, fill out your profile, upload a resume and some samples of your work, and start browsing for jobs. You can apply for jobs within the platform quickly and track them through your dashboard.
Upwork makes it easy to find work but may be difficult for beginners to land their first gig. With a large number of freelancers competing, standing out may be a challenge, especially if you don’t have prior experience and are still building out your portfolio.
Upwork also charges hefty fees for smaller gigs. The fees are taken directly from the revenue earned (per client), and are based on lifetime earnings on a sliding scale (note that fees decrease as lifetime earnings increase):
- $0–$500: 20%
- $500.01–$10,000: 10%
- $10,000.01 or more: 5%
Despite the higher fees, Upwork makes it easy to get started and has a huge selection of jobs to choose from. It’s the one-stop-shop of freelance jobs sites, with access to almost every freelance gig imaginable.
Best for Graphic Design : 99designs
- Fees: $100 client introductory fee, 5%–15% platform fee, 3% payment fee
- No. of Payment Methods: 2
- No. of Industries: 7
Easy-to-use platform for submitting designs
Client contests and 1:1 work available
Lower fees for higher-quality designers
High fees for design contest work
May not get paid when submitting to a contest
Payment only available through PayPal or Payoneer (3% fee or more)
99designs is a competition-based freelance design marketplace where clients create an online design contest, allowing freelance designers to submit a design for review. Submissions are reviewed by the 99designs client who is holding the designed contest, and after the contest has ended, the client picks a winner, awarding the designer with payment for the design. 99designs also offers 1:1 client design work as well, matching clients with more complex projects with designers.
99designs is best-suited for graphic and web designers that have experience building websites, logos, clothing, and other marketing designs. Contest-based designs are a quick way to compete for a job, but may not get you paid.
Working 1:1 with a client guarantees payment, but may come with a few hefty fees, specifically a $100 client introductory fee and up to 15% platform fee taken from your project revenue. Fees are taken directly from the revenue earned and are based on your design tier on a sliding scale:
- Entry: 15% platform fee
- Mid: 10% platform fee
- Top: 5% platform fee
99designs offers payment protection by collecting payment for any projects before the contest or 1:1 work has started. The payments are held in “escrow” and funds are released to the designer after project work is completed. If the client becomes unresponsive after work is complete, the designer can request payment, and will automatically receive project funds after a five-day waiting period if the client does not respond.
Billing and payments are handled on your 99designs dashboard, but payments are only available through PayPal and Payoneer. These platforms take an additional 3% cut or your revenue, so make sure to account for those fees as well when pricing your services.
To get started with 99designs, you can sign up for a free designer account, fill out your profile, upload a resume and some samples of your work, and start browsing for jobs. You can choose to enter a design contest or look for 1:1 client work as well.
Best for IT : FlexJobs
Quickly find freelance jobs with powerful search engine
Multiple types of IT jobs available
Jobs are highly-vetted
Monthly fee even if you don’t find a job
No payment guarantee
Must negotiate rates
Flexjobs is an online job board for remote workers and has a steady stream of freelance IT work available in multiple industries. Founded in 2007 to help workers find better work-from-home jobs, it has grown into one of the top marketplaces for remote work.
FlexJobs offers access to traditional full-time jobs but with a few clicks, you can quickly filter to search only for freelance jobs. While FlexJobs covers a huge variety of job categories (including finance, design, writing, and more), they have several hundred job listings specifically for freelance work in computer and IT jobs. FlexJobs prides itself on its vetting process, only listing highly-qualified jobs to avoid low-paying gigs and scams. In fact, FlexJobs spends over 200 hours a day vetting jobs, researching companies, and ensuring that scammy jobs do not show up in its listings.
Instead of charging a per-job fee like most freelance marketplaces, FlexJobs charges a monthly fee for access to job listings. The fee schedule is as follows:
- One-week trial: $6.95
- One month: $14.95
- Three months: $29.95
- One year: $49.95
Since FlexJobs does not manage the freelance job for you, payment details are all negotiated directly with the client, including the total amount to be paid and payment method.
If you are an IT professional looking for freelance, remote work, you can sign up for a FlexJobs account and begin building your profile and applying for jobs right away.
Best for Writers : Freelance Writing Gigs
Browse and apply for jobs without paying a fee
Writing jobs in a wide variety of industries
Curated to only post high-quality writing gigs
Small selection of jobs to choose from
Very limited search filters available
Freelance Writing Gigs started as a blog for writer Deb Ng and expanded to include a writing job board. Job posters pay a fee to list their jobs, but freelance writers can browse and apply to the jobs for free. Writing gigs include blogging, copywriting, editing, and other writing tasks.
While Freelance Writing Gigs vets the jobs posted and keeps the quality of the listing high, this means there are very few to select from. At any given time, there may be fewer than 100 jobs available. The website also includes helpful content about building a freelance writing career, including how to land jobs, build a portfolio, and raise your rates.
Since Freelance Writing Jobs does not manage the freelance job for you, payment details are all negotiated directly with the client including the total amount to be paid and payment method.
Best for Low Fees : Craigslist
One of the largest job boards in the world
No job fees
Highly-local jobs available
Be wary of scams
No freelancer protections offered
Filters to your local area only, need to search other locals for more remote work opportunities
Craigslist was founded in 1995 and has grown into one of the largest online marketplaces in the world. While many know it for buying and selling items, Craigslist has a large job board where users can find remote work and freelance jobs. There are no fees to browse Craigslist for jobs and apply for them.
Craigslist is available in over 70 countries and has jobs posted in over 30 industries. As one of the most visited websites in the U.S, Craigslist boasts high visibility for job postings. Craigslist is designed for showing users hyper-local job listings and freelancers can quickly browse a large range of freelance jobs in their local area.
Craigslist charges clients to post job ads but does not charge anything for browsing. However, job postings are not well-vetted, and Craigslist is known for scams so make sure you do your research before agreeing to work with a client or sending any personal information.
Craigslist does not require any special sign-ups, and users can browse job listings at will. Remember, Craigslist is hyper-local and will automatically show you jobs in your local area. If you want to cast a wider net for remote work, you will need to browse other cities for other freelance remote work.
Best for Beginners : Fiverr
No sign-up or monthly fees
Slick website and mobile app
Multiple pricing options for freelancers
0% withdrawal fees through PayPal
High fees for sellers (20%)
14-day holding period on payments
Fiverr was founded in 2010 as a place for freelancers to sell their services for as little as $5. It has grown into a huge online marketplace that boasts over 50 million transactions, with an average of four new jobs hired per second.
Fiverr is a great platform for beginners to build a portfolio of work. Signing up is simple, and freelancers can quickly build a profile and add portfolio work to impress future clients. You can post your “gigs,” which are the services you offer, with several price points for each. Fiverr also boasts the ability to create service packages, bundling your individual services together for a higher price point, increasing your revenue potential.
Fiverr handles all payments but takes a sizable 20% cut of all your earnings. This is on the higher side of freelance platforms, but for beginners, it may be worth it for the visibility that Fiverr offers. Fiverr also offers basic payment protection, refunding any payments that were subjected to chargeback fraud.
To get started with Fiverr, you can sign up for a free account, fill out your profile, upload a resume, and some samples of your work. You can then put together a list of gigs for clients to choose from and start booking freelance work.
Building a book of business as a freelancer can feel overwhelming, but these online platforms help you get organized and advertise your services to paying clients. Upwork is our top provider, with a huge network of clients and freelance jobs in a wide variety of industries. Also, the more work you book with a client, the lower the platform fees.
Sites like Craigslist, Freelance Writing Gigs, and FlexJobs give freelancers access to direct jobs listings, avoiding the costly project fees, and allowing for direct access to your clients. This may be a desirable route if you want to develop a long-term business relationship with a client and book larger projects over time. And if you simply want to get started with a few freelance projects, you can dip your toes in with a 99designs contest, or create a simple Fiverr gig quickly.
No matter what type of freelance gig you are looking for, always make sure to compare platforms and their fees to build a business that fits your financial and lifestyle goals.
Compare the Best Places to Find Freelance Work Online
|Company||Fees||Payment Methods (#)||Industries (#)||Worker Payment Protection|
|5%–20%, based on lifetime billings per client||7||6||Yes|
Best for Graphic Design
|$100 client introductory fee, 5%–15% platform fee, 3% payment fee||2||7||Yes|
Best for IT
|$4.95–$49.95 recurring fee||Varies||80||No|
|Freelance Writing Gigs
Best for Writers
Best for Low Fees
Best for Beginners
Guide for Choosing the Best Places to Find Freelance Work Online
Are Freelance Websites Worth It?
Freelance websites are a great starting point for any freelance career. Most freelancers start off offering their services on the side, and these platforms help do the heavy lifting of marketing, displaying your skills, and finding paying clients for you.
However, once you have an established portfolio of paying client work, you may want to navigate away from the high-fee freelance sites and look to build your own roster of clients.
Comparing Places to Find Freelance Work
When looking for freelance work, there are dozens of places to choose from. Even with our curated list of top sites, there are several important factors to consider when comparing freelance sites:
- Fees: The fees charged can have a big impact on your bottom line. Make sure to understand how the fees will impact your revenue, and if the pay rate is worth the fees you are charged.
- Industries: Some sites cover a wide range of industries, but others are more niche. Consider what industry you are focused on and whether the platform you are considering has quality gigs available in that niche.
- Ease of use: You want to use a platform that makes it simple to set up your profile, build a portfolio, and promote your services. Look for services like auto-matching of gigs as well as the ability to promote yourself within the platform to find better jobs.
- Worker protection: Job scams are real. Finding a high-quality freelance platform can help save you the headache of working for a non-paying client and protect your compensation. Many platforms charge clients up front and hold your payment in escrow to protect both the client and freelancer.
As always, do your due diligence before committing to any paying gigs on a freelance platform.
Applying for Your First Gig Through Freelance Websites
Getting started with freelance can be the hardest part. It’s best to start by building a professional-looking profile on your chosen platform, uploading details and samples of any recent work, and promoting yourself on social media platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn.
Booking your first gig may be difficult as many of the platforms are based on user rating systems, so look for a low-cost, simple gig to start building your reputation quickly. As you gain skills and endorsements, you can continue offering higher-quality services and raising your prices over time to build your business.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Find Well-Paying Gigs Using Places to Find Freelance Work Online?
While many popular freelance sites (such as Fiverr) offer low-paying jobs to clients, there are many opportunities to find higher-paying gigs. The key is to build your portfolio, get quality user reviews, and continue to raise your prices over time. If you are a highly skilled freelancer, you can also filter out lower-paying gigs on most platforms and find $1,000+ jobs to apply for. You may need references to get the highest-paying gigs, but that comes with time and continuing to deliver excellent results to clients.
What Are the Costs Involved With Places to Find Freelance Work Online?
While some freelance sites are free to use, others are full-service platforms that charge from 5% to 20% of your earnings from the site. Others charge a monthly fee, ranging from $5 to $60 per month.
Are Places to Find Freelance Work Online Worth It for Extra Income?
Freelance sites can help you quickly earn some extra income on the side and build a portfolio of work that you can use to find higher-paying jobs. If your goal is to simply earn extra money while maintaining a day job, these platforms make it simple to find paying clients. If your goal is to become a full-time freelancer, these platforms offer a great starting point but you may be better served by finding higher-paying clients to work with directly.
We reviewed 22 freelance work websites to find the top platforms for freelance gigs. We chose our top sites based on the quality of the platform, reputation, number of industries supported, number of gigs available, fees, and more. We tried to find a selection of sites that cater to a wide range of freelancer skills and jobs, with varying pay ranges and requirements. While some of the selections don't charge a fee, we also included sites that charge a platform or monthly fee, thus offering higher-quality gigs for freelancers to choose from.