Sick and Tired of Freelance Job Sites? Do This Instead
What to Do Instead of Using Freelance Job Sites
Freelance job sites like Upwork, fiver, and LinkedIn ProFinder can suck the life out of your freelance business. You have to compete against thousands of other freelancers and pay a fee for every job you get. Here’s a better way to get the clients you deserve.
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
Like mosquitos after a rainstorm, freelance job sites are springing up everywhere. Both are dangerous—and both suck. Mosquitos suck your blood and can carry deadly diseases like Zika virus and West Nile virus. Freelance job sites like Upwork, fiver, and LinkedIn ProFinder can suck the life out of your freelance business.
Because once you start relying on freelance job sites, you stop looking for better ways to find clients.
Why Freelance Job Sites Suck
On one freelance job site, I found a freelance medical writer who charges $10 an hour for web content. I’m a freelance medical writer too, but I make more than 12 times that much for the same type of work. And in 24 years, none of my clients has ever complained about my fees.
A graphic designer on fiverr was charging $5 to design 2 logos in 12 hours. Even his “premium” prices were ridiculously low: $95 for 5 logos, unlimited revisions, stationary, and social media covers in 2 days. I paid my designer much more than that for logo design, and considered it a bargain. And my freelance business is much smaller than most of the clients freelancers work with.
Can You Afford to Lose More than 100k on Freelance Job Sites?
Even if you don’t mind the low pay on most freelance job sites–and you should mind–there’s stiff competition for every freelance gig. You could be competing against thousands of other freelancers, and wasting lots of time and energy trying to develop compelling proposals for each one.
And you have to pay to be on most freelance job sites. Upwork, the giant of freelance job sites, has fees ranging from 5% to 20%. Giving Upwork 5% of your fee may not sound too bad—but to reach the 5% level, you need to do more than $10,000 worth of business—with each client.
Let me simplify the math:
If you land a $1,000 project with a new client on Upwork
Then Upwork takes 20% for the first $500 you make and 10% for the second $500.
So you just lost $150, or 15% of your fee.
Freelance job sites shrink your income
If you get all of your freelance work from freelance job sites, then you’re going to lose a lot of money.
25 years of freelancing
Annual income of $50,000
As a result of relying on freelance job sites, over the years about $125,000 will go to them instead of into your pocket or bank account. That’s a lot of money.
Why LinkedIn ProFinder Sucks Too
LinkedIn ProFinder, launched in 2016 and part of the number one social network for business, should be a great way for freelancers to connect with clients.
But it’s not.
After I published “8 Steps to Captivating Clients on LinkedIn” on the Freelancers Union blog, the folks from LinkedIn contacted me to tell me that while they loved my post, it was missing “a valuable piece of information . . . our freelancing platform LinkedIn ProFinder.”
LinkedIn ProFinder is the only freelance job site that I’ve ever signed up for. I did this not to find clients—because I have a much better way of doing that—but to see how it worked.
And I found out that it doesn’t. Like other freelance job sites, LinkedIn ProFinder sucks.
The freelance opportunities are never relevant to my work and they’re only in my geographic area.
I’m a freelance medical writer. Even though the headline of my LinkedIn profile starts with “Freelance Medical Writer,” all of the notices LinkedIn sends me are outside of medical writing. One notice was for web content for a wood cabinet-maker. Another was blog writing for a donut maker. If you can find a link between medical writing and wood cabinets or donuts, let me know.
Since freelancers can work for clients located anywhere, the geographic restriction makes no sense.
After I heard from the folks at LinkedIn, I decided to ask around and see if other freelancers were having better experiences with ProFinder than I was.
LinkedIn ProFinder isn’t relevant
Through discussions in several LinkedIn groups, I found out that other freelancers were also getting notices about freelance gigs that weren’t relevant and were only in their geographic area.
Several freelancers who submitted proposals had bad experiences when the client called, usually because the client didn’t want to pay the fee cited in the proposal.
After you submit 10 proposals through ProFinder, you need a premium business subscription to keep using the service. The cheapest premium business subscription is $47.99 a month, or just under $576 a year.
If the leads were relevant and the clients knew the value of working with freelancers, then $576 a year might be reasonable. In its current state, LinkedIn ProFinder is a waste of money.
Learn about the experiences of 3 freelancers on LinkedIn ProFinder
Millions of Freelancers CAN be Wrong
So now you know that freelance job sites can:
- Shrink your income
- Shatter your confidence
- Threaten your survival as a freelancer.
Despite these dangers to income and self-esteem, millions of freelancers rely on freelance job sites to find freelance work.
The reason why is that most freelancers never have a chance to learn about marketing. This isn’t your fault.
Marketing isn’t taught in college majors like journalism or graphic design. And at work, you focus on building skills in your field. Maybe:
- You don’t know what to do to get great clients.
- What you’ve tried hasn’t worked and you don’t want to waste any more time.
- There are so many marketing options that it’s overwhelming.
- You hate “selling” yourself.
So the easy access of freelance job sites to freelance work may seem like just what you need.
But it’s not.
A Better Way to Find Freelance Work than Freelance Job Sites
There’s a better way to get more freelance work than freelance job sites.
What I’m going to tell you about now made me a 6-figure freelancer within 18 months of starting my business. Every freelancer can do it, as long as you’re willing to put in the time and effort.
If you are, you’ll be able to find clients who pay what you’re worth, treat you right, and give you repeat freelance work. You’ll be able to create a stable, successful freelance business.
My proven process is based on choosing your ideal clients, and using direct email to get their attention and persuade them to hire you. It lets you take control of your freelance business—instead of taking whatever work comes along.
Choosing Your Ideal Clients and Freelance Work
It starts by making a list of the clients that you want to work with where you can do the type of freelance work you want to do. Choose:
- Clients in industries where your background, experience, and skills make you the right choice for them
- Businesses and large organizations, which usually understand the value of freelancers and can pay us what we’re worth.
Professional associations are the easiest way to find your ideal clients. Membership directories let you quickly find organizations to target and give you everything you need to reach out to them: the name of the right contact person (your prospect) and his/her contact information.
You can also build a strong network through professional associations, and get more referrals–the easiest way to build a freelance business.
Also build your prospect list using LinkedIn, leading company lists (e.g., Fortune 500), and online directories in the industries you work in or want to work in. But you’ll have to search for the right contact person, and then search more to find his/her contact information.
Reaching Your Ideal Clients
Next, you’ll use direct email to reach your ideal clients. This doesn’t mean sending prospects an email that shouts:
“hire me because I’m [great] [desperate] [fill-in-the-blank].”
Direct email is customized to each prospective client (prospect). You need to show how you can help the client meet its needs. If you choose clients in industries where you already have experience, you already know what your prospects need and how you can help. A few minutes of research on each prospect’s website will give you the information you need to customize the email to that prospect.
You’ll write a short, targeted direct email to each prospect that has:
- A strong client-focused subject line.
- A sentence showing that you understand the organization’s needs.
- 1 or 2 sentences about your relevant experience (how you can help the client meet its needs).
- A link to your website (or your LinkedIn profile if you don’t have a website yet) so the prospect can easily learn more about you.
- A call to action that clearly says what will happen next (e.g., “Should we schedule a call next week to discuss this?”).
Get direct email templates, examples, and tips
Increasing Responses by Following Up
If you don’t hear back from a prospect, follow up about a week later—because most responses come from follow-up emails. Send a short polite email with your original email forwarded below that.
Keep following up every few months with anyone who expressed interest in your services but hasn’t hired you yet—so that you’re the first freelancer they think of when they do need help.
But most of the time, don’t ask about freelance work. Instead, keep up with what’s happening with the organization and the prospect and mention something interesting. Or share a web-based resource (e.g., blog post, podcast, or industry update) that you think would be helpful to the person.
Always be polite and professional. Once or twice a year, ask about possible freelance work.
Start Getting Better Freelance Work without Freelance Job Sites
There are lots of great clients out there looking for awesome freelancers. By choosing your ideal clients and going after them with direct email, you can get better freelance work and the clients you deserve—without paying fees or competing against thousands of other freelancers.
Learn More About Getting High-Paying Clients Without Using Freelance Job Sites
Direct Email Swipe File: Direct email templates, examples, and tips