Freelancing Sites: Finding Entry-Level Commissions and Leads Online

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      Jason Conger-Kallas
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      Competitive Bidding and Content Mills

      Job seekers should be wary of this site’s tantalizing claims of having the largest professional freelancing network. Quantity isn’t necessarily the same thing as quality. Freelancer does provide a steady supply of mid-high paying job offers. These types of jobs will be fought over by fifty other professional applicants with more credentials and references than you. Other clients and jobs tend to be less appealing. The bidding system for jobs gets fairly competitive, which makes it very difficult for newcomers without client references or certifications to improve their status. Freelancer earns the bulk of revenue through microtransactions for paid memberships, certifications, extra bids, and exclusive features. It is always preferable as a freelancer not to have a third party take out a cut of the earnings or dictate how you can communicate with a client, so freelancing sites have a lot of downsides.

      Upwork ranks a close second as far as consistency of mid-budget job offers go, but the site also has many standard issues with intrusive restrictions, competitive bidding, and a steep disadvantage for new arrivals. Upwork merged with oDesk and Elance.

      Fiverr’s special feature is that freelancers choose what services they provide, usually at the low price of just five dollars, or more accurately, four dollars after Fiverr takes a twenty percent cut. The majority of these gigs are intended to be low commitment, and you would have to do several jobs each month to make any kind of worthwhile profit. It is possible to charge higher flat rates, but you will likely be undercut by the cheaper competition. The advantage of Fiverr is that it has a lot of diversity without a high experience threshold. Fiverr is best for gaining entry level experience and references, but serious professionals should look elsewhere for fair hourly rates.

      PPH offers mid-tier jobs, but like other bidding sites, it still is stacked against newcomers. The odds of getting a job are about one out of fifteen bids, if you are lucky. However, freelancers who pass all the tedious screening requirements can also create hourlies, which are featured services for set rates. Hourlies tend to work out slightly better than bids. PPH has a lot of annoying oversight and frustrating approval conditions.

      Guru has one of the least intrusive user interfaces that focuses on allowing the freelancer to set their hourly rates and a minimum base payment, which ensures a stable means of income. The selection of jobs is not as broad as on other platforms, and there are a lot of freelancers from other countries applying for the same jobs.

      Online Commissions and Job Boards

      Smashing Magazine, Photoshop Tutorials, TutsPlus, and King Tutz
      These are just a few design-related websites out there that pay for article and tutorial submissions. The average price range to look for when scouting sites is somewhere between $50-150 per article or tutorial, depending on the length and quality. $300 is the maximum amount paid. Fixed cost payments will pay somewhere around $1-$2 a month, but the rate is a continuous source of income if you write a lot of articles

      Polycount, 3DTotal, CGSociety
      3d forums are good places to find people wanting to collaborate on digital projects.

      Artella is a relatively new site set up for collaborative animation projects. Joining is free for small independent projects, but large-scale sponsored projects may require a monthly fee.

      11 Second Club
      11 Second Club is probably the best-known monthly web contest for animators. Winners don’t get paid, but they do receive recognition and get certain perks like an exclusive interview or portfolio critique with professionals from the animation industry. Recognition is probably more valuable than money for young people trying to get into the business, and the challenges are good practice for improving skills.

      Pond 5
      This stock footage site purchases certain types of stock footage and video media, with a 50% dividend for each sale.

      Zazzle is an online marketplace for graphic design products. You can set your own royalty rates and establish your own mini store on the site. Society 6 and Redbubble operate in a similar fashion.

      There are a lot of websites that will pay for T-shirt designs. Spreadshirt, CafePress, Six Dollar Shirts, Threadless, Teespring and The Shirt List are other sites. The payment policies vary.

      WordPress Jobs, WP Hired, Envato Studio/ThemeForest
      There are a ton of different web design opportunities posted on WordPress job pages, ranging from simple site management to more advanced PHP and web optimization stuff. If you are really good at coding and design, it is also possible to sell your own custom themes, plugins, and templates through the online store.

      Authentic Jobs
      Design and web development jobs for well-known companies

      If You Could Jobs
      This UK-based job board offers high-paying professional careers for web developers

      ArtCorgi, Sketchmob
      These websites allow clients to send in portrait photos to be turned into different styles of artwork. Anime, vectors, cartoons, illustration, and pop art seem to be the most in demand.

      Pixelation, Pixel Joint
      Pixelation and Pixel Joint’s job forums offer a lot of opportunities for creating pixel art sprites for animation or game design.

      ProBlogger, WriterAccess, AllIndieWriters
      These sites have a lot of freelance writers, but the service fees tend to be fairly high. Many writing websites take out a large percentage of commissions and have strict no-external-contact policies, which are an impediment to the writers and employers.



      Crowdsourcing Design Contests

      99designs is a site where designers compete against other designers to create a commission piece. The prices and exposure are often good for winners, but you only get paid if your design is picked. The competition can be pretty tough, especially when clients pick really awful amateur designs as the winners over objectively better-crafted designs made by experienced pros. This site is open to anyone, so it is not limited to exclusive membership or experience. DesignCrowd is another major design crowdfunding site that operates the same way, but some people have reported the service isn’t quite as trustworthy or reliable.

      Designhill design contests generally follow the same formula. Designhill is regarded fairly highly as a custom logo design website, and it also allows freelancers to sell pre-made logo templates for $59, $99, or $199.

      Genero is one of many crowdsourcing sites for filmmakers. Wooshii, Mofilm, Zoopa, Videobrewery and Userfarm are other trusted companies that focus more on commercial video advertising and motion graphics.

      Tongal uses the competitive idea crowdfunding model, but the emphasis is on creative pitches, storyboards, and short commercial ad videos. 1st Prize awards typically are about $1,000

      A lot of crowdfunding contests are controversial among pro designers. The host company profits by taking a dividend from the client’s offered rate, which means the designer ends up getting paid less than they should be making for their efforts, if they even win at all. A $1,000 prize doesn’t sound too shabby until you realize that if the client just hired a designer directly they might be earning $2,500 for the same type of contract job or salary pay.

      Unfortunately, many businesses love crowdsourcing and inexperienced designers jump on any potential recognition opportunities, so this transaction model is becoming more common in the industry. In a way these sites make it easier than ever to find freelance work, but in the long term the competitive low rates make it harder for professional artists and designers to charge more and earn a better living. Design contests can still be a good launching point for gaining recognition and developing portfolio pieces.


      Networks, Guilds, and Design Collectives

      Krop, FlexJobs, WeWorkRemotely, Juiiicy, Folyo, Production Hub
      Here are some examples of limited access designer networks. Different sites will have different membership policies, so some are a little easier to join than others.

      Freelancing is stressful, competitive, and it’s hard to earn enough money to make a living. As a means of ensuring slightly better job security, many designers are forced to either sell their souls to corporate advertising or join an exclusive curated network.

      Networks typically require some form of registration screening process along with pricey membership dues that quickly weed out the amateurs from the serious professionals. The dues are used to purchase exclusive contracts with businesses and track down other leads. In exchange the designers get access to better paying commissions without worrying about outside competition or job searching.

      The catch is that the most professional organizations don’t just let anybody join. People who want access to the network have to meet certain requirements, usually prior job experience and a quality portfolio. So in other words, it is difficult for recent graduates to get in.

      Realistically, if you derive a significant amount of income from freelance work you probably want to get accepted into a professional group eventually, preferably one of the good ones rather than the many not-so-good ones. Just know that it isn’t going to happen right away. Build up a portfolio first through smaller venues and commission jobs. Try registering with any free networks you can find, especially LinkedIn

      It is generally not advisable to have a large third-party for-profit company or website serving as a middleman for transactions. Percentage cuts vary, but they are usually kind of high at around 10-20%. There is a chance that you will find a lot of good leads and have no problems with the services, but there might be instances when payments never arrive or paychecks get delayed or something else goes wrong. Smaller creative design firms and networks that cater to specific types of clients will generally offer better service, a lot more creative versatility, and attract better clientele. Sometimes they pay better as well.



      The majority of freelance work uses the payment-upon-delivery transaction model, where you get paid when the job is done. Sometimes it is smart to ask for installment payments or half of the payment up front so you get paid something for your efforts if a client bails at the last minute.

      Hourly rates work better for small projects that will take less than two weeks to finish. As a beginner designer, an estimated average hourly rate that you want to charge is around $15- 30 an hour, or $150-$300 a day. As you become more experienced and your skills are in higher demand, you can charge higher rates around $45-75. Please note that this is a very rough guide, as the rate you charge is based on a number of factors and considerations.

      Some designers create a pricing chart that can be shown to clients to help illustrate how rates are determined. It is typical to offer low, medium, and high price range options to accommodate for smaller and larger budgets.

      Career Foundry: Pricing 101 – How To Price Yourself As A Freelancer

      Creative Review: Are you earning the right amount?


      Portfolios and Online Stores

      Creating your own website or setting up a store through an established marketplace is honestly probably the best way to go, and it will allow you to sell your stuff directly without any middlemen. To reach the largest audience, self-advertising and links on social media are recommended. Most online transactions are handled through a PayPal secure account or an established seller like Amazon or Etsy. PayPal and credit card companies still charge a processing fee, but it is much lower around 3% compared to 18% required by some freelancing sites.


      Most designers recommend making personal connections with clients and finding your own leads instead of relying too heavily on aggregate websites to generate client matches for you. It takes more effort and research to hunt down leads, but it is more rewarding in the sense that it gives you more choice in the types of jobs you accept.

      If you do join a network or company, look at their past client work to make sure they will send you the types of clients and jobs you enjoy. Unless you really love Coca-Cola brands, you don’t need to aspire to work with the most prestigious design firm in the country to be happy

      Conduct research into niche areas that interest you. Forums and art and music websites are generally a good place to search, as are local bulletins and job fairs. There are a surprising number of companies out there that offer commissions for specific kinds of work if you know where to look.

      Just be cautious of deals that seem too good to be true. The more transparency and information you can find about a company from reviews and other websites, the more likely it is legit. The best way to judge a company’s atmosphere is by taking a look at the past client work. If you like the style, quality, and type of products the company produces, it might be a good fit for you

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