At first glance, the name freelancer website seems pretty unified. These sites offer well-executed jobs for employers and a living for freelancers working from their home. Beneath the surface, however, there are three distinct categories that greatly determine the balance between the buyer and the seller, as well as the core features available. To make things perfectly clear, or at least clearer, we labeled said categories as contest websites, marketplaces and project websites. Even though the industry doesn’t “officially” refer to the above categories like we do, this distinction is an easy way to identify them.
The base principle of a contest website is that the best results can only be achieved by creating a competitive environment: they promise clients a large selection of results made by freelancers who participate in special contests. Most of the contest websites specialize in design only, but some exceptions (like crowdSPRING) cover copywriting and brand naming as well. It’s up to the buyer to determine the general guidelines for the graphical artwork (logo, illustration, animation etc.) which then has to be interpreted by the artists. Contests are very client-centric, meaning that they receive dozens of designs of various quality, after which they have to choose one contestant as the winner. The drawback of the system is that you can only choose from pre-paid packages which already include the service fee and the prize money. However, to prevent you from running into a lemon, contest sites offer a refund if you are unsatisfied with the entries.
From the point of view of freelancers, especially struggling ones, contest websites are harsh places, because only one participant is rewarded, while others are left empty-handed. Sometimes buyers split the prize between several designers, but usually the winner takes it all. This leads to extreme unpredictability: the stakes are higher, but so is the payout. To make up for the irregular income, contest websites don’t charge service fees on freelancers. A good example of an artist-friendly contest site is DesignCrowd, which not only waives service fees, but also offers participant rewards for talented and diligent artists.
As its name suggests, a freelance marketplace is a huge board of seller-created offers and requests made by clients. Marketplace sites’ main ideology is “supply and demand”: in other words, if a freelancer is highly talented in his/her expertise, he/she creates a special offer and determines the price for which he/she is willing to do a job for you. Clients are also free to submit a position/commission of their own, where they can specify the expectations and the nature of the assignment.
Marketplaces are known for their thorough search engines, which allow both sellers and buyers to look for promising offers. When a buyer finds a promising deal, the two parties get in touch with each other and discuss the terms. However, the biggest advantage of a marketplace is that freelancers are entitled to freely determine the price of their service, while employers can choose from a huge list of people.
If you are interested in an outstanding freelancer marketplace, you should check out Fiverr, which is not only international, but also has a diverse portfolio of jobs, including coding, design work, copywriting, video making and even online pranking.
Project websites are the golden mean between marketplaces and contest sites: they are better organized than the former, but provide more categories and freedom compared to the latter. Clients can launch a job project for virtually anything (coding, software design, artwork, translations, marketing, copywriting and even remote customer service), after which they can create a briefing, explaining the qualification requirements and the task itself. Once the job is posted, freelancers who are interested in the offer can bid on the project. Employers then review the applicant’s skills, portfolio, past achievements and the price they can be hired for, after which they pick the applicant best fitting for the job.
Because of the diversified nature and length of remote assignments, top-tier project websites have clever solutions to make the work management easier. Upwork is a prime example of that, as it offers a downloadable client (and a smartphone app too), which organizes all the tasks. It boasts built-in live chat and file sharing, while it also tracks the freelancers’ work (occasionally taking snapshots as well).
At a project website, first impressions are everything, which is why freelancers can put together quite a convincing resume on their profile pages. Their work is usually rated by their previous employers, not to mention the laudatory comments that also appear underneath the profiles. Workers can be hired for tasks with fixed prices or can be employed at an hourly rate. In case of longer achievements, it’s also possible to receive payment by reaching certain milestones. Keep in mind, though, that all project websites ask workers’ fees upfront; however, they put these deposits into escrow to avoid any form of abuse.
Best Freelance Websites of 2022