How Do The Top Freelancing Platforms Stack Up?

By Elizabeth Wellington, Contributor, on January 9, 2017

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Top freelancing platforms typically brand themselves as opportunities for independent contractors to connect and build relationships with new clients, but they vary in effectiveness, fairness and the quality of work they offer. No two platforms are the same, and options like Upwork, PeoplePerHour, Freelancer and Thumbtack all have their own terms, payment methods and fees.

To determine which platforms are best for you, there are four important questions to ask yourself.

1. What’s The Upfront Time Investment?

As an indy, you’re essentially selling your time, and many freelancing platforms require a big time investment to apply for freelance jobs. They’re not an easy fix for a slow week (though that’s a great pipe dream). You have to set up a thorough profile, complete with detailed information pulled from your resume and sample projects. Upwork sometimes requires identity confirmations based on IDs and billing statements, too.

With each platform, think about how much time you have to invest in building a strong presence in this particular platform. If it’s worth it for you, give yourself extra time to create an awesome profile; it goes a long way to attract clients.

2. What Can You Expect for Average Pay?

Payment can differ radically across freelance platforms. Fiverr, for example, starts at $5 for projects completed by freelancers. Freelancers only receive 80 percent of payment, which means that independent contractors make a minimum of $4 before taxes. If you didn’t know that, you could be severely disappointed by the pay, which is never a good feeling.

Before investing in a platform, browse through the available jobs and make note of the typical pay rates. If you’re an expert looking for higher payment, you’ll want to spend time with platforms like CloudPeeps or Toptal, which both offer higher compensation.

3. How Much of The Payment Does The Platform Keep?

Like Fiverr above, many platform companies charge a fee. These fees can vary from minimal charges that the clients pay to large percentages of the revenue from the freelance project. For example, Upwork takes up to 20 percent of the freelancer’s revenue for a project, which can dip heavily into income.

Independent contractors should research these terms to ensure they’re not surprised by a big pay cut once the money is transferred.

4. What Are The Terms of The Work?

Just as when you work one-on-one with a client, you need to be clear on the terms of the projects when using a platform. Take note of different expectations, such as response time to clients, turnaround for completed projects and guidelines around edits or revisions. If these don’t all benefit you in the long-run, you may be better off with a different option.

By considering these questions, independent contractors can assess whether top freelancing platforms are useful tools. The most beneficial platforms for a freelancer may change over time, too, as they gain more experience and hone in on an expertise. The good news is that there are so many different options out there that, with a little extra investigation, you’re bound to find the right one for you.

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