In recent years, the world has seen an exciting surge in the number of freelancers offering their skills to clients and businesses, studies indicate that the total number of people freelancing globally is around 1.57 billion.
One driving factor for this growth in freelancing is the ease of start-up.
While success is another topic, through online marketplaces like Upwork and Fiverr, all it takes to set up a freelance business is a brief registration process. It, therefore, is not surprising that there are millions of freelancers plying their trades on these marketplaces.
However, freelancing on online platforms poses its peculiar challenges. In this article, we look at how and why you should move out from marketplaces like Upwork and Fiverr. As well as tips for building a freelance client base.
Upwork and Fiverr both enable you to conveniently begin your freelance career. Upwork, for instance, boasts of over 3 million jobs posted annually and requires nothing but an easy sign-up process to begin actively bidding for these jobs, but does that make it a perfect place to freelance? Not really.
Here are some limitations of relying solely on marketplaces:
All that convenience you are offered comes at a cost. Though freelancers do not outrightly pay for a job, most freelance platforms deduct fees from your gigs. Upwork and Fiverr charge a percentage of the amount a client pays for a job. This fee ranges up to 20%.
While that might not seem too much to beginners who just need to get into the game, the numbers could add up to very significant levels. And seasoned freelancers would rather avoid having to pay a chunk of their earnings to anyone.
Recall that there are millions of freelancers on Upwork?
Well, the problem with such numbers is that it spells fierce competition between all those freelancers. From Fiverr to Upwork to Freelance.com, a major obstacle most freelancers— both seasoned and beginners— face is the competition. A single gig usually has numerous freelancers bidding on them. And many clients often tend towards low rates, which leads to freelancers being underpriced.
Therefore, some people feel they are better off finding freelance clients outside of platforms and charging what they feel their time is worth.
While it's somewhat ironic to talk about limited freedom in the context of freelancing, which is popular for its flexibility relative to the traditional 9-5 jobs, there are some limitations to the amount of freedom you can enjoy as a freelancer on notable freelance platforms.
Upwork and Fiverr both have strict guidelines and terms of service that freelancers are expected to follow. For instance, Upwork limits communication and payment outside its platform.
There are various alternatives to online marketplaces that freelancers can explore. Basically, it's all about finding good clients.
Below are a few methods with their pros and cons:
A website can serve as your "office" on the internet, where anyone who wants your services can find you and easily get you to work for them. Building a personal website has numerous advantages as you have the freedom to do your business as you wish. However, it requires resources to set up a website.
But with site builders like Wix and Webflow, you can easily set up your website with no coding skills.
Job boards and sites like LinkedIn, Indeed, Glassdoor, etc, are great ways to source freelance gigs. While the security and added functionalities present in freelance platforms are missing, you have the freedom to engage clients on your terms. Finding freelance clients outside of platforms can be easy if you dedicate time to combing through job sites.
You can reach out to businesses that align with your skills through cold emails. With a well-written pitch, you can land jobs that can turn into long-term partnerships. This requires a well-planned out strategy and adequate research.
And with a tool like Hunter.io, you can easily find email links belonging to your business of interest.
Good old word of the mouth is one of the most effective ways to source clients. From family and friends to businesses around you and possibly anyone you can talk to, spreading the news about your services can help bring more jobs.
Attending industry conventions is another effective way to network with fellow professionals and find potential clients.
Social media is arguably the most important business tool currently. A major advantage is that it is free to use. Leverage your social media platforms to market yourself and your services to a wide and diverse audience. You can also find a lot of job posts on them.
For most freelancers wanting to switch from online marketplaces to other options, a major concern is how to leave the comfort zone these platforms provide. Some wonder where exactly to begin.
Below is a step-by-step guide on how you can move out from Upwork or Fiverr.
One of the most important things you need as a freelancer is a body of outstanding work to showcase your skills. Portfolios are how clients get to observe your skills and thought process. Don't be all talk and no substance!
A strong portfolio will no doubt make you stand out. This can be a simple collection of projects you did for clients on Upwork or Fiverr or other personal projects.
If you have clients you have worked for or maintain a long-term relationship with, then it is essential to communicate your desire to move off the platform with them. Leaving the security offered by these platforms requires some level of trust, your clients need to trust you first. And if you are good at what you do they wouldn't see working with you outside the platform as much of a problem.
Even with all the skills in the world, if no one sees you and what you are capable of then you will not get any job. Use any means possible to promote your trade. Post about your business on social media, attend conferences and other get-togethers, use cold pitching techniques as well.
Succeeding on your own by building a freelance client base can be more difficult than offering services on a platform. You could follow all the steps above and still not land new jobs as soon as you expect. It is important to remember that patience is a vital skill for any business. Give it more time.
Deciding to be an independent freelancer is just one step, you need a strategy to succeed. Here are a few tips on how to successfully operate your freelance business:
Starting out on Upwork or Fiverr is relatively easy. But freelancing outside these online marketplaces offers a lot of advantages. Notable among them is more freedom to run your business.
As a freelancer, broadening your reach is surely advantageous to your business. Whether It's through a personal website or social media, it is worth giving it a try.