About the time I wrote my review of the freelancing site Upwork, I decided to branch out and try another site. I chose Freelancer.com because it was in multiple lists of recommended sites. Since Upwork is the only other freelancing site that I have used, I will be comparing Freelancer to Upwork in many instances.
I set out with the plan to work two or three jobs on Freelancer before I wrote a review. However, that did not happen. Why? I have found the site extremely frustrating, and taking the time to find and apply to jobs on it is, in my opinion, more trouble that it’s worth. I had trouble even finding jobs that I wanted to apply for—at least out of those jobs that the site’s restrictions would allow me to consider.
I think part of my distaste stems from the fact that I did not join this site as a complete beginner needing to build up experience. I already had a nice-sized portfolio, and much of my complaint comes from the fact that my portfolio does little to land me jobs on Freelancer.
With that said, the site does have some perks that may be attractive to beginners which I will list as pros. Still, I think the cons outweigh the pros even for amateur freelancers looking for experience.
- View Competing Bids: Competitive bidding is a major staple of Freelancer—even more so than other, similar sites. This highly competitive bidding is something I am trying to distance myself from now that I have experience, because, inevitably, the lower bids win over quality work. However, it can be a great way for beginners to get that first listing on their resume. Unlike Upwork, Freelancer allows you to see all the other bids on the job with just the free package. On Upwork, you have to upgrade for that privilege.
- Wide Bid Range: Clients can provide a price range they are willing to work within, instead of listing a single, fixed rate. So, beginners can bid on the low spectrum and more experienced freelancers can bid higher. I prefer this system to Upwork’s “Entry Level,” “Intermediate,” and “Expert” labels on jobs (see my review of Upwork).
- More High Paying Jobs: While browsing for jobs on Freelancer, I noticed there is a much higher volume of high paying jobs on Freelancer than on Upwork. I think the bidding range system has something to do with that. On Freelancer, you don’t have to sift through jobs that call for an expert but want to pay entry level fees. However, the site restricts who can apply to the higher paying jobs, but more on that later. I also came across many entry level B2B(business to business) jobs that offered a decent rate. B2B writing is what the six-figure freelancers usually specialize in because it is in high demand and the companies that need it are usually willing to pay higher rates. I had found it hard to find entry level positions for this type of work, though, until I got on Freelancer. If you put one of your skills on the site as “Content Writer,” you will be recommended a good number of these jobs. In fact, this is the sole reason I have not deleted my profile. When I have the time and patience to deal with the site, I plan to apply to more of these B2B jobs.
- Good Fee Calculator: Freelancer, like most other sites of this nature, takes a percentage of what you make from jobs on its platform. The “finder’s fee” for Freelancer is 10% or $5, whichever is greater. When applying to jobs, Freelancer provides you with a calculator to help you decide how much you will actually charge the client in order to get the amount you want after the fee is taken out. Upwork has something similar, but Freelancer’s is easier to use, and because Freelancer provides a bid range, you don’t have to worry about overshooting the client’s budget in order to be paid your desired rate.
- Restrictions on Jobs: If you want to apply to the jobs that pay the best rates, you are plumb out of luck unless you have been on Freelancer for a long time or want to pay money. I can’t tell you how many times I opened a job post and was blocked from bidding. Clients can attribute requirements to their job, such as a specific number of reviews. I have many positive reviews from clients and a nice portfolio, but none of that matters because I don’t have reviews from Freelancer jobs. The site was kind enough to assure me that I could apply to these jobs without reviews if I would just buy a premium monthly package. On Upwork, clients can set restrictions like years of experience or jobs success percentage, but you can still apply regardless and try to convince the client that you can still do that job.
- Skills Tests Aren’t Free: Another restriction clients can put on their jobs is the completion of a certain skills test. Fine. I’m down. Click. Oh wait…”Fee for skills test is $5.” What? Even the beginner tests like “English Language 1” cost $5. Upwork’s skills tests are free and are a great way to prove you know what you are doing. If Freelancer wants you to pay for them, fine, but then client’s shouldn’t be able to make them a restriction for applying.
- Highlight and Sponsor Bids for Cash: It seems like Freelancer is always trying to take your money. When you finally find a job you are allowed to apply for, you are given the option to pay $1 to highlight your bid or 2% of your bid price to sponsor the bid. Highlighting literally just highlights your bid in yellow to draw attention. Sponsoring ensures your bid stays near the top of the first page so the client sees you first. Shouldn’t freelancers be chosen for their skill, not how much cash they can dish out? I’m on the site to make money, not spend it. Besides, a highlight or sponsor isn’t a guarantee, it’s just a way for the site to take your money.
- System is Initially Confusing: I totally botched my first bid because the system was a little tricky to figure out. The finder’s fee calculator was easy, but then the system asked me to set milestones and attribute dollar amounts to each one. In that process, my bid was accidentally raised because the milestone calculator didn’t automatically sync with the fee calculator. Also, the system encourages you to send the client work samples, but there is no place to attach them. It took me a while of random clicking and perusing to realize it wanted me to first send the bid and proposal, then go to another area of the site and send the client a direct message with my samples attached. This is all overly convoluted to me.
- Ludicrously Vague Job Descriptions: I’m not sure if this is a result of how the site prompts clients to fill out their posts or not, but it is definitely a common trend. There are so many jobs that have one-line descriptions like “edit a book” or “write a book” or “write some articles” that give no context whatsoever. To accurately calculate my rate, I need to at least know how long the piece is, if research is required, and what the deadline is. On any site, you are bound to find vague, tiny descriptions like this from time-to-time, but on Freelancer they are the rule, not the exception.
- Only Eight Bids Per Month: If you have better luck than me at finding jobs you want to apply for, you’re going to run into another problem. With the free membership, Freelancer only allows you to apply to eight jobs per month. That’s nothing in the freelancing world. You usually have to apply to ten to twenty jobs to just get one, especially in the beginning. Eight bids seems extra small when you compare it to the sixty “connects” that Upwork provides. Granted, most jobs require at least 2 “connects,” but still.
- Endless Emails: Freelancer will drive you absolutely crazy with the emails. The ones that recommend jobs for you are great, but I get at least two other types on a daily basis. Some want you to buy a package, some talk about Freelancer’s “benefits,” and others are for people who want to post jobs. I signed up as a freelancer, not a client, and yet Freelancer sends me emails that say, “Want to expand your business? Hire a freelancer today!” It drives me up the wall.
In short, I think Freelancer.com is a money grubbing site more than anything. It has its unique benefits, but I don’t think they are really worth the hassle. Its bidding system can be nice for a beginning freelancer who can use it to build up a reputation, but honestly, there are other sites out there that can help beginners achieve that same goal without the added headaches.