As the gig economy has grown massively over the past few years, the number of platforms that specialize in connecting companies seeking freelance talent with individual freelancers has also significantly increased. However, each of these freelance platforms come with their own unique advantages and disadvantages for both companies and freelancers alike. We have conducted a detailed analysis on the top 10 best freelance websites for your reference in order to both simplify your search for freelancers and to inform freelancers on which platforms are worth looking into in terms of creating a profile and finding freelance jobs.
TopTal claims to be an exclusive platform for the top 3% of freelance talent. Their website states that they accomplish this through a rigorous screening process which includes language and personality tests in addition to a variety of aptitude tests. Moreover, freelancers applying to the site are required to complete a test project and to maintain a stellar reputation score.
Given the site’s claim of featuring only the most talented freelancers, this can clearly be seen as an advantage for companies that are looking to hire individuals with plenty of experience and proven talent and skill.
In addition, the platform offers clients using the site the opportunity to conduct risk-free trials with freelancers that they connect with through the platform. Specifically, these trials are backed with a 100% money-back guarantee which means that companies can get back the entire amount that they pay their freelancer in the case that they are dissatisfied with the work that has been completed.
The fact that the platform requires prospective talent to complete the aforementioned screening process, including a variety of tests in addition to a test project is of course an additional barrier to entry for freelancers. This is likely to be particularly frustrating for those individuals who have a great deal of experience and may therefore feel that it is unfair that they have to go through such a strenuous exercise just to sign up on the website.
Another con is that the platform is quite expensive for companies to seek freelancers from it. Namely, TopTal requires companies to pay an upfront charge of $500 and moreover the hourly rates on the platform, which range from $60-95 per hour for developers and between $125 and $200 for finance professionals, are significantly higher than the average rates that can be found on other platforms. In addition to this, although TopTal keeps its commission rate quite hidden, it has been estimated by a variety of sources that they markup freelancer rates by about 100%.
Clearly, this means that the end cost to companies is quite high and also that freelancers do not reap much of the benefit from this pricing markup. In addition, it is quite concerning that the company is not transparent about the commissions that they charge. Therefore, although TopTal may provide companies with access to well-vetted talent, this does come with significant tradeoffs.
UpWork is another popular website used to find freelancers. UpWork is actually an entity that was formed in 2013 following the merger between oDesk and Elance, both of which were large freelance websites in their own right. Although this is an advantage from a certain point of view, there are also downsides to this fact.
Due to the significant history of the platform and its precursors, UpWork is one of the largest freelance websites in the world and it features a very large number of freelancer profiles which allows companies to connect with a large pool of freelancers as well as find highly-specialized and specific talent.
On the other hand, due to the great number of freelancers that are registered on the site, price competition on UpWork is also quite extreme. In other words, because companies using the site are able to choose from an immense pool of candidates, freelancers are forced to offer lowered rates in order to remain competitive. Simultaneously, the large number of freelancers on the site can be overwhelming, leading companies to make poor hiring decisions as a consequence.
Another notable con of the platform is that the cycle from a company posting a project to that project’s completion is quite lengthy which is clearly a major downside for companies that are seeking to find talent to complete projects that are pressing, such as emergency development work, for instance. Thus, despite the undeniable name recognition of the UpWork platform, particularly as one of the leading developer freelance sites, it is likely not one of the absolute best freelance websites. The reason for this lengthy cycle is that companies often find low quality talent on UpWork and are therefore forced to replace the freelancers that they work with since the ones that they selected initially do not perform at completing the projects that they are assigned. Moreover, since most freelancers on the platform reside outside of the United States, companies can also find it difficult to coordinate with the freelancers that they hire from the platform.
In regard to pricing, UpWork charges companies hiring talent on the platform 3% on each payment as a payment processing fee while charging freelancers between 10 and 20%. Therefore, this platform is clearly quite an expensive option for freelancers and companies alike.
Another important point that is worth mentioning is that companies on UpWork only have the ability to send just three invitations for free to freelancers to apply for their projects. This means that companies are under great pressure to hire talent quickly, even in the absence of a perfect fit.
Following project completion, the platform provides freelancers and companies a way to provide feedback to one another. This feedback system is highly flawed in that freelancers and companies are able to see the ratings that they provided to each other. The issue in this is that if a company leaves an average or poor rating for a freelancer that they worked with, freelancers can (and often do) reciprocate by giving the company a bad rating as well. Another common problem is that some freelancers hold their client companies hostage by refusing to provide their completed work until the company gives them a 5-star rating. This thusly creates a vicious cycle which results in falsely inflated ratings with other companies hiring highly rated freelancers under the false impression that they genuinely earned those accolades on the basis of the quality of their work. Freelancers who were given an average rating by a company also frequently refuse to work with those clients in the future.
Yet another issue of the platform is the fact that the way freelancers match with projects is based on a bidding system. The problem with this is that certain unscrupulous freelancers can intentionally place low bids in order to win projects, and then quote a much higher bid to the client once they start interacting with them. This therefore results in clients receiving false information and can lead to significant difficulties in managing their budgets.
Guru is a platform that has attracted recognition and popularity amongst the many other freelance websites that exist. The site has positioned itself as a direct competitor to UpWork and the process to hiring a freelancer from the website is quite similar in that a company first posts a job, freelancers then apply to it, and the company finally chooses the best fit from the pool of applicants.
The platform features a powerful filtering algorithm which allows companies seeking to hire freelance talent to filter for specific skills, locations, rates, and percentage of positive feedback responses. In part due to this particular feature, Guru has become known as one of the largest developer freelance sites and features a great number of different developer specialties both in terms of technology used as well as type of project. For example, a company has the ability to hire a developer that has expertise with a specific framework such as Laravel and can also choose to filter for a developer that has expertise in coding in a specific field or in a given environment.
In addition to this feature, Guru also claims to be the best way to find employees for free in its marketing materials, which is a claim that it justifies by the fact that it does not charge companies to hire freelancers.
However, the claim that the platform does not charge companies to find employees is somewhat misleading. This is because the company does charge 2.9% on each invoice paid by clients. In addition, freelancers are charged a fee of about 8.95% by the company according to third-party sources.
Guru also suffers from some of the same issues which were highlighted for UpWork. Specifically, given the fact that the platform uses a bidding system to match freelancers and companies, this can similarly expose companies to fraudulent bids by individuals looking to exploit and game the system.
Another option among the many different freelance websites is simply called Freelancer or Freelancer.com. The website is very popular and has a variety of freelancers registered on it from around the world. Due to its popularity, it can be regarded as one of the developer-focused freelance sites, despite the fact that it actually has a variety of different types of freelancers.
Due to the large number of freelancers registered on the website, companies that are seeking to hire talent have plenty of options to choose from for each project. In addition, it is likely that given the size of the talent pool, a company seeking to hire an individual with specific skills would succeed at finding that person.
However, as mentioned above, the popularity of the platform comes with certain downsides for companies and freelancers alike. Specifically, companies looking to hire for a common role may be flooded with applications from all over the world, leading to difficulties in relation to choosing the best applicant. In addition, given the website’s global popularity, companies that are seeking to hire local talent may well experience difficulty in finding individuals from their specific area.
The most significant downside for freelancers registered on the platform is the fact that due to the number of other professionals registered on the site, any specific freelancer is forced to offer lowered prices in order to remain competitive. Given the presence of international talent, which can provide services at lower rates due to lower local costs of living, this can be a particular challenge for freelancers based in the Western World.
In addition to this, Freelancer.com is one of the more expensive freelance websites for companies that are seeking to hire talent given the fact that it charges 3% on every fixed-price project and charges the same percentage on every payment made to freelancers working on an hourly basis. This is in addition to the additional fees that the platform charges for featured, urgent, private, full-time, and other special types of projects.
At the same time, freelancers pay a 10% charge on each payment that they receive through the platform. This is in addition to the fact that the company offers a variety of membership plans for freelancers that range from $12-$800 a year (or $1-70 a month). While it is not necessary for a freelancer to opt for the most expensive membership plan, it is worthwhile to keep in mind that the freelancers that are on the more premium plans are featured and promoted by the platform. It is also notable that there is actually no free option for freelancers on the site whatsoever.
Given these points, it can therefore be concluded that Freelancer.com cannot be considered to be among the best freelance websites for cost-conscious freelancers and companies alike.
Fiverr is a well-known freelance platform that takes a slightly different approach to matching freelancers and those seeking to hire them. Specifically, it takes the form of a project marketplace where most projects cost $5 to complete. However, this is not a hard and fast rule and project add-ons can cost well above $5.
In addition to the fact that companies can hire freelancers for just $5 to complete small projects which can be cited as the platform’s unique competitive advantage, the site also allows companies to receive free offers for their projects from a variety of freelancers which means this could be the best way to find employees for free to complete small projects.
Given the unique pricing structure of Fiverr, the platform is limited to small-size projects and is unlikely to be suitable to companies that are looking for individuals to complete projects of any significant size. Likewise, Fiverr is poorly suited for companies that are seeking to hire freelancers for longer-term engagements.
An additional downside of the platform is that freelancers that choose to use the platform are forced to accept a great number of projects in order to make a sustainable full-time income which means that Fiverr is likely not a suitable option for most freelancers as well.
In terms of pricing, Fiverr reportedly charges $2 for all services costing less than $20 and charges 5% of the total price for all orders above that price point. On the other hand, freelancers pay a 20% fee to the company.
Finally, the platform also suffers from the same feedback issue as UpWork. Specifically, freelancers on the platform often hold their clients hostage until they leave a 5-star feedback review for them. This leads to an extremely poor experience for clients who are forced to contend with this grossly misleading and unreliable feedback system.
PeoplePerHour is a platform that offers companies a variety of options on how to hire freelancers. Specifically, a company can hire from a selection of hourly offers which are provided by freelancers and are specific tasks with set, visible rates. A company can also post a project and wait for offers, similar to the model offered by a variety of previously mentioned platforms. Finally, PeoplePerHour also allows companies seeking to hire freelancers to browse their directory of freelancers and permits companies and recruiters to directly reach out to the freelancers on their platform.
The fact that the platform offers flexibility to companies on how to hire freelancers allows companies to avoid the problems with the bidding systems that were previously mentioned. In addition, the fact that companies are allowed to directly reach out to freelancers on the platform is also a very significant and unique advantage. In a certain sense, this feature can be considered to be another potentially best way to find employees for free.
In terms of downsides, however, the platform is poorly suited for companies looking to find individuals for longer-term commitments given its marketed focus on short-term projects. On the other hand, given the way that the platform is set up, freelancers seeking to use it need to extensively understand the rates that they should charge prior to using it. The site also provides little guidance in terms of how to determine how much an individual should charge for their services. With that said, depending on a freelancer’s particular set of expertise, there may be information on how much one should charge available elsewhere on the web. For instance, many developer freelance sites provide information on how much a freelancer can expect to receive dependent on their specific proficiencies and the extent of their experience.
With regard to pricing, PeoplePerHour charges a very steep 15% commission on the first $280 that a company spends on the platform and charges 3.5% on every project thereafter. Therefore, this makes the platform one of the more expensive freelancer websites out there. On the other side, the company charges freelancers a flat 5% for each project.
SimplyHired is a large and well-known job search platform. While it is not specifically tailored to freelancing, it does market itself as a service that freelancers can use.
The primary advantage of SimplyHired is the sheer variety of different types of freelancers that can be found on the site. In addition to this, the platform has a truly global reach, featuring freelancers and companies from 24 different countries.
The platform entices companies to begin working with SimplyHired by providing them with a free job posting offer for the first job that they share on the platform, with this offer then being distributed to other job boards by SimplyHired.
The fact that the platform is more of a job aggregator than a truly independent marketplace can lead to significant difficulties. Specifically, although this aspect is marketed as a feature, this can lead to companies being forced to deal with huge numbers of unqualified or irrelevant candidates that may apply to a given position through the various sites where the position will end up being listed.
In addition, the fact that the platform has a global reach can lead to challenges for companies that are seeking to hire local freelancers specifically.
Finally, and possibly most importantly, the platform is not specifically tailored to freelancing which can lead to communication and logistical difficulties for companies that are seeking to only hire freelance talent. Moreover, the service is quite expensive for companies ranging from a $200 monthly charge for a single job posting to $1600 a month for 20 jobs, with other price options that are even more expensive.
FlexJobs is another well-known name in the freelance world and is often brought up as one of the best freelance websites out there. The platform is well-established with a history dating back to 2007 and has remained independent throughout its entire history.
One of the reasons why the website is held in such positive regard is because the website conducts detailed manual screenings in order to ensure that only genuine and well-reviewed companies and job postings are allowed to be posted on their site. In addition, the platform boasts numerous accolades and awards from a large variety of different sources including The Wall Street Journal, Time, and Forbes, just to name a few.
Due to the selective nature of the platform, companies wishing to hire freelancers from the website need to apply to join the site and also have to go through a rigorous and time-consuming vetting process. Following successful completion of this process, companies are subsequently charged about $300 a month or $2700 a year for the privilege of posting jobs to FlexJobs and connecting with their talent.
On the other side, the platform charges freelancers on a monthly, quarterly, or annual basis with the fee being $15, $30, or $50, respectively. The company states that this gives freelancers access to all jobs that are posted on the site, allows freelancers to verify their skills, and to be found by potential employers.
Clearly, given this pricing model and the highly selective process through which companies have to go through in order to even appear on the website, this is not the most suitable option for every company and is instead best suited only to a specific subset of well-established and large companies such as Apple, Dell, or PricewaterhouseCoopers which are all featured clients of the platform.
Aquent is a little different from the 8 other services mentioned above because it operates more like an agency rather than a job posting platform. Primarily focusing on digital marketing, Aquent connects both remote and local freelancers with job opportunities, including a contract-to-hire model. The company has established connections with a variety of companies that are looking to hire individuals for specific roles which means that it has a large supply of positions for freelancers looking for projects or looking to be hired.
Aquent provides companies looking to hire with six options: a portfolio search engine, a staffing solution, a direct hire option, a progressive hire option, an employer-of-record feature, and finally access to a freelancer talent pool through a solution that the company calls Vitamin T. Given this variety of options, it is likely that companies of highly varying sizes can all effectively make use of the company’s services.
The cost of the platform for companies hiring through it is highly variable, dependent on the number of positions that the company is seeking to fill and the search method used, amongst other factors. However, it can be said that this is likely to be the most expensive option of all of the ones on the list given the different nature and positioning of Aquent as opposed to the other solutions. It should also be noted that Aquent focuses specifically on the marketing and creative verticals and cannot be considered as being one of the developer freelance sites, to name an example.
SkillSoniq is a newer platform that is focused on resolving the issues that currently exist with other freelancing platforms. One of the key features of SkillSoniq is the company’s focus on connecting companies with local freelance talent which provides companies using the platform with a unique advantage. The advantage of hiring local freelancers is that doing so avoids the issues that occur with working with remote workers: you can learn more here. When companies work with remote talent, this can lead to trust, communication, and even security issues. In addition, many of the other freelance platforms have fake profiles which makes it hard for companies to validate and verify the identity of the individuals with which they are working, which is a particularly substantial problem for companies for whom data security is mission critical. Working with remote talent is also not a sustainable option for companies that are seeking to build out a robust team of long-term workers.
The fact that SkillSoniq connects companies with local talent enables the company to offer a “contract to hire” model for companies hiring freelancers. In other words, through SkillSoniq, companies have the ability to try out talent prior to hiring them full-time. Naturally, companies can continue to work with freelancers on a freelance basis as well. SkillSoniq believes that no matter how much companies interview an individual, they can only judge the worker’s performance once they actually begin working on a project. Thus, SkillSoniq provides companies the ability to try out workers before making the decision on whether to hire them as full-time employees.
In addition, SkillSoniq understands the problems that come with the flawed bidding systems being used by other freelance platforms and has therefore decided to provide companies with an alternative to this. SkillSoniq instead uses a unique algorithmic system to automatically line up the best freelance matches for clients, who can then simply invite or decline individual candidates from that list. As companies accept and decline candidates, the algorithm gets better at predicting the hiring preferences of each client and therefore provides them with exactly the individuals that they are seeking. SkillSoniq is also unique in that it has started predicting the skills that a client should look for in a potential hire, based on their past hiring patterns and that of their competitors. As a result, companies save significant amounts of time, effort, and money in their efforts to build out a team of highly qualified workers.
SkillSoniq has also focused on lowering the costs for freelancers and companies alike. Specifically, the platform charges freelancers just 10%, and is free for companies to use (other than a nominal payment processing fee and a buyout fee when companies decide to hire a freelancer as a full-time employee).
The platform also features a variety of freelancers across 50+ skill categories and 12+ industry verticals, and therefore SkillSoniq can be regarded as one of the developer freelance sites in addition to being a great resource for companies seeking tech, marketing, data, finance, accounting, and sales talent, amongst many others.