Freelance platforms have always been a popular option to find high quality talent to plug gaps in your business. For individuals, it is a great way supplement your main source of income, letting you take up small assignments on the side during your leisure time.
With the pandemic resulting in consistent lockdowns across the globe, and business experimenting with remote working models, freelancing has quickly risen in popularity. In fact, it’s safe to say that freelancing is now slowly emerging as a mainstream career option, with even academics and subject matter experts appreciating the flexibility of schedule involved in addition to the pay and variety of jobs on offer.
Businesses tapping into this rapidly growing freelance network also have a lot to gain, such as access to a global pool of talent that can handle crucial projects at much lesser rates than what traditional in-house recruitment might cost. With the increased ‘Work from Home’ routines eliminating the unpredictability quotient of remote workers, companies are no longer bound by geographical constraints to hire the best talent out there to kickstart new projects and develop new ideas.
For freelancers, this can also prove to be something that acts as a source of enormous job fulfilment. A vast majority of people struggle to find a balance between pursuing what they love doing against a career that pays well to do something practical that they’re good at. In such cases, freelancing is an option that lets them explore their talent at things they don’t necessarily get to try their hand at during their day jobs.
Are you an innovative graphic design artist who had to take up a coding job for the money? A talented storywriter stuck in a corporate gig due to a lack of demand for niche writers? Freelancing can be a salvation, letting you experience self fulfilment doing what you love, while also earning good money on the side.
Over the years, Upwork has slowly carved out a niche for itself, becoming the website most synonymous with the phrase ‘freelance platform’. Formed as a merger between oDesk and Elance, Upwork offers several instant advantages such as secure payments, and an open market interface for clients to post projects and scout freelancers. Freelancers, in turn, can also use this open ecosystem to pick and choose which projects to bid on.
Upwork’s longevity in the field is also a testament of their success, having built up a solid reputation and credibility over the years. However, one of its biggest disadvantages is the fact that Upwork spotlights freelancers that have been on the platform longer, increasing the chances of clients gravitating towards these freelancers, even though there might be someone new to the platform who could potentially prove to be more suited to their requirements.
The sheer volume of freelancers available may also result in improper vetting, leading to quite a lot of irrelevant bids and responses to projects. This eventually requires the client to sift through a large amount of applications in order to find the right fit. However, depending on how you look at it, the large community of freelancers can sometimes prove to be an advantage, enabling you to find a diverse range of talent that can take up extremely niche projects and deliver quality output.
Verdict – The Go-to option for hiring a diverse range of freelancers or working on a wide range of different projects, but be prepared through wade through tons of redundant posts before landing the right gig or finding the perfect freelancer for your project.
The Fiverr community has certainly risen to prominence quite rapidly in the recent past, and most of it has to do with the creative way the company has gone about showcasing its talented freelancers. Freelancers on Fiverr also offer the most obscure gimmicks and services, including repeating a word of the client’s choice ten thousand times in Batman’s voice. Needless to say, the sheer curiosity element makes the website worth a visit. The sheer vastness and range of services you can find also makes it a great platform to go to for generic, quick project requirements.
Fiverr is also cost-effective for the most part. Although the website has grown beyond its original ‘Rent anything for a fiver’ concept, it’s still the most cost-effective option to find someone to do simple tasks with short deadlines. However, the flip side is that the sheer flamboyant nature of the website makes it a breeding ground for cons and scams. Fiverr also has notoriously poor reviews filled with complaints of being scammed, both by sellers and buyers on the website.
Verdict – Great platform for simple, focussed gigs but extra discretion advised for secure projects involving considerable amounts of money.
Toptal might well be the spiritual opposite of Fiverr, operating with a business plan that’s the complete opposite of Fiverr’s budget-friendly approach. Instead, Toptal promises access to a closed shop of ‘the top 3%’ of the global freelance economy, ensuring the highest quality. However, although this ensures top notch quality and maximum security, it also means that clients have to shell out for these services, making Toptal one of the most expensive platforms to hire from.
For freelancers, getting picked to join Toptal can mean massive returns, since big-money projects are guaranteed. For clients, this means obtaining the best services from the cream of the freelance ecosystem is guaranteed. This immediately makes Toptal only suitable for you as a client if you don’t mind paying extra for top-of-the-shelf services.
Can you afford to limit your hiring to just the top 3% of the the global freelance talent, when the remaining 97% might be capable of doing an almost similar job for much less the service fees quoted on Toptal? This is, quite frankly, the only question businesses have to answer before deciding to pick Toptal for their freelancer requirements.
Verdict – Toptal is an exclusive, closed ecosystem that caters to clients looking for only the best freelancing talent out there. If you are not necessarily looking for this, there’s greater value for money to be found elsewhere.
Much like Toptal, Kolabtree is a platform that carves out a unique USP for itself right from the get go. However, instead of using price point and freelancer quality as key distinguishing points, Kolabtree instead chooses to cater to just businesses that exclusively need scientific consulting. Almost all of its freelancers are PhD-qualified scientists, academics and subject matter experts that help businesses address specific complexities, such as projects related to the biotech, chemical or pharma domains, amongst others.
The disadvantages here are that this freelance platform is not for every business. You can’t, for instance, turn to Kolabtree if you want to hire a story writer or graphic designer for your business needs. Businesses that have relevant requirements for academic consultants and industry experts, however, can extract real value on Kolabtree, finding a wide range of scientific freelancers, some of them running their own companies, who can address key skill gaps across various niches in their business. Right from working on vegan skincare formulae or food recipes to handling large scale biotech or pharma projects, you can find freelancers with precise domain expertise and qualifications for a wide range of business problems that need academic consulting.
For freelancers, this can be a great way to top-up their main source of income, be it through teaching or lab work. The high commission Kolabtree charges might be a minor pain point. Non specialized freelancers offering a wide variety of non academic services like web or graphic design might find better value for time and money on Fiverr or Upwork.
Verdict – For businesses or freelancers operating within the academic and scientific sphere, Kolabtree can prove to be immensely useful, helping businesses find PhD-qualified experts in the most obscure or esoteric branch of science. For more generic businesses and freelancers, however, there might be more value to found on Upwork or PeoplePerHour.
PeoplePerHour works in a similar way as Upwork, offering a two way dynamic platform where clients can post projects and freelancers can apply to work on them. However, it also incorporates freelancer gig descriptions similar to Fiverr. Termed ‘Hourlies’, this lets freelancers offer specialized gigs at fixed prices that they can start working on instantly.
An extensive network of clients and freelancers make PPH a great freelance platform to easily find work or hire freelancers, and it offers benefits similar to Upwork such as secure holding of funds and providing a trusted supply of professionals. Freelancers also have the flexibility to choose their own rates and hours, and typically see healthy volumes of work from clients across the globe,
However, the sheer volume of accounts within the network also means a high likelihood of spam and bot accounts infiltrating the PPH ecosystem. Prospective buyers have to tread carefully in order to find the perfect fit amongst what might seem like quite a lot of freelancer profiles overselling themselves and their portfolios.
Verdict – Much like Upwork and Fiverr, the right value can be uncovered on PeoplePerHour if you’re patient enough to trawl through quite a bit of irrelevant and redundant listings.
Guru’s immediate USP is the fact that it disregards other freelande platforms’ emphasis on choice and diversity and instead prioritizes expertise. So, the freelancers you find tend to be a smaller pool, but they are a more experienced bunch of professionals compared to their counterparts on competing websites. The website ensures this by structuring its membership plans to encourage experience, through task based commissions for instance. This also ensures that scammers are weeded out more efficiently, making it a generally safe ecosystem to hire or work in.
However, this might encourage freelancers to try and set higher prices that you typically find on Fiverr or Upwork. It also has several confusing payment features that clients run the risk of not paying attention to, such as freelancers being able to request that clients pay a chunk of the freelancer commission to Guru. Its billing fees, post-project customer support and payment process has also been a constant source of complaint amongst both clients and freelancers recently.
However, Guru does provide a simple, easy-to-navigate interface to find technically excellent freelancers to do a variety of jobs, making it a useful option if you’re looking for quality of work and project protection over post-project convenience.
Verdict – Great platform to find freelancers with more technical expertise than on similar websites, but the hidden fees might prove to be a major downside.
Much like Fiverr and PeoplePerHour, Freelancer’s biggest selling point is the sheer volume and diversity of options within this freelance platform, ensuring that clients are guaranteed to find sellers to take up even the most obscure tasks and projects. The flip side of this, just like the other two platforms, is that Freelancer comes across as a jack of many trades but, ultimately, the master of none. However, in sharp contrast to Upwork in particular, Freelancer groups all freelancers together for clients to survey. This ensures that even a new freelancer can stand out and get projects more easily than on other platforms.
However, the downside of this is that clients sometimes tend to pick beginner level freelancers over someone who might have accumulated tons of experience within the platform. The website does try to balance this out by encouraging relationships between buyer and seller, emphasising on building milestones over time. This makes it extremely valuable for long term, complicated projects, but you’re still better off looking at Fiverr or PPH for one-time simple tasks that need to get done right away.
Another huge negative here is a lot of ‘apparent yet hidden’ fees such as having to pay extra money for visibility, currency conversions etc. The system also nudges you into opting for paid subscriptions right away rather than let the product features do a persuasion push over time, which is never a good sign.
Verdict – While this may not the best option for a quick one-off project, using it consistently might bring more value than similar platforms in the longer run.
So, there you go, these are the most widely used freelance platforms in 2021. With remote working quickly rising in popularity and freelancing becoming a much coveted option even in the spheres of science of academia, now’s probably the best time to explore freelancing as a serious career option or a prudent way to supplement your income. For businesses, the options you can find in the global freelancing pool are now broader than ever, offering you the perfect opportunity to assemble a low-cost, high-output agile workforce consisting of the best talent from all over the globe.