Are you starting your freelancing career?
Then you might be tempted to start your freelancing journey on platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, Freelancer or PeoplePerHour etc.
It might seem a very convenient option with hundreds of new jobs posted every day you don’t have to go anywhere else to find new clients.
But wait! Read this article before you make up your mind.
In this article, I’ll tell you why it is a bad idea to start your freelance career on most freelancing platforms and will share my personal experience with some of them.
Most freelancing platforms have huge competition because for most job categories there is more supply than demand.
That means there are more freelancers than clients on these freelancing platforms, hundreds of freelancers apply for a particular project.
So you need good reviews on your profile to have any chance of getting a project.
Because clients receive hundreds of proposals for their projects, they won’t check all the proposals, so previous reviews will be one of the most important factors for their selection.
Most clients will prefer freelancers with some reviews over a new freelancer.
As a new freelancer, you are more dependent on luck than your skills on these platforms which is not an ideal position to be in.
To reduce the number of freelancers Upwork now doesn’t even allow new freelancers with very common skill sets.
Upwork being the biggest freelancing marketplace there is no guarantee that other freelancing platforms will not follow the same path making it harder and harder for new freelancers to get in.
Your Value as a Freelancer
When it comes to competing in freelance marketplaces most of the time it becomes a race to the bottom.
Because of this huge competition, most freelancers try to reduce their rates and compromise on quality.
The same goes for most of the clients on these platforms, they often choose price over quality.
See when you’re participating in a freelance platform there is very little room to show your expertise, for example, you can’t share links, online videos or any such resources because of certain restrictions.
And that is why clients can hardly differentiate between freelancers and they often treat you like a commodity rather than an asset for their business.
So to get projects you’ll end up drastically reducing your price and you undervalue yourself. Even if you get a project that way you won’t be satisfied because you’re underpaying yourself.
If you start undervaluing yourself your clients will do the same. In freelancing, you need to know your worth to get paid your worth.
I have seen on many freelancing platforms a project worth $500 to me, freelancers are ready to do it for $50 and some even go to the extent of doing it for free.
Just in hope that they will win the project and will get a good review so in the future that will help them get more projects, without knowing they are putting themselves in a vicious cycle.
With more reviews on their profile, they hope that they can increase their prices slowly but they simply can’t because returning clients won’t increase the rates and new clients will always have lower price options.
It’s not a great situation to be in, you’ll do more work and earn less instead you should aim to do less work and earn more.
The Unpredictability of the Platforms
Solely building a career on freelancing platforms is like constructing your building on someone else’s land you don’t know when you’ll have to leave the building.
There have been many instances where freelancers’ accounts were suspended without any reason and their years of hard work, their profile, clients all are gone in a matter of seconds.
Upwork in particular has very weird account suspension policies like-
- Your account will be suspended if you aren’t able to win projects within a timeframe.
- Your account could be suspended if the client does something mischievous like using someone else’s card for payment, your account will be at risk for taking up the project.
- Even your location can be a reason for your account suspension.
As you can there are thongs that are beyond your control but you will suffer for it.
The worse part of all these suspensions is there will be no warnings and in most cases, you won’t be able to recover the account.
Once the account is suspended your balance money will be frozen as well.
So if you’re thinking you could bring some clients outside the platform well it’s strictly prohibited on all freelancing platforms and your account could be suspended for trying something like that.
But they do encourage you to bring your client on their platform so they can make money through their fees.
So it’s not a wise idea to depend on these freelancing platforms alone, if you do work on any freelancing platform it is always advisable to build a client base outside the platform.
By now you must have understood that I’m not a big supporter of freelancing platforms, now let me tell you about my personal experience with some of these platforms.
I’ve been freelancing full-time since 2012 as a freelance WordPress consultant but I want to straight forward here I’ve never had any success on freelancing platforms.
Let me start with Upwork.
I managed to find some clients through various channels after that I joined Upwork in 2013 then it was called Elance, but I wasn’t active for a couple of years on the platform as I was busy with other clients.
From late 2015 I started to focus more on Upwork to add a new client source but even after being a full-time freelancer for more than 3 years, I was struggling to get any traction at all.
As mentioned earlier there is very little you can do to show your experience through proposals and I was no different.
But I was very serious about getting success on Upwork, I thought I might be missing something so I took a course (Freelance To Win) on how to get clients on Upwork.
It wasn’t a cheap course it cost me $600 which is a lot of money for an Indian.
Only after going through the course and implementing the tactics, I realize that there are no such secrets and the money was totally wasted.
I mentioned about the course so you don’t end up wasting your money on such courses.
Even though that particular course is no longer available still there are people selling such courses. They will try to sell you based on their earlier success on Upwork.
So don’t waste your money!
Because there were no reviews on my profile I didn’t win any projects even after sending hundreds of proposals and eventually my account was suspended without any reason.
In fact, I wasn’t even informed about it I only got to know when I logged into my account.
I didn’t have any better experience on Freelancer as well.
Although I didn’t use Freelancer that much but one thing I noticed, as I could see other peoples bid on projects I was seeing really low bids from freelancers with many reviews.
I’ve even seen new freelancers offering free services just to get reviews.
So I quickly realized I stand no chance here and I can’t possibly do projects at such low prices.
I briefly tried Fiverr as well to be honest this platform never seemed appealing to me because of its low pricing.
People here offer to create a complete WordPress website for just $5, the same service I charge $750 so I just can’t even imagine that.
I saw people have hundreds of reviews on their gigs so to explore the opportunity I joined various Fiverr-related Facebook groups only to realize that people are exchanging reviews to boost their gigs.
It just didn’t seem like an authentic way to approach freelancing.
I did explore a few more platforms but all seem to have similar issues that I’ve explained earlier.
In the end, I can say just one thing I didn’t have a good experience with freelancing platforms.
Alternatives To Freelancing Platforms
Rather than depending on freelancing platforms, you should look to build your authority so clients can come to you directly or even if you approach them you can show your authority or expertise.
If you approach freelancing this way you can charge way more than what you could do on freelancing platforms.
To show your expertise you can share your experience through blog posts, youtube videos, forums etc.
Yes, it takes time but it is worth your time.
So now you know why I don’t recommend starting your freelance career on freelancing platforms, especially as a beginner.
Because of the share number of freelancers, it is getting harder and harder to get projects on freelancing platforms.
Many suggest starting on new freelancing platforms, yes there is less competition but there will be very few projects as well and most of the time it may not suit your skillsets.
I’m not totally against using freelance marketplaces if it is working for you you should continue using them but you should build your own platform to get clients as well.
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