I know, I know. In the greater professional freelance community, a lot of people frown on freelance platforms. And I totally understand why. After all, they are a mixed bag and you don’t always know what you’re going to get.
But I contend that freelance platforms have their place — they are a good thing in certain circumstances.
Here are four reasons when using a freelance platform to find work is beneficial:
1. When you are new to freelancing and have nothing to back you up.
You have no portfolio, no connections from previous employment, and possibly no knowledge of how freelancing even works. In this situation, a freelance platform allows you to gain exposure to clients and build the portfolio you need to move on to bigger and better things.
You see, the freelance platform is a space where everything is setup, communication and application for freelance jobs is structured and facilitated. You have everything you need right there.
You can set up a portfolio, but more important, you will have a rating and feedback from clients. Ultimately, this will result in more and better-paying work. And each time you work for a client, you can ask their permission to include the work you’ve done for them in your portfolio, which you can then use to find clients off the platform.
2. You can find work quickly.
You can go onto a freelance platform, spend half an hour to an hour submitting proposals for jobs, and have a job within a few minutes or a few hours. Yes, it can work that quickly, as opposed to sending out queries and depending on networking to bring in work, which can take days or weeks to pan out.
3. It eliminates dry spells.
Consider the freelance platform as backup. If you are between projects with your non-platform clients and looking for work, you can go for long stretches. I have heard numerous people talk about dry spells and I have NEVER had one. Not once in 13+ years have I had no work to do.
Simply put, there is a constant flow of potential work on a platform. There are dozens, sometimes hundreds, of jobs posted every single day. You can literally apply for 20-30 jobs a day without much effort.
4. You get paid quickly.
When you are working with a client off a platform, you are relying on invoicing and payment terms you set up with them. You can set your terms, but chasing down payment can become a problem, I think more so than on a platform. And bigger companies may have their own timeline for paying out invoices, which can be as much as 30 days or more.
On a freelance platform, at least on a good one, you have escrow protection. The client funds the escrow before you start the work. When you’re done and the work is approved, payment is released immediately.
Plus, if the client takes too long to pay, you get your money released automatically after a certain amount of time. And if they bugger off entirely, good platforms will guarantee your pay and you’ll still get it.
So, where do platforms fit into the bigger picture?
First, I do not think it’s wise to depend only on platforms for your entire freelance income. I think they make a great stepping stone when getting started. And I think they should always be there as a fallback for when other sources of clients hit a dry spell.
Why should freelance platforms not be your only source of clients? After all, they have been for me pretty much my entire freelance career. But when I started out, it was really the only option, or at least the only one I knew of, for online freelancing. And it’s what I always did. I managed well enough and even made a decent income, but it’s not easy.
There are a lot of low-end clients on freelance platforms. These are people who want to pay next to nothing for high quality work. If you use a good platform — I have found Upwork to be the best — there are quality clients on there. But you have to find them.
It’s like going into a used clothing store. There are always awesome clothes, but you have to dig through all the crap to find them. On a freelance platform, you have to sift through all the crappy jobs to find the good ones. I know my way around a platform, but if you’re new to it, you will have to learn the ropes.
Ultimately, your freelance work should be sourced off-platform as much as possible. Building a website is hugely important and is something I’ll blog about soon. But keep one or two freelance platform accounts/memberships active for when you might need them. It never hurts.
Do you have experience with freelance platforms? If so, we’d love to hear about it in the comments section below!