Freelancing websites (also known as freelancing “platforms”) are one of the most talked-about and controversial topics in the world of freelancing. When the subject of freelancing platforms comes up, some people are ardently against them—suggesting that people would be foolish for signing up. But do people really hate them? If so, why the hate? And are they right—should you avoid the freelancing platforms?
Do people really hate them?
It’s tempting to think that the freelancing platforms are universally hated, especially considering the vehemence of people’s opinions on them. On TrustPilot, ratings for the big five platforms are incredibly low. On Quora, when someone asks: “Which is the best freelancing site?” (a question posed regularly), someone always replies that you should avoid the freelancing sites and harps on about how awful they are.
But, as with anything in life, the people who dislike something are often louder than the people who like it and benefit from it. On the contrary, thousands—if not millions—of freelancers still use these sites by choice compared to the few vocal moaners. And that says a lot. Not everyone hates these sites. In fact, the evidence suggests that most people don’t.
Why the hate?
So, why do the passionate minority hate the platforms so much? Common reasons stated are:
- The fees charged by these sites (usually 10–20%).
- The level of competition from other freelancers i.e. saturation.
- Some buyers paying extremely low prices.
- Some freelancers try to low-ball the competition.
- Freelancers from other economies affording to charge lower rates.
Are these reasons justified?
Of course, these factors do exist. But people are quick to state these reasons without really looking into the situation objectively. So, let’s do that…
Fees: Yes, these sites take a fee. But that’s in exchange for escrow services, messaging and file sharing services, free bank account withdrawals, conflict resolution, access to abundant clients, the ability to see a buyer’s feedback, a rating system that enables you to be more visible, a profile with space for a portfolio, and more. These sites offer protection, and that’s worth paying for.
Competition: Yes, these sites are busy. The big freelancing sites (Fiverr, Upwork, Freelancer, and PeoplePerHour) have been around for more than a decade, and unsurprisingly they have thousands of freelancers working through them. But that also means an abundance of clients actively looking for freelancers.
Bargains: Yes, some buyers are looking to pay extremely low prices. But nobody is forcing you to apply for their jobs. Ignore the low-paying jobs and apply for the ones that are fairly priced—of which there are plenty.
Low-balling: Yes, some freelancers charge bottom-of-market prices. However, this is usually when they’re entry-level and need feedback, and this is reflected their level of skills and experience. Not all buyers are looking for the lowest price—many are looking for quality—and clients are willing to pay more for skills, knowledge, and experience.
Economies: Yes, some people from different parts of the world can afford to charge less. When it comes to virtual admin, the “best prices” might be found overseas. But when it comes to skilled work, many clients will pay more for UK-based freelancers who are native speakers, especially in freelance areas that require communication skills, such as writing, proofreading, editing, and so on.
Should you avoid these sites?
If you avoid these sites, the alternatives are trying to find clients through your personal website, word of mouth, networking, or cold calling/emailing. In these cases, you’re not only severely limiting your potential audience, but you’re often relying on converting passive clients. And you’re missing out on the thousands or millions of buyers actively looking for freelancers on the platforms. Unless you already have a strong client base outside the sites, avoiding them can mean missing out on countless opportunities.
The criticisms of these sites are often based on the assumption is that everyone is looking for a cheap deal—and that’s just not the case. As with anything in life, some people are looking for a bargain and others are looking for quality. However, you don’t have to fall into these traps if you’re diligent. If you know how to navigate the sites, they can be very lucrative indeed.
What do you think about freelancing platforms? Love them or loathe them? Leave a comment or get in touch.