A Google search for "best freelancer websites" results in pretty poorly researched lists of the "Top 13 freelancer websites you must check out" and blends together job portals, open marketplaces, agencies, as well as sites dedicated to anything from graphic design to translation services.
I'm the CEO of a small freelancer website startup, and as part of our competitive analysis we performed what is probably the most comprenhensive review of freelancer websites ever done. We manually reviewed over 1000 sites, crawled all of the largest ones for their data on type of jobs and geographies and collected traffic data for all of them.
The full spreadsheet can be downloaded here.
1) Open Marketplaces – I want to search through freelancer profiles to find just the right one
Open marketplaces represent the first wave of online freelancer work. A bunch of sites launched in late 1990s or early 2000s, including oDesk/Elance (now Upwork), Guru and Freelancer. UpWork and Fiverr are by far the two largest ones, but competition is fierce across the board.
All the sites essentially provide a large supply of freelancers that compete for jobs that users add to the platform. With patience and some knowledge of these platforms work, it can be a great way to find really strong talent.
2) Curated Marketplaces – I want a service to find and assign a great freelancer to me
Over the last couple of years, a new type of platform has emerged: curated marketplaces. These platforms build technology to allocate incoming projects to pre-qualified freelancers and automatically to reduce the friction for the end user.
If you don't want to spend 2-3 hours going through profiles and wait 2-3 days to get a contract set up with one your applicants, a curated solution might be the way to go.
AndreesenHorowitz-backed Gigster is the clear leader in software, our own company, Konsus, is largest in design, Rev.com is where to go for transcription, textbroker.com leads in writing and askwonder is a really cool offering within the research space.
3) Online Staffing Agencies - I need a large project done, and I’m willing to pay a high price
Technology has yet to ‘disrupt’ the staffing model, where the agency manually staffs up teams of temporary or longer-term workers. Adecco, Randstad and Manpower are all behemots in the $400B offline staffing markets.
However, the comparatively miniscule online staffing market is growing at an exponential pace. TopTal, perhaps the best-run company in the sector, grew from 0 to 100M annual turnover in just three years. They are the clear leader in software staffing, and are now moving into design.
4) Remote Job Portals – I need a large project done, but I’m not willing to pay a high price
Despite the long-predicted death of list job portals, they are managing to stick around. At Konsus we recruit from several job boards in Eastern Europe and South East Asia. These require local language skills, but is still where the best talent can be found.
WeWorkRemotely and FlexJobs are great options, and consistently deliver top freelance/remote talent.
5) Community Sites – I want to browse people by their style
At Konsus, we recruit a lot of people from community sites, and the quality is much higher than on UpWork.com or Freelancer.com. It takes quite a bit of time to browse though.
If you have tasks that are very ‘context-dependent’, e.g. you need someone to ‘really understand your brand’ for a logo design, you can look through people’s portfolios and find someone you feel has the style you are after.
For design the largest sites are Behance and Dribble. UpLabs is also growing fast with a very dedicated community. For development TopCoder, StackOverflow and Github are all excellent places to recruit.
Not only the type of site play into what to choose, but some sites are stronger in a particular segment. In the infographic above, we have broken it down.
The numbers also show the how large the categories are, e.g. Graphic Design makes up 28% of jobs done online and 'open marketplaces' are 54 % of all traffic.
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