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Freelance Gig websites is your worst friend

Stefan Lindblad illustration detail viewed on Laptop, coffee working at a Café, coffee shop in downtown Stockholm, Sweden.

I have worked full-time as a freelancer, professional illustrator and graphic designer, for over 20 years. And I learned that freelance gig websites are ones worst friends.

I totally understand freelance illustrators and designers starting out, who long for a career running a freelance business, actively looking for work on freelance websites, in hope to get a freelance gig. After all, possible clients are active on those websites. But what type of clients are they, really. Thats the question you have to ask yourself as a freelancer, self-employed. And do you really want those type of clients?

I never started my company and career via freelance websites, as a freelance illustrator and designer. Instead I started my freelance company, and bought a portfolio case I packed with printed copies of my illustrations, both personal work and client work. the old style way. And then created an online website portfolio. From their I began making cold calls and book meetings with different companies, asking if I could visit them and show my portfolio. And sending emails. Pretty straight forward, and similar to how most regular sales people do at some point and time in their career.

Networking and building relationships with clients is crucial. Thats why I have a career supporting myself and making a profit. And you can do this too. There will always be ups and downs in any type of business. But it is only by having respectable paying clients you survive over a long period of time – and by creating quality work, giving great service and keep deadlines. Some good clients will only be one-off client gigs, while other good clients will be repeat clients.

So start to reconsider if the freelance gig market websites you use today, or considering to use, is the avenue for you to go. I would suggest not to.

Value your work, don´t devalue your freelance work

Are you really ready to devalue the importance and respect for your own work? Are you really ready to undervalue yourself and simply charge a few dollars or euros per hour or fixed prices. And for work that take hours and sometimes days and weeks to complete. This is what you have to ask yourself. Is it worth it. Because the freelance gig websites are not famous for offering great pay. Instead they are famous for offering really bad pay. In my view, on these freelance sites you are being tricked to believe your being successful, when really you are being badly payed for your work. And the only one winning is the client you worked for. Good quality business is when both parties win and gain. Don´t be the one loosing by charging too little.

If your afraid of loosing a client, then start thinking differently. Instead, by not being scared of loosing a client you will win and gain in the long run. You only succeed if you dare to loose.

When you accept being undervalued and charge to low fees for your work, your actually destroying for yourself, and destroying the market. Your destroying it because by accepting low pay no one on those sites will feel it appropriate to charge you fairly. Some would claim these sites purpose is to pay badly for work, and getting payed badly. Your basically accept to be payed badly. And do you consider that to be of any good? Of course not, you should be payed fairly and feeling good about your work and the pay you get. To feel proud of your work as a professional.

Websites like Upwork, Fiverr, Guru, Freelancer, 99 designs and Freelancermap all have a flair of connecting you to the whole world out there. Just waiting to give you easy freelance work sitting in front of your digital screen, be it at home, workplace or a coffee shop.

Are you getting fair pay? Are you being tricked to work for pocket money, worth a cup of coffee.

PayPal is actually all you need to get payed from overseas, and locally in many countries as well. Yes , PayPal charge a fee, but those freelance website do too. As do regular banks. So its perfect to look for clients outside the freelance websites, and then send invoices via PayPal to your overseas clients. PayPal has an excellent invoice service if you open a PayPal Business account. Here is more to read about the difference between Personal and Business PayPal Accounts.

What you need is to look for clients via other methods than these freelance websites. For instance, many of your best clients will probably be around the corner to where you sit and work. Instead of offering your freelance services for $1-$50 per hour, you can build a relationship with local, and sometimes international clients, who you can charge better fees. And if you, instead of talking hourly rates, start talking about fixed prices with a possibility to add hourly rates on top of that, then I am sure you could start to make much more money both hourly and fixed price based. You should definitely start to raise your hourly fees to no less than $60-$120/hour.

Because there is no reason really, to get ripped off like people are, at websites like Upwork, Fiverr, Guru, Freelancer.

Start by taking control and responsibility over your career and getting payed fairly. Start working like a business man/women. Take pride in your workmanship and learn how to negotiate. And learn that most of your clients who are good clients, are those who respect you, as much as you respect them, and that they are probably not that far away. The best business is built on good working relationships. For instance a great sales person understand the value of building working relationships with their possible buyer. Even if a deal will happen in only a few minutes and being just a one-off deal, it is best made by creating a
working relationship and trust, and quality of work and service – even if it moves quickly negotiating and delivering your design and illustration work.

Also learn how to network. If you look outside the realm of the freelance websites world you will notice that people are networking. Truly great businesses and relationships are built via networking with other people. For instance a possible client, person you have contact with today, may take years before fruition. And then suddenly when you thought the deal would never go through, they might very well come back to you. And make that great deal. An a small client, paying you fairly, may be a very small player, but that same small player might know others who they might recommend you within heir network of clients.

Skip the freelance website and start creating a great business the right way.

Stefan Lindblad

Illustrator and graphic designer

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