When we are looking to earn money from freelancing projects, Fiverr, Upwork, or Freelancer might be worth considering to find your first few clients.
While they might not be the best places to land freelance projects long term, that can be a great way to get started if you have an idea about what kind of services you’d like to help businesses with.
The websites offer us the opportunity to see which kind of projects and clients we can find and what works for other freelancers before even signing up for an account.
That service has been incredibly helpful for me because I found it difficult to figure exactly what I wanted to for freelance work but I didn’t want to sit around and try to think my way through it.
I learned the hard way that we get clarity through working our way through it, not by sitting on our couch thinking. The websites have helped me work with many different types of clients and industries – I even discovered some interesting ones I had no idea existed.
One of the most important things when earning your first money freelancing is picking an idea that clients actually want to pay good money for. I doubt many clients will pay you a living wage for ironing their clothes for example.
With freelance websites, you can find real projects related to your idea before you get started to make sure that it is profitable. That way you don’t waste any time with the wrong idea. Pretty great, right?
You can also get a better understanding of what clients often pay for those projects and what is important to them.
I wanted to leave you with a quick note before we dive deeper: you might have seen a lot of negative reviews calling Fiverr, Upwork, or Freelancer(.com) scams or just generally complaining. This is not one of those articles. Rather, I’ll share my own experience and help guide you to make the decision that is right for you, not me.
An example of that is the common question about the fees of each freelance website. At first, it seems like an important part of your business but in reality, it’s a waste of energy to think about.
None of the fees are going to make a life-changing difference compared to how much more you’ll earn by focusing on getting one or more new clients. It’s just another way of asking: should I save $50 on fees or earn an extra $500? If the question really is about math, the answer is obvious.
Before we dive into each freelance website, let’s look at what’s important so we know we are looking in the right direction.
The important questions to ask ourselves as freelancers are:
- Can I earn money with my idea on this site?
- Can I find the clients I want?
- How many project details can I see before sending a proposal? (This will come in handy later)
We first need to have a basic idea of what we’ll sell and to who before we look at each site. For example, if you know you are good at Facebook ads, you might think you can help ecommerce businesses with that. Another example is email design for agencies.
If you have that level of an idea, you are ready to look at the websites.
What’s the difference between Fiverr, Upwork, or Freelancer?
How the sites work, their process and key differences
The freelance sites are marketplaces that match freelancers with clients. Upwork and Freelancer(.com) are similar in the sense that the client creates a project with a description and freelancers can then send their proposals and bid on each project.
Fiverr is slightly different because freelancers upload services they can help with (called “gigs”) and businesses can shop around similar to if you visit an online shop and browse their products.
Fiverr is more commoditized than the two other platforms which make things difficult for many freelancers since it’s challenging to earn high margins on services that are a commodity.
In my research for this article, I couldn’t find any specifics showing us what the most popular gigs are but generally, they are small, quick, gigs, compared to the two other sites.
Upwork is the biggest of the three sites and does about $1 billion in freelance billings yearly and covers most services you can think of.
You’ll find everything here from huge enterprise businesses looking for freelancers to someone looking for help with her hobby project. You’ll also find freelancers that are extremely skilled and charge high fees and total beginners looking to earn their first dollar – and everything in between.
Freelancer(.com) is particularly popular in Australia and most of Freelancer’s users come from India, the United States, Philippines, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom. The three job categories with the most job requests are IT and software (34%), design, media, and architecture (31%), and writing and content (13%).
There are a bunch of small details that are different on each platform but in the grand scheme of things that are unlikely to make a difference for you.
My experience with Upwork
I’ve written extensively about my experience on Upwork here, so I’ll just recap briefly in this article for you. I earned about $10,000 and worked with a number of different businesses and earning an average of about $642 per project before fees. That is small compared to other methods of getting clients but it is not bad at all if you are new to freelancing.
There is plenty of work to get and if you roll up your sleeves you can land a project quickly but there are a lot of inexperienced clients to wade through. Many will try to take advantage of desperate freelancers even if it isn’t on purpose.
If you follow the techniques I share in this guide to earning your first $1,000 freelancing, you can avoid the bad freelancers and have a good experience using the website as I had.
The biggest challenge on Upwork these days is getting your account approved in the first place. There are 12 million freelancers, so Upwork is working hard to make sure the new freelancers that join are awesome.
My experience on Freelancer
I got my first start on Freelancer and it was a great experience for me. I earned my first few hundreds of dollars helping businesses with WordPress-related services. To be fair though, back then Upwork didn’t exist and the remote freelance landscape was different.
The site is so similar to Upwork, that it isn’t necessary to dive deep into it as well. One thing I remember not liking is that you can see other freelancers’ proposals and bids (and they can see yours).
I want to be honest that I don’t have any direct experience on Fiverr. I’ve found that the platform focuses too much on small jobs that are difficult to earn good money with. That is not to say that it is impossible but rather you have to focus on a high volume of work which isn’t my expertise.
How to choose between Fiverr, Upwork or Freelancer
Before you choose, you need to brainstorm which type of businesses you want to work with and which service you’d like to offer. That way you can look at each site through that platform during your upcoming research.
You don’t need to have the perfect idea, just a good enough idea based on your skills and interests (if you don’t have a clue, read this).
The tricky thing with these websites is that profitable freelancing is a relationship-based business yet Fiverr, Upwork, and Freelancer focuses on turning that into commodities which is exactly the opposite of what benefits your business.
Most of the commoditized freelance services like data entry and business card design fits well here. But there are also many clients that are looking for expert help on less commoditized services like web design, online advertising, or accounting.
Many of them value not only your hard skills but also soft skills like being easy to work with, reliability, and great communication. And these things help you get more projects from the same clients instead of having to go out and find new projects all the time.
Going after clients that want expert help and are willing to pay for it is a great approach to earning good money freelancing. Fiverr on the other hand, feels more like a shopping cart in a webshop with little to no relationship between the client and freelancer (that’s why they are called “buyers” and “sellers”).
Over the years, I’ve discovered something counter-intuitive that might change your opinion. Sometimes it makes sense to pick something based on the help you can get learning it even if it isn’t the absolute perfect option. Getting help from someone who has done it before makes things SO MUCH easier.
Questions to ask yourself before you decide which website is for you are which clients do I want, are they on that site, and with which website can I learn the most about each client project before sending a proposal?
The last question is going to be one of the most important ones. If you follow the techniques on this blog you’ll surely land projects as readers have.
We focus on understanding the client well before reaching out to them because they usually find it more attractive.
That requires that we are able to find information about them in the first place (things like their website URL or other things that allows us to research their business). You can read an in-depth guide here.
One of the benefits of freelance websites is that there is a lot of transparency compared to traditional freelancing.
Before beginning, I like to look up freelancers on each website that are doing something similar to me and see if they are able to earn good money and what kind of projects they work on. Then I’ll read some of the project descriptions to see if they are interesting.
Now over to you: what seems to be the most attractive freelance website for you? Fiverr, Upwork, or Freelancer?
- First, get an idea about who you’d like to help and with which service and look at each site through that lens
- To earn good money, focus on where you can build the best relationship with your future clients but understanding their business better than other freelancers