Question: Hi Steve. Everyone says the economy is so great and that this is the era of the “gig economy.” Well, if that’s the case, where are all the gigs? I left my comfortable (but boring) job a year ago and have yet to fill my dance card with paying clients. – Jessica
Answer: Let me share a little story. Five years ago, I was undertaking a major project, launching a content-heavy small-business website. Through considerable effort and expense, I had been able to obtain the URL TheSelfEmployed.com and had a major corporate partner ready to be my anchor tenant. All I needed was someone to build me something beautiful.
I interviewed several web developers. Skills varied, as did promises, as did fees, ranging from around $10K to a whopping, cringe-inducing, $73,500. Unhappy with my options, I turned my attention online and posted my gig on a few different freelance sites.
Many, many people responded. Skills and fees varied here too, but one freelancer stood out from the crowd. I figured it would be a three-month engagement.
Five years later, the amazing Abby Woods and her shop Iconik Web still work for me; I could not run my business without her.
So yes, there are actually a lot of ways for freelancers to find gigs these days, and yes, freelance gigs can turn into a lot more than your typical one-off project. In fact, according to Intuit, “the gig economy . . . is now estimated to be about 34% of the workforce and is expected to be 43% by the year 2020.”
So where do you find these gigs? Here are some of my favorite sites:
Freelancer: Freelancer calls itself the “world’s largest online platform for finding jobs.” Companies and individuals post thousands of engagements, and you can browse the listings, see the projects and budgets, and bid the gig. Whatever your self-employed business – writing, being a virtual assistant, videography, sales or whatever, sites like Freelancer offer you opportunity.
The catch and the danger is that there is a lot of competition on sites like these. You have to bid competitively, yes, but remember that price isn’t the only thing people look for when hiring a freelancer. Quality and experience is equally, if not more, important.
Toptal: Like these other similar sites, Toptal has many contractors who want to bid on the projects offered there. The difference is that Toptal has a very rigorous screening process and accepts only the top 3% of all freelancer applicants. There are no low-bid contests here.
99designs: I love this site. Let’s say you are a graphic or web designer and you want more work. This is the site for you. Companies (small businesses especially) post their projects (new logos, website design, original art, packaging, etc.) by launching a “contest.” Designers then submit their ideas for the project. Let the best designer win!
Another great option on 99designs is a new functionality called “Find a Designer” that matches businesses with select designers within the community.
I launched a contest on 99designs a few years ago, so I can personally attest to the high quality of designers that are found on this platform.
Craigslist: Huh, Craigslist? Yes, Craigslist. While obviously the pre-eminent marketplace for buying and selling goods, the Craigslist “gigs” section (see bottom right of the site) offers a plethora of available gigs.
Fiverr: What can you get for five bucks these days? Apparently, a lot. On this site, starting at $5, you can get everything from digital marketing services to original music to cartoon artwork and much more. I once got the most amazing video intro for a project I was doing. Cost? Somehow, yes, it was $5.
Etsy: Are you artsy or crafty? Then consider selling your goods on Etsy. Last year, 30 million buyers spent almost $3 billion on the site.
Freelance Writing Gigs: Another site I love (for obvious reasons), Freelance Writing Gigs curates hundreds of writing gigs found all over the Web into one place. Perfect for writers, editors and bloggers looking for work.
So go ahead, check it out. There are a lot of ways to take advantage of the gig economy these days. No, you may not find your Abby, but I bet you will find just what you need to grow your freelance business.
Steve Strauss, @Steve Strauss on Twitter, is a lawyer specializing in small business and entrepreneurship and has been writing for USATODAY.com for 20 years. Email: email@example.com. You can learn more about Steve at MrAllBiz.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.