What are the 3 Best freelance job search sites?

by Staci Smith - Read report

Flexjobs.com
Elance.com
Craigslist.com
CONCLUSION:
The 3 Best websites for searching for freelance jobs across a range of industries are Flexjobs.com, Elance.com, and Craigslist.
  • Background
  • Process
  • Comparison
  • Rate this Report
FACTS/BACKGROUND:
Tough economic times have forced several people to turn to freelancing both to earn extra income or as their primary income source. There are several freelancing sites which may be viable places to begin your freelance job search, however users must check to see if a site primarily posts jobs in one type of industry or if it posts freelancing projects across a range of industries. Additionally, freelancers must find sites that list legitimate, fairly compensated job opportunities. For the purposes of this report I will be reviewing basic job listing sites as well as job bidding sites which post jobs across a range of categories and skill sets.
PROCESS:
I began by reading sites considered to be authoritative in the freelance community to see which job search sites were recommended. I also did my own search to find job sites which addressed the qualities which many freelancers are seeking such as having flexible schedules or the ability to work from home. After selecting a group of promising job search sites, I signed on and searched for jobs on each to understand their functionality and evaluate the legitimacy of the jobs each site listed. I then read industry reviews and customer feedback on numerous freelance forums to get in-depth user experience. Comparing reviews on the effectiveness and credibility of the sites; user testimonials; and my own use I determined which were the top three sites for freelance job hunters.
COMPARISON:
 Flexjobs.comElance.comCraigslist.com
CredibilityYes - Jobs screened by staffNo - While there are a number of jobs posted there is no reliable process to screen the quality of jobs and scams.No - there is no screening at all of jobs posted, but it is one of the only sites that allow you to search specifically for local jobs
UsabilityCumbersome search process, but easy resume submission processVery easy to search and bid on jobs.Easy to search for local jobs, difficult to search for telecommuting freelance jobs outside of your city.
Pricing$14.95/monthBasic plan - Free (submit up to 5 proposals) *restrictions apply Individual plan -$10/month (submit up to 25 proposals) Small Business plan - $20/month (submit up to 40 proposals) (Not recommended for freelancers: Large Business plan - $40/month)Free
Does Product Get Results?Widely recommended by a number of credible news outlets including CNN, Forbes, the Today Show, and SmartMoney. One of the only freelance oriented sites which hand-screens job postings for legitimacy saving time on responding to scam requests and underpaid projects. These postings are not screened and there is a high likelyhood of finding scams and jobs which are grossly underpaid, however it has one of the largest databases of job postings on the web across a broad range of job categories, industries, and skill sets which can be of interest to beginner freelancers with more general business skill sets or lower experience levels within a specialty.A reliable and free way to find local freelance jobs even with the number of scams that exist. However, if you are looking to expand your search to include jobs outside of your city which allow telecommuting it is difficult and time consuming to search other locations.
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REASONING:
In deciding the 3 Best freelance job sites I used these key considerations:
  1. Trustworthiness – Do employers with legitimate jobs know about the site, ensuring that there will be an adequate number of postings to search?
  2. Usability – How easy is it for users to post their information, search for jobs, and apply for jobs?
  3. Pricing – How much do these services cost?
  4. Performance - Does the Site Get Results?

Flexjobs.com

Flexjobs.com is my top choice because this site employs a staff which both screens the jobs posted on the site for legitimacy and searches the web for jobs which are freelance based, telecommuting-friendly, or offer flexible schedules.

This is a job listings and resume submission site. Users create profiles; upload and create online resumes; and can participate in free skills tests to prove level of expertise.

The site’s main purpose is helping users find jobs with a level of flexibility, whether freelance or full-time. Considering that many people freelance in order to maintain a level of flexibility, the fact that Flexjobs part-time and  full-time jobs that also fit this criteria means that users have a broader range of opportunities when job hunting.

You can keyword search or search by job category and then drill down results according to telecommuting, part-time, freelance, or full-time jobs. You can also do an advanced search to combine criteria, for example freelance jobs that are telecommuting only. You may also narrow down results by location which can be important to both on-site and telecommuting freelance projects. (Note: Some telecommuting jobs may still require that contractors live in a certain region to be eligible.)

The most important and outstanding feature of Flexjobs.com is the site’s human screening process. The staff reviews all jobs posted on the site to weed out scams and projects that don’t offer fair compensation for a freelancers’ services.

Additionally, Flexjobs.com is a job listings aggregator. Its staff actively searches the web and company job boards for postings which feature some level of flexibility, such as jobs that are telecommuting friendly, freelance, or have flexible schedules.  

Between the staff’s searching and screening process, the site both weeds out scams,  “barter” projects, and individuals looking for cheap and/or menial labor and favors legitimate businesses which have acceptable working budgets.

At the time of this report the site claimed to have 4,068 active job postings from 1,826 companies, ranging 50 career categories, full-time to freelance, entry-level to executive.

Subscription to the site costs $14.95/month or $49.95/year. There is no free registration as with other sites, however it must be noted that while many other job search sites have a free plan they often restrict your access to view listings or apply for jobs, ultimately forcing you to get a paid subscription. Whether or not you feel the fee is justifiable depends on your line of work as this determines how many jobs you find listed on the site.

Flexjob has been featured on CBS News, the Today Show, USAToday, Forbes, and SmartMoney to name a few and has been accredited by the Better Business Bureau having only received two complaints within the last 3 years.

MSNToday Show’s Money site ran an article on work-at-home scams in which the only job search site recommended was Flexjobs.com.

SmartMoney stated that “FlexJobs.com is one of the recommended resources for finding companies that offer flexible working options."

USAToday columnist Kim Komando recommends FlexJobs in her CyberSpeak column as one of the best sites for legitimate, scam-free telecommuting jobs.

NBC News’ Denver affiliate ran a feature on FlexJobs.com, stating that it is "a job search site that's worth paying for" to help find legitimate, professional telecommuting and other flexible jobs.

The writer for About.com’s Work at Home Mom’s section stated that the site did a good job of screening out “work at home” scams and offered a wide variety of legitimate job listings. She also sited that freelancers just starting out or someone looking seriously for a new full-time job may find it a worthwhile investment. The main drawbacks she pointed out were the disorganization and overlap of the job categories which can make searching difficult. She recommends that you check all new listings daily and skip the categories all together in order to be sure you don’t miss any appropriate listings.

As for personal experiences individual parties who reviewed the site confirmed that it was one of the best sources for finding  legitimate job listings. The only issue any of the users had with the site was the fact that it charged a fee. Again after my research, I found that most sites required a paid subscription to gain full access to the job listings. Additionally, with only one price for full access to the site Flexjobs.com can actually be less expensive than sites which have tiered programs requiring you to pay top price to gain full access.

ELance.com

This is a job bidding site meaning that the only way to go after a posted job is to go through the site’s proposal system. Users register, create a profile, and upload any portfolio materials to showcase their work. Additionally as with other larger freelance sites users can take aptitude tests so that potential employees have proof of your skills. You can either browse jobs according to job category or you can do a keyword search and filter results according to category, job type (fixed-priced or hourly), project budget, and a number of other factors.

What makes Elance.com particularly attractive are its various payment options and guarantees as well as its project management tools.  Elance project management and communications tools allow you to hold live chats with your clients, share images, files, and other data. The project management workplace comes with 500mb-2g of storage & version control so you never risk overwriting or losing previous versions. Additionally the site has a proprietary time tracking and invoice generating platform called Work View. This not only tracks the time you work on a project but also takes regular screenshots while you work so that you have proof of the time spent on  a project. The site offers a licensed escrow service and a Fixed-Price Work guarantee to protect you when working online. Users who consistently book more than 20 hrs/week also have the option to sign on E-Lance’s Pay Roll system which allows freelancers to have taxes withheld as one would with full-time employment and receive a W-2 at the end of the year. This helps avoid high year-end taxes.


Representatives claim that the majority of jobs on the site are in the Marketing and IT fields. However, there are a large number of design, remote administrative, and legal jobs as well. At the time of the report the website reported having 49,893 new jobs posted in the past 30 days.

Because all projects on this site can be done in the virtual world you don’t have to worry if a company is not in your location and you’re working with clients who have already made the decision to work remotely with a freelancer.


The Basic plan is free and allows users to submit up to 5 proposals. The Individual plan is $10/month and allows you to submit up to 25 proposals. The Small Business plan is $20/month and allows you to submit up to 40 proposals. The Large Business plan is $40/month and allows you to submit up to 60 proposals.


Matthew Bredel of The Web Reviewer rates ELance.com amongst the best and most reliable sites on the web. It should be noted that Bredel has both hired freelancers and gotten jobs as a freelancer on this site. The fact that he rated it so high from both the contractor and employer side is important as that leads me to believe that potential employers doing their due diligence will be lead to this site as well which means more opportunities for job hunters. Reading through 1st person claims on MeasuredUp.com and Rateitall.com, I found that service providers all have the same issue with the site - the fact that there are a number of clients are asking for rates well below industry standard because overseas service providers stiffly underbid projects.  This is of interest as the main complaint from employers who were unsatisfied with Elance was poor work done by overseas workers – which really seems to be more of a strike against employers who seek ridiculously cheap labor. As for being beat out by cheap overseas workers, this is an issue inherent to today’s economic climate and has little to do with any particular site.


Overall I saw a number of good reviews from freelancers who have used the site and the main complaint against the site – overseas competition – is out of the site’s control. Combined with the very large number of freelance jobs across all industries, the many payment support services, and the ease-of-use I would say this is the best freelance search site available.


Craigslist.com

At this point pretty much everyone is familiar with how Craigslist works and the job search is no exception. Freelancers can simply go to the job section, choose their category and then search through the many job postings.  To narrow down to postings that specifically apply to freelancers, searchers can filter results to show only those which are labeled as contract or part time. Additionally, many freelance jobs are tagged as allowing you to ‘telecommute’ and  freelancers can also keyword search terms such as ‘freelance’ or ‘freelancer’ in order to retrieve applicable results.

As Craigslist is simply a job posting site, it does not offer any features such as payment tools that help ensure payment is received or project management tools. Additionally, as the site is primarily focused on local markets, many jobs are based on the users location and can require on-site work regardless of a person’s freelance status. In order to try and expand your job search to remote working opportunities outside of your city you must manually search other locations and search for telecommuting opportunities.

Also without the payment and dispute resolution services provided by a site, freelancers are completely on their own in dealing with any conflicts they may have with clients.  (Though is should be pointed out that even with the previous website’s guarantees, there were freelancers who claimed these payment and resolution services still failed to garner payment.)

One last point that must be mentioned are the number of scam job offers on Craigslist. Unfortunately this was another complaint lodged against other sites as well. As with any on-line transaction users must be savvy and look out for warning signs such as projects that require you to pay something up front before bidding.

Although having a national or international search can initially yield more results, a major plus for Craigslist is actually its local focus. By searching for employers in your area there is a greater chance that the prices requested by clients are more in keeping with local norms. This also limits the competition for jobs.

Streetdirectory.com claimed that Craigslist is a perfect starting point for entering the freelance market. Murlu.com, which focuses on providing advice to people starting online businesses claimed that Craigslist could be a goldmine for prospecting new clients. Notably, freelance resource site Freelance Folder actually recommends Craigslist over job workplace sites such as the ones listed.

Finally, and for some users most important, Craigslist is entirely free for job searchers. This is in contrast to the other sites mentioned which strongly favor users with paid memberships.

Summary

To recap, Flexjobs.com is my top choice for people searching for freelance projects or jobs with life/work flexibility. While the site does not have as many listings as some more popular freelance job sites it’s my first choice because the opportunities posted on this site have been screened and are of better quality than those posted on others which gives you a better chance of finding a job that pays fairly. Elance.com was my second choice due to the very large number of strictly freelance jobs and their services for handling workflow management, payment retrieval, and client disputes. Keep in mind because of the many jobs listed there can be the problem of scams and clients seeking to find basement rates for services. It’s recommended that you search for clients specifically requesting freelancers based in their region or country in order to ensure that their budgets are in keeping with your expected pay rates. Additionally, you should maintain your desired pricing as opposed to trying to underbid overseas freelancers in order to ensure that you’re working with a client that isn’t simply seeking to get the cheapest work possible at your expense. Finally, Craigslist came in a close third because it’s a free way to supplement your job search. However, because Craigslist is local in nature, the number of potential projects is very dependent on the level of work in your location and whether your skill set lends itself to telecommuting (if you decided to search for freelance jobs in other cities).