The problems with online portals for freelancers

This week a move away from the property market to discuss something that seems to be an increasing battle for me at the moment. That’s the pain in the backside for every Virtual Assistant and Freelancers life. Getting more work. Obviously this is a task that is done all the time in the background whilst we are working away on our client’s projects.

As part of the various marketing activities that are undertaken most freelancers do still use the various freelancer portals that are out there. We all know the main ones and I try and keep an active presence on a few of them. But there are some major draw backs to using these and it seems especially this month I’ve ran into rather more than I would like. So today we have a look at some of these issues that are making freelancers lives painful.

Yes, I’m a little mad at you as well


This includes knowledge picked up along the way from my own experiences, articles, various friends, colleagues and family members.

It all looks so good in the beginning

The platforms are meant to bring together the freelancers and the people with the jobs on one easy to use web based platform where everyone can work together. The idea being that the freelancers don’t have to knock on quite so many digital doors to get a new client and work on board. So when you do go onto these platforms all looks good to start with. They are all typically free (apart from some of the more obscure or specialist ones) and usually when you have signed up and put in all your relevant details you get a certain number of free credit to use a month to apply for freelance roles. This generally is between 8 and 60 depending on the platform. But you can get more by upgrading to a paid subscription or just purchasing ad hoc credits. The platforms also allows you to market yourself and your services to the community for free as well. Seems good so far right?

Time is money

Some of these platforms are well laid out and it’s easy to find everything you need. As this isn’t time that you can spend on billing any clients you want to be able to use the platforms as quickly and easily as possible whilst still maintaining a high level of quality. Therefore, when you find and then apply for roles you want to do this at the touch of a button. However, some of these sites are incredibly slow at going from page to page. One in particular has so many pop ups, notifications and other gadgets that you’re constantly closing down other screens to be able to complete your application. This particular platform involves going through four screens before your full proposal is sent to the client. What an utter waste of time.

What are these businesses on?

Then we get onto the businesses that are actually on the platforms. Not all of them are fully fledged. Some of them are one man bands just like most freelancers. However, my experience is that everyone expects the highest calibre of work but at a fraction of the price. Seems to be the mantra for a lot of people these days. On these platforms there seem to be an increasing number of what I like to call “Joker” businesses. Either they have put no description of what the work entails and therefore how is anyone meant to accurately put together a proposal. Or they have a completely unrealistic view on the amount of work needed to complete versus the amount of time it will take to complete the job. Not forgetting the actual scammers out there that seem to go under different handles and just repeat the same old jobs. This really aggravates me as they should be nowhere near these platforms. The kind of jobs they put on are eBay posting jobs where they want you to post stuff for them under your own account. Doing research of apps or website advertising, which turns out to be free work you’re doing (I’m sure there is no job at the end of the rainbow). There are plenty more like that one especially around advertising things online. My biggest problem is with people unsure of what they want. So you get the job and then have a discussion about what’s required and it turns out the client isn’t even ready to start work yet. What a waste of everyone’s time and energy.

How much are you paying for this

At the end of the day I suppose all would be ok if these jobs were paid at an appropriate rate. But it’s not really the case most of the time. It’s like the modern version of slave labour. As mentioned above usually the jobs seem to go to the lowest bidder. I suppose that’s just simple economics and it is a supply and demand type business. However, the charges for getting work on the platforms you would think would be fairly uniform. Mostly are somewhere between 10 and 20 percent fees that taken out to cover their costs. One platform I have come across does something very strange with one off projects. The process should be that when you bid and put together your proposal you are given an overall figure that is seen by the client which includes a charge to the client for the job. Further down the line when you have done the work and requested payment the platform usually instantly knocks that fee off the amount they pay you. Fair enough right. On this platform though as soon as the client awards you the business the fee is taken out of your bank account. I was shocked and appalled at this as you haven’t even done the work yet. Especially with one off projects where you have agreed a fee upfront the fee can sometimes be quite large so why take out the money before you get the job completed. Madness.

It’s not all bad news

Some of these platforms are more on the ball than others and seem to have a lot less rubbish jobs, bad website design and incompetent clients to deal with. If you try it out it will be obvious after the first month which ones are any good. But, the concept is good I just think they could be executed a lot better. Sometimes it does lead to long lasting work with clients that know what they are talking about but you do have to spend a lot of time shifting through the detritus to find them and then there is no guarantee you will get the job if someone is prepared to work for next to nothing to do the job and you are not.

I hope this has been informative, interesting and you liked reading it.

That’s all folks this week but I’ll be back again next week. Please subscribe to my Virtual Demon blog and I look forward to your comments and feedback.