Freelancer.com is another popular digital freelance marketplace similar to Upwork. (Read our detailed review of Upwork here.)
Such platforms have sprung up in the last few years to help companies and individuals find talented yet affordable independent workers.
With more and more people leaving the security of their full-time jobs to pursue independent work, many talented professionals are signing up on digital marketplaces like Freelancer.com to offer their services.
Online, freelance sites are excellent marketplaces to hire skilled workforce for outsourced software and application development, writing, design and other business services without being bound by geographical limitations.
It also enables businesses to minimize the risk of a long-term commitment to projects and personnel. If either doesn’t work out, then you won’t be committed “too deep.”
Although these platforms host a vast number of registered job seekers as well as job givers, it can be a daunting task for a first-time user to find relevant latent.
In this Freelancer review we will find out how it differs from rival digital marketplaces, what are its advantages and pitfalls and how can businesses hire skilled professionals from this site.
What is Freelancer.com?
Founded in 2009, Freelancer.com connects 22 million employers and freelancers across the globe. According to the Australian company, these users have posted 10 million projects and contests to date on this freelancing marketplace.
You can simply start by creating a ‘profile’.
The Corporate Profile displays all necessary information about your company along with company logo.
The Personal Profile displays your name, the line of work that you do as a professional freelancer, a brief introduction of yourself, your skills and qualifications, etc.
Employers post projects whereas job seekers bid for different projects and get awarded (or selected) to work on a project.
For employers, here are some tips for posting effective projects to attract the right bidders:
- Write a detailed project description. Your description should answer as many potential questions as possible. Be as clear as possible. If you aren’t sure exactly what to ask for, do a little research before you post.
- Your project name should be descriptive so that a freelancer is able to tell at a glance what you’re looking for.
- Select the required skills correctly. Many freelancers search projects strictly by skills. Identify any special tools or skills needed, and describe the level of experience you’re looking for.
- Select your project budget carefully. Too low a budget may eliminate some of the better talents while too high a budget will leave the door open for some price gouging.
- If you have examples of what you need, upload them.
- Hold a video interview on Skype or Google Hangouts to separate a good hire from a bad one.
- Allow enough time for bidding. If your project isn’t urgent, don’t rush freelancers to bid.
For freelancers, here are some tips for bidding effectively for projects to increase the chances of your bid being selected:
- Always take the time to go through the project description thoroughly. Employers often include a phrase in the description that must be included in your bid to have it considered. This is to check if you have clearly read the description.
- Keep your bid proposal clear and concise. Be as clear as possible in stating what you’ll provide, how much it will cost, and how long it will take to deliver.
- Install the mobile app and stay in touch with employers on the go. Also, discover new projects and get your bids in more quickly on the best new projects.
- Upload work samples on your portfolio. But ensure these have a watermark or other means of identification or your name and a statement of copyright. Take care to protect your work from copyright infringement.
- Be competitive with your pricing. Don’t bid too low or too high. If your work is exceptional employers can be willing to pay above average prices.
- Lastly, proofread your bid before you submit it for typos, misspellings, etc.
Want to know how Freelancer compares to Upwork, check out this detailed infographic here.
Game On: Contest Feature
One interesting feature that distinguishes Freelancer from other online platforms is ‘contest’. Freelancer allows job seekers to compete with other freelancers in contests to prove their skills.
I am mentioning this feature early on in this review because it really stands out as an innovative service. It gamifies your online talent search and that makes it fun.
Contests are a great way to showcase your abilities and attract more clients if you’re competitive in your expertise.
For companies, this feature allows you to post a job (let’s say a logo design) and allow different freelancers to finish the job while you then select the best one.
This is an extremely cost-effective way to receive and review hundreds of original designs from professional freelance designers and only pay for the ones you like!
This feature not only allows you to get a job done quickly, but it also lets you see how different designers interpret your brand.
If you run multiple contests you can get a better idea of how top freelancers actually respond to pressure and what kind of work they produce in their first draft.
Under the contest feature, you can also conduct a poll. Click the ‘Launch Poll’ button on your contest page, then select the entries that you are considering. Once done, share the poll link to your friends through email, Facebook, Twitter, and any other way you like.
This is a wonderful way to get your community to help you choose by getting them to vote on up to 8 designs!
Companies can ask freelancers for revisions through private messaging while the contest is still active or during the contest handover stage.
Under the contest handover, the winner uploads the files and submits them to the Contest Handover page. The contest holder has 14 days to download, review, and accept the files. The prize money is released to the winner once the contest holder accepts the files.
Both parties need to sign an IP Transfer Agreement.
For employers, here are some tips to conduct a successful contest:
- Write an informative contest description. Describe what you want in your design and provide sample images or sketches if you can.
- It’s best to create a “guaranteed” contest – which means that there will be a winner in the end who is guaranteed to get the prize money – to attract more participants.
- Offer an attractive prize amount.
- Provide constructive feedback for designs that are not what you’re looking for.
Other Interesting Features
There are few other features which we found interesting:
1. Preferred Freelancer Program
This is a community of elite-level freelancers selected by Freelancer based on a workers’ skill and reviews received from employers.
Freelancers must submit an application to get included in this Program.
As a Preferred Freelancer, you’ll be given guaranteed access to quality leads, high-level support, and a badge on your profile to showcase your achievements.
2. Employer Following
This feature lets you know when your favourite employers post projects or contests by following them on Freelancer.com. You receive an email when they post a project or contest so you can bid or join immediately.
The number of employers you can follow depends on your membership plan. (More about membership plans in the ‘How much does Freelancer charge?’ section).
However, employers can prevent freelancers from adding them to Employer Following lists.
3. Freelancer Rewards
This feature provides you with additional rewards and benefits just for using Freelancer.com.
As you complete certain tasks and accomplish certain goals, you earn experience points (XP) that go towards increasing your Rewards Level. As you advance through the levels, you unlock rewards and perks that boost your earning potential and chances to win projects.
You also earn Freelancer Credits to spend in the Credit Shop. You can use these to purchase free project/contest upgrades, bids, and exams to save you money.
The loophole: While everyone can accumulate XP and rewards, you can only spend credits in the Credit Shop and use active rewards if you have a paid membership plan.
Moreover, some reward items in the Credit Shop are limited in stock and are only available within a limited time. Go figure!
4. Freelancer Showcase
This is a compilation of successful projects, contests, or sample work completed by freelancers on Freelancer.com.
As an employer, you can use the Freelancer Showcase, to quickly find popular project ideas and hire a freelancer most suited to your job requirements. You can also find more details about each project or contest, such as its summary, duration, and total budget.
How much does Freelancer charge?
With Freelancer, both the job seeker and the employer pay hourly rates or project fees depending on the job.
We found pricing and fees to be more complicated than other freelance sites, although rates are competitive with rivals.
Fees for Employers
For employers, Freelancer is free to sign up, post a project, receive bids from freelancers, review the freelancer’s portfolio and discuss the project requirements. If you choose to award the project, and the freelancer accepts, Freelancer charges a small project fee relative to the value of the selected bid, as an introduction fee.
The cost and how this fee is charged depends on the type of project.
For fixed price projects, a fee of 3% or $3.00 (whichever is greater) is levied.
For hourly projects, a fee of 3% is levied on each payment as it is made to the freelancer.
Fees for Freelancers
For freelancers, this online marketplace is free to sign up, create a profile, select skills of projects you are interested in, bid on projects (free members receive initially 8 bids per month) and enter contests.
If you want your bid to highlight your bid so that it visually stands out to the employer from other bidders, you can opt for “bid upgrades”.
You can also sponsor your bid by paying 2% of bid amount (minimum $4.00, maximum $50.00). This moves your bid to the top of the bid list.
For fixed price projects, Freelancer charges an introduction fee of 10% or $5.00, whichever is greater from job seekers.
For hourly projects, the fee is 10% and is levied on each payment.
Fees for The Preferred Freelancer Program
As a freelancer, if you are in the Preferred Freelancer Program, you will be charged a 15% project fee when you are awarded and accept a Recruiter project. This will not be charged upfront, like on regular projects, but when you receive the payment.
They also have a membership option where the fee structure ranges from free to $59.95/month.
As members, employers get free project extensions that increase the time during which your project can receive bids.
They can also avail the Sealed Project Upgrades feature which hides bids from other freelancers. This leads to more accurate, higher quality proposals as freelancers do not try to outbid each other.
Another feature is the NDA Project Upgrades that ensures freelancers sign a Non-disclosure agreement before bidding on your project to ensure confidentiality of your project.
For freelancers, membership benefits include more bids to use on projects as well as instant email and real-time notifications when your favourite employers are hiring. Another feature is Project Bookmarking that enables Intro, Basic, Plus, Professional and Premier members to flag projects they are interested in, to bid on later.
Plus, Professional and Premier members can also send external invoices to clients outside the Freelancer platform while Freelancer takes care of your accounting and payment processing.
For Contests, the freelancer is charged 10% or $5.00, whichever is greater. It is free for employers to post contests. I think this is an unfair fee structure. Why should the freelancer be charged when he is already doing the work in the hope of winning the contest? If he doesn’t win, he doesn’t get any money for his work, right?
At the time of posting a contest, employers must deposit funds equivalent to the total contest prize.
You can also opt for additional services like “featured,” “urgent,” “priority” and others while posting a content or a project at an additional cost of $5-$199.
How do I make payments on Freelancer?
They have a system called Milestone Payment™ System that allows controlled payments to be made for the awarded freelancer on a project.
The other modes of payment for projects are invoices, and funds transfer.
The Milestone Payment™ System has features that protect the employer from fraud, missed deadlines or wrong deliverables. Another reason to use this system is that the Dispute Resolution Service is offered only for users who have used the Milestone Payment System.
This is how it works:
- Before they start work on projects, freelancers can request to have a Milestone Payment created for them as assurance of payment. However, it is the employer who decides whether to create the requested Milestone Payment or not.
- Once a Milestone Payment is created (funded), the money remains in sort of an escrow account until the employer releases it.
- When all tasks are satisfactory and the employer releases the Milestone Payment, it is transferred to the freelancer’s account balance on the site.
Tip for employers:
Release the Milestone Payment after you are completely satisfied with the delivered work and all deliverables have been submitted and up-to-standard.
Tip for freelancers:
Discuss and arrange for Proposed Milestones with the employer. As a freelancer, you can ask for a staggered payment schedule based on the project’s progress. This will allow you to get partial payments when each stage of a project is completed.
Payments can be made through PayPal, Credit/Debit cards or Skrill. Your preferred payment source will be verified by Freelancer.
How to resolve disputes?
Freelancer.com offers a Dispute Resolution Service to users who wish to contest the return or release of an existing Milestone Payment.
If an issue arises wherein you wish to negotiate the return or release of a Milestone Payment, you have the option to file a dispute. The fees to file a dispute regarding Milestone Payment is $5.00 or 5%, whichever is greater, payable by each party. The fee is refunded to the winner of the dispute.
However, Freelancer.com encourages its users to resolve project issues or disputes between themselves rather than use this service.
They certainly don’t want to get involved unless absolutely necessary.
Some common disputes involve a freelancer billing you for more hours than necessary to complete the task or submitting subpar quality of work.
Dispute resolution is not a major strength for any freelancing site and Freelancer is not an exception.
Use it as a last resort and only if the involved payment amount is high because dispute resolution costs money.
Time Tracking & Communication
Freelancer provides a downloadable desktop app for Windows, Linux or Mac that is used by freelancers on hourly projects to track their work hours and have screenshots of their work recorded for their employers to monitor.
The time tracker includes a ‘play’ and ‘pause’ button which is controlled by the freelancer, but with the ability to switch projects if a chat begins from another project.
The freelancer app also takes periodic screen shots of the freelancer’s workstation but also allows the freelancer to manually take a screenshot to send to the employer via a ‘snapshot’ button.
While the time tracking tool is useful its limitation to hourly projects can be a deterrent for few freelancers who work on extended fixed-price projects.
In such cases, the employer could provide his own time tracking tools, like Time Doctor, that makes it easy to see how your workers are spending their time through customizable reports showing individual time logs, screenshots, and more.
Apart from the time tracking, messaging, and file sharing features of the Freelancer Desktop App, it also allows offline tracking. This enables the freelancer to track their hours and take random screenshots of their work even when there’s no stable Internet connection.
Freelancer generates automatic invoices based on the hours tracked using the Freelancer Desktop App. With the offline tracking feature, even if network connectivity is lost, the freelancer does not lose the hours worked and its corresponding payment.
Freelancer also provides a mobile app that allows freelancers to communicate with employers via a chat messaging feature and display multiple projects and details at once.
As an employer or a freelancer, it is important to conduct all communications and information and file exchanges exclusively using the messaging system.
Provide all instructions to the freelancer as soon as you order the service. This initial contact will help them to start working on your service and enable them to accommodate any special requests.
Employers can send a private message to any freelancer who placed a bid on their project. Freelancers can send a private message to any employer with a project that they bid on if that employer has contacted them.
Issues with Freelancer
Here are some issues you might encounter with Freelancer:
- If you are a freelancer and have been inactive for a while, the platform will charge you a fee for being ‘inactive’. If you don’t access your account for six months Freelancer will charge a maintenance fee of up to $10.00 per month until either you terminate the account or reactivate it. Upon reactivation, the fee is refunded.
- It will also charge you for converting money from one currency to another.
- The customer service is a little difficult to reach. We were unable to find a chat support page and was instead pushed to endless “self-help” articles that weren’t very helpful.
With digital marketplaces like Freelancer on the rise, companies are finding it simpler and profitable to hire remote workers online.
It may take some time and effort to navigate the Freelancer site and to work your way through various bids to find the best professional for your job, but that effort is worth the while.
Using sites like Freelancer, you not only save on additional costs associated with on-site hiring like office space, work stations, insurance; but are also able to access a wider talent pool. You can also hire different professionals for different job postings, even if it demands the same skills (depending on the complexity of the project) without being tied to any one specific hire.
So, what are you waiting for? Try it out and let us know what you think!
Amara writes for TimeDoctor.com, a software designed for tracking hours and optimizing productivity for remote workers and remote teams.