Finding freelance jobs: 6 sites for talented techies

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About the service is an online services marketplace for freelance talent. Since 1998, has helped source project work to freelancers specializing in over 160 professional categories.

How it works

Freelancers register as free (Basic) members or as subscribing (Guru/Guru VENDOR) members. Freelancers search for projects that match their skills and submit quotes to bid on work. Once connected, employers can securely pay freelancers through’s SafePay System.

at a glance

In-demand skills

Within the main technical areas, is observing especially high demand for the following skills: Graphic Design Software (PhotoShop, Flash, Illustrator, etc.); Database Development (SQL, MySQL, Oracle); Web Development (ASP, ASP.NET, PHP, Drupal, DNN or DotNetNuke) and more. Online publishing and content management skills are also on the rise.

While technical areas are popular on the site, they are also highly competitive. For example, on February 4, 2009: 23,217 Programming/Software/Database Development freelancers were listed as active; while 1,144 projects in this area were open for bidding.

Earning potential

The average invoice amount is $400. However, a newcomer to the site landed one project that billed in several installments up to a total project cost of $60,000. This one project put the freelancer at the top of the web development Rank very quickly, creating more opportunities on the basis of proven, demonstrated skill.

By the numbers

  • 127,000 active freelancers
  • 5,200 project listings
  • 160 skill categories

Barrier to entry

To get started, a new freelancer has only to set up an account, complete a profile in the skill category under which he or she would like to seek work and begin submitting bids on projects for which he or she is qualified. By completing a freelancer profile as fully as possible – populating it with full resume details, optional skill tests (provided through the site), work samples, video profiles and more – a freelancer can increase his or her chances of being found and awarded work quickly.

Words of wisdom

"Only do this if you love what you do," advises Taras Vovk who has been using to source freelance work for about 7 years. "Working in your 'pajamas' might seem like a great home office setup, but only if you love what you do, will you be successful at this. I guess a cliche statement like that applies here more then ever before, since it's the office setup of the 21st century: there's no one overseeing you, no one watching over your shoulder, it's just you and that 17" environmentally friendly MacBook."

Mark Thomas, a freelancer for 4 years, has these words of advice to someone just getting started:

  • Start small. Bid and complete some low-dollar projects to get some experience and feedback under your belt.
  • Upgrade your profile to Guru or Guru vendor after a few projects to increase visibility.
  • Treat your customers well.
  • Always deliver on your proposal in respect to time and cost (unless requirements change) even if it means you don't get paid for some work. You'll learn to estimate better over time.
  • First-time customers use an escrow service, but once you've established a relationship use invoicing to save money.

Average gig

Opportunities vary widely and may be broken down in different ways according to the needs of each project and the freelancer staffing that project. recommends that each project begin with a Project Agreement to define key milestones, target completion dates and other Project Management goals. Businesses may source work locally, nationally, or globally – the decision as to whether work must be completed on- or off-site is made individually. generally focuses more on opportunities that require unique, individual ability and insight than repetitive manual tasks although there are projects available spanning both types of opportunity.

Among Mark Thomas' more exciting projects are the ones he's done with GIS. "I've created a website to provide free demographic data along with maps (zip code, population density - thematic, avg household income - thematic), spatial databases, geocoding, etc.," says Thomas. On another site he developed a Java backend to perform various GIS functions.

Taras Vovk did a series of projects for Bristol-Myers Squibb, that while not particularly exciting, paid the bills. "The demand for quality on projects like this is huge, and you learn to appreciate a client like that over time," says Vovk.

The ideal candidate

There is really no ideal candidate – the site offers opportunities for full-time freelancers and for part-time moonlighters alike. Common characteristics of good freelancers include high quality talent or skill, interest in cultivating reputation based around this skill, and a strong initiative to succeed.

Next up: LivePerson

Also in this series: Elance | TopCoder | CrossLoop | RentACoder | | LivePerson

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