When you are a freelance designer/developer you have so much freedom and life would be all glory, if you didn’t have to think about how to land your next gig. While the demand for designers and developers is steady and even on the rise, this doesn’t help much, if you are out of work.
Lack of projects could happen not only if you are a newbie designer. Even experienced pros can occasionally have months on end when no good jobs are in sight. While you can never guard yourself against this, if you know where to look for work, the chances to be jobless get lower.
There are dozens of sites with jobs for freelance designers and developers but browsing them all just to see nothing suits you is hardly the best strategy. Instead, you should concentrate your time and effort on the sites that really rock. I know the list of good job boards for freelance designers and developers isn’t the same for everybody, so if these sites that work(ed) well for me don’t work at all for you, don’t get desperate but try other sites instead.
The omnipotent Craigslist is the top choice as well when you are looking for new jobs and gigs. In fact, Craigslist alone could be more than enough to find more work than you can handle.
If you are not familiar with Craigslist, you might not know how to search it. Since this is a site for local ads, you need to search it city by city. Some ads appear in more than one city sites but basically this is more of an exception than a rule.
Of course, you can’t search all cities. Even if you could, it doesn’t make much sense because as my experience shows, most of the good ads appear for large cities with a highly-developed IT industry, such as San Francisco, New York, Boston, to name a few. Of course, good ads are to be found in other cities as well, so search a bit, take notes which cities tend to have the most ads you like and monitor them.
When you search Craigslist for jobs, you need to know that there are separate Jobs and Gigs sections for each city, so you might want to check both. The jobs on Craigslist are not only freelance and very often you need to be local to the area because the job requires onsite presence. Still, there are quite a lot of freelance/telecommute jobs you can apply for.
2. Behance Job Board
Behance Job Board is one more place to monitor, if you are looking for freelance design/development jobs. This job board is not dedicated to freelance jobs only but there are a good many of them. Also, there are jobs in many other areas in addition to design/development (though you can filter which field you are interested in). The good thing about Behance Job Board is that dozens of jobs are posted daily, though as I warned you, not all of them are suitable for a freelancer.
Krop is another large job board for creative and tech pros. I not sure if the jobs here are unique to Krop because probably at least part of them are syndicated from elsewhere but it’s a good list. Again, not all jobs are freelance and most of them demand a local pro but still there are a lot of ads to try your luck with.
4. Smashing Magazine Freelance Job Board
If you are a regular reader of Smashing Magazine, one of the leading blogs for Web designers/developers, then you most likely have already noticed that they have a job board, too. In my opinion, Smashing Magazine Freelance Job Board is one of the best job boards for designers and programmers.
Again, not all jobs here are unique – probably for some of them the employer has chosen to post on dozens of sites in order to reach the wisest audience but still there are real candies here. The link leads to the Freelance category but in a separate section they have a list of full-time jobs you might want to check as well.
If you are active on LinkedIn, then you are one step ahead of the competition, as far as job search on LinkedIn is concerned. For starters, you can have a look at these job boards for freelance Designers and Developers. There are thousands of jobs, though most of them are location-specific but this is not all. If you search with various keywords, you will most likely find even more jobs.
6. WordPress Jobs
If you are a WordPress designer, developer, or admin, the job board you will probably love most is WordPress Jobs. This job board certainly isn’t the richest one but the jobs there are good, you don’t have to browse through thousands of irrelevant jobs and the best is that the competition is low (because not many people know about it and even these who know, don’t regularly monitor it). Some of my best alltime clients have come from this board, so I can whole-heartedly recommend it, even if you are not a WordPress pro but you want to develop in this direction.
In addition to the sites with job ads, there are also a lot of bidding sites you might want to try. Bidding sites have their advantages and disadvantages but for a newbie they are probably the better option to land a gig and build a name/portfolio.
I know many designers/developers hate bidding sites because of all the bureaucracy and the (relatively) low pay, especially when you factor the commission the site itself takes but it’s not fair to say that bidding sites are totally useless.
There are probably dozens of bidding sites for designers/developers but it really makes no sense to include more than the ones listed here. Maybe there are a few more that are (more or less) worth the time and effort but these 4 I think are good enough. Of course, even they have tons of crappy, low-paying jobs but also there are many good projects you should be after.
I am not sure if Elance is the oldest bidding site but it certainly has been around for quite long and as surprising as it is, it didn’t lose its high profile, as some other sites did over time. As with all bidding sites, on Elance you browse the available jobs, bid for them, negotiate with the client, if he or she is interested in your bid, work on the project, the client (hopefully) accepts it and you get paid.
Similarly to any other bidding site, when you are new, you might have to start with lower paying jobs in order to get good rankings. In theory, when you get good rankings, you can ask for higher fees but this all depends on what the client can/is willing to pay and the competition.
Guru is another bidding site with good reputation and numerous projects for designers/developers. Depending on the type of the project, there might be a lot of competition and low payment but if you manage to become a name in your category, the door to better projects is open.
There were times when me and my friends were earning income solely on Guru (and it was good income!) but after some really unfortunate changes the site made a couple of years ago, for us Guru became pointless and we switched to other venues. Still, Guru is not that bad even now and even if you don’t rely on it for all your income, there is money to be made on it.
For a long tine oDesk was on my To Check Later list but since I was buried in work from Guru and other places, I didn’t really need to get familiar with it, so I can’t share my personal experience about it. From what I know about it, its main advantage is that you can charge per hour but it’s also a drawback, if you are used to working for a fixed fee.
oDesk doesn’t offer as much protection for freelancers as some of the other sites. For example, until recently they didn’t use escrow, which meant sellers were left to the mercy of the buyer to pay them after they are done with the project. As far as I know, escrow on oDesk is still in beta for now, so don’t rely on it.
oDesk might have its disadvantages but this doesn’t mean it’s bad. On the contrary, many happy sellers and buyers will testify this is a great place to get jobs done, so if you feel like trying, just do it.
4. People Per Hour
People Per Hour is the youngest of the four bidding sites but it looks quite promising. Last year I tried it just for fun and even though I had no experience there, I managed to get some not so bad gigs.
People Per Hour is similar to the other bidding sites because clients post projects and freelancers bid on them. However, what makes People Per Hour different, if not unique, are its Hourlies. An Hourlie is your offer what you can do for an hourly rate (or for a couple of hours, if the job is larger). For instance, you can put an Hourlie for logo design for $15-10-50 and if clients are interested they will contact you.
Bidding sites are not always the best option and for many freelancers they aren’t an option at all. However, this differs on a case by case basis, so don’t despise them before you try them. On the other hand, if ordinary job boards can bring you enough clients, there is no need to waste your time on bidding sites just for the sake of it. Just try to see what works for you and when you find it, stick to it.