The gig economy or contract-based work is booming. It is known to grow every time the economy takes a downturn. The 2008 global financial crisis was one such period when millions of people, having lost their jobs, turned to gig economy. The Covid-19 pandemic made a similar impact on the labor market in 2020: According to a report by the International Labor Organization (ILO), total number of jobs declined by 114 million in 2020 compared to its level in 2019. In addition to millions of people who lost their jobs during the pandemic and turned to the gig economy to somehow make a living, some more fortunate people had the chance to make this shift of their own accord, not willing to spend their lives in office buildings and choosing to try their luck in the freelance market.
In the software business, it was the demand-side rather than the supply-side dynamics that helped freelancing grow. On the demand side, digital transformation in the enterprise segment put a premium on developer skills, which drove up the salaries of talented developers and put them out of reach for startups and SMBs. Freelancing websites gave these businesses a chance to employ developers at more affordable prices and stay competitive at the same time. Hiring developers can be prohibitively expensive for startups and SMBs in high-income countries, but a developer from Latin America, Ukraine, or India working remotely can get the job done for a much lower rate. Here’s a brief look at how these online marketplaces compare:
1 - UPWORK
Easily one of the top freelancing sites, Upwork boasts a user base of 12 million registered freelancers and around 5 million clients as of 2021. Freelancers can sign up, create a profile and post on Upwork the services they can offer, or they can respond to existing job posts from potential clients. The site uses a rating system where freelancers are reviewed for their work and can distinguish themselves among the crowd by delivering top work. The median hourly rate for front-end developers on Upwork is somewhere between $15-$35, while a senior full-stack developer can expect to earn $100 per hour. The commission fee Upwork charges the freelancers starts from a hefty 20 percent on the first $500 worth of billing with a client and drops to 5 percent for the portion of total billings above $10,000 for that same client. Therefore, your ROI will significantly improve in the long-run if you keep working with the same clients on Upwork. In addition to the high commission rate at the beginning, the screening process Upwork has in place can make it difficult for freelancers to enter the job segments where the market is saturated and there is no need for newcomers. Under the leadership of the CEO Hayden Brown, Upwork purged more than two-thirds of its user base in 2020, going from 2.6 million to a little over 800 thousand users in a week. This was an attempt by Brown to steer the company away from a user base chasing one-off gigs to a stable talent pool for the enterprise segment and get rid of the deadweight that did not fit in the plan. It is safe to say that Upwork will position itself in the future as a platform for senior freelancers as opposed to inexperienced freelancers.
2 - FREELANCER.COM
The biggest of all freelancing sites, Freelancer.com has hit 50 million users and 20 million jobs posted in 2021. The lack of a vetting process on Freelancer.com gives the inexperienced freelancers a bigger chance to start their freelancing careers on this platform, but it also brings down the overall quality of candidates. Members pay Freelancer.com a commission fee of 10 percent on their earnings from fixed and hourly projects. This platform is a good option for short-term projects or for those who just want to test the waters and see if freelancer life is for them.
3 - FIVERR
Fiverr is one of the better known freelance sites with 3.42 million buyers (clients looking to hire freelancers in Fiverr lingo) as of 2021. Although it made a name for itself by hosting freelancers who offer services for as low as $5, Fiverr has evolved into a proper marketplace where buyers (clients) and sellers (freelancers) cut deals for various price levels. Fiverr charges a flat rate of 20 percent on every contract a freelancer lands. Fiverr can be a good place to land a project or two as it draws in a lot of traffic. But it probably isn’t the right place to look for premium projects. Fiverr has been a rather controversial platform, too, since it offers the seller a 14-day grace period during which it guarantees a refund for any reason, putting the whole risk of transaction squarely on the shoulders of the freelancer. Just something to bear in mind.
4 - PEOPLEPERHOUR
One of the more popular freelance sites, PeoplePerHour makes use of a screening process for the applicants before signing them in, which ensures a higher level of success rate for the later projects. Businesses post their projects on PeoplePerHour and freelancers can submit their proposals for the projects they are interested in. Although its automatic invoicing gets praise from people who experienced it, the fact that PeoplePerHour charges you for each proposal you submit after using up the 15 proposal credits you are awarded every month means that you might lose some money before landing your first contract. Like Upwork, PeoplePerHour charges freelancers a sliding fee based on total lifetime earnings. The service fee is rated at 20 percent for a billing total of up to $350 per client, 7.5 percent for total billings from $350 to $7000 and 3.5 percent for the portion above $7000, incentivizing long-term business relationships with the same clients.
5 - TOPTAL
Differentiating itself from other freelancing sites by using a different business model, Toptal brings together in its talent pool the crème de la crème of freelance developers. Capitalizing on exclusivity, it prides itself on offering the top 3 percent from among the developers. Toptal ensures the best-project talent fit thanks to its meticulous five-step screening process. The hourly rate for a developer ranges from $60 to $250, reflecting the premium market positioning of Toptal. However, it is significantly more costly for clients to hire talent on Toptal than on other top freelancing sites. It charges solely the clients at a rate nearly twice the freelancer’s predetermined rate, on top of a $500 the client has to deposit for each hire.
Freelance developers always need to be at the top of their game in order to stand out from the crowd on the highly competitive freelancing sites. They should underpromise and overdeliver until they make a name for themselves, finish projects sooner than they promised and ship apps at a pace that dazzles the clients. Premium no-code tools like Peaka come with industry-best practices out-of-the-box and by taking care of things like hosting, maintenance and security, they ensure that the quality will not suffer as workload increases and the business scales. For a freelancer, no-code tools can be the difference maker between maintaining a side hustle and building a sustainable business.