Everything you need to know about making money with Freelancer

Written by Emma Kansiz

Published 2022-07-05 / 4 min read

Want to level up your freelance career? Curious about self-employment or remote work? Ready to build a killer real-world portfolio? Freelancer.com is calling your name.

What is Freelancer?

Freelancer.com, based in Sydney, is one of the original freelance marketplaces on the web. They have freelancers working across 1350 categories, including writing, marketing, video editing, and SEO optimization. Anyone with an online (and offline) skill can sign up for Freelancer. It is a well-reputed way for talented freelancers to search for clients, find relevant work, and build up a portfolio of projects.

They have hundreds of new job postings per day and thousands of freelancers working on their site. In fact, they have had over 16 million job postings since their launch! While many people make a side income using the platform, there are also people making full-time wages.

How does Freelancer's earning structure work?

Like Upwork, one of their main competitors, Freelancer.com allows its clients to pay freelancers a fixed price per project or an hourly rate. There are merits to both styles of work, depending on what field you are in and the parameters of the respective project. You can set your own hourly rate, which is certainly empowering, but pay attention to what competitors in your field and your location are charging.  Freelancer.com pays out via PayPal, Skrill, and Payoneer. They take a 10% commission on all payments made through the site. The minimum threshold in order to transfer money into your account is $30. It can take two weeks for the first payment to be processed and arrive in your account. 

The site has a useful selection of features which can help you track your billing, hours worked, and income across different time brackets. This is super useful for tracking income and for your tax returns. It is like having a built-in accounting feature. And as an independent contractor, this will be super beneficial.  

While you can gain all the benefits of the site for free, there is also an Intro Membership Plan that costs 99 cents a month. This garners you 7 extra bids per month. The Basic Membership Plan costs $4.95 a month and allows you up to 50 bids per month. It also makes you eligible for the Preferred Freelancer tier, which attracts more clients to your profile and helps you land higher paying jobs. This is not mandatory, but can be helpful once you’ve acquired a few reviews and really want to level up your freelance business. The Plus Membership Plan is $9.95 a month and nets you 100 bids per month but if you are willing to pay, we think the Basic Plan is sufficient.

What is the time commitment for Freelancer?

What is the time commitment for Freelancer.com you ask? We don’t have a cut and dried answer. The time you will dedicate to setting up a killer profile and applying for work and the time you spend actually working are two different aspects that you must consider. 

The backend work of establishing a compelling profile with a succinct and engaging bio and relevant work samples is unpaid, but necessary. This might take a few hours of your time over one afternoon, or over the course of a couple days.

When it comes to applying for work, you can dedicate as much or as little time as is practical for you. But we would be remiss if we told you searching for jobs on Freelancer is an easy and quick process. In all honesty, it is a similar experience to applying for jobs in the real world. It is not uncommon to send out 20 or more applications before you start hearing back from clients. Each application can take 20 minutes to complete, and there is no guarantee that you will hear back. Try and set up a schedule throughout the week so you can hold yourself accountable to finding work.  

Once you have secured work the time commitment depends entirely on the job at hand. Some roles require a few hours of work one time while others are ongoing over the course of a few months. Some jobs can be completed in a weekend while others will require hours of work per day. The range is truly huge, but you can filter jobs based on what kind of time commitment you are looking for.

How to get started with Freelancer?

You can sign up via email or Facebook. We recommend using your email for security purposes. What if your Facebook gets hacked, for instance? You will then choose a unique username and password. After verifying your account you can set up your profile. Choose a friendly, professional profile picture.

Freelancer.com recommends getting as specific as possible and niche-ing down on your profile summary. You want to differentiate yourself from the crowd of generalists on the platform. While it may seem counterintuitive, you will actually position yourself better if you focus on a few specific skill sets, industries, or subcategories of work. Detail measurables and specifics, along with references to past projects or roles.     

There are countless categories that you can search for jobs within. The search functionality on Freelancer.com is intuitive and clean - one of the benefits of the site. Once you start bidding on projects, be frank and explicit with what you offer and the price you can complete the project at. Tailor your proposal to the job description and identify the ‘pain points’ and how your unique skill set can be called upon to solve them.  

Once you have received a job, keep all communication on Freelancer.com. Their messenger system is quite comprehensive and you might get banned from the site if you take it offline. This might seem harsh but Freelancer.com maintains that it does so to protect the freelancer and to have a record in case of disputes.

Freelancer requirements

Required Resources

Access to a computer, phone, and the tools of your particular trade are necessary for success on Freelancer.com. Depending on your niche you must have access to up-to-date software and hardware to get the job done. This might include headphones, a multi-monitor desktop setup, Adobe Photoshop, or the MS Office Suite. You must have the right technology to be competitive on the site.

Required Skills

You must be 18 years of age or older.

Talent and/or experience in your given field is a must. The competition on Freelancer.com is steep and most clients will want demonstrable evidence of your talent. Dig deep and flesh out whether you have any specific or niche skills you can offer. Parse your past lived and professional experience for any unique strengths that you could bring to the table.

Because it is such a saturated marketplace, we recommend upskilling to make yourself a more desirable candidate in your field. This could mean getting online certifications, researching a new skill at the library, or taking a free or paid online course. Sites like Udemy offer lots of affordable courses on anything from photography to graphic design to HTML web development. The more you have confidence in your skills, the more appealing you will be to clients.

Required Documents

Freelancer.com will ask you for a passport and/or driver’s license to verify your identity. This helps them maintain the quality of freelancers on the site. You need to provide these to get a Verified Freelancer status on the site. Without it you won’t be able to do much, and you won’t be able to withdraw funds. 

Depending on what roles you are applying for, clients may want to see certifications, a resume, and a portfolio of past work. Ensure you have amassed all of these documents while you are setting up your profile so you don’t miss out on job opportunities. 

If you don’t have prior experience but want to break into your field using a marketplace like Freelancer.com, know that it is possible, but it will be more challenging in the beginning. We recommend creating a website or portfolio of work, even if it is just created for the sake of having a portfolio. There are lots of freelancers on the platform and you will want to have samples available to beat out the other applicants. It might seem daunting, or like a lot of effort that might not go anywhere, but it is an absolute must. You won’t go far without demonstrating your skills in a tangible way to prospective clients.

Other important details

We recommend being thoughtful before committing to either a fixed or hourly rate. Some projects that are listed as a $100 fixed price sound enticing, but are much less so when you realize that they require 11 hours of work. Similarly, some projects might take only two hours, but the scope of them, and the urgency with which the client needs them, might warrant a price higher than two hours of work would net you. Don’t be seduced by lowball offers or postings simply to get a few projects under your belt. Often cheap customers turn out to be difficult customers, too. Why? They might not value the work you are doing, thinking writing or video editing are ‘easy’ and if they don’t value you they will likely be demanding and unsympathetic to your role as a freelancer. 

Vet client just as they are vetting you. We recommend utilizing the feature ‘About the Employer’ which lets you look at their payment history and review history. This is useful because not all employers are made equal. Avoid ones with a history of leaving bad reviews, or even consistent four or three star reviews, as this may indicate that they are never happy or that they aren’t easy to please. 

You have to be patient on marketplaces like Freelancer.com. They are much maligned for being a race to the bottom, and there is some truth to this. It is an international site and there are freelancers from around the world who are able to offer lower prices. If you live in a country with a high cost of living like America you simply can’t offer the lowest price on the platform. This can be frustrating as you will be passed over in favor of people who can get the job done cheaper. But you have to persevere and stay hopeful. Your skills will eventually match up with someone’s needs and budget constraints. 

One of the selling points of Freelancer.com is that it has a much more robust section of jobs than competitors like Upwork. Not all of the work is remote and you can find handyman and skilled labor jobs on the site as well. These can be found under their Local Jobs and Services tab, which works similarly to sites like TaskRabbit.

Our review

Freelancer.com is a reputable site that hosts hundreds of job postings per day. But it is by no means an easy or quick money-making endeavor and is best approached with a ‘long game’ mindset. It can take months to establish yourself on the site, and in many cases it can take months of applying before you land your first role. We don’t want to dissuade anyone from taking advantage of this opportunity but it is worth bearing in mind. You won’t create a profile and begin working immediately. If you don’t ‘need’ the money right away and can afford to send off applications throughout the week on a consistent basis, you will get much more out of the platform.

Freelancer.com can certainly be beneficial for those who want to grow their portfolio or get a taste of location-independent work. It can absolutely become a primary source of income over time but this can take years of concerted effort. It is best approached as a source of supplemental income and a way to gain measurable experience when you are first starting out. Time management and consistency are vital in the world of online marketplaces, as you will have to commit to sending out applications and proposals throughout the week to make any headway. If you have a busy schedule already, this might prove untenable. 

We do love Freelancer.com for students, travelers, digital nomads, or new parents, as the work allows you a taste of freedom and self-sufficiency. If you are already working a few jobs, or looking to add a new and profitable side gig to an already hectic schedule, we might caution against putting too much hope in Freelancer.com. But if you want to create an income stream over time, and you have reasonable expectations about the unpaid time involved, then Freelancer.com can certainly net you some fascinating and rewarding work experiences.