I recently wrote a post on the 10 ways I find freelance work and want to elaborate on the brief description I gave of each method. The first thing on the list is gig listings.
I have gotten a fair amount of work from responding to gig listings on job boards. In fact, my very first freelance gigs came from job boards, and those in turn led me to all sorts of other things.
By “job boards” I’m not talking about freelance work marketplaces like Upwork and Fivrr; I will cover those in another post. Here I am talking about the type of job listings you’re familiar with from traditional employment, like classified ads for freelancers.
Freelancing and Job Boards
As freelancing becomes more and more popular, getting jobs from listings is increasingly competitive. I have often heard those who list freelance gigs comment about how many hundreds of applications they receive. But it’s not all bad news; as more employers figure out how much sense it makes to hire us freelancers, the number of freelance listings is growing along with the number of applicants.
Unfortunately, there is no single prominent job board dedicated to quality freelance gigs. It’s possible such boards do exist in certain fields that I’m unfamiliar with (if so, please weigh in in the comments and let others in your sector know where to look). But for us freelance writers, there isn’t a single bubbling source of freelance work to which we can turn when we’re thirsty.
This lack is due to the fact that freelancing is such a very diverse, global, and nonstandard field (as I always say, the Wild West), so its energy hasn’t coalesced around a single authority or site. And freelancing isn’t really a field until itself, of course, but a business structure; it’s logical that jobs for all freelance work wouldn’t fit well together in a single jobs site. There’s also the fact that those hiring freelancers don’t always turn to job boards; many of the best freelance gigs aren’t ever advertised in listings since they are obtained through referrals and word of mouth.
But I digress. The point is that with no central freelance job board to look to, seeking gigs via listings is a fussy process. It requires spending hours perusing a wide variety of sources and vetting the prospects you find.
Rules of Thumb
Here are a few rules of thumb for approaching listings as a freelancer:
- Only a small fraction of the listings will be worth applying for. You need to spend a considerable amount of time seeking and checking listings to find any that might work.
- You’ll learn from experience what’s likely to be a good listing. Sometimes it will be obvious but other things are subtler; how a listing is written — the language and framing used — will tell you a lot about what kind of job it’s likely to be. Experience as a freelancer improves your ability to sniff out non-promising listings.
- Few of the jobs you apply for will be a good fit. Freelance gig listings are not likely to include pay rates or other salient details, so you have to spend time applying to figure out if the pay will be in your range and the job arrangement will work for you.
Needless to say, patience and perseverance are essential.
Where and How to Look
So where do you find these potentially ill-fitting freelance gigs? As you begin searching for freelance job listings, you’ll likely find some dedicated job boards for freelancers in your field, such as ProBlogger job board that’s specific to Web writers.
But more of the promising freelance gigs can actually be found on regular job boards like Indeed and Glassdoor. You will need to search those sites using “freelance ______,” leaving the location field blank if you’re looking for gigs that can be done remotely.
On some sites you can check a box for “freelance” or “contract” to narrow those down via the search criteria. Some sites, such as Idealist for nonprofit work, allow you to choose “everywhere” as a location.
Warning: If you type “remote” into that field you may well find jobs located in Remote, Oregon, which is an actual place (though you may also find actual remote jobs whose employers listed the location as Remote, Oregon, by mistake).
Another warning: Depending on the site and the employer’s attention to detail, there may be a mismatch between the job title, labeled “freelance,” and the job characteristics that the job poster identified via drop-downs when creating the listing.
So it’s very common to see a job labeled “freelance” in the title bar and “full-time” in the side panel that lists the job’s characteristics. There are employers who believe that a freelancer can work for them full-time (which is typically untrue, at least legally), but chances are that the discrepancy has to do with the job poster not being careful when posting. So pay much more attention to the job title and description than those types of identifiers.
One other way to use listings to find gigs is to look for full-time job listings that include managing freelancers as part of the job description. These will likely come up along with the freelance gigs when you search “freelance _______.”
When you figure out that a particular job includes managing freelancers, you know that the company in question uses freelancers and you also likely have the HR department’s contact info from the job listing. You can reach out to the HR contact with a proposal to work for them as a freelancer or send a letter of interest (LOI) to the head of the job’s department, if you can figure out who it is and how to reach them.
As you can see, finding good work this way takes persistent effort. Get in the habit of browsing your favorite job boards regularly.
This is a great thing to do on your phone while waiting for a dentist appointment or in line at the store; email any promising job links to yourself or save them in an app to look at later. Don’t be picky on your first run-through; just save links to anything that could possibly work and vet them when you have a freer moment.
If you scroll these sites as a habit and apply fairly broadly to promising leads, you may just snag some work.