Michael Wong Academy

Freelance Jobs

Do you know how to make money online with freelance jobs? What are freelance jobs? Are all freelance jobs scams? How much money can you make with freelance jobs? Read on for all the answers.

Quick links

Freelance jobs quick facts

* PayPal, check, bank deposit, international wire transfer, Payoneer, Skrill and Western Union.

Work where?
Pay by
Joining fee?
Minimum age
Various *
Independent contractor
Most freelance jobs require experience
Some freelance jobs require qualifications

What are freelance jobs?

People who do freelance jobs are known as Freelancers.

Freelancers are independent contractors who provide services to clients in return for payment by the hour or by the project.

Independent contractor vs self employed

At first glance, there doesn't seem to be any differences between being an independent contractor and self-employed. But there are.

The main differences are:

Depending on where you live, the difference may affect how you file your tax returns.

Pros and cons of freelance jobs

Many people think working freelance is great. They're right. But there are downsides as well.

So here are the pros and cons of freelance jobs:



As you can see, there are lots of pros and cons to working freelance. It's not for everyone. Consider the pros and cons of freelancing before making the jump.

Are all online freelance jobs scams?

I did a lot of research on this topic. And here's the conclusion I came to...

Online freelance jobs are definitely a legitimate way to make money online.

Companies offering freelance jobs don't charge for applications. If you come across online freelance jobs that require payment for applying or more information, run the other way! :-)

If you have any opinions or experiences with freelance jobs, please post your comments at the bottom of this page.

How much money can I make with freelance jobs?

How much money you make with freelance jobs depend on:

oDesk freelance marketplace stats

Here are some interesting oDesk oConomy stats for April 2012. oDesk is a popular freelance marketplace.

Average hourly income on oDesk

Based on those stats we can calculate the average hourly income as follows:

$27,759,542 (earned on oDesk)
÷ 2,750,021 (hours worked)
= $10.09 per hour.

Based on my research so far $10 an hour compares favorably with what many other online jobs pay.

Of course this is just the average hourly income. Many freelance jobs pay a much higher average hourly rate. Learn to do those higher paying jobs if you want to make more money.

Average income per job posted on oDesk

We can also calculate the average income per job posted as follows:

$27,759,542 (earned on oDesk)
÷ 143,301 (jobs posted)
= $193.71 per job posted.

Note that $193.71 is for 'jobs posted'. I'm sure there are jobs posted that didn't start for whatever reason. With a lower job completion number, the average income earned per job would no doubt be higher.

Average duration per job on oDesk

We can also calculate the average number of hours per job posted as follows:

2,750,021 (hours worked)
÷ 143,310 (jobs posted)
= 19.19 hours worked per job posted.

Freelance job market statistics

To give you an idea of the freelance job market, here are some stats from oDesk. These stats are correct at the time of writing.

Freelance jobs per category

The table below shows the number of freelance jobs broken down by category.

Web development jobs are by far the most popular category with almost 1 in 3 freelance jobs advertised on oDesk.

Job categories
Web development
Sales & marketing
Writing & translation
Design & multimedia
Software development
Admin support
Business services
Networking & Info Systems
Customer service

Hourly vs fixed price freelance jobs

The table below shows the number of hourly versus fixed price freelance jobs. According to oDesk, hourly freelance jobs are slight more popular than fixed price freelance jobs.

Fixed price

Freelance job workload

The table below shows the number of freelance jobs broken down by the workload. The "workload" is the number of hours per week clients expected a contractor to work:

Full time freelance jobs are by far the most popular with 3 out of every 5 jobs at oDesk.

Full time
Part time

Freelance jobs duration

The table below shows the number of freelance jobs broken down by roughly how long the client thinks the job will last - this applies to hourly jobs only.

Less than a month
Less than a week
1-3 months
3-6 months

Freelance jobs lasting less than a month is by far the most popular with 79% of the jobs posted on oDesk.

Earlier we discovered that 60% of freelance jobs at oDesk are full time. This means the majority of freelance jobs advertised at oDesk are full time lasting less than a month. Hmm... interesting!

Freelance jobs posting days

The table below shows the number of freelance jobs broken down by the number of days since they were posted.

Over 1,500 freelance jobs were posted in oDesk within the last 24 hours. Nice!

Almost 33,000 jobs were posted in the last 30 days. Wow!

Unemployment may be an issue in the off-line world. But there are plenty of jobs online. Isn't it time you try making money working online? :-)

Last 31 days
Last 14 days
Last 7 days
Last 3 days
Last 24 hours

Top 10 freelance job tips

I have outsourced nine freelance jobs on oDesk.com ranging from $50 to $14,000. I've paid freelancers $5 to $40 an hour.

Here are my top 10 tips to improve your chances of attracting job offers on freelance job sites:

  1. Get top search engine rankings: employers often invite freelancers to bid on a job. But employers can only invite freelancers if they know they exist.

    They find them using the freelance site's search engine. So try to get your listing to appear within the first few pages of search results, preferably the first page.

    How to get top search engine rankings

    There are many factors to getting top rankings. Having the right keywords in your profile is probably the biggest factor.

    So include relevant keywords in your job title and description that clients may use to search for freelancers.

    Some freelance sites such as oDesk let you enter your skills into your profile. These are the keywords that appear in your job title.

    Enter your skills in the order that you think will attract the most clients. It goes without saying that you must be honest about the skills you claim to have.

    If I don't know you exist, none of the other tips matter. So spend some time on getting top search engine rankings.

  2. Make a good first impression with your photo: it's often said that people buy from people they like.

    The fact is potential employers will judge you on the way you you look. I always look at a freelancer's profile photo.

    So make sure you use a nice, clear, color photo of you with a warm, genuine smile to make a good first impression.

    Imagine the face you'd present when you meet someone for a job interview: warm, genuine, business-like. That's the look you should have on your photo.

    Face the camera - don't look away from the camera. Use a close-up shot so that people can still see your face clearly in the thumbnail photos in search results.

    No photo is bad for business

    A bad photo of you is better than no photo. Don't use an avatar image. Stick to a photo.

    I typically reject freelancers if they don't have a photo. I think people who don't have a photo have something to hide, hence can't be trusted. And I won't hire someone I can't trust.

  3. Sell yourself in your cover letter: if your job title and photo grabs my attention, I'll read your profile cover letter or description for more information.

    So write a profile cover letter that sells YOU and what you have to offer. You're competing with hundreds, even thousands, of freelancers.

    Think of your cover letter as a sales letter. If you need help writing a sales letter, hire a top notch copywriter.

    If you can't afford to hire a top notch copywriter, hire an average one. Because an average copywriter will almost certainly do a better job of writing your copy than you.

    7 tips on how to write a cover letter that attracts employers

    If you want to write the cover letter yourself, here are 7 tips:

    • Tell potential clients what makes you stand out from other freelancers: for example, "I've worked over 10 years at Microsoft." - now that would make you stand out!
    • Mention your experience (if you have any): for example, "I have over 10 years of hands-on experience doing SEO for small companies to Fortune 1000 clients." - now that's reassuring!
    • Highlight your best skills: I've seen far too many freelancers make the mistake of mentioning too many skills they have little experience in.

      When I'm looking for potential freelancers to invite, I'd go for someone who has 10 years of experience in the essential skills I'm looking for, over someone who's got 1 to 2 years of experience in 20 different skills.

    • Include features and benefits every client loves:
      • Guaranteed to meet deadlines - peace of mind.
      • Proactive in providing constructive ideas - added value.
      • Available 8am to 10pm, 6 days a week - always available.
      • Reachable via email, instant messaging, Skype, phone, etc. - easily reachable.
      • Satisfaction guaranteed - peace of mind.
    • Create a concise, compact cover letter: people don't have the patience to read long boring letters.

      So edit out the fluff until you can edit no more. Look at every sentence, every word, and decide whether you can remove or edit it down.

      Say everything you want to say. But no more. Less is more. This is copywriting 101.

    • Talk in terms of what the client will get: fact: we are all selfish. Clients are no different. They want to know what you can do for them.

      So where possible, talk about what the client will receive, rather than how impressive you are. So construct sentences with that in mind. Use "You" instead of "I".

      For example:

      • Instead of "I've been doing SEO since 1998", use "With over 14 years of experience in SEO, you can be sure I have the experience to achieve the results you want".
      • Instead of "I'm always reachable", use "You can contact me anytime via email, instant messaging, Skype, or phone, from 8am to 10pm, 6 days a week".

      You see the difference?

    • Spell check and proofread your profile: profiles with spelling errors and poor grammar just tells potential clients you're lazy and sloppy. Who wants to hire a lazy and sloppy freelancer?

      So run your cover letter through a spell checker. Most text editors have one. And re-read your profile out loud, slowly. Get someone else to read it too. These two techniques help to spot errors.

  4. Impress with high skill test scores: but only take skill tests if you're confident of getting high marks - 90th percentile or higher.

    Having a bunch of skill test scores in the 50th percentile is not impressive. It would tell potential clients that you're not that good, which would harm your chances.

    English test warning!

    Don't take English tests if your English isn't that great.

    I've seen profiles where the freelancer has stated that they rate their English 5 out of 5, yet they only got a 25th percentile score in the English test. Duh! :-)

  5. Build up your work history: I always look to see if potential hires have experience doing similar work to the job I'm hiring for.

    When you first sign up at a freelance site you have to compete with freelancers who have lots of work history.

    The way to overcome your lack of work history is to offer to do work for as little money as possible. I'd suggest work for free but I don't think freelance sites allow that.

    Explain to potential clients in your cover letter that your standard rate is $40 per hour, or whatever it may be.

    And you're only offering this special introductory rate of say $2 per hour to build up your work history.

    People always love a bargain. Employers are more likely to take a risk when the rate is so low.

    If you offer $2 an hour without explaining why your rate is so low, potential clients will think you're just cheap and probably no good.

    Start with tiny jobs that are quick to complete - like 10 to 15 minutes. Slowly increase the size of the jobs you take on and your hourly rate.

    Don't come across as desperate though. Explain to potential clients that you're offering a great deal for a limited time only and that the offer won't be available when you build up your work history and can charge higher rates.

    Assuming you do a great job every time, soon you'll be earning the hourly rate you desire in no time at all. :-)

  6. Aim for top client ratings and feedback with every job: your client ratings and feedback will make or break your freelance career.

    So make sure you aim for top client ratings and feedback with every job by doing a fantastic job.

    When I read client ratings and feedback, I'm looking for language that says the freelancer does a fantastic job EVERY time.

    I'm looking for superlatives like "awesome", "fantastic" and "perfect" in the feedback.

    To get your clients to use these superlatives, you have to WOW them by giving 150% to every job.

    If I read feedback that uses words like "competent", "fairly good" or "quite good", it gives me the impression that the freelancer didn't do such a great job.

    I don't want to take a gamble that the freelancer might only decide to do a "fairly good" job for me. I want someone who'd do a great job every time.

    You can get away with doing a "fairly good" job in a 9 to 5 job.

    But when you're freelancing, the jobs will soon dry up if you don't give it your best everytime.

    There are hundreds, if not thousands, of freelancers who are eager to do a better job than you. So do a fantastic job or don't do it at all.

  7. Impress with your portfolio: only include your best work in your portfolio. If your best work isn't likely to WOW potential clients, leave it out.

    Far too often I see portfolios with average work which does more harm and good. Remember: quality over quantity.

    If you're just starting out, create some sample work. Make sure it's your best work. Add it to your portfolio. This will give potential clients an idea of what you can do.

  8. Respond to potential clients quickly: in the world of online freelancing, hiring decisions are often made in hours, not days or weeks. This is especially true for small quick jobs.

    Let me tell you a story...

    There was one time I had spent hours trying to fix a Facebook Like button issue on my website and was getting frustrated.

    In the end I decided I needed help. I wanted someone to fix the issue as soon as possible.

    So I posted the job on oDesk. I received several responses. I discussed the job with each respondent, but some took longer than others to respond.

    In the end I took a risk on my second choice because he responded quicker to my communications and promised to fix the issue right away.

    I didn't go with my first choice, although he looked like the most qualified, simply because he was too slow to respond.

    When he finally responded, he said something along the lines of, "Oh! I didn't realize you wanted the job done so quickly".

    Because of that, he lost an easy job and a potential long term client.

    The moral of the story is respond to potential clients quickly. I'd also advise continue to respond quickly throughout the job.

  9. Respond to potential clients individually: in this world of technology, a personal touch can be the difference between success and failure.

    I always ignore standard generic responses that look like the freelancer has used for every application. Such responses give me the impression that the freelancer is lazy and my job is just one of many jobs they've applied for.

    I'm always impressed by freelancers who take the time to:

    • address the specific issues outlined in the job.
    • explain why they're the best candidate for the job.
    • show me that they have the skills to do a great job.
    • show me they have the experience by providing live examples of similar jobs they've completed.
  10. Proactively find jobs: if you're under-employed, especially when you're starting out, go find and apply for freelance jobs. Don't wait for jobs to come to you.

    Here are 3 tips to help you proactively find jobs:

    • Sign up to all the top freelance sites: you'll find a list of the top freelance sites further down this page.

      Sign up to automated email updates of new freelance jobs that you're interested in. Some freelance sites offer this feature. Others offer RSS feeds.

      To follow RSS feeds, use one of these services:

      • use a free RSS reader such as Google Reader.
      • receive email updates using FeedBlitz. Simply enter the address of the webpage that you want to track and FeedBlitz will email you automatically for free.

        I use FeedBlitz to email me the latest blog posts from about forty of my favorite blogs. ;-)

    • Propose new projects to existing clients: most business owners/managers face many business challenges.

      Take a look at your clients' websites and make a list of challenges they face. Propose new projects to help them solve those challenges.

      Job ideas for web developers

      For example, if you're a web developer you could:

      • propose to add or improve features in the website's search engine to help customers find products more easily.
      • propose to improve the newsletter subscription form that doesn't require the user to leave the webpage they're on.

        Actually, if you're a top notch JavaScript developer who can do this for my email subscription form without my supervision, let me know. ;-)

      Job ideas for writers

      If you're a writer you could:

      • propose topics and titles for new articles.
      • propose to spell check and proof read your clients' websites.
      • propose creating a blog or newsletter to drive traffic to the site.
      • propose to write and submit articles to article websites to drive traffic to your clients' websites.
    • Ask clients for referrals: assuming you've done a fantastic job, your clients should be happy to refer you to their friends.

      If you aren't getting many referrals, offer to pay clients a 5% or 10% referral commission fee.

      Some clients might respond with, "I don't like the idea of making money from my friends."

      You can respond with: "I understand. I'd be happy to make a donation in your name to your favorite charity instead." :-)

Does it seem like too much work?

If all of this seems like too much work for you, then I'd suggest you stick to your 9 to 5 job.

Working freelance offers a lot of benefits. But you must realize that freelancing is actually harder than 9 to 5 work - not easier.

Freelance jobs availability table

Here's a table of my top 6 freelance jobs websites, ranked by the number of open jobs at the time of writing.

Freelance jobs site
Open jobs

Top 7 freelance job sites

Here are my top 7 freelance job sites, ranked by the number of open freelance jobs.

Unless stated otherwise, all freelance job sites offer jobs in all the major categories: web and software development, writing and translation, admin support, design and multimedia, customer service, sales and marketing, and business services.

  1. Odesk: is by far the most active freelance jobs marketplace with over 40,200 open freelance jobs at the time of writing.

    oDesk adds a service fee of 10% onto the payment paid to the freelancer.

    Here's what it looks like from the employer's perspective:

    $20 per hour (charged to employer)
    -$2 per hour (-10% oDesk fee)
    $18 per hour (paid to freelancer)

    Here's what it looks like from the freelancer's perspective:

    $18 per hour (paid to freelancer)
    +$2 per hour (10% oDesk fee)
    $20 per hour (charged to employer)

    U.S. freelancers get paid via account via PayPal, ACH Transfer or Payoneer. Non-U.S. freelancers get paid via PayPal, international wire transfer, Payoneer or Skrill (formerly Moneybookers).

    Why I use oDesk

    I have outsourced nine freelance jobs on oDesk that have cost from $50 to $14,000. I've paid freelancers $5 to $40 an hour.

    I was originally drawn to oDesk because of their Work Diary tools. The tools allowed me to monitor my contractors and see that the freelancer was indeed working the hours I was being charged.

    These oDesk Work Diary tools include:

    • time tracker which takes a screenshot of the freelancer's computer every ten minutes and records the number of mouse clicks and keystrokes.
    • camera feature which takes regular webcam snapshots of the freelancer to show clients they are at their desk working.

    For the freelancer the Work Diary keeps track of time worked and helps ensure that they're paid for the verified time they've worked.

    oDesk oConomy offers some impressive stats (correct at the time of writing):

    • In April, 2012:
      • freelancers earned $27,759,542.
      • freelancers worked 2,750,021 hours.
      • 143,746 freelance jobs were posted.
    • In 2011:
      • freelancers earned more than $220 million.
      • over a million freelance jobs were posted.

    oDesk has been featured in major news outlets such as The Washing Post, Forbes, Bloomberg, and Fox Business.

    They have over 570,000 freelancers and raised $44 million in funding to date. I think it's safe to say you can trust oDesk. :-)

  2. Elance: is a popular freelance jobs platform with over 16,700 open freelance jobs at the time of writing.

    Elance charges a service fee between 6.75% and 8.75% of the hourly rate or fixed price quoted by freelancers.

    There are two service fees:

    1. 6.75%: discounted service fee for relationships that exceed $10,000 and new relationships referred to Elance.
    2. 8.75%: standard service fee for relationships less than $10,000.

    U.S. freelancers get paid via account via ACH Transfer, check, Payoneer or PayPal. Non-U.S. freelancers get paid via international wire transfer, Payoneer, PayPal or Skrill (formerly Moneybookers).

    The Global Online Employment Report - Q2 2012 offer some impressive stats (correct at the time of writing):

    • Freelance jobs posted: 197,000
    • Contractor earnings: $47,000,000
    • New clients: 81,000
    • New contractors: 207,000

    Elance Trends offers these stats:

    • Lifetime value of jobs posted: $2,632,571,741
    • Lifetime number of jobs posted: 2,519,652 jobs posted.
    • Registered contractors: 1,700,868
    • Lifetime contractor earnings: $597,200,743
    Elance PHP jobs screenshot

    I also like the "Jobs by Skill" charts (PHP jobs chart to the right) which gives you an idea of the average job budget, average hourly rate and quarterly job growth rate for all kinds of skills.

    Elance has been featured in major news outlets such as Forbes, Bloomberg, Time, and Fox Business.

    They've raised $78 million in funding to date. I think it's safe to say Elance is a company you can trust. :-)

  3. Freelancer: is an Australia based freelance marketplace with over 12,000 open freelance jobs at the time of writing.

    Freelancer is the only freelance marketplace I came across that charges both employers and freelancers.

    Employer and freelancer membership plans:

    • Free: $0 - limited to just 10 bids a month.
    • Basic: $4.95 per month.
    • Standard: $24.95 per month.
    • Premium: $49.95 per month.

    Freelancers can bid on projects for free. When you accept an offer you're charged the following fee, depending on your membership type:

    • Free and Basic members: $5 or 10%, whichever is higher.
    • Standard members: $4 or 5%, whichever is higher.
    • Premium members: $3 or 3%, whichever is higher.

    Hourly projects are only charged the percentage rates shown above, not the dollar amount. Full-time projects are exempt from all project fees. That's interesting!

    Note: Australian members pay 10% GST on all fees. Oh man, that includes me! :-(

    Freelancer offer some impressive stats (correct at the time of writing):

    • 3,461,000+ users.
    • $128,747,000+ earned.
    • 1,633,000+ projects.

    Freelancer has been featured in major news outlets such as The Sydney Morning Herald, Financial Times, The New York Times and Bloomberg.

  4. Guru: is a freelance job site with over 4,750 open freelance jobs at the time of writing.

    Guru offers an escrow feature, called SafePay, that helps freelancers avoid unpaid invoices.

    At the start of the project, the employer pays Guru.com 100% of the project's value. When the employer approves the work, Guru.com pays the freelancer.

    If there's a dispute, Dispute Resolution Services, including Mediation and Arbitration are provided.

    Membership fees

    Membership prices are based on three criteria: skill category, membership type (Guru or Guru Vendor) and membership term (monthly or annual). Annual memberships are 50% off the monthly rate.

    Membership pricing:

    • Basic membership: free.
    • Guru membership: $9.95 to $34.95 per month or $59.95 to $199.95 per year.
    • Guru Vendor membership: $12.94 to $45.44 per month or $77.94 to $259.94 per year.
    Project fees

    Guru charge all freelancers either a 4.5% or 9% project fee based on profile membership type. The fee is taken from the the employer's payment.

    • Guru and Guru Vendor members: 4.5% project fee.
    • Basic members: 9% project fee.
    Payment processing fee

    Guru also charge freelancers a 2.95% payment processing fee to cover the costs of payment processing, credit card fees, and PayPal fees. The fee is subtracted from the employer's payment.

    Freelancers can withdraw earnings via direct deposit, PayPal, international wire transfer ($9 fee), check ($3 fee), or Payoneer Prepaid MasterCard.

  5. vWorker: (previously known as Rentacoder) is a freelance jobs marketplace with over 1,760 open freelance jobs at the time of writing.

    vWorker doesn't charge membership fees. It adds between 6.5% and 15% (minimum $3) to the winning bid. So freelancers receive what they bid. The employer pays the additional vWorker fee.

    Freelancers are paid via PayPal, Payoneer pre-paid debit/credit card, Payoneer ACH (U.S. only), Payoneer direct bank transfer, Skrill (formerly Moneybookers), check and Western Union.

    vWorker offers freelancers 3 payment guarantees:

    1. Pay for deliverable: vWorker guarantees that if you complete the contracted work by the deadline or pre-agreed milestone, and it's up to industry standards, then you'll be paid.
    2. Pay for time: vWorker guarantees you'll be paid for every hour you work on an employer's project.
    3. Crowdsourcing contest: vWorker guarantees:
      • you'll be paid the prize amount if the employer selects your submission as the winner.
      • there'll be a winner if the employer guarantees to award the prize.

    Other vWorker stats (correct at the time of writing):

    • 178,500+ employers.
    • 366,800+ freelancers.

    vWorker has been featured in major news outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Forbes and Inc.

  6. PeoplePerHour.com: is a UK based freelance marketplace with over 1,700 open freelance jobs at the time of writing.

    The majority of the freelancers are from Europe (62.1%) and Asia (25%). Just 6.7% of freelancers are from the United States.

    The majority of clients are from the UK (59.6%). 9.7% are from the U.S., 7.6% from India, 2.8% from Pakistan, and 1.3% from Philippines.

    PeoplePerHour.com memberships
    • Standard: free - 10% service fee.
    • Gold: £7.95 per month - 5.5% service fee.
    • Platinum: £14.95 per month - 4.5% service fee.

    There's a minimum service fee of £2/€2.50/$3.

    PeoplePerHour.com charge a flat 1.9% (minimum £0.50) for credit/debit cards and PayPal transfers.

    PeoplePerHour.com offer a couple of interesting stats:

    • 87.6% of bids are awarded to freelancers with feedback of 5 stars. 9.8% had 4 stars. That's proof that you must aim for top ratings if you want to win jobs.
    • 86.5% of bids were awarded to freelancers with mind-range bids. Just 9% went to the lowest bidder. 5.9% went to the highest bidder. That's proof that the lowest bid isn't necessarily the most profitable.

    Other PeoplePerHour.com stats (correct at the time of writing):

    • 74,500+ clients.
    • 140,700+ jobs posted.
    • Average hourly rate is £47.
    • £49,138,000 is the estimated value of jobs posted.
    • 203,000+ freelancers.

    PeoplePerHour.com has been featured in major news outlets such as Bloomberg, The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mirror and Financial Times.

Other freelance job sites

I also found these freelance job sites but they only have 100 to 200 open freelance jobs. That's a fraction of what the top 6 freelance job sites offer.

So I'd suggest you stick with the top 6 freelance job sites.

Freelance jobs forum

Add a comment. G-rated English only. Must be logged into Facebook. No ads. Respect others. Be nice. :-) Read house rules.

Similar online jobs

Blogging Jobs>>
Freelance Writing Jobs>>
Medical Transcription Jobs>>
Online Data Entry Jobs>>
Online Transcription Jobs>>
Virtual Call Center Jobs>>

Back to Make Money Online

Visit the Make Money Online page for links to all online jobs and opportunities.

<<Make Money Online