Looking for work-from-home freelance gigs? IGNORE JOB BOARDS

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By: vintagedeptCC BY 2.0
What suggestions would you have for individuals seeking freelance creative jobs?

I have been seeking freelance work outside of my full-time job to help pay off some medical bills, and it's hilarious to see some of the things that get posted out there on sites like Craigslist. Even on more reputable sites, it's hard to tell what is a scam, and so many jobs out there are trying to hire writers to infiltrate online networks and push their products. -Jenny

I'mma go tough love on this one: you're wasting your time if you're looking for freelance gigs on job boards. See, freelancing isn't about finding job listings — it's about marketing your skills and networking non-stop, so that work finds you. Trawling job boards or Craigslist is easier than marketing yourself and networking (which is why scammy companies target people doing it), but it also just isn't nearly as effective.

I'm speaking from personal experience here: Back when I was freelancing, all of my freelance work came from my network of colleagues … folks I met through past temp agency jobs, people I rubbed elbows with at conferences, coworkers of former coworkers, etc. That's how I ensured the clients I worked with weren't sketchy: I had contact with most of my freelance clients socially or via another job or a mutual friend before we ever talked business.

As for scammy writing jobs you see listed on job boards, I'm going to be a bummer and wager that most work-at-home freelance writing gigs on job boards are somewhat suspect. In the 10 years I spent freelancing, I can't think of a single gig I got from a job board or Craigslist. From the other side of the equation, you'll never find an Offbeat Empire gig listed on a job board. EVER. When I look to hire people, I want people who are familiar with my sites and services. I think many employers feel the same way.

Basically, I'm saying this: if you're looking for freelance work, stop looking at Craiglist and start networking your ass off. When you're looking for freelance gigs, Facebook is a better friend to you than Craigslist. Contact every person you've ever worked with and let them know the kind of work you're offering. Ask them to share your contact information with anyone they might know who might need your services. Make sure you have a clean, straightforward website about the services you offer. Have great testimonials from people you've worked with before. Start finding ways to mention your freelance work to every single person you meet. You'll feel intolerable and obnoxious and irritating, but you know what? That's how you find gigs. If making money as a freelancer working from home was easy, everyone would be doing it.

Final tough love: if you want to be a freelancer, you have to commit to at least five hours a week of self-promotional whoring. If that feels like too much or marketing yourself and your skills makes you uncomfortable, freelancing may not be a good fit for you.

If you want more experienced advice on freelancing, I suggest reading Michelle Goodman's books The Anti 9-to-5 Guide and My So-Called Freelance Life.

  1. Agreed! Self promotion feels awful sometimes, but it is the key to any type of freelance work. Also, once you do start getting gigs out of it be very concious of your workload, nothing sucks for freelancing more than bad reviews. Biggest mistake I ever made was taking on more work than I could handle because I thought it would be worse to turn someone down.

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  2. I did *once* get a legit, basically f/t freelance gig off of craigslist. But I agree – in creative jobs it's all mostly who you know, as opposed to being a resume w/o a face.

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    • It was a work from home gig too. And I have actually at least a decent handful of real non-scam job interviews off of craigslist, but definitely not for work from home gigs.

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      • I think sometimes Criagslist can work. I've gotten some illustration gigs there — because people have found they can turn there for stuff they're totally unfamiliar with.

        But I'd definitely say Craigslist is not for beginners.

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  3. Agreed. I've gotten very few freelance gigs through job boards. Social networks, referrals, and website SEO seem to be what works in my line o' biz.

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  4. Another suggestion from the trenches: Submit and get involved! Get samples of what you do out there to demonstrate your competency. True story, an offer to help out with a volunteer project got me a whole variety of freelancing opportunities. That is because I proved myself. It's an awesome way to network, especially if you want to be in a creative or internet-related field. If you can demonstrate you know what you're doing or prove yourself, people can recommend paying you for it. That then gets you experience and more contacts. And tell people you want those contacts.

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  5. I'm glad to hear that sites like this don't advertise in places like that! Generally my issue with job sites is that the people posting don't know what your talent is worth, and thus don't know what to pay (and often there's no guarantee of being paid). I should have included in my original submission that my only freelance jobs have been local: One a friend who couldn't hire an actual employee and liked my design work, and one a magazine that I contacted to do some writing. But, living in a college town full of students who will intern for free because they are desperate for the experience, local organizations generally don't have a need for freelancers (especially publications). Networking is the only way I've EVER gotten extra work, and they were legit jobs–one I actually clocked in and out for, and one involved tax paperwork. Any site I've looked at, these types of postings are just plain ridiculous/scams/not things I would feel right about being paid to do. However, unfortunately, I know people with writing/social media experience often take jobs like this to make ends meet. On the other hand, my mom is a freelance artist and has had intermittent luck finding custom jobs on Craigslist. It's just a matter of vetting the person and deciding if YOU want to work for THEM. Generally I feel like I have to be willing to do more work deciding if I'd even want a job then they would deciding who gets it. And on the third hand (I think that's too many!), I know people who've gotten jobs from a friend or friend of a friend and it's messy–they didn't pay on time and made the person feel bad about their life/money problems to put off paying… that sort of thing. I firmly believe in separating personal relationships from professional, for that reason.

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  6. This thread is kinda dead now, but I just found this FANTASTIC piece on why not to work for content mills.

    I completely agree with what the author said… and also, understand that some people resort to these things in desperation even though they know they're bad! I'm always looking for reasons to tell people this sort of thing is a bad idea, but those reasons mean nothing when you have no income.

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  7. I guess I'm one of the lucky ones. I have 3 great clients and p/t job I love using odesk. Don't get me wrong it took me a long time to find these jobs and to be honest 2 of them head hunted me and you learn quick that people under pay but if u stick it out you will find something

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  8. This is monster #truth. I have been freelancing full time for over a year now (admittedly, a big chunk of that is a couple of independent contract gigs, but still), and all my work is word of mouth. Literally all of it.

    I tried Elance and Odesk when I first started out, and both were terrible. Like Craigslist, but instead of people trying to underpay because they didn't know better, people were underpaying because they knew they could get away with it. UGH.

    I strongly suggest marketing yourself like crazy. If you're a designer, independent projects are one of the best ways to do that. I have done work with not-for-profits that have lots of business members in the industry I specialize in, and that has paid dividends.

    Also, I think this is worth saying, really work to where you have repeat business. Over half my business is repeat, and it is so much better to work with clients you know well and understand, so much smoother.

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