Many people are exploring the option of freelancing in today’s marketplace, whether it's for extra money or more flexible hours. Whatever the motivation, becoming a part-time or full-time freelancer isn’t as easy as it seems.
Forgoing a steady paycheck from a full-time job, freelancers make a living by using their talents for multiple clients, the operative world being "multiple." It takes discipline and organization, and it helps to have an online community with whom you can share resources, best practices and even job prospects.
Here are a handful of freelancer communities that provide resources and paid opportunities for freelancers:
Elance offers freelancers the ability to set up a profile, apply for projects directly, and do the actual freelance work in their cloud-based work area. There are several subscription levels on the site. You can opt for a free, basic level that provides a profile, a minimum number of proposals to potential clients and minimum workroom storage space. The highest subscription permits multiple users, "preferred listing" status, enhanced storage space, wire transfers and other features for $40 per month. These two levels are the extremes—there are other options in between to align with your needs.
From a business perspective, companies can hire freelancers and use the cloud workspace to manage the project. This is a plus for companies that need to manage multiple contractors at the same time.
Elance also streamlines the oft-troublesome invoice and payment process: the company pays Elance, then Elance pays the freelancer. Elance guarantees that its online system will get users paid on-time.
oDesk is similar to Elance in that companies can hire contractors from the oDesk database or they can bring their own team together using the oDesk platform. In both cases, oDesk handles the payroll.
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The difference is that oDesk does not charge the contractor or the company to sign up with them—there are no fees to post jobs or create profiles. oDesk makes its money by taking a 10 percent cut of all payments, which is outlined in the FAQs on its site.
As a freelancer, oDesk offers jobs in many categories. Freelancers are able to create oDesk profiles outlining their past work history and skills. You can also take a few online skills tests to verify your abilities with various apps and tools—Excel, Java, WordPress and Ruby on Rails, to name a few—for a potential client.
Sologig is reminiscent of a traditional job board. Freelancers can register for free and sign up for an e-newsletter so job opportunities come right to your inbox. Once you’re signed up, you can search for jobs or peruse an RSS feed of open gigs. To target opportunities that would be a good fit, you can upload your resume and let Sologig's job-matching technology match keywords in your resume with company listings.
Companies such as Ernst & Young, Lockheed Martin and Medix IT Staffing Solutions pay a fee to post jobs. They also can access the Sologig profiles database to search for freelance talent directly.
Hour.ly is a relatively new social networking community. Launched on Labor Day 2010, Hour.ly gained some initial attention by winning the People's Choice Award at the O’Reilly Media Startup Showcase.
It's free to join Hour.ly and create an online profile with your contact information, photo, social media contact info and your work availability. Once you see a job you like, you can submit your online profile with one click. You can also opt-in for a background check to demonstrate to potential companies that you’re serious. Instead of letting you search jobs, Hour.ly matches freelancer profiles with open jobs (companies can post for free) based on location, pay rate, experience and scheduling availability.
Once a match is made, employers can interview people using the Hour.ly video chat system.
Freelance Switch is a community site that lists freelance jobs in addition to providing information about the freelancer lifestyle. The site has many articles about setting prices, finding and dealing with clients and getting referral business. It recently relaunched its regular podcasts, which cover topics such as debt collection, personal branding and contract negotiations.
Accessing the resources is free, but applying for jobs is possible only with a paid subscription. Rates start at $7 per month.
Companies are able to post freelance opportunities for free—Sony, Nokia and Adobe have posted jobs on Freelance Switch.
If you're a freelancer who has used these or other sites, let us know in the comments.
*Disclosure: Elance is a Mashable sponsor