As a full time freelance graphic designer, I know the daily struggle for building a brand, finding consistent work, and keeping your cashflow growing. I know first hand owning your own business is hard work, and finding clients in the beginning…well that’s even harder!

Chances are you have heard of freelance job sites like Elance, Fiverr, Freelancer, and 99designs. The concept of the sites are simple, I get it. Creating a free profile to do quick and easy design work for revenue, is very appealing. If I said I haven’t done my part in these sites, I would be lying.

However, are these freelance job sites worth your time and aggravation? Even if you are struggling to find new clients and make money for your freelance business?

If you have to answer that question as an outsider, then of course the answer is going to be yes. Freelance sites almost sound too good to be true. A free platform to get noticed, gain your first clients, and make money? Of course you’re going to do it.

Fresh out of High School, I started noticing these freelance sites and flocked to them. I tried them all, so I feel I’m very well rounded with my knowledge base regarding the popular services. After completing my first few projects on these freelance sites, I felt like a million bucks. I just earned a bit of money, created an awesome design for my portfolio, and gain a client with the potential to do more work for them in the future.

Now, all I need to do is continue on with the grind of gaining new clients through a freelance site and I should be able to get a steady flow of income, right? As awesome as it sounds, I was VERY wrong!

As awesome as these sites appear to be, they are hindering your businesses potential in growth. So for a short answer to this blog articles question, NO, freelance sites are NOT worth your time and aggravation. Here’s why…

What They Fail To Tell You

I’m going to assume a few things before continuing. You want to build an actual business, promote yourself as a professional, gain long-lasting clients, and earn as much money as possible. If this sounds like something you wish to achieve in the coming years with your design skills, you need to stay clear of these freelance job sites.

Out of the thousands of people running a profile on another company’s platform, earning a living off these sites is nearly impossible. Nearly 1% of the designers on these sites are living through the income, but the work to payout ratio is insane. Almost to the point that these people are probably not sleeping and living the life they should be. Almost like being a slave to the computer screen. You don’t want that, right?

So, here we go…

Clients

In the design world, especially as a freelancer, gaining new clients is critical to keeping your business and your livelihood afloat. Without the client, you would be a fish on land…dead.

When it comes to these design sites, your clients aren’t really your client. They are the sites client and you are just the messenger, essentially. Think of it this way, when you shop at your convenient store and you check out with the cashier, that cashier is not the owner of the store (in most cases). They are being hired to help the store stay afloat.

When you take on new clients through a job site, you are essentially a cashier. You are doing the work to help keep another business afloat. They aren’t YOUR clients, they are the sites clients. You are just helping them. You are checking them out.

In a business such as design, building a relationship with your client is crucial to the growth of your design career.

Of course when you get a new project through a job site, it feels good to work and help out this client. Once the project is over, the likelihood of them returning to YOU as their designer for a future project, is slim to none. I can almost garantee that you will not build a business/client relationship with this person. Therefore, it’s a one and done type of gig.

If you plan to build a successful business, client relationships is crucial. Building a client relationship will build trust. This client will come back to you for more work. This client will begin to recommend you to their peers, which can possibly turn into new clients. This client will become a business friend. There are so many valuable benefits I could list, so maybe I’ll save this portion for a future article.

Just know this, building a client relationship is critical to growth. When using freelance job sites, you will not be building this bond. It will simply be like buying a meal at your local restaurant. No meaning, just business.

Money

What’s the main reason you’re on these freelance sites? You want to gain new clients? Well, we already learned that won’t happen, so what’s next? You want to make money? Well, you probably won’t make enough to show any real value. In fact, you will probably end up losing money.

If you’re trying to build a business, the last thing you’ll want to do is lose money!

When signing up and taking on new projects through a freelance site, you will not receive the amount the client paid. Let’s take Fiverr for example. Their basic gigs start at $5. The client, if I’m not mistaken, will pay $5.00 for a gig. The professional honoring the gig receives $4, while the remaining $1.00 goes to Fiverr.

Alright, maybe you want to do a platform like 99designs, where the client pays $100 for a logo. Now that you’ve honored their project, you won’t receive that $100, you’ll receive $90. It’s expected to have freelance sites take a cut, but for the hours you put in for each project, you’re essentially losing money.

This is just were it starts. It might feel great to earn a few bucks, but let’s put this into perspective.

When you gain real clients off these sites, not only are you building a relationship with them for the possibility of returning work, but you can charge more of a premium and earn more revenue for your work. True professionals in the creative industry would be laughed at by other professionals if they told them they charged such little money.

For example, if you come across a designer charging $100 for a logo, the chances of a high-quality logo that’s tailored to your business will be slim to none. Most designers, including myself, will NOT settle for anything less than $400 to design a logo.

Conclusion

Sure, these freelance sites may be a good stepping stone if you’re in your early stages of your creative career, but it will NOT be sustainable. As a full-time graphic designer, these are my opinions based off my own experience. I honestly believe that using these sites will hinder the growth of your business, tremendously!

What are your thoughts on freelance job sites? Do you think they are sustainable? Do you think it’s worth the time? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.