What are Freelance Gigs and Online Digital Work Platforms?

Learn about Freelance Gigs and Online Digital Work Platforms.

Freelance gigs are jobs taken by freelancers. A gig is either part-time or temporary work most commonly done in the creative industries and IT. However, as technology progresses, more and more industries are able to make money doing gigs.

Online digital work platforms have been around since 1999.  These platforms allow businesses and freelancers to connect and work together.

From Upwork and Fiverr to Freelancer and PeoplePerHour, it’s actually incredibly easy to set yourself up as freelancer. It is also easy to find good freelancers if you’re a business or individual looking to get work done quickly, effectively and reliably.

What is the gig economy?

The gig economy is a largely app-based system where people make money doing a job here and there for a client.  If you’re part of the gig economy, you work for yourself, find clients for yourself, and essentially take the work as it comes.

There is no holiday pay, sick pay or superannuation contributions. All of that has to come out of the fee you charge clients.

As the gig economy is mostly app-based it has also been called the platform economy and the collaborative economy.

An important difference between working in the gig economy and working a zero-hour contract, is that in the gig economy you get paid for each piece of content, or service, you deliver.

In fact, most digital work platforms are set up so you cannot get the work without paying and cannot get paid without delivering the work.

Main digital work platforms for freelancers

In April 2020, Forbes put a list together of some of the more reputable freelance platforms available. Five of those freelancer platforms are:

1. Fiverr

Fiverr launched in February 2010, and started out as the place you could get everything for $5USD. Then it evolved and freelancers charge anywhere from $5USD to $5000USD. It only took Fiverr two years before it was the home to 1.3 million gigs, and since then it has become one of the most trusted and reliable freelancing platforms around.

Fiverr is trusted by both buyers and sellers because it’s transparent, easy to use and the buying and selling process is simple. Fiverr also makes sellers take a simple English test to ensure their spelling and grammar are at a high enough standard.

The reviews from both sellers and buyers is mixed on this platform. And they are for every platform on this list.

Fiverr has been around for a decade because of how useful it is. If you’re looking to hire a freelancer from Fiverr, be sure to talk with the person first to get sense of their professionalism.

If you’re a freelancer thinking about trying Fiverr out, carefully read what it means to become a seller. The better informed you are, and the better you know how to use the platform, the better your chances of success.

2. Freelancer

Freelancer is an Australian company founded in 2009. According to their website, they are the “World’s largest freelancing crowdsourcing marketplace” connecting over 43.5 million employers and freelancers over 247 countries, regions and territories.

As a seller you can create a profile to highlight your particular skills and area of expertise. Then when a client finds you, they make an enquiry through your profile.

The other option is to search for work by browsing jobs and placing bids. This involves pitching to people why you and your price is what will best help them.

The reviews for Freelancer are split, with many buyers and sellers saying it’s amazing. Then there are the reviews that tell how expensive the platform is to use for sellers, and how unpredictable the result is for buyers.

However, the overall popularity and enduring success of this platform speaks for itself. Whether you are looking to start out as a freelancer, or you’re looking to hire freelancers, Freelancer is definitely worth checking out.

3. PeoplePerHour

PeoplePerHour was founded in 2007, and has offices in Athens and London. According to their site, PeoplePerHour “has solved over 1 million problems for businesses” and “has paid over £135 million to our freelancer community.”

The appeal of this platform is that project management, payments and client communication can be handled from one dashboard.

The reviews for PeoplePerHour are a little more aggressive than other digital freelance platforms. With some past users calling PeoplePerHour an outright scam. In fact, there are more negative reviews about PeoplePerHour than almost all the other freelancer platforms combined.

However, for every negative review there is a long-time user of PeoplePerHour who says it’s amazing, and have nothing but good things to say about it.

PeoplePerHour has been around for over 13 years, and has provide many buyers with a solution they otherwise couldn’t afford. It has also allowed freelancers to find a home where they can reliably build their freelance business.

If you are in the UK, PeoplePerHour is worth exploring.

4. Toptal

Toptal is the first freelance digital platform we have looked at that is not for every freelancer. Toptal is for web developers, designers, product managers, project managers and financial experts. If you are in one of these categories, Toptal offers hourly, part-time and full-time work.

On their site they boast you can “hire the top 3% of freelance talent” (hence Toptal). For freelancers this means there’s a rigorous screening process to ensure they stick to their mandate. If you do make it into this selective group, by all accounts the pay is competitive and worth it.

The obvious upside for buyers is; quality of work is not going to be so much of an issue. No other freelance platform has a screening process to match Toptal, and this has helped them to maintain a good reputation amongst buyers.

And many freelancers and employees of TopTal say it’s a great place to work: if you don’t mind remote working and organising your own time. Which, let’s be honest, is part and parcel of being a freelancer.

5. Upwork

Upwork was founded in 2015 as a merger between oDesk (founded in 2003) and Elance (founded in 1999). Similar to Freelancer, Upwork says it’s “the largest global freelancing website.”

To its credit, Upwork is home to millions of freelance web developers, designers, writers, accountants, as well as many more industries.

On Upwork, freelancers can find small gigs, part-time or full-time work, and the platform is great for beginners and experienced freelancers.

Many freelancers swear by Upwork, saying it’s one of the best places to freelance because there are so many options. And buyers, on the whole, find the experience reliably good.

However, Upwork’s pricing structure has turned both freelancer and buyer away. So, be careful to do your homework before using this platform

Why I use Fiverr

I’m an expert SEO Copywriter. Which is just a fancy way of saying I’m an experienced writer skilled in many types of writing who also knows about on-page and off-page SEO.

I use Fiverr because the barrier to entry was small. I signed up, I took a basic English test and I could start selling my writing services.

Fiverr only really works if you’re willing to start small and grow. But if you do, it’s quite straightforward.

Fiverr takes a 20% commission off every gig and in exchange lets you create lots of gigs, interact with buyers and not have to worry about getting a website and payment system set up straight away.

They send you money via Paypal or you can nominate a bank account. You decide what the deadlines and prices are for your gigs.

Once you build yourself up, people start finding you through your gigs. Which means eventually you don’t have to go looking for new clients! Which is another reason why I use it, not having to hunt for clients is a huge relief.

Why you should use freelancers in your business

Hiring a freelancer offers your business the flexibility an employee cannot. When you hire an employee, it’s not just the work you’re paying for but also holiday and sick pay as well as taxes and superannuation.

For start-ups and small to medium business, there’s not always the budget to hire a graphic designer, web developer, copywriter, social media marketer, advertising specialist, or SEO specialist full-time.

Hiring a freelancer means you only have to pay for projects as and when you need them. In the long run this can save you money.

Which platform should businesses use?

When looking for a freelancer, it’s not about the platform they are on. It’s about the work they are able to produce, their turnaround time and how accommodating they are. Even the best of the digital work platforms will have useless people on them.

(Add in… my thoughts on best for businesses…)

(Add in: Which platform should individuals use?…)

Which platform should freelancers use?

If you’re a freelancer thinking about joining a website service, there are many more than the five listed above. There’s more like twenty options.

Fiverr, Upwork and Freelancer are probably where you should start doing your homework. Read their pricing structure policy as well as how long it takes for the money to clear into your account.

And be prepared to work very hard for very little until you build up your reputation. Once you do, it can be a rewarding experience.

The best thing to do, is start today.