Comparing Online Freelancing to Conventional Freelancing
If you’re an experienced conventional
freelancer—as opposed to one who works online—you probably
found much that was familiar in my comparison of online freelancing to traditional
employment. And you also probably
know why: different styles of freelancing are still much more similar
to each other than they are to conventional employment. Whether you work
online or not, as a freelancer you will enjoy benefits such as independence,
flexibility, self-determination, and the ability to work in the way that
suits you best. And similarly, whether online or not, you’ll deal
with issues such as income uncertainty, annoying clients, time wasted
looking for work, lack of benefits and so forth.
All that said, though, there are some
important distinctions between online and conventional freelancing.
The advantages and disadvantages of these methods primarily relate to
two main issues: how you obtain new projects, and how you interact with
clients. Conventional freelancers use, well, conventional means
for finding work and dealing with their customers; online freelancers
use freelance marketplace sites. And as is usually the case, there are
benefits and drawbacks to each.
The following are the main advantages
of online freelancing when compared to a more traditional approach:
- An Abundance of Leads: Every project on
a freelancing marketplace site is a potential lead: an opportunity to
get a new project, and possibly, a long-term client. And there are literally
thousands of new projects listed on these sites every day. This wealth
of potential work is probably the biggest advantage of online freelancing
compared to more traditional approaches.
- Low Lead Cost: Online freelancers who complain
about the fees associated with using freelance marketplace sites are
often laughed at by experienced professionals who have worked for years
at offline freelancing. While the fees for these sites do add up, they
are still very small in comparison to what it costs to try to get clients
and work the “old-fashioned way”. The cost of buying lunch
for a single traditional client, or doing one “snail mail”
flyer mailing, can cover several months of activity on a freelancing
- Low Barriers to Entry: It is much easier
for a newcomer to become established as an online freelancer than a conventional
one. The startup costs are lower, and you don’t have nearly as
much of a “chicken and egg” problem of lacking clients because
of a lack of experience and vice-versa, as exists for traditional freelancers.
- More Opportunities for Freelancers in Less
Populated Areas: This is somewhat related to the point just above:
conventional freelancing is much easier if you’re in a big city,
because there are more people to serve as potential clients. Online freelancing
is entirely viable no matter where you live, as long as you have good
- Broader Client Base: Conventional freelancers
tend to get a lot of their work by referrals and word of mouth, leading
to a regional orientation in their clientele. Online freelancers can
draw from an international pool of clients.
- Better Communication Methods: Many freelancers
prefer online communication methods, such as email and freelance site
workrooms, over the face-to-face meetings and telephone calls traditionally
used for dealing with clients. Online communication is arguably slower,
but it is easier to refer back to past discussions, and to keep client
communications organized. It’s also less disruptive when you are
trying to concentrate.
- Tracking and Management Tools: Most freelancing
marketplaces provide useful tools to help you keep track of work and
manage your freelancing business.
And, of course, there are some pretty
significant drawbacks to going online:
- Poor Quality Projects: If the availability
of leads is the biggest advantage of online freelancing, this is the
biggest disadvantage. It’s true that there’s lots of projects
on freelance marketplace sites, but finding good projects is often
a different story. Many of the freelance marketplaces emphasize quantity over quality, and try to get clients primarily by advertising themselves
as places to save money. The average value of a project on a freelancing
site also tends to be lower than projects found the old-fashioned way.
There are certainly some gems out there, but you’ll sift through
a lot of rubble to find them.
- Poor Quality Clients: This goes hand in
hand with the problem of poor quality projects. Again, there are some
very good clients on these sites, but also a huge number of cheapskates,
liars and con artists. The emphasis on cost savings seems a major contributor
to this problem, as does the tendency of Internet anonymity to embolden
people to behave in ways they would never consider if dealing with a
- Lower Rates: Expect lower to significantly
lower rates for the same type of work when online compared to regular
freelancing. This is a combination of clients with tight budgets (as
I just discussed) and the high degree of competition from other freelancers,
some of whom live in places with a very low cost of living. There are
exceptions, but these are few: generally only those at the tops of their
fields, or those who work in specialty fields, and who also work very
hard over the long-term to cultivate relationships with good clients.
- Increased Chances of Payment Problems:
All freelancers have issues with non-paying clients from time to time,
but these are made worse online. You can protect yourself by using a
site with proper protections such as an escrow service and low- or no-cost arbitration, but
this reduces the number of project leads you have to choose from, and
may increase fees.
- Freelance Site Annoyances: Some freelancing
sites have rules and policies that make them a nuisance to work with,
and customer service is not always the best.
- Communication Problems: Online communication
is sometimes better than more traditional forms, but not always. There
are times when one ten-minute phone call will accomplish more than a
half-day of tossing emails back and forth. And isn’t any online
substitute for a face-to-face meeting—no, videoconferencing is
not the same.
As always, there’s no need to
make an all-or-nothing choice here. In fact, many freelancers decide
to complement their existing businesses with
a second career as an online freelancer.
This can be a great way to get the “best of both worlds”,
enabling the freelancer to use online freelancing when their customary
freelancing business slows down, and vice-versa.
|If you find The Online Freelancing Guide useful, please consider making a small Paypal donation to help the site, using one of the buttons below. You can also donate a custom amount using the far right button (not less than $1 please, or PayPal gets most/all of your money!) Thanks for your support -- it's hard to make a living writing free material these days.|
Table Of Contents - Contact Us
The Online Freelancing Guide (http://www.FreelancingGuide.net)
Last Site Update: October 21, 2011
© Copyright 2001-2011 Charles M. Kozierok. All Rights Reserved.
Not responsible for any loss resulting from the use of this site.