Project Discipline Focus
Another important metric for assessing project marketplaces is its work discipline focus. By this I mean the distribution of the types of work among the various categories of work commonly used by freelancers. Sites vary greatly in terms of the kinds of projects they list, and thus the sorts of freelancers they appeal to.
Much the way freelancers range from generalist to specialist, so do freelancing marketplaces. Many sites take the generalist approach, carrying projects in a wide variety of work categories; this is especially true of the larger sites. In contrast, some marketplaces are specifically dedicated to certain types of work. For example, there are freelancing sites devoted to writing, design, programming or other broad categories of work. And finally, some niche sites specialize further, dedicating themselves to an even narrower focus, such as article writing (instead of all writing) or logo creation (as opposed to general graphical design).
Even among the general freelancing marketplaces, there are obvious “leanings” that become apparent when you examine the project listings, and especially when you use the sites for a while. A site can have projects in a wide breadth of disciplines, but still mostly specialize in one sort of work. This is sometimes a legacy of how the site started out; for example, vWorker.com began life as “Rentacoder.com”, and still has a high percentage of programming projects.
If you think about it, the discipline focus of a site is an integral dimension in assessing the factors of project quantity and quality. As a freelancer, you don’t care about the gross number of projects listed on a site—you care about the number of relevant projects. A site that specializes in a work category that you don’t have any expertise in will not be of much interest to you, even if it is a large site and the projects are nominally of high quality (as measured in a generic sense). You will want to concentrate on sites that devote themselves to your specialty, along with generalist sites that have a good percentage of quality jobs in your discipline.
The caveats that apply to the generalist-specialist tradeoff for freelancers apply in an analogous way to evaluating project sites. A general site usually will be larger and have more projects, but as mentioned above, a large percentage are likely to be of no relevance to any given freelancer. A specialist site devoted to your work discipline area may have more projects relevant to you, even if it is smaller overall than the big sites. But sometimes even a small percentage of a large site can yield better results, because the big sites have a much wider reach to attract clients than is the case for most of the niche marketplaces.
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Last Site Update: October 21, 2011
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