What’s the deal with online job sites?

In the Designers Talk LinkedIn Group, a member posted a question asking if anyone uses freelance job websites or job boards to get work. He said that on one of these sites, someone was looking for a logo, with three rounds of revisions, for $20 — and it wasn’t a joke.
So, I want to find out, what’s the deal with freelance job sites? Do you use them? Do you get work through them? And if so, are you paid fairly?

11 thoughts on “What’s the deal with online job sites?

  1. Julia Reich

    I try to avoid them – they make me angry for that very reason. Although they do seem to be proliferating. Instead I am looking at sites that offer RFPs for graphic design projects. The RFP/proposal process is the professional way to go about winning work.

  2. Prescott Perez-Fox

    That’s funny because I think RFPs/Proposals are a total waste of time. Both parties will have a better sense of the potential business relationship from a 15 minute meeting (or phone call) than from the dozens of hours required to produce/revise/deliver/read the mountains of paper. Chances are that the potential client has requested several proposals, and thus the one you’ve spent hours on will likely not even be read.
    I’ve heard that one-page proposals are the new thing. It’s the gesture more than the artifact that matters — if you are serious about working together, your communication and professionalism will be evaluated.
    Freelance job sites are crap because the all fundamentally devalue designers as businesspeople. If a business owner can’t get a referral from a friend, he should do his own research and contact a firm/practitioner directly. Sending a project out for bids demotes the entire project to a commodity, not a professional service.
    I often compare design to the professions of law and accounting, which are respected professional services. While parts of those professions can be outsourced to cheaper markets, most business owners will acknowledge the need to have a good lawyer or accountant in your back pocket for the “real” stuff.

  3. Prescott Perez-Fox

    Another thing (sorry to be annoying) regards the time commitment required to find gigs online. Browsing the sites, contacting the client, and arranging the project, can add to dozens of hours before you even get to do any work! In the end, for a small paying job especially, it hardly seems worth it. And that’s saying nothing of the work you don’t win. Unless you can, somehow, win 90% of the jobs you bid on, and turn them around in serious time, I don’t see how this is viable economically.

  4. Rock Langston

    I’ve had very good results with Guru. First, they protect and support their providers by deleting “spec work” requirements. Yes, I’ve bid on a lot of projects with modest budgets, but that’s provided some steady income at times, and helped me build a portfolio.
    I’ve had to be selective and dogged about which projects to pursue. Don’t want to do a logo for $2o and unlimited revisions? Simple. Don’t bid on it. Don’t waste your breath or time on it at all.
    As a result of my judicious bidding I can say that 1/3 of my income this year is from clients I’ve landed via Guru. Real clients. The kind who come back for more, and pay my going rate. Not everyone goes for the lowest common denominator. Many people there are selective and savvy and a pleasure to deal with.
    Be professional, send a personalized proposal, then take good care of those you work with. It can pay off!

  5. Cedric Hohnstadt

    Freelance bidding sites are a race to the bottom. The type of clients who use such sites are often looking for “bargain talent”, which shows their lack of repect for the value of our creative services. That’s not the type of client you want anyway. And the type of freelancer who is willing to play this game is not, in my opinion, acting like a true professional. By slashing their rates they show a lack of confidence in their own work and/or their inexperience. Either way more often than not the client will get what he/she is paying for.
    Human nature is that the more you pay for something the more you value and respect it. The opposite is also true. In my experience clients with the lowest budgets are often the most difficult to work with. They aren’t paying much for it anyway so they think nothing of dragging their feet, asking for endless revisions, and making other unreasonable requests.
    Best to avoid these sites altogether. They are bad for you and bad for the industry as a whole.

  6. Cedric Hohnstadt

    I just re-read my last post and want to say I didn’t mean to imply that there are no professional freelancers on these sites. But those who are will be forced to compete with some who are not, and will have to lower their rates accordingly. The end result brings everyone down. That’s what I should have said.

  7. Danielle Baird

    I haven’t had any luck yet with online job sites. Occasionally, for a good laugh/cry, I’ll click through some posts on Craigslist. It’s pretty common for the list of qualifications to include master of print, web, video, etc. and the pay to be $10/hr.
    The job postings through AIGA are pretty legit and on-point with market pricing, but I haven’t seen any for my area.
    I’ve never heard of Guru, but I’ll have to check it out. Thanks for the tip, Rock!

  8. Steve Thomason

    I tend to agree with the above posts for the most part. I’m on guru. Here’s my experience and feedback.
    the bidding process is a waste. It is basically people wanting something for nothing.
    However, I have actually gotten some really good clients when people looked through my portfolio and called me directly. It is worth being on there for that fact alone. A legitimate client will call you directly because they like your work and are willing to pay a fair price because they value what they’ve seen.
    In summary, its worth having a good portfolio on guru, but not worth sifting through the job posts.

  9. A.R.

    This is great advice for a starting-out solo-entrepreneur designer! I am having trouble getting my foot in the door with clients and I felt like my only option is those horrible bid sites or cold calling. If anyone has any more tips other than posting a portfolio on guru..let me know!

  10. Jean Feingold

    During some slow periods in the past, I have used Indeed.com to look for writing work. I actually got two clients. Both were real companies with varying needs for freelance help. Both were great to work for (one even gave me the only holiday bonus I’ve ever received) but compensation was low. I stopped working for them because the time/income ratio was too unfavorable when my regular freelance work picked up.
    On Indeed there are many companies seeking bargain basement writers. Some think 10 cents a word is generous and others offer only the opportunity to “build your portfolio.” For someone starting out, these gigs are better than nothing, but established writers would be insulted. Even worse, there are far too many listings to write papers for students.