Wanted to see if we could get some conversations going with any freelancers who may be around. I figured a good place to start is with one of the more commonly discussed topics, which is the online marketplaces catering to freelancers.
These days, Upwork seems to have gobbled up a huge chunk of that market, while garnering plenty of criticism and complaints along the way for how they handle it. The graphic design space seems to have a little more competition in marketplaces, with 99designs being a frontrunner it seems. Truthfully, there just aren't that many platforms to pick from regardless of your specialty. Which can be a positive, as it provides a centralized place to look for and post available work, can increase exposure to the freelance market as a whole, and ensures you don't have to maintain profiles across numerous platforms which can be far too time consuming sometimes. But of course there are many downsides that come along with that.
The standard advice that comes with such discussions is to ignore the online marketplaces entirely because of those downsides. Competing against an international labor pool, as well as an under-experienced labor pool much of the time, in a format that heavily encourages price competition above other factors can be disastrous for your bottom line (and your sanity). These platforms also generally remove a lot of the negotiating power that a freelancer needs to leverage, as it is much more difficult to establish the captive audience that can be built with more personal interactions.
And frankly, that standard advice has continued to be my own, both for my career as well as to others who may seek such advice. But it does make me wonder if there is a better way to do it. Of course as a developer I'm always looking to find a way to solve problems, so I can concede I may be looking for solutions in a place that is misguided to try to fix.
What has been your experiences with freelance online marketplaces? What advice do you give when asked about it? What would you like to change?