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Pro’s and Con’s of the major freelance designer hiring platforms

By Rob Williams

For the past 3 years I’ve probably looked at more freelance job boards than anyone on earth. I’ve found over 6,000 high-quality gigs (and in the process thrown out more than 20X that many).

I’ve noticed patterns emerge, not just about the places I find these opportunities, but also about the companies who use these places to find help.

Where you hire not only determines who sees your job or project, it shapes the type of person you’re looking for. Here’s 1 word to describe how these places shape who you’re hiring (and how they rub off on you):


The place people go in search of a deal. Deals that are a mirage. They don’t exist on Upwork. You’re just too busy scrambling to re-coup high fees levied on you (up to 20% per project for freelancers and 2.75% per transaction for clients) to notice. Upwork tries to make up for this with volume but just attracts more spam and shady applicants than actual talent. Not only does this severely decrease the chances you’ll find someone great, it means you lose a ton of your own valuable time in the process. This leads to unprofessional work and unprofitable (the other word I wanted to use for Upwork) projects for your company.


Craigslist isn’t the worst. But it severely limits your reach. It’s unreasonable to expect the right freelancers for your project (from all over the world) to keep tabs on your specific COUNTY’S Craigslist section everyday. Especially for remote projects, it doesn’t make sense to post on Craigslist because you handcuff yourself.


Here’s a dirty secret: Toptal doesn’t screen its talent-pool for skills that will necessarily help you. Instead they put developers through computer-sciency tests that look good on paper but may or may not have be in anyway related to your project’s success. Their claim of only offering the ‘top 3% of developers’ is arbitrary at best. If you’re attracted to it, it’s actually an indicator you’re lacking knowledge that’s necessary in making a great hiring decision in a complicated field.


Most opportunities on Stackoverflow look the same. Every post is formulaic in look and feel. There’s zero personality around your company when you post there. That means you don’t stand out and your listing ends up feeling more like noise than anything else. Not a great way to start your relationship with a designer or developer.


Similar to Craiglist you’re confined. Linkedin job posts aren’t just hard to find, they’re completely nonexistent unless you use the platform. Next time, try logging out of your account and looking for your job post. You won’t find it. Why? Because Linkedin’s interested in keeping people on Linkedin. That means they keep a very closed platform, and a lot of times you get stuck with the bill. You’re not the priority, you’re the product.

This is just a first pass. I’d like to go through an review these more in-depth in the future. 

About Rob Williams...

I run Folyo which helps freelance designers find the work they were meant to do. I also host Freelance a podcast about how to be more effective at independent work featuring remote companies like Disney, Basecamp, YNAB, ConvertKit and more.