Why freelancing websites suck

Why freelancing websites suck

Downside of freelance websites

Freelacing websites are often cited as great platform to acquire new projects and clients for individuals and agencies. My experience has not been great with such freelancing websites.

Am I a failure as a freelancer? No, not at all. I get enough work to keep me busy without having to make much of an effort. However, I have always been interested in exploring freelancing portals such as Elance and Freelancer.

On a freelancing website, clients post their projects along with their budget. Popular freelancing sites get a lot of new projects listed every day. So there is always plenty of projects in various work areas such as web development, graphic designing and content writing. If you go just by the number of projects, it can be overwhelming at first glance.

Freelance workers have the option to go through the project requirements and express their interest in taking over the project. As a freelancer, you have to place a competitive bid or estimated cost along with your expertise when trying to impress the client. So far so good.

Why do I not like these freelancing websites? Maybe, because I have been a miserable failure on these platforms. Partly, yes.

1. Too much of competition

Freelancing websites have too much of competition. Many freelancers do not care about the scope of the project and bid ridiculously low amounts. How can you create a unique design and template for just $100? It takes hours and hours of coding to create a perfect template for content management systems such as WordPress and Joomla.

2. Projects with low budget

Many projects listed on freelancing websites have very low budget. How does the client know that the project would cost under $500 when they are smart enough to include a huge list of “must-have” features in their project description? Client are not willing to pay the right amount even when it will take the freelancer a lot of hard work.

3. It’s a simple project

Smart clients make sure to mention—after using 500 words to describe their project—that it is a very simple one. “You just need to make changes to the CSS stylesheet files.” Okay, so where did the process of creating a design go? Some might need a private-area on their website with unique features. Yet, the project is a fairly straightforward one. If you know it is very easy, why don’t you do it yourself?

Here’s an excerpt from a project description on a popular freelancing site.

The websites are all very straigthforward. They are mainly the archive of personal stuff such as drawings (public) and photos (private, login required).

4. No hiring at all

Many projects are closed without hiring. Why? The client probably didn’t find a right person/agency to outsource the work. Maybe, their budget wasn’t enough for turning their fancy features into codes and then making that into a website. It can be irritating to see that the project that you spent 15-30 minutes figuring out and placing a detailed bid was closed by the client after being open for a day or two.

5. Estimate not realistic

Okay, this one is one of the best reason for rejecting a bid. The project might not provide enough details for arriving at an estimated cost, but the client can always reject it saying the estimate is way too high.

If I am going to do all the lifting and cleaning, how does the client know that the bid is unrealistic? I might be a talented coder or designer worth my weight in gold. The client can still reject my bid saying it’s outrageously high without considering my qualification and value that I can provide.

Do you have a different opinion about freelancing websites? Have you been able to get plenty of work? Have you been paid enough for projects that you acquired through freelancing websites? I would love to hear your experience and opinion.


  1. “I get enough work to keep me busy without having to make much of an effort.” Nice to read that, Pritam. That is important. As for the rest, each to his own :-)

    • Given that I am too lazy to work after spending more than 11 hours in office and commuting, even one project a month can keep me busy. Now you have the complete picture. 😉

  2. I agree with you. I think a person should look for freelancing work at other places. One of my friend told me that he worked for a project using these sites and never got paid. This will be frustrating if you work for something and you don’t get paid.

  3. starting from freelancing a person can gain good name & respect for future. Then only he/she need to open own business with higher prices, and I guess it should pay off :)

  4. Well I think it depends on the working quality of the freelancer and also on the schedule which he followed to do the work.

  5. We gave some of these a shot early on with our company and it just didn’t pan out. People would want a ‘custom site’ with a dozen different design elements and want it for a hundred bucks. The crazy part being that there would be bidders that would actually offer to do the job for that amount. If there was a website you could go to and see what those projects end up looking like I’d visit it every day. I can only imagine it’s a complete debacle…if it ever even sees the light of internet day. In my experience you get what you pay for.

    • Hey Charles,
      Thanks for dropping by. Yes, it is really strange that people ask for premium stuff and yet want to pay pennies. Still many freelancers bid on these projects. I guess there are a lot of them for whom a hundred dollar is worth more than a week’s pay. For them, it might not be as bad.
      Stay in touch :)

  6. Ellen Bell says:

    You are absolutely right, Pritam. While I was working for a freelancer site, I completed my work on time but I was paid nothing. I felt so very frustrated then. This is an informative post. Thanks for sharing.

  7. My one point rule of working in freelancing websites

    Read the policies of websites like there is heaven’s and hells difference between Odesk and Elance

    Now coming back to client handling
    please always ensure that client pays a portion before you start the work, I agree in this way you will not be able to get much client some will typically talk big about faith etc but lets wipe this word work= money. no money = no work

    This way you cannot prevent the time wasted by giving interviews but surely you will be able to stop work minus payment

    I always ensure who ever I work pay me before I start( even a trial project) but I have noticed that’s why I have few work history but then there is no payment issues!

    Hope this works for all and in fact all freelancers if insist on payment first then definitely there will be no pain among the hard working freelances