Jobs for skilled freelancers are booming. And it doesn’t matter whether your skill is in marketing, tech, law, logistics or accounting. Companies are turning to gig platforms to find skilled freelancers to fill a wide array of openings.

The pandemic is partly responsible for the change. With Covid forcing near universal telecommuting, acceptance of untraditional working arrangements has gone from rare to de rigueur. That’s broken down barriers that discouraged companies from hiring off-site experts, says Joseph Fuller, professor of management practice at Harvard Business School.

At the same time, the uncertain economy makes companies reluctant to hire full-time employees. Instead, they’re enlisting part-time and temporary consultants, bringing in expertise on an as-needed basis.

“When companies are under duress, they innovate,” says Fuller, who recently co-authored research on the market for skilled freelancers. “They often take that learning and make it part of their permanent approach.”

Job platforms for skilled freelancers

Online platforms such as Upwork, Toptal, Braintrust and Catalant are a key to the trend, Fuller says. These gig platforms prescreen freelancers, sussing out specialties and publishing ratings from their former employers. That’s a big benefit to companies in need of experts since they now have access to the equivalent of an online talent supermarket, he says.

Using freelancers rather than hiring new employees also saves companies time and money, he notes. It allows them to experiment with new people and processes without making costly long-term commitments.

Mixed bag for freelancers

However, these job platforms for skilled freelancers are a mixed bag for the freelancers themselves. Some provide invaluable matchmaking services. But others charge far too much for questionable benefits.

Reviewing more than a dozen online job platforms for skilled freelancers, found that more than a third of these platforms provided substandard to barely average options. In many cases, the only outstanding thing about the fair-to-middling bunch was the wide array of fees they imposed on their freelance workforce.

Still, many of skilled job platforms provided better-than-average opportunities, allowing freelancers to set their own rates and collect 100% of what they charge. The better platforms generally charge clients a fee for the introduction, instead of digging a commission out of the freelancer’s wages and they have a stable of high-quality clients that expect to pay premium prices for skilled work.

Best opportunities

As is true in many areas of the freelance economy, some of the best places to find skilled work specialize in a limited range of positions.


For instance, WorkingNotWorking connects “creatives” — writers, editors, producers, photographers, illustrators — who work both online and in person, with big companies that need talent. The site’s fees are paid by hiring companies, not the creatives listed there. And the site’s client list is a who’s who of innovative Fortune 500 firms.


With technology advancing at the speed of light, one of the most hotly-competitive markets for freelance talent is in the tech sector, where experts in everything from software development to user experience command six-figure wages. Not suprisingly, some talent networks specialize in connecting these tech experts with clients. Braintrust and Toptal, for example, list only technology specialists.

Tech specialists are also highly sought-after at dozens of other sites that have a broader mandate, however. For instance, many freelancers on Upwork complain that much of the site’s work is poorly paid. But those with specialized technology skills say they can find plenty of well-paid assignments there. That said, Upwork nicks freelancers — rather than clients — for the site’s fees.

Insurance/Human Resources

WAHVE enlists pre-retirees in the insurance, human resources and accounting fields to work with small businesses that need temporary or part-time help. Workers here give up benefits and, sometimes, higher salaries in order to gain the freedom of working a flexible schedule. But worker reviews of the site are overwhelmingly positive.

All skills

However, far more sites have a broad mandate, allowing a wide array of skilled professionals to list their availability and rates. Among the better sites in this category: Catalant, Gerson Lehrman, Maven, Zintro, FlexProfessionals and FreeUp.

What makes these platforms better than their competitors? Two things. Fee structures that charge clients, rather than freelancers, for the connection. Additionally, these freelance marketplaces have rules that prevent bidding wars between freelancers, which can drive freelance rates into the basement. Instead, they usually allow freelancers to set their own rates and focus narrowly on niches where they can command premium prices. The better sites play matchmaker, allowing only people with pertinent skills to vie for plum positions.

SideHusl is less enthusiastic about Upwork, Freelancer, PeoplePerHour and Guru. These sites either exact high fees from workers, create environments that encourage clients to post low-wage jobs, pit freelancers against each other encouraging underbidding for work or all of the above. While the right freelancer might bump into decent projects on these sites, the odds are not in the freelancer’s favor.

2 responses to “Jobs for skilled freelancers”

  1. Andrea A Green Avatar
    Andrea A Green

    I haven’t noticed, but have you done an article on platforms like Thumbtack? I’m not sure if you are familiar, but its a gig platform that freelancers can bid on work. Clients post requests for free and freelancers or businesses can post/bid on the work, but Thumbtack charges the freelancer/business/vendor if the client responds to the bid, whether the freelancer wins the bid or not.

    There are several platforms like this that are out there but Thumbtack is one of the top players. The platform and the rules are not the best. The rules change anytime and the freelancers are not notified, even though they pay for leads. Thumbtack just changes the rules whenever they want and it does not benefit the freelancer.
    Thumbtack does do things like give credits back to the freelancer for a lead they paid for when certain conditions exist, but all in all, Thumbtack as a company is doing really well. As a freelancer, you have to figure out how the algorithm works to get enough work to be successful using the platform, otherwise, you end up like many freelancers, disgruntled with Thumbtack and feeling like you have been had because you are constantly being charged and you are not making the sales to come close to the investment that you are putting in for leads.

    Competition is coming in but I’m sure that will take a while.

    On the other hand, there are other types of competition that freelancers can use. Thumbtack is not the only pony at the rodeo. Some freelancers don’t realize that you don’t always need a one-trick pony and who says you have to sell at the rodeo.

    1. Kathy Kristof Avatar
      Kathy Kristof

      Hi Andrea. Yes. We’ve reviewed Thumbtack. Like you, we were not impressed. Here’s the review, if you’re interested.

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