If you’re new to freelancing life, you may have come across the notion that job boards are a great place to find quality clients.
I mean, it sounds great on paper: scroll through postings, apply, land the client, do the work, and get paid. Easy, right?
The reality is, trying to make a living from job board opportunities is tough. The majority of clients that post on these sites are looking for the cheapest and fastest solution, which means the value of talented freelancers is often overlooked, or quite frankly, not a priority.
There are plenty of job board horror stories out there, but it’s not all bad. What about the freelancers who have found success on these sites?
In this post, we’re taking a look at a few best practices of how you can make the most of job boards if you decide to give them a try.
First thing’s first, what are job boards?
Job boards are sites that list opportunities for freelancers. Each post typically includes a project description, the client’s budget, and application criteria. Most sites allow you to search by keyword and location, but some have more advanced search filters like industry, tone, and delivery time.
However, there’s no denying that some job boards are better than others. It’s a good idea to scan a few and see which ones work best for the type of work you want to do.
Here are a few of the most popular job boards:
Sites like Upwork and Fiverr are known for harboring clients who have bite-sized budgets and unrealistic deadlines, whereas job boards like Problogger have the occasional gem—just ask The Blogsmith, Maddy Osman.
Job boards can be a great resource for leads if you take them for what they are—inconsistent and lots of work. If you stumble across a legitimate client that respects your rates and understands the value you provide, great! But more likely than not, prepare to spend most of your time weeding through postings, customizing pitches (similar to a normal job search), and finding clients that align with what you offer.
For many freelancers, a mark of success is no longer having to “chase” clients this way, and that instead the majority of business is brought in via different ways like referrals, lead magnets, and email newsletters.
But, if you’re willing to give them a fair shot, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
How can I make job boards work for me?
It’s important to know that job boards are highly unreliable. If you go into it with that mindset, you’ll be much better for it.
Now, let’s dive into a few best practices.
Be picky about the opportunities you apply for
It can be tempting to apply for anything and everything that seems like it would be a good fit—especially when you’re just starting. However, it’s best to only focus on the postings that are high-quality, meaning they can afford your rates and understand the value you provide.
Customizing pitches and collecting relevant work samples can be time-consuming, so make sure you’re picking postings that you’re really excited about, not the ones you’re grasping at to pay the bills.
Pay attention to red flags
Is the client trying to play games with payments? Are they tacking on extra assignments that most definitely were not part of the initial scope? Or perhaps they stress you out to no end, and you’ve realized it’s not worth your time.
Whatever your red flag is, don’t ignore it. There are plenty of other opportunities out there, and it’s not worth letting a bad situation evolve into a worse one.
Create a template for pitches and customize from there
Sending out a cookie-cutter pitch for why you’re the best fit for the job isn’t the best way to approach it. Your pitches should be customized to fit the project, but that doesn’t mean you need to write one from scratch every time.
Draft up a few templates for the types of postings you’d be interested in applying for and tweak them for each project. You’ll save yourself some time without looking like you send a mass pitch blast to other postings as well.
Vet the clients before you apply
Do a bit of research on the client before you apply. If the company looks legitimate and aligns with your business goals, go for it. If you get that gut feeling that something is off, move along.
There’s nothing worse than spending time applying for a position only to realize you don’t want to work with that client at all. There are better ways to spend your time!
The bottom line: take job boards with a grain of salt
Some freelancers detest these sites, while others have forged a stable freelance career with them. Either way, the key is to know how to leverage them in a way that works best for you.
Our advice: don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Use job boards sparingly, but don’t rely on them. Some clients who look for help on job boards see freelancers as more of a transaction rather than an expert, which likely won’t help you land those big-ticket projects. Work on other methods—in addition to checking these sites—to generate leads, build your audience, and position yourself as the expert you are.