Freelancers, start-ups, solo-operators and other assorted independent contractors have never had it so good. Nor have business owners who need help for copy writing, graphic design, programming, IT or other specialized services easily supplied by independent contractors.
While hundreds of websites vie for attention as online markets for specialty services, the What Works for Business Top 10 sites listed below are making it easier that ever for service buyers as well as sellers to get in on the action. Stalwarts Elance, Dice, Guru, Sologig, Aquent and MediaBistro are joined by fast-growing LimeExchange launch in July 2008, Jobvana with big venture capital behind it, the niche site HireMyMom and Freelance Switch, a freelance blog.
Each site works differently but generally they provide a place where service providers can get listed, and businesses can post projects or browse for what they need. Some offer free listings; some paid. A few sites make freelancers bid on projects; others merely play match-maker. Some sites take a percentage of the project value, while still others work with flat rates. Before you join as either a buyer or seller, make sure you understand the rules of the site.
1. Sologig.com helps connect contractors, freelancers and consultants with businesses seeking independent professionals. Registration is free and unlike other project based websites, Sologig does not charge project fees. There's also no bidding on Sologig -- freelancers choose which projects they are interested in and negotiate pricing directly with the employer. You can build a customized resume of your expertise accessible to thousands of employers. Sologig has something for everyone, from beginning freelancers to seasoned consultants. Sign up to receive email notification of projects in your selected field or search thousands online.
2. Guru.com's mission is to connect employers with freelance talent locally or globally, and the site is one of the deepest in the freelance field. See how to post your professional profile, select a membershiptype, get paid safely through their SafePay payment service and earn a professional services ranking. Check other details on costs and membership levels. Try out their project search capabilities.
3. LimeExchange - a "talent on demand marketplace" - features freelance professionals and small businesses specializing in areas such as graphic design, programming, copy writing and a variety of business services. Registration and posting of projects is free, although there are back-end fees and commissions (waived through June 30, 2009).
4. Elance is a major site that helps businesses hire and collaborate with experts on projects such as web development, graphic design, programming, marketing, writing, administrative, research and more. Unlike some other sites, however, this works on a bid system. Employers post projects, and interested freelancers must bid for the work. Elance will automatically notify you of new projects in your selected categories. You pay a membership fee to Elance and also a percentage of the transaction -- between 6.75% and 8.75%.
5. FreelanceSwitch, a site for freelancers of all types, including designers, writers, programmers, photographers and illustrators, is among the newer entries. It features a freelance blog, gig board, forums and one of the best freelance resource directories around. You'll find links to helpful solutions for invoicing, project management, stock libraries, legal issues, business tools and - of course - freelance job boards.
6. MediaBistro is the place to be if you freelance in the media industry - as a writer, designer, editor, ad sales person or other position - or need help in that arena. Become a member at MediaBistro, register in the Freelance Marketplace or just check online job listings in the freelance category.
7. Jobvana.com is a new online marketplace where service providers, solo entrepreneurs and other biz owners or professionals can market their wares and find new customers - for free. Electricians, contractors, guitar instructors, nannies, business consultants, lawyers, insurance agents and many others are using Jobvana. It's kind of a combo social site and biz services marketplace, and is especially well-suited to solo operators.
8. Dice handles only tech-related jobs and bills itself as a "career hub for tech insiders." While the site is mostly about full time positions, it also carries freelance opportunities, so posting a resume or project there is a good idea if you are involved in the tech field.
9. HireMyMom caters (oddly enough) to work-at-home moms. The site links qualified work-at-home mom professionals with businesses seeking temporary or permanent project help and is part of the Home Based Working Moms Network.
10. oDesk bills itself as a marketplace for online work teams, including both buyers and providers. oDesk's unique approach is that it guarantees that an hour paid is an hour worked, while also guaranteeing that an hour worked is an hour paid. oDesk is growing rapidly, and reports an average job size of $5,000. It helps buyers choose the right service providers; and helps freelance providers find qualified clients. The site lets you easily search providers or post a job.
Bonus: Aquent is unique in its approach to matching companies with project talent - even offering benefits to temporary employees. Aquent is a specialist in the fields of marketing, creative services, health care consulting and financial services. In order to use the site, you must work through one of their agents.
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