How to Freelance Without Using Platforms (and find better clients)

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For many freelancers platforms like Upwork and Fiverr are their bread and butter. It is their marketing channel, portfolio and payment provider all in one. And while it is certainly easy and maybe can give you a good kickstart, it is in the long run only holding you back in our opinion. 

Simply put, you can get way better projects and high-paying clients without using these platforms. Freelance platforms should not be at the center of your freelance career. In this article we will cover why not to use these platforms and more importantly, what to do instead! It might be a bit more work in the beginning but the upside potential is way bigger.

Why should you ditch using freelance platforms?

The freelance industry is booming. And so the competition is also rising at an unbelievable pace. In such times, depending solely on freelance marketplaces can be one of the biggest mistakes of your freelance career! 

For example, these platforms have a complicated bidding process, limit your creativity, have lots of fake job postings, and in case of payment issues, you will be on your own. And this is just the tip of the iceberg, there are multiple reasons why you should consider ditching these freelance platforms today. 

Let’s have a look at some major ones:

1. Race to the bottom

Freelance platforms are filled with freelancers looking for the same work as you. More or less, they have the same skills and experience as you. 

Thus, getting projects often becomes a competition of underbidding each other and racing to the bottom. So, even if you get the projects by placing the lowest bids, are you really the winner here? Think about it. 

Because of these mechanism there are job-postings on these sites that have a super small budget since there will always be someone that will pick it up. It might be ok to get some experience for a short while, but doing so is not feasible or recommended in the long run. 

2. Lack of freedom 

At its heart, freelancing is all about freedom. As a freelancer, you are free to choose your clients, your projects, your rates, and your work hours. However, a majority of these platforms can limit your freedom as a freelancer. 

For example your portfolio, on a platform you have very little freedom to stand out. Be it Fiverr or Upwork, they have a standard template for user profiles. There is very little that you can do to customise our profiles and stand out from the crowd. With your own website you can set it up anyway you want.

Lastly the jobs, you will be dependent on the jobs that are posted. You won’t discover your ideal ideal client and might be less creative in finding new jobs. 

3. International competition

If you have ever looked into freelancers on one of these sites you will have noticed it hosts freelancers from all over the world. Of course the freelancer market is an international market however to have all these people in one overview makes the differences really noticeable. 

The average rate in India for example is of course way lower than in the US, but both groups will reply to the same job posting. And an english copywriter from India might not get even one job because there are so many English or American copywriters available.

4. You no longer have full control over your business 

Freelance platforms are simply the middle man, but at the same time they are large companies that are out there to make profits and set their own rules. They could change the marketplace in a blink of an eye, causing your carefully built up profile to no longer be relevant. Or they could possibly ban accounts for the smallest reasons. Lastly, if a freelance platform shuts down, you can lose your source of income overnight.

5. Simply not the best freelance jobs

Because of the four reasons mentioned above the image of these platform are not always the best. This causes a lot of companies choose to not post their jobs on these platforms but rather go with a recruitment agency or look within their own network. In short, you wont find the best clients with the best paying jobs here. In order to find these you will have to be more creative, read below what could work for you.

What to do instead to find new clients?

Now that we have discussed why you should ditch these freelance platforms, here’s the real question: how can you find your clients without these freelance platforms? 

In this section, we will discuss some actionable and effective tips that will help you get started.

1. Start by creating a professional portfolio 

In the world of freelancing, your portfolio is one of your most powerful tools, if not the most. It helps you position yourself as an expert in your niche and show your potential clients why you are best for the job. A website is most often preferred here so you can interactively display your skills, past clients, creativity and testimonials. 

One of the easiest ways to create a portfolio is by buying your own domain name and setting up a WordPress website with a portfolio theme. You can put your best work there and have full control over what to show to your potential leads. 

2. Enhance your LinkedIn profile

LinkedIn is a well-known social media platform where you can network with people from your industry and build professional relationships. Today, people, especially freelancers, are using LinkedIn to build their personal brand and attract more clients. 

Thus, it is essential to make the most of your LinkedIn profile. Create an engaging bio, add your experiences, and try to communicate with people there. You can also join LinkedIn groups of your niche to find freelancing opportunities. The more you network on LinkedIn, the better your chances of finding a new client through LinkedIn will be. 

3. Ask your network for endorsements 

Once you have a solid portfolio and LinkedIn profile, it’s time to reach out to your network. Contact your friends, family members, past employers, or anyone else who may become a potential client. Even if they don’t, you can request them to endorse you and help you create buzz about your freelance services. 

This is the easiest way to find your first client. Many freelancers often overlook the people they already know. Don’t make this mistake. 

4. Manage and extend your network

By far the best way to get big clients is by word of mouth. This ways you might get jobs that are not even posted or considered simply because you are already the right person in mind to fix it.

In order to improve the chances of being top of mind it is important to keep actively engaging with your current network. For example call old clients once in a while to check in on what they are up to, not necessarily to ask for a job but rather just to ask about their developments, a great way to stay on the radar. 

And while you are on the phone a great way to extend your network is to ask them what other people or companies they know that could use your services. A direct recommendation might be the best entrance to a possible freelance job.

5. Cold emailing 

Lastly, a fantastic way to get new clients is by cold emailing. However, be sure to never ask clients for their emails via freelance platforms. This is likely a violation of their policy and can get your account banned. 

Instead, use high-quality email finder tools to find potential leads. You can also look for businesses in your niche and visit their website for their email addresses.

Start collecting the email addresses of potential leads in an excel sheet and then start pitching your services to them. This will help you build a solid client base of your own and grow your freelancing career. 


So there you have it! That was all about how you can freelance without using freelance platforms. Finding new clients on your own sounds overwhelming and requires a lot of hard work and patience. But once you start on that journey, you will discover your true potential and you will never need to look back. 

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