Freelance Friday 01: Hunting Jobs Online

Right, let’s get this Freelance Friday series going! I thought a good first run might be a series of posts on the process of a freelance gig, roughly sequentially. So I’ll start off with a couple of posts on hunting out jobs online, as often, if you’re early career or starting out, you do tend to need to go hunting. So I’ll cover a few a few of my thoughts and experiences with jobs posted online.


I probably don’t need to tell you that creative industries have a problem with the perceived value of our work, and that there are a billion and one “job” ads online that expect free or practically free work. Basically, if looking to find gigs online, there’s a lot of junk to wade through. That said, I’ve had some great experiences with lovely clients found online, and when you’re early on in your freelance career, you may not have a lot of people knocking on your door. So here are my tips for dredging through the junk looking for gems…

Desperation / Limit your time

There’s definitely some kind of weird time field over the internet, and you start out just checking a few of your most commonly-checked sites only to suddenly realize hours have passed!

I’ve found that related to this is that it’s easy to get desperate. Freelance has peaks and troughs, and in the troughs, it can be scary and stressful and insecure-feeling. I’ve had times when that “gotta find work” feeling has had me spend all my time looking, searching every variation of a term again and again. I regretted it later, once I was busy with work again, when I realized how much I could’ve done on my personal projects during that time if I’d been less scared and ashamed of my lack of work and managed my time better. By this I don’t mean that the reality of needing work isn’t pressing, I just meant that the constant refreshing and checking and rechecking didn’t get me work any more effectively. And getting personal work done and putting it out there is also a way of getting work, just a less immediate and concrete-seeming one.

So, whatever works for you here: You could break up the sites you check so you’re checking a couple of different ones each day of the week. You could set a timer for your search time. You could schedule your personal work and marketing first in the day, before you spend time searching. Find what works for you to beat that time hole that starts with the feeling “I gotta find something”.

Remember the value of your time

Everything about this process takes time, and every ad you choose to respond to is an investment of your time, whether you get the job or not.

Skim ads quickly for indications of whether it’s worth your time

-Budget, or at least a request for quotes, needs to be there. Words like “collaboration” are alarm bells, as this generally means unpaid (not that there’s anything wrong with equitable collabs if done fairly and respectfully – just not what I’m after when looking for paid work). Requests for spec work samples also usually go in the bin. This weeds out most posts, so it’s no use reading a description and getting interested in a job I can’t afford to take.

-Project interest and appropriateness – if there’s no project info, I’ll likely skip that too, as – yep – I can’t tell if it’s worth the time investment to respond. If it’s a project that’s a little different from what I generally do – but decently paid, something I can do, and something I can show at least one or two relevent samples for – then I’ll probably contact. If it’s something totally different from what I usually do, and I have nothing relevent in my portfolio, it can sometimes a waste of both of our time for me to respond, even if it’s well paid or interesting.

-Signs of delusion/ego – if the ad states what a huge success this is going to be, how nothing like it has ever been done, how the poster’s writing is so amazing, etc…generally, no.

Read with an eye to tone and professionalism

Often what will decide me on whether I want to contact a poster about something is the tone of the post. Do they sound like a professional who understands and respects the work they’re asking for? How’s their grammar? Obviously allowances should be made where you don’t share the same first language, but often it’s not that, it’s just lack of professionalism and poor communication skills, and that’s not going to go well when trying to work together.

Gut feeling

This one may sound like a luxury that job-hunters can’t afford, but for me personally, some job posts seem professional, decent gigs, but something tugs at me and says not to apply, and I usually listen to it. If I was wrong and I would’ve gotten a great job, ah well. I’ll probably never know!

Anyway! Rambled on a bit there, so let’s call it quits for this week! Next week I’ll do a short (“ha! Likely story!”) post with some links to sites with job boards/listings that can be worth checking, particularly ones I’ve actually found work via. See you then!