A startup is a lot like a star high school student that just got a full ride to their college; great grades, competes in sports, bright future and lots of potential. But from that point forward, there is always the chance they can flourish...or that they peaked in high school.
In 2018, I was at a startup like that. Recently valued as a unicorn, copious amounts of press coverage, floods of investment...but clouds started gathering on the horizon. The private investment gave way to bank investment. We had a late paycheck, and then another. The VP of the company was arrested pending trial in another state. And then the layoffs began.
Although I wasn't cut in the first few rounds of layoffs, my time eventually came, and I found myself - for lack of a better word - self-employed. I had luckily created my LLC shortly before, so instead of jumping into the job application treadmill, I instead made my remote freelancing software business my full-time job.
It was terrifying, but one of the first challenges I found myself battling with was that I no longer had a manager. I had no one to tell me what to work on, and how much I would be paid. It was all on me. And for about a year I fought until I found a great wealth of resources to find remote work. Through trial and error, I eventually gathered a good number of resources.
So if you're looking to go remote, go solo, or just find some part-time work, take a peek at the resources below.
UpWork is an online freelancing platform that is personally my most profitable one. A favorite for many freelancers, UpWork has a solid variety of job postings with an established user base. It uses a currency called "Connects" to limit job seekers from spamming clients with low-quality job applications.
Unlike some other platforms, UpWork takes its commission from the money you are paid. Although the commission may seem high in comparison - 20% for the first 500$, and 10% thereafter - the fact that your existing money is protected is very worthwhile. If you don't get paid, you don't lose money paying to apply for a job.
Additionally, the commission structure helps encourage long-term engagement with quality clients. Unfortunately, the fact that the commission structure is fixed at $500 pushes towards higher paid work, creating an environment that software engineers and such are much more likely to hit the 10% commission than gig work or lower-paid work.
The quality of jobs offered on UpWork tends to be higher value and higher quality than alternative platforms. Mentally speaking, this helps boost your value. It might seem silly, but seeing post after post of jobs demanding a fully-functioning blockchain native app for both iOS and Android with a budget of $150, or a translation of a 500-page novel with a budget of $80 really does have a negative impact on your work environment and self-esteem.
UpWork does have its drawbacks. They are famously strict with their policy limiting communication off-platform, and communications in your messages are visible to the UpWork management team. This means that mentioning transitioning off-platform or suggesting a communication method such as email is likely to get you temporarily or permanently banned off of the platform.
UpWork clients also have the ability to request specifically workers that have a more established track record on the platform at no extra charge, so many jobs are not open to beginners on the platform.
The mobile platform is also not particularly useful, while the desktop platform is not as user-friendly as it could be. Accessing your reports or data is significantly more difficult than it would be on other platforms.
Unique among all the platforms on this list, Steady is a fully mobile community. In addition to help connect job seekers with gigs and other sources of income, they provide resources for low-cost banking, insurance, and other resources that might usually be tied to a full-time job.
Another exciting feature of the Steady community is that it built and focused on mobile use. Most of the other platforms provide either a completely different experience on their desktop platform, or limit the options available on the go (looking at you, UpWork). With the majority of the workforce primarily accessing the internet on mobile devices, and many work opportunities tied to traveling, a solid mobile app is a great perk.
Unlike some of the other platforms on this list that are very much geared to a single type of job-seeking - be it freelancing, fulltime employment opportunities, or low-paid gig work - Steady provides a solid variety of options to build a career, or supplement it.
A "less than essential feature" that is still nice to have is also the variety of deals available on the platform. Like many other mobile finance-related applications, Steady provides deals and bonuses to its users for spending money in businesses or services.
There are few people who have never heard of Fiverr. Their marketing is brilliant, if just a touch dystopic.
But this isn't a discussion about late capitalism, marketing, or the glory of action versus speculation. Fiverr has found incredible success bringing and inspiring people to bring their work to life. It focuses on getting people who can perform the myriad of small tasks that are essential to bringing something to completion. In this sense, it is highly focused on gig work - low pay, low commitment, but fast turnaround.
Gratefully, it also has a low bar of entry. In contrast to Upwork or to some extent LinkedIn, Fiverr provides opportunities to work and supplement income to anyone. Similarly to UpWork, Fiverr charges a 20% commission to those who earn money through their platform. Upwork's model does provide the opportunity to drop that commission to 10% beyond a certain amount earned on their platform, but this is only for relatively high-value contracts.
Fiverr tends to focus more on smaller projects, so in practice both platforms provide broad client bases with a variety of jobs to choose from. However, for long-term or skilled work, UpWork does provide a more beneficial commission structure, as well as clients more focused on skilled work. Both platforms complement each other well, and any freelancer would do well to find themselves on both.
Freelancer is also one of the largest freelancing platforms in the world. With a community of 50,000,000 users, this platform truly provides a variety of both skills and jobs for anyone to find a gig. A negative side effect of this wealth of opportunity is a flood of low priced freelance work, which creates lower-priced competition to your bids. Like UpWork, Freelancer matches your skills to open jobs. There are some significant differences though.
Whereas in UpWork, you pay a commission based on the money you get paid from your client, in Freelancer, you need to pay from your own money prior to commencing work. That means that if a client doesn't pay, or for whatever reason you don't receive the money from your client, you are still on the hook for Freelancer's commission.
Despite these shortcomings, Freelancer's incredible wealth of job postings should drive any freelancer to include it in their job sourcing.
Flexjobs is another platform for finding remote work. Unlike the previous entries on this list, there is no gig work available on this platform. However, it provides ample opportunities for contract and remote work. Both full-time and part-time remote and flexible work options are available on the platform, but they do not offer one-off gig jobs.
Flexjobs is a fantastic platform with easy-to-search listings. Additionally, Flexjobs's business model does not feed off of freelancers' earnings, giving it an additional edge for a freelancer searching for remote work opportunities.
I will be the first to admit that I have a soft spot for RemoteOK. As a travel lover with incurable wanderlust, RemoteOK offers me an escape and a practical view into what a life as a digital nomad might look like. Similar to Flexjobs, RemoteOK focuses on full- and part-time work as opposed to gig work. However, it also provides a wealth of resources for anyone wishing a truly independent life - how to get health insurance abroad, how to pay taxes abroad, as well as a full community of members ready and willing to give advice.
As a platform geared towards people outside the USA, it stands alone as a resource with a full focus on people outside of the USA. Although it may be easier to capture a higher paying job on other, US-centric platforms, the flexibility provided by moving abroad allows those with the liberty to live outside the United States and Canada to earn relatively good wages while enjoying a low cost of living.
While the option to move abroad may not be appealing to everyone, RemoteOK provides the unique opportunity to save a higher percentage of wages than many of those living in America.
LinkedIn is the holy grail of job searching. As the leading professional network around the world - with only the possible exception of Xing.com in German-speaking Europe - LinkedIn has earned a well-deserved reputation as an essential component of a job search on par with a resume. While LinkedIn's main purpose is to function as a social network rather than a job listing, it is home to pretty much every recruiter in America at this point.
With this edge, the professional social network has become a go-to place to initiate a job search. Although LinkedIn's recruiters often search for local job candidates, it is a great place to connect with people searching for remote work. Navigating the complexities of LinkedIn is an entire book in and of itself, but a great starting point to find remote work through recruiters on LinkedIn is to search for recruiters in large multinational companies, or specifically for recruiters specializing in outsourcing or remote work.
Going through a recruiter means that job searchers on LinkedIn much more closely resemble a traditional job search, including interviews and investigation, but the close-knit relationship between the labor force and recruiters means that the wealth of opportunities on the platform are not one to be ignored.
Beyond LinkedIn lies indeed.com. It is the largest job listing website in the world, with job listings even in Antarctica. Being such a broad-based platform, it includes every type of full-time, part-time, and contract work imaginable. It also has localized versions for a huge number of countries, such that people around the world can benefit from searching on Indeed.com.
Indeed's incredible reach does produce a large number of challenges, though. It does not automatically remove old job postings, leaving that task up to the original poster. This single fact does imply that many job postings on the website may have expired. Additionally, its traditional job-listing format means that it closely resembles other job-focused sites, such as UpWork or Freelancer. For people with doubts or need for advice on the platform, this removal of the intermediary human present on LinkedIn can pose a challenge for the prospective full-time and part-time employees. Additionally, it does not focus specifically on remote work, meaning that remote work must be sussed out from among the wealth of opportunity.
Like LinkedIn, however, Indeed provides opportunities for everyone. It is a must-see stop on your remote job search.