Are Paid Job Boards Really Worth Their Cost?

Posted: August 18th, 2009

These days, given the high number of job boards, its easy to ask yourself “Why should I pay to use a job board?” when there are plenty of free options available. After all, freelancing is a business and you need to minimize expenses. This is especially true if you are a new freelancer and want to cut down on your initial start up costs.

The truth is that there is really no difference in the quality of projects you can find on paid or free job boards. Paying to use a job board doesn’t mean you’ll be able to score projects much easier either. So what gives? Is it a complete waste of money to fork over a small fortune if there is no perceived benefit?

Well, the answer is that paid job boards actually do provide quite a few benefits to freelancers and are worth your while to check out. For instance:

The ability to pre-screen potential employers

It is always reassuring to have a little background knowledge on an employer to all but guarantee a level of trust before you start working for them. When you view available projects, there is usually the ability to view an employer’s business profile, the projects he has offered in the past (and what was paid) plus comments by other freelancers who worked on those projects. This way you aren’t completely in the dark about working with a new employer.

Believe it or not, there are scammers out there who post projects on both free and paid job boards. More often than not, they ask a freelancer to do a project then bail and leave the freelancer hanging when they have the completed work in their hand. Any knowledge you can gain from an employer before you work with him can keep this from happening to you.

Virtually guarantee payments

The biggest advantage of using a paid job board is that they provide an escrow service or some sort of guarantee that a freelancer will get paid for completed work. An escrow service works by requiring the employer to pay the project cost up front to an intermediary (usually the job board itself) and, upon completion, the funds are released to the freelancer. This eliminates the worry that a new employer may stiff you in the end.

They are targeted to specific fields

While free job boards usually lump together project postings, whether it be writing, programming or web development, paid job boards organize their postings by field. Therefore, rather than filtering through hundreds of offers unrelated to what you do, you can view dozens of offers from your field in a single list on all in one place. This ultimately becomes a major time-saver for a freelancer.

Using a paid job board will cost a little dough though. Here is a sample from the three of the biggest out there:

Guru: $29.95 – $99.95 membership fee every three months. 10% project fee. 2% fee for use of escrow service.

Elance: $9.95 monthly membership fee. 8.75% project fee. Free escrow service.

oDesk: No monthly fee. 10% project fee (added to your project estimate upon bidding). Does not provide escrow service but offers guaranteed payment for hours worked.

These fees are, admittedly, pretty steep for a freelancer. Add to this the PayPal fee you would likely use to receive payments and you are left with a small fortune already gone before payments hit the bank account. The simple solution, however, is to simply pass these fees on to the client when you create an estimate. They’ll understand.

A good rule of thumb is that if an expense helps your business perform more efficiently, then spend it. Paid job boards, as expensive as they can run, can really save you some time searching for projects. More importantly, though, it just may save you the hassle of having to chase down a rogue client for leaving you high and dry on a payment.

More on the author, Johnny Spence
Johnny is the founder of The Freelance Rant and a freelance web programmer with 8 years in the business. Have a visit at his company Oscarrr!web or see what he's up to on Twitter.

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