5 Ways to Find Well-Paying Freelance Gigs by Avoiding Job Boards

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Learn to create your own luck by avoiding traditional job boards! Here's how to find freelance gigs that actually pay well.

When I was just starting out as a freelancer I was actively looking for new writing and virtual assistant jobs. I sought out and read lots of blog posts and articles with tips about how and where to get new jobs.

Most of what I read suggested using job boards, like Upwork (formerly Elance and Odesk) as well as Fiverr.

After reading these articles I did what most new freelancers probably do, I went to job board websites to see if they were legit.

Honestly, I had no idea how to make sure they were real opportunities, I just knew I didn’t want to get scammed in my eagerness to find new freelance jobs.

Don’t get me wrong, you can still find decent freelance work on these sites, they just weren’t the best fit for me. So I’m sharing 5 ways to score freelance gigs by avoiding traditional job boards.

Why freelance job boards don’t work

In my eagerness to get paid, I set up a profile on a couple of the job board sites and started looking through the available gigs. I couldn’t believe they had so many pages of open jobs!

But instead of exciting me with all the possibilities, the whole process really turned me off.

As I read through a few ill-written job descriptions requesting writers who don’t make mistakes, despite all the mistakes in their job posting, I decided job boards weren’t for me.

Freelance job boards like these are only a good place to start if you don’t have any leads or a network built at all. Personally, I was never comfortable using them to start my business.

Searching through the job openings on boards like these is a very time intensive task and there’s no guarantee you’ll find a job that’s a good fit. Likewise, you may not even get any job you apply for as these job board websites are used by thousands of hopeful freelancers to start building their businesses.

But the biggest reason I decided not to use job boards to build my freelance business is because I decided I’d rather build slowly and have the opportunity to work for clients, and blogs, that I believe in and admire.

Yes, I started freelancing to earn extra money in order to pay down my consumer debt, but I also wanted it to be fun and enjoyable and the gigs on the job board websites were not what I had in mind.

Despite not using job boards to build my business, I’ve been able to grow from $0 up to just over $2,000 gross each month in less than a year.

Here’s where how to find well-paying freelance gigs without using job boards.

business burnout spark

1. Reach out to colleagues and friends

When I decided to try my hand at freelance writing, I’d already been blogging for just over 6 months. My inspiration came by reading the income reports that other entrepreneurs published on their blogs.

It was astonishing to see how much money some people were making via their blog and their online business. My first thought was that it was too good to be true. My second thought was, “how can I make this happen for me?”

After stalking a few influential bloggers, reading their content, and following them on social media, I reached out to a few different bloggers who I wanted to work with. I asked them if they, or anyone they knew, were hiring freelance writers.

Asking a fellow freelancer to give you job leads might sound risky as they are technically your “competition” for jobs, but there truly are more than enough freelance gigs to go around. As Carrie says, “Work is abundant!”

Plus, after a while some of your colleagues and fellow freelancer will be so busy that when they are approached about a new job, they are more than happy to give it to someone else who is still looking to expand.

Related: 10 proven ways to earn money online at home this year.

2. Just ask for referrals

Referrals from current and past clients are a freelancer’s best friend. One of the first jobs I got was with Cat Alford and I still swear that it’s the best job I’ve ever had, including my “real” jobs outside the home.

Most freelancers, whether they’re veterans or beginners, are afraid to ask for the work they need. But how will people know you’re looking for a new gig if you don’t tell them?

Shoot your friends, colleagues and fellow freelancers an email giving them details about your expertise. Explain the kind of clients you’re looking for and how they can easily refer you to others.

The key here is to make it easy for your network to send you referrals, so you’re the first person who pops in their mind when they meet a potential client. Don’t underestimate the power of asking for what you want!

Related: How to send the perfect cold email pitch that gets you results.

3. Be proactive with networking

Another great way I’ve gotten freelance jobs is by being proactive. Part of blogging and being successful as a freelancer is building connections through industry meetups and private groups.

Therefore I do spend quite a bit of time reading other people’s blogs in my niche so I can build relationships, learn new things, and stay up on the latest news of what’s going on in everyone’s lives. In other words, always be networking.

Occasionally I’ll read a post where someone mentions being “too busy” or “trying to find a way to balance freelance work with life” or something along those lines.

Whenever this happens, I send out a friendly email offering my writing and VA services in a non-pushy way. This technique is actually what landed me this job working with Careful Cents!

Additionally, whenever a staff writer for a large site mentions that this post is the last submission for the site, I immediately reach out to someone on the blog’s staff to find out if they are hiring a replacement writer.

Generally these sites are impressed by my proactive approach and interest in writing for them. It doesn’t always get me the job, but it never hurts to make a good first impression.

They will often remember this gesture, and even if you aren’t hired for the current position, they may tap you on the shoulder later when another job opens up.

Related: Follow-up with potential clients without looking desperate.

how to become a virtual assistant

4. Work under a mentor

As I mentioned, I worked with an excellent mentor in Cat. She’s an “old pro” and getting on their good side is key because people in her niche really trust her word and her opinion when she gives out your name as a referral.

Plus, I know I can always ask her to send a referral email to someone if I’m in contact with them about a job and they are undecided.

Find your “old pro” or someone within the community that’s respected and connected, and then see if you can work under them. Carrie did this in the beginning of her career by working with Alexis Grant, who’s an established entrepreneur. Thanks to her mentorship and connections, Carrie was able to build her business to what you see today.

As time goes on you too can leverage a relationship like this into more referrals that you could ever possibly have time for.

The best way to get on someone’s good side to garner future referrals is to underpromise and overdeliver. When your clients are impressed with your work, you’ll continue to get new jobs and eventually you’ll be in the position where you call the shots about the jobs you want to accept or turn down.

Related: The best freelance alternatives to traditional job board sites.

5. Join Facebook groups

One of the best ways to leverage social media to find more jobs is to use Facebook Groups. Seek out groups within your niche (trust me, you’ll find lots of them) and ask to be a part of them.

The key that makes a Facebook Group successful is the fact that you have to continue engaging with everyone on a weekly (or even daily) basis. Connections are the way to turn leads into gigs, so use this platform to develop relationships, offer advice, and interact with fellow colleagues in your industry.

Join the Freelancer’s Club from Careful Cents, it’s free and start connecting with like-minded solopreneurs.

Check out my post on how to use Facebook for business and connect with the best groups to help grow your network.

Do you find freelance gigs without using job boards? What other tips do you have for other freelancers who are just starting out?


  1. Will says:

    I’m definitely looking into the Client Connection Service!

    I setup a profile on a job board when I first started freelancing. What I found hilarious is how they wanted subject matter experts at one cent/word. Hmmm… I’m not sure those two things go together.

    I still leave my profile live and wait for someone to contact me. It brings me about $40/month average.

    Connecting with people is definitely the way to go. Even if it means leaving my house every few weeks HAHA. 🙂

    • Kayla says:

      We won’t judge you based on your quick comment Will 🙂

      I deactivated by job board accounts because I just didn’t find myself getting work I wanted that way. I know they work for some people, but they didn’t work for me.

  2. While I find your advice helpful, I’m not sure I understand what you consider an “old pro” or how you go about finding them or connecting with them. Any suggestions?

    • Kayla says:

      Hi Sheri,

      To me an “old pro” would be someone who has been blogging and runnning an online business for a couple of years, and/or is earning a respectable income from it. They should be someone you can go to for advice or to ask questions of.

  3. Chella says:

    Networking is always the best way. The connections you have will always give you leads and it even gets better when you land your first job and get a positive review. Thank you for these tips Kayla!

  4. Ramona says:

    I’ve done work on Elance as a web designer and it’s a good place to find clients. The jobs are not that well paid though, but I was able to actually get 2 long-term clients from there (one worked with me for 3 years and the other one for 6 months).

  5. Rebecca says:

    What about local chamber events and mixers? I would think it’s a great way to get to know local business owners who may have needs but haven’t expressed them or maybe you don’t realize the options available and all they know is they don’t have the money to hire someone full time to write their blog or do their marketing

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