Noami and I have been traveling full time since 2016. When we tell folks that we’re full-time nomads, they usually say something like: “what do you do for work?” or “you must have won the lottery.”
We certainly did not win the lottery. In fact, when we first started out in vanlife, we had no idea how we would fund our lives for a year, let alone four. So we had to get creative and find ways to make money.
In our time as digital nomads, we’ve explored many options for earning income. Noami focused on developing her creative skills – writing, photography, storytelling. Whereas I went with a more traditional route of selling my services to employers.
When we made the decision to move into our van and embrace a nomadic life, one of the first things we had to do was quit our stationary jobs. Fortunately, I was able to parlay my full time job into a temporary part time remote position. This was a lifesaver as it allowed us time to find other avenues for income.
Recognizing the need for an online-based freelance or remote job to keep our nomadic dreams alive, I took to the internet.
Check out our resource DIGITAL NOMADISM 101: A COMPLETE GUIDE TO BECOMING AN OVERLAND DIGITAL NOMAD to learn how to earn a sustainable remote income.
In this article we breakdown the pros and cons of many of the top freelance and remote work websites and provide some tips on getting started with your job search. While we do not have direct experience with all of the websites listed here, we have scoured the depths of the internet, read every review we could find, and spoke to many fellow digital nomads about their experience.
Note: This article may contain affiliate links, which means when you click and make a purchase we get a small percentage (at no extra cost to you). Click here for our full disclaimer.
Why work remotely?
Remote working has become a trend in recent years. And if the COVID-19 pandemic has proven anything, it’s that the ability to work remotely is incredibly valuable. On the recovery side of the pandemic, it’s likely that more companies will recognize the viability of remote work.
More and more jobs are done entirely online, which makes the overhead associated with a traditional office seem like an unnecessary expense. Not to mention the time and productivity lost by commuting to and from the office. It’s not a stretch to say that remote work is the future of the workplace. It would be a good idea to get ahead of that curve now.
What’s the difference between remote & freelance?
Let’s start off by defining what constitutes a remote worker vs a freelancer.
A Remote Worker is a full or part-time employee of an organization who works from home or from any remote location away from the company’s office. Remote workers still fall under the category of traditional employee, the only difference is the work location.
Freelance Work is usually project based, comes with a flexible schedule, and typically ends once the project is over. Freelancer’s are self-employed whereas remote workers are employed by an organization. We typically refer to freelance jobs as “gigs.”
Freelance work is sometimes referred to as “remote freelance work.” To avoid confusion, in this article and throughout the Digital Nomadism section of our site, we use the definitions above when referring to freelance or remote work.
Which one is right for me?
The first thing you need to consider is whether you want to be a remote worker or a freelancer. There are pros and cons associated with both.
Remote workers are employed by a company. They are typically required to adhere to a set schedule and report to a boss. Remote workers get paid the same way traditional employees do, a paycheck at regular intervals with taxes deducted by the employer.
Remote jobs provide the stability of a traditional employer/employee relationship with the added benefit of being able to work from anywhere you choose. Many of these jobs also offer additional benefits like 401k, health insurance, paid vacation and sick leave.
Freelancers typically work on a gig-based arrangement. For example, a graphic designer may be contracted to design a logo for a company for an agreed upon price. Once the logo is complete and the company accepts the work, the designers job is done and the relationship is terminated.
Freelancers are self-employed, which means they are responsible for tracking earnings and expenses, paying taxes, insurance, etc. A self-employed freelancer is also exposed to the same liabilities as other businesses and is subject to a self-employment tax.
See out our resource DIGITAL NOMADISM 101: A COMPLETE GUIDE TO BECOMING AN OVERLAND DIGITAL NOMAD to learn about starting a business on the road, limiting your liability, and how to offset your potential tax burden.
Working as a freelancer may not provide the same stability as a remote worker, and there are a lot of other factors to consider if you want to succeed as a freelancer. But the benefits are great. As a freelancer you are your own boss, you have the ability to set your own schedule, work as much or as little as you want, and your potential for earning and growth is unlimited.
If your goal is to earn a steady income while working from home or travelling for a while, then a remote job may be the right choice for you.
However, if you’ve dreamt of starting your own business and becoming your own boss, or just want ultimate flexibility and the freedom to not have to answer to anyone, then freelance work is a great way to get the wheels turning.
How to find remote work & freelance gigs
Once you’ve decided your optimal path for non-traditional income generation, the next step is choosing the right website or websites on which to market yourself and begin your search.
There are many traditional job search websites out there like Monster, CareerBuilder and Indeed, but you’ll have to sort through all the traditional job listings or run your search using keywords like “remote,” “freelance,” or “flexible.” These traditional job boards also host a lot of fraudulent and scam job postings you’ll have to weed through as well.
Fortunately there are a ton of websites built specifically for digital nomads. Here, we review many of the top freelance and remote work websites and highlight the best features of each.
Freelance & Remote work website reviews
FlexJobs – Remote & Freelance
FlexJobs is a subscription based website that focuses on “flexible jobs.” They have an impressive database of both freelance and remote job listings. Pricing starts at $14.95 per month which gives you unlimited access to 32,000 flexible jobs from over 49,000 companies.
Searching for a job can be time consuming, even more so when you’re looking for a flexible job. Many job search websites are plagued by scams, “too good to be true,” and junk job postings. What makes FlexJobs special is that a real human reviews and screens each and every job listing to make sure it’s legit. According to their website, FlexJobs research team spends more than 100 combined hours every day researching companies and reviewing job listings. That’s what your membership fee pays for.
FlexJobs also has a useful advanced search feature. Rather than a generic search that returns a huge list of results to sort through, this search feature allows you to enter your criteria and narrow down your list, saving you a lot of time. FlexJobs advanced search functionality is the best of all the job sites on this list.
While you must be a member to view full job listings, FlexJobs does let you browse a short version of job listings to let you get a sense of what’s available. They also provide free resources to non-members such as their Job Search Tips & Blog which offers thousands of articles to guide and support your job search.
FlexJobs members have access to free skills testing, expert job search tips, and a quick and easy profile process to help you find the nomad job that’s right for you. They also offer one-on-one career coaching and resume review for an additional fee (at a nice discount for members). From time to time they also host free members-only webinars and virtual job fairs.
In addition to great job resources, a membership also comes with valuable pre-negotiated discounts for products and services such as Dell, Audible, QuickBooks and TurboTax.
They’ve earned a 5 star, A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, which tells me that they’re a trustworthy company. They also pride themselves on great customer service which is a big highlight for me.
If you’re not sure FlexJobs is the right fit for you, give it a try. They offer a 30-day money back guarantee if your not satisfied. So there’s no risk.
Whether you’re looking for freelance gigs or a steady remote job, FlexJobs is a great option to launch your digital nomad career. And FlexJobs is currently running a sick promotion – sign up now through August 31st and get up to 50% off your subscription cost. Click here and use code SCHOOL at checkout.
Upwork – Freelance
Upwork is perhaps the most well-known name in the freelance gig search game. In Upwork’s own words, they are “the premier freelancing website for top companies to hire and work with the world’s most talented independent professionals.” There’s no denying that Upwork has made a name for itself by being the ultimate freelance marketplace.
It’s free to sign up, create a profile, and search for and bid on jobs, though you are limited on the number of jobs you can bid on each month. A free account comes with 60 “connects” per month (think of these like Upwork currency). Connects are required to submit proposals for jobs on the Upwork marketplace, and different jobs require different amounts of connects. If you run out of connects before the end of the month you can buy more for $0.15 each. Unused connects roll over at the end of each month.
Upwork also offers a Plus membership for $14.95 per month. The Plus membership comes with 10 extra connects per month (70 total) along with a few other premium features. The most notable benefit of the Plus account is the ability to view competitor bids. You can see the high, low and average bid for any job you’re interested in. This can be extremely helpful when submitting a proposal as it can keep you from undervaluing yourself or over-bidding, resulting in a higher success rate.
Upwork earns revenue by charging a percentage to both the freelancer and the employer. The freelancer fee is on a sliding scale: 20% for the first $500 billed with the client, then 10% for total billings between $500.01 and $10,000. The minimum fee is 5% which is charged on earnings in excess of $10k in total billings with the client.
The downside of freelancing through Upwork is that if you rely on a steady stream of new clients with an average contract of less than $500, then Upwork is taking 20% of all your earnings. That’s steep and difficult to justify unless you can at least get over the $500 mark with one or several consistent clients.
For full transparency, I have found success on Upwork, to date I have earned more than $100k through the platform. In the beginning I bid on every job I was qualified for, with little success. Eventually I landed a string of low-paying gigs that allowed me to build my success score. Once I had a few positive reviews on my profile, I was able to submit higher bids and go after bigger jobs, and I found a much higher success rate. Ultimately I was able to land a few repeat clients and topped the $10k threshold.
Fiverr – Freelance
Fiverr is a different kind of gig marketplace, one that puts the freelancer in the driver seat. Rather than perusing a list of available job listings, freelancers create gigs to “sell” to potential buyers. Gigs are essentially mini sales pitches and can range anywhere from $5 to $10,000 and the freelancer sets the price.
With Fiverr, freelancers can build their portfolio and showcase their finished products to potential buyers. This is especially useful for creative freelancers such as artists, graphic designers, digital marketers, photographers & videographers, and web developers. But Fiverr also has categories for tech and business professionals too. From programming to business plan writing, Fiverr has something for every freelancer.
Fiverr acts as the middleman between buyer and seller, guaranteeing a fair exchange. For their part, Fiverr keeps 20% of every transaction, so this is something to keep in mind when pricing your gig.
If you’re ready to show off what you can do and start bringing in clients and income, click here and sign up for Fiverr today.
Working Nomads – Remote Jobs
Aside from having an awesome name, Working Nomads is a free and easy to use job board for digital nomads. They focus on remote and telecommuting jobs rather than freelance gigs.
Job listings on Working Nomads lean heavily towards tech/development as well as online marketing and digital media. Though, they have a complete list of job categories to choose from.
Working Nomads is a free service for job seekers, they make their money by charging businesses $149 fee per job posting. This provides an incentive for businesses to post only quality legit job listings, which minimizes the chance for scam posts.
While it lacks the premium features of websites like FlexJobs, no membership fee and a free job board makes Working Nomads a viable option for those nomads looking for remote jobs.
We Work Remotely – Remote Jobs
Another site with a great name, We Work Remotely touts itself as the largest remote work community in the world. From their website: “With over 2.5M monthly visitors, WWR is the #1 destination to find and list incredible remote jobs.”
Similar to Working Nomads, We Work Remotely (WWR) is a remote work job board with a well-curated list of telecommute/ remote jobs. It’s free for job seekers and charges businesses $249 per job posting.
The most popular job categories on WWR are programming and copy writing jobs, though they offer a thorough list of job categories. Again, you don’t get the premium features you’ll find on a site like FlexJobs, but WWR is a legit online job board that does a good job at weeding out scams and connects nomads with quality job listings.
We Work Remotely also offers a great free list of remote work resources and connects members with a community of remote workers and employers.
Freelancer.com – Freelance
They definitely snagged the URL at the right time. Freelancer.com is one of the biggest gig search websites out there, boasting more than 25 million users with over 12 million projects completed. Unfortunately that type of popularity has come with some challenges. They’ve been plagued by reports of spam job listings which has brought their ratings down over the past few years.
Still, with so many companies posting gigs on freelancer, you’re bound to find something that works for you as long as you’re cautious. A saying I try to live by is, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. So be cautious about gigs that seem too perfect and always handle transactions through the platform to avoid getting scammed.
Similar to Upwork, freelancer.com allows job seekers to view job listings for free and submit bids in competition with other job seekers, but their fees are a bit different. Freelancer.com has five tiers of membership plans ranging from $0.99 per month for their Intro plan to $59.99 per month for the Premier plan (they also offer a free trial). Their fees then range from 10% for fixed price projects to 20% for services.
Freelancer.com has some stiff competition from the other major players, Upwork and Fiverr who have managed to minimize spam listings and deter scammers. But an impressive number of users and listings makes freelance.com worth a look.
Jobspresso – Remote Jobs
Jobspresso is a remote work website connecting talented people with forward-thinking companies. Similar to FlexJobs, all listings are manually reviewed and screened to ensure every job listing is legit.
The best part is, Jobspresso is free for job seekers. While it may not have as many tools as FlexJobs, Jobspresso is a solid option for remote job seekers, and the price is right.
Rat Race Rebellion – Remote & Freelance
Continuing with the theme of awesome names for job search sites, Rat Race Rebellion has the look and feel of an old school job board. They share job listings in the US and Canada. Their “Big List of Jobs & Gigs” contains links straight to the job application.
RRR is entirely free and, while it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the premium sites listed here, it’s straightforward and easy to use. They also offer some premium resources such as their course called “How to Find a Work From Home Job or Side Gig in 30 Days or Less” for which they charge a one-time fee of $49. In addition, they offer a private Facebook mentor group called Rat Race Elite which costs $4.95 per month to join.
So aside from having a killer name, RRR is a decent alternative to the paid job search sites.
While all of the sites listed here are quality options, FlexJobs is the one that stands out from the crowd. They have an excellent track record, a great suite of features, and an excellent repertoire of jobs and gigs in every category. In our opinion, FlexJobs is the best all around job search website for digital nomads.
While the subscription fee may turn some people away, if you get in at the right time you can snag a killer deal. Like right now. FlexJobs is offering up to 50% off subscriptions now through August 31st. Click here, sign up, and use code SCHOOL at checkout to get this awesome deal.
Now through August 31st you can get a FlexJobs subscription at a deep discount:
- $3.50 for a week
- $7.50 for a month
- 17.95 for 3 months
- 34.95 for a year
Click here and use code SCHOOL at checkout.
Check out our resource DIGITAL NOMADISM 101: A COMPLETE GUIDE TO BECOMING AN OVERLAND DIGITAL NOMAD. Here you’ll learn everything you need to know about earning an income remotely, from how to land freelance gigs and remote jobs to building a business from the road. It’s completely free and continuously growing.