Finding freelance work online can be a tricky task. There are hundreds of websites advertising freelance work encompassing millions of individual jobs, all waiting to be bid on by work-hungry freelancers.

The problem with most of these sites, however, is that they are truly international operations, and your competition for any jobs you like the look of is, quite literally, the rest of the world. What might be considered a fair wage for a web design gig in China or Bangladesh amounts to pocket change here in the UK, so most international freelance job sites are out the window straight away unless you want to slash your rates.

This problem isn’t limited to bastions of cheap labour, either. Even working for a US-based client can mean taking a hit of up to a third on your normal fee if the exchange rate is bad - unless you are able to get them to accept a higher-than-normal tender, of course.

It can seem like looking for the needle in the proverbial haystack, but there is decent work to be had online - you just need to hunt around a bit.

Your best bet is to keep it local. Many business organisations and Chambers of Commerce have their own job boards exclusively for members and local firms. Down here in sunny Brighton we have Wired Sussex, who update their excellent project board multiple times a day with well-paid jobs, specifically for locals.

Once you have located a job board that carries the kind of work you are after, at a rate you are happy with, you should check what their remuneration process is like. Many smaller boards will wash their hands of the financial side of affairs completely and leave it to the freelancer and client to handle payment amongst themselves. This may seem advantageous but remember, the Internet can be a nasty place, and it leaves freelancers with no extra legal protection should their client abscond with their hard work.

Larger sites often operate an Escrow system, whereby the value of the project is paid into a holding account at the beginning of the process, then released to the freelancer once both parties are satisfied the work is complete. These sites offer a bit more protection for freelancers, and usually feature some kind of arbitration process if the client decides you haven’t earned your full rate.

As well as job boards you can also look for industry-specific mailing lists and discussion groups populated with fellow freelancers and potential new clients. To use another local example, the Brighton New Media mailing list boasts thousands of subscribers and daily offers of work (along with general industry discussion). If you are a member of a co-working space, you may find they have a members-only mailing list you can get involved in.

Finding work online is not easy, but with a little perseverance it can be a valuable extra source of income.

Jon Norris is a freelance writer and Web Editor at online accountancy firm Crunch.

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