Last year's 1175 point post "Why you should never use Upwork" is still as relevant as ever and I don't expect it to change.
You should avoid Upwork like the plague.
E.g. you have a difficulty that means you can't leave the house. Okay, so participate in open source or specialist online communities. Write blog posts. Post yourself on the seeking freelancer thread.
Not having your own network opens you up to exploitation and poor treatment, because you need the network owner more than she needs you.
So, if you want that, you're left looking for an usually ethical company, which will be hard with a high chance of failure.
I think people need to be founding more online cooperatives and mutuals.
I'm naturally an introvert, and also shy, both of these add difficulty to me getting out face-to-face with people, shaking hands, doing small talk, and handing out business cards. It's an EXCELLENT way to meet people, but doesn't come naturally for me. Here are some ways you can still introduce yourself to others without the same challenges:
1) Go to meetup.com events in your city
These are filled with people in the exact same situation as you, so they will be awkward, forgiving, and grateful if you can speak to them, accept their card, and share a bit about what you do.
Not much has come out of these events as far as work, but it's the easiest, lowest-risk, fastest way to practice meeting people. Ack!
2) Give a talk or lead a workshop
It doesn't have to be the size of a conference, but even if you're bad at public speaking and getting in front of a crowd, think of it like this: you can 'meet' or at leas introduce yourself to 10, 30, 100, even more people at the same time! That makes talking to them MUCH easier afterward, and it really gets your name out there.
When I look around at successful consultants, I see a pattern of them regularly getting in front of hundreds or thousands of people and introducing themselves to all of them at once. When you're at that scale, you wouldn't even have time to meet & greet them all individually.
3) Write blogs or make youtube videos
This takes the pressure off you even more, since it's not realtime you can finesse and polish it to your hearts content, and revisit and touch it up later. By putting content online you can become known as an expert in a certain problem area - somebody people with certain problems can talk to to find solutions or results! This is a natural way to establish yourself as an expert in something
4) Job boards
While I would avoid any kind of online 'labour prison' where you sign in, clients and workers meet through the platform, ALL communication, work, and pay must go through the platform, and some even price your work for you, or require you to install spyware on your own computer while you're doing work. Just COMPLETELY AVOID these.
Instead, look for industry-related job listings that cost $$$ money (preferably over $100) to post a listing. The more it costs to post a job listing, the more serious you know they are about spending money on YOU. If they're the kind of employer who only wants free listings…I bet they also hope for free labour too and will only pay what they absolutely must, at the latest date they can.
Reach out to the listings that fit you, especially if it sounds like you might have an opportunity to speak directly to the business owner. I've found that when you make an acquaintance with somebody who controls a business, you don't have to sell yourself to them, they often can see where they can use you, and have the influence within the company to put you anywhere they want. Don't think about it as applying for the jobs in the listings as much as 'meeting employers of people like you' and every acquaintance you make is a win.
I don't know of any large ones, but I have seen quite a few around.
they do usually charge a much smaller cut, though, which is pretty good, so if you get along with the people, and they do have work, they can be pretty great.
I don't think I'd advise anyone to rely on a collective as their primary income any more than I'd advise anyone to rely on a body shop as their primary income. Treat the job as a job, be open to jobs that don't go through your collective or body shop.