The web is rife with sites listing freelance opportunities. Here’s when they’re worth paying for.

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Freelancing is big business — not just for those who perform the work, but also for those looking to make a buck off the self-employed. Websites, newsletters and online communities listing freelance jobs abound. Same goes for portfolio platforms designed to attract freelancer clients.

Some of these services are free. Some have a subscription fee. Some charge annually. Some take a cut of your earnings. Some of these costs are nominal. Others are steep. Some scrape the web for freelance listings readily available to anyone with a browser and a pulse. Others feature exclusive job listings or client introductions you won’t find anywhere else.

It can be tempting to pay for one or several of these job lead services, especially if you’re new to freelance work or experiencing a lull. But before you part with your hard-earned dollars, I encourage you to do the following:

Try rustling up work on your own. If you’ve done so and are still coming up short, it may be time to call in the web cavalry to do a bit of job hunting or matchmaking for you. But if you have yet to create an online profile, research potential clients on your own or tap your professional network for opportunities, get to it. When it comes to filling up your freelance calendar, putting your name out there is essential. So is cultivating personal connections who can feed you job leads or chat you up with freelance hiring managers they know.

Ask other freelancers to weigh in. You wouldn’t hire a plumber without getting a referral, checking their credentials and reading the online reviews. Nor should you pay for a portfolio or job opportunity service without seeing whether freelancers at a similar career stage have found it worthwhile. Be sure to ask multiple freelancers for their take, as each person’s mileage with a particular service will vary.

Make sure you’re willing to risk the investment. There’s no guarantee a portfolio or job opportunity site will pay off. Earlier in my career, I was willing to spend up to $500 a year on well-regarded portfolio sites and lead generation communities recommended by my colleagues. If the investment yielded $5,000 or more in revenue, I re-upped the following year. Otherwise, I crossed that one off my list. Because I now maintain a fairly full freelance schedule, I prefer using lead generation services that require a minimal investment of time and cash.

Moral of the story: Do a bit of legwork before whipping out your digital wallet to drum up work. Not all job lead services make sense for all freelancers, and even the most incidental business expenses add up quickly.