If you're using forums, don't just make a thread and then write:
Class project, please fill out this survey. Link: www.xxxxxx984asdfac. Thx!!
Most of the time these annoying threads can trigger shutting down or be simply ignored as spam.
I'd recommend picking a few major forums and actually start a communication with the administrators. In no more than a few hundred words explain who you are, what questions you're trying to answer, and how your results may help both parties. If the outcome is positive, here are a bunch of wishes you can usually ask for:
- Pin your thread at the top for a fixed amount of time to enhance visibility.
- Tap into their membership e-mail or online messaging network for an announcement and about 2 waves of weekly reminders.
- Provide you with important statistics including open rate, click rate, bounce rate, initiation rate, and completion rate. These are all necessary if you are to publish your results in an academic journal.
Try to enhance your credibility by, in the mail to the administrator and the message to the users:
- Detailing the motive of your survey, what kind of questions respondents should anticipate, and how long would it take.
- Getting an institutional review board approval, and report so in the announcement.
- Explicitly mentioning the measures to ensure respondents' confidentiality and/or anonymity.
- Explaining how the results will be used, and even be fed back to the communities that have helped you filling in the survey.
- Being real and present by providing your official contact information (names and school e-mail are sufficient). Invite respondents to contact you if they have questions about the study. Check with your supervisor and department for policy of using the school's name.
- Clearly stating the opening period of the survey.
You can also try contacting companies that hire freelancers, or talk to websites that organize freelance jobs.
I'd also suggest to make duplicates of your survey so that each forum will have their own referral link. You can pool the data later and compare the differences between forum. If you just make one survey you may not be able to figure that out at the end. Putting a "where do you learn about this survey?" question may also help, though probably not as objective.
Now, if you don't care about knowing all those rates, and just want a quick turn around of data, you may use your network to contact some high profile people in the field and see if they are willing to broadcast that for you. Most of the time, a tweet from them would be quite effective.
I also agree with the comments asking you to pay a visit to some social science faculty. At the very least, make sure your questions are examined by some professional for validity. Most researchers also do not mind share with you some templates of the survey introduction.
Some other technical strayed thoughts:
- Do make a copy of online survey for each major source. Aka forum A will have its own link, and forum B will have its own link, etc. That way later you can stratify them in the analysis.
- Invest in a good online survey service. Make sure not to enroll in those with limited responses. It'd be very annoying for the 501st respondent to get a "quota full" warning if your free service account only allows 500 responses.
- Write good questions and include only relevant questions. Again, talking to some researchers will help a lot.
- The Checklist for Reporting Results of Internet E-Surveys (CHERRIES) provides a good list of components you should include in manuscript. Read them before you start data collection and make sure you have thought about all these factors.
Lastly, check if someone has already invented the wheel for you. Secondary data sets may have already covered information you wish to collect. For example National Longitudinal Surveys maintained by the US Department of Labor (I just went ahead and assume that you're interested in the US market) does ask question about freelancing. They even once released a report about this.