Formerly known as oDesk, Upwork is a long-standing freelancing community that connects graphic artists, web developers, mobile app developers, writers and other talents with businesses in need.
This review, geared toward those looking to hire, can help you determine if finding a freelancer on Upwork is right for your business.
New Mobile App with Messenger: Upwork’s mobile app for iOS and Android devices allows clients to post jobs and search for qualified freelancers. The freelancers can use the app to quickly respond to job invitations and apply to job postings. The best part of the app, however, is the ability to chat in real time.
Escrow Protection: For fixed price jobs, Upwork can accept a payment from the client and hold it in escrow until the freelancer completes the job. The “Upwork guarantee” still covers hourly jobs.
Quality Focus: As part of their new direction, Upwork says it is focused on freelancer quality. This includes a couple of features, one of which is the MyStats page that helps freelancers understand and improve their performance rating. Upwork now highlights the best freelancers in searches. Freelancers who fail to perform to Upwork’s standards or who are flagged multiple times by clients will be warned and may be removed from the site.
Question Screening: This new option allows clients to include questions in their job posting, which can help weed out “spammers,” who submit the same canned letter to every job posting, and those without the required expertise.
Two-way ID Verification: Back when it was oDesk, the occasional freelancer would be asked for a driver’s license or passport to verify their identity. Now there is talk of verifying both client and freelancer identities to provide a more secure service.
Freelancer Status: There are a lot of dormant or busy freelancer accounts, so the new status feature helps clients find someone ready to take the job. The status may read “Not looking,” “Later,” or “Right away.”
Each job payment loses a 10% fee
Freelancers can purchase $10/mo packages that may help them land more jobs.
- 10 more Connects each month
- Roll over unused Connects
- Buy extra connects at $1 per
- View high, low and average bids on jobs
- Hourly rate protection
- Fixed price protection
The Good On UpWork
As part of its transition from oDesk to Upwork, the company is focusing on streamlining the job posting and hiring process. So far this process is working fairly well despite some complaints from the freelancing community. Applicants are more relevant to your job description than before, making it much easier and faster to get the right person. From there, the process of hiring and paying is relatively streamlined compared to other freelancing sites.
Upwork has done a terrific job of listening to client feedback. Their community forum is a great resource to lodge complaints or make suggestions. It seems a lot of this feedback has been taken seriously and instituted with new and upcoming changes to the Upwork platform.
Upwork has been introducing new tools that allow better team collaboration. Right now, this involves special private forums and dashboards to manage and chat with multiple freelancers. Soon there should will video chatting and more mobile team support for the apps, especially with the launch of Upwork Enterprise, a new addition that allows fuller freelance team management for HR, operations, marketing, and other business services.
Number of Freelancers
Since Upwork developed most of its membership while it was still oDesk, it boasts 10 million freelancers. This is 5 times as many as its counterpart Elance. You tend to stand a better chance of finding the talent you need on Upwork, although it sometimes takes a bit of wading through “garbage” to find them.
Hourly and Fixed Price Rates
Bids from freelancers can come in at fixed or hourly rates. You can specify a preference in your job posting depending on your needs or simply choose your freelancer based on their pricing structure. Most hourly pricing can be set at a cap limit once more details of the project become available.
Other sites have a minimum rate, but this is not the case on Upwork. Some jobs post look for work at as little as 50 cents per hour. Keep in mind that you get what you pay for when it comes to freelancing sites. Many of the low-balled bids come from the Philippines, Thailand, Russia, etc., so the language and educational barriers may present a problem in some technical areas, but for simple fixes the international competition can be quite a deal.
Considering its direct bank account linking, credit card information, and escrow service, Upwork is very careful to upgrade and monitor its security. This includes typical backend server maintenance, site-wide HTTPS, hacking prevention and a high level of encryption.
They go a step further by requiring real names, and in some cases verified identities, for all users. This tends to cut down on spamming and scams naturally, but there are, of course, still the occasional mismatched or incompetent service providers.
In general, we’ve found the customer service to be a plus for Upwork. Company representatives are active in the forums and respond within a day or less on opened complaint tickets. Probably their biggest stride forward is the Live Chat feature, which has minimal wait times but is currently phased into only a percentage of users. Upwork hopes to make this a universal feature in the coming months.
The Bad On UpWork
A Client’s Market… Sort of
With 10 million freelancers and 4 million job posters, clients have top choice of talent. They can afford to be picky with the dozens of applications they get for even the most menial of tasks. The downside of this is twofold. One, which Upwork is trying to fix with its new features, is applicant overload. Too many unqualified applicants spam every job posting with generic cover letters. Second, a lot of qualified freelancers are leaving the site because it is too hard to stand out from the “noise.”
“Pay to Play” Problem
In an effort to reduce the excess of unqualified applications from freelancers, Upwork instituted the eLance system of “Connects.” Every freelancer is given 60 Connects each month, and each job they apply to uses 1 to 5 of these Connects. However, those who need more Connects can purchase them at a $1/Connect with a paid subscription to the site. Some users have complained that this “Pay to Play” ensures companies and agencies with the money to invest in Connects are getting jobs over qualified freelancers. This has been another issue limiting the pool of talent.
Higher Site Fees
Compared to other freelancer sites, Upwork is a bit pricey. They take 10% off the top of every transaction on the freelancer’s end, plus the fees for those who use a premium membership. This fees are simply passed onto the client with a higher hourly or fixed price rate.
The common several second lag doesn’t seem like a big problem until you’re really engaged in your work. The process of posting, searching, checking out others’ profiles and statistics, messaging, etc., all require a new page to load. Oddly enough, the mobile app seems to be faster if you are adept with its format.
Like any freelance site, there are instances when a freelancer does not deliver work on time (or at all) or delivers subpar work. While Upwork has guarantees and escrow services, both freelancers and clients have complained about getting the short end of the stick in losing money.
While uncommon, if not rare, Upwork does ban accounts without warning. Getting an answer from Upwork as to why your account was banned is difficult, and many who are banned claim they had good ratings on their profiles. The algorithm seems to judge the number of closed job postings (either with a successfully funded project or deleted if necessary), so avoid leaving open jobs for more than 30 days.
Our Verdict On UpWork
Upwork is worth investigation for anyone needing short-term work or help with projects. With the easy ability to rehire, you can find a few solid freelancers to have on-call for future work.
Finding these talents can involve some trial and error, and quality work will likely cost more than the average bid coming in. Some clients get burned a few times before they figure out the metric that helps them choose the best talent.
Since it is free to post ads on most similar sites, many people choose to advertise their job on multiple freelancing websites to get the most options. This tactic isn’t the best since it makes it easy to get overwhelmed and “open” jobs left on the boards may get your account banned.
As a big plus, Upwork is continuing to add new tools to improve its service. The mobile and team management platforms in particular look promising and could set Upwork apart from the competition. Stick with Upwork now and you could be in for some revolutionary new ways to grow your business.
Ultimately, like most of these sites, you’ll need to invest time in a clear job posting, weeding out applicants with non-matching skill sets, and seeking out those worthy talents for longer term work.