Should you use Upwork as your source of clients?

This is a question we get all the time from newer a sometimes older freelancers looking to use their skills to make money online while working at home or travelling.

The short answer is “yes, but with caution”.

In theory, online freelancing platforms such as Upwork sound like a freelancers dream. Simply sign up, create a profile, set your hourly rate, apply for many of the hundreds, even thousands of contracts available in your field, then sit back wait for the clients to catch the bait. Gain enough reputation on the platform, and clients come to you first. No email campaigns, no website, no blogging, no PPC ads, no networking events needed, just a profile, portfolio and decent reputation. Upwork even handle payments and invoicing from start to finish, you just need to sit and let the app record your screen while your work. At the end of the week the platform will charge the client, however long you’ve spent working multiplied by your hourly rate and then you get paid.

So what’s the downside? Why are so many freelancers moving off the platform and turning back to digital marketing to win clients.

Job success score

This is a percentage score that shows how well you’re performing on the platform. The JSS is displayed on your profile and becomes one of the first things potential clients see as they scan down the list of freelancers available for work. Upwork keeps the precise details used to calculate your score private to avoid the system being exploited. While on one hand this levels the playing field on the platform, it has lead many freelancers questioning why the score went up or down on their profile. One particular variable is public and private feedback, where clients can leave you 5 stars for your public feedback and say what they really think as private feedback, and not even you, as the freelancer can read what they said about you. This keeps the client safe from confrontation but leaves the freelancer wondering why their job success score just dropped and who was the culprit.

Increasing fees

Since the merger of eLance and oDesk, fees for freelancers have doubled, but decreases as you earn more with the same client:

  • $0-$500: 20%
  • $500.01-$10,000: 10%
  • $10,000 or more: 5%

On one hand, this incentivises the freelancer take up more long term roles, but if you’re in field encompassing one off jobs such as logo design, voice-over work, you could find yourself with a fifth of your hard earnings disappearing every time you finish a job (and before tax). More-so, applying for jobs is no longer free. Upworks “connects” system means it now costs you $0.15 to apply for a job. Indeed, it will make you think twice before applying for work you don’t really want, but still, if you’re just starting out and frantically applying for jobs to build a reputation those connects can add up fast.

Poor quality clients

That’s not to say there aren’t good ones. Our own foray into Upwork confirmed so. Many communicate quickly, pay on time, set reasonable deadlines, have a clear idea of what they want, and communicate this to you as clear as possible. These are getting more hard to find. More and more employers on Upwork are themselves freelancers and workers with entrepreneurial dreams, and they as fast and cheap, as humanely (sometimes inhumanely possible). Many don’t know what to expect from a job, how long it will take and how they should pay their freelancers. As such the forums are littered with stories about employers leaving jobs adverts open without ever employing anyone, demanding free work from freelancers to “test their abilities” only to disappear with the freelancers efforts, then there’s those who blatantly avoid paying their freelancer for their work, and commonly expect a replication of eBay to be built tomorrow for $50.

So what’s the alternative?

With competitors such as People Per Hour beginning to adopt the same techniques as Upwork, now is the best time to take full control over the quality of your clients. With enough effort through digital marketing, you’ll cast net big enough for you to take your pick of high paying, professional and stable clients. You’ll save on fees and keep more of your money by not working for a particular freelance platform and there’s no job success score to be confused over. The best thing about it, you can still work from home or travel anywhere while earning money. So why not accelerate your freelance business today? Ask us at Sonic UX how we can help get clients you want the most.

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