There are two sites that freelancers use to help cultivate work, Upwork and Fiverr. Actually, there are three, but the third one Freelancer.com isn’t as popular and I’ll get into that below.
Now it’s time to look at how it compares to Upwork.
On Fiverr, freelancers post their skills and offerings and prospective clients look through the freelance pool and pick their freelancer.
Upwork works in almost the opposite way. On Upwork, clients post their jobs and Upwork freelancers apply to the jobs they think will best fit their skills.
Upwork breaks jobs down into categories. In each of those categories, there are multiple subcategories. In other words, there’s a little something for everyone.
Job Categories on Upwork
Job categories on Upwork include:
- Web, Mobile & Software Development
- IT & Networking
- Data Science & Analytics
- Engineering & Architecture
- Design & Creative
- Admin Support
- Customer Service
- Sales & Marketing
- Accounting & Consulting
Finding a Job on Upwork
Freelancers choose the categories and subcategories that best fit their skills and save custom searches based on those skills.
For example, I can search “Writing” and see all the jobs that are posted in the writing category, or I can get more specific and search “Article & Blog Writing”. That search will only yield results that are posted in the Article and Blog Writing subcategory.
As a freelancer on Upwork, you’re free to browse the listings whenever you’re looking for a job. When you find a job that fits your skillset, interests you and pays the amount of money that you’re looking for, you can submit a proposal.
Hourly Rate and Flat Fee Jobs
Upwork has two kinds of jobs that you can apply for.
With hourly rate jobs, you tell the client how much you will charge per hour to complete the project.
When it comes to flat fee jobs, you set a flat fee upfront before you start the work.
Usually, the client will decide ahead of time if he or she wants to pay an hourly rate or a flat fee. Upwork charges the same fee no matter which payment method is selected.
Applying for a Job on Upwork
Applying for a job on Upwork is also called submitting a proposal.
Submitting proposals cost connects. Connects are the way that Upwork freelancers connect with clients.
There are more details below, but the number connects required depend on how much the job is worth. The more the job is worth, the more connects you’ll have to spend to apply.
When you submit a proposal, you’ll write a letter to the client telling the client why you’re the best fit for the job. This is basically a cover letter that you send with a resume, so treat it like one.
You’ll propose a rate for the job (hourly or flat fee) and a time frame in which you can complete it.
The client may have created job-specific questions for you to answer. Make sure you answer those as well.
This is basically a job interview, so treat it like one.
Completing a Job on Upwork
If you get a job on Upwork, you will be allowed to message back and forth with the client.
You will complete the job as asked and then submit it to the client by uploading it on Upwork.
It’s then up to the client to approve the work or send it back to you for revisions. If it’s approved, Upwork will get ready to pay you.
Getting Paid on Upwork
Upwork charges the client ahead of time for flat-fee projects and holds the money in an escrow account. Once the client signs off on your work, the money that’s in escrow will be sent to your Upwork account.
For hourly rate projects, the client will be charged every week for the hours you submit via Upwork.
All of your earnings will be held in an Upwork account for you until you decide how to withdraw them.
Withdrawing Fund on Upwork
You can withdraw your funds from Upwork in a few different ways. You can attach a U.S. bank account and do an ACH transfer for free. Or you can pay a small fee to have it sent to your local bank. Wire transfers require a larger fee.
You can also get paid in PayPal but Upwork charges a fee there too.
Getting an ACH transfer is the cheapest way to go.
Within your account settings, you can decide how often you want Upwork to push the fees into your bank account. You can also manually push fees into your bank account.
The Upwork fee structure is fairly easy to understand upfront. The company will charge you 20% for the first $500 of work that you do for a client. If you do more work for that same client, it will charge you a 10% fee for up to $10,000 of work. If you surpass the $10,000 threshold for a client, you’re charged a 5% fee for all subsequent work.
In other words, it pays to build and maintain relationships with clients.
Upwork also requires freelancers to use connects to apply for jobs. The amount of connects required to apply for a job depends on the price of the job. The more a job is worth, the more connects are required to apply for the job.
Upwork created connects to keep people from applying to a large number of jobs at once.
Connects cost 15 cents each. You can buy more connects if you run out and you usually buy connects in groups of 10.
Don’t worry if you don’t spend all your connects in a month. Upwork will allow you to carry over 140 connects each month.
Upwork says that most freelancers only spend about $5/month on connects, but it’s another cost of doing business that you should be aware of.
Downsides to Upwork
Not everyone loves Upwork. Here is a freelancer’s warning about why you shouldn’t use Upwork for your freelancing platform.
Upwork vs. Fiverr
It is difficult to compare Upwork and Fiverr because they operate differently.
On Fiverr, freelancers post their abilities and then a client hires that freelancer based on those abilities.
Conversely, Upwork clients post their jobs and freelancers apply for those jobs.
The other difference between the two is the fee structure. Upwork has a tiered one but also requires you to pay for connects. Fiverr has a flat fee of 20%.
Fiverr is probably the best way to go if you are just starting out because they do not have to pay for each job that you post. On Upwork, you have to pay a small fee for each job you apply to, whether or not you get that job.
However, when it comes to long term work Upwork users might see more benefit. That’s because the longer you work for a client the less you pay in fees. If you work for a client long-term, it’s possible to pay as little as 5% in fees.
Plus, if the client likes your work, he or she can invite you to apply for other jobs. You do not need to pay connects to apply for jobs that you’re invited to apply for.
Upwork vs. Freelancer
Another option for freelancers is the website Freelancer.com. Freelancer and Upwork are similar in that both sites have clients that post jobs and then freelancers apply to those jobs.
For Freelancer, freelancers who use the platform for free receive 8 bids per month. They can pay extra to have that bid sponsored or highlighted to the client. Sponsored posts require a .75% fee of the bid with a minimum of $5 and a maximum of $20. Highlighted posts are a $1 fee.
There is also a 20% service fee if you are selected for a project.
Freelancer also has membership plans that range from 99 cents to $69.95 per month. These plans have a number of benefits including more bids the freelancer can use during the month. Some of the subscriptions also make the freelancer eligible for a 15% service charge on all of their projects.
Freelancer has something a little different than Upwork, a thing it calls contests. It’s a controversial method of getting freelancers to do work on what’s called spec. In other words, you do the work and you may or may not get paid for it.
Freelancer.com has a whole article on why contests are “good” for freelancers. You can read it by clicking here.
The highlight is, if you’re looking to build your portfolio or trying to build a reputation on Freelancer, then joining a contest may be your best bet. However, if you already have a portfolio, you need to understand that you’re doing work that you may not get any benefit out of.
Entering a contest is free, though if you want to submit a sealed entry or a highlighted entry, then you have to pay a 50 cent fee for each.
I have personally used Upwork and find that it does everything I need to do in order to work as a freelancer. I have never had to worry about getting paid or that my client was going to flake out on me.
Upwork was easy to navigate and it was very easy to search for and apply for jobs on the platform. It’s a system that I would recommend.
How to Get Started Freelancing
We created a course through Gold City Ventures that teaches people how to get started freelancing.
Cody Berman, co-founder of Gold City, left his corporate banking job after 6 months when he replaced his income with freelancing.
The course also features lessons from Alex Fasulo who makes multiple six figures per year on Fiverr.
Learn more about the Freelance Toolkit online course here.