If you are asking yourself “What is Upwork and why is she writing about it”, let me start by answering those questions.
Upwork according to Wikipedia (the knower of all things) is: a global freelancing platform where businesses and independent professionals connect and collaborate remotely.
Translation – it is an easy place for small businesses or growing businesses with a low budget to outsource work to willing and waiting freelancers looking to bring on new clients.
Why am I writing about it? Upwork’s bad reputation is increasing and as an avid user of the platform for over four years, I felt it was my obligation to stand up and say “It really isn’t that bad! You just need to know how to use it.”
First, every place subjects you to scams. I have had people attempt to scam me three times on Angel.co, once on Powertofly, and more times than I can count on Careerbuilder. This is exactly why I just posted about the red flags to look for when communicating with a potential employer (thank you again Flexjobs for the information).
Second, you get from it what you put into it. If you just setup a profile and leave it, yes – it will be a disappointment. There are over 12 MILLION registered freelancers on Upwork. You are truly a needle in a haystack in terms of being found by one of the five million registered clients on the site. Take a moment and make sure your profile shows how you stand our against the competition, take the tests that they offer to illuminate your skills, post examples of your work, and search for job opportunities and apply. You are provided 40-60 connections for a reason – use them.
Third, when the offers do start coming in (or while you are browsing the opportunities) – keep these cautions in mind:
- Clients are reviewed in the same manner as freelancers. Look at the reviews and see what people have had to say. If they were not paid for their services (normally only an issue with fixed budget projects), the client was overly demanding, rude, or uncooperative – move on. Don’t subject yourself to the same experience.
- Check to see if payment is verified. For new users of the system, they may have just join, created a job, and did not take the time to verify payment. Proceed with sending a proposal BUT do not accept the offer until payment is verified. This is usually a necessary step when the offer is initially submitted; however, if they choose not to place payment in escrow, mention this to your potential client and explain you would rather refrain from proceeding until payment is indeed verified – it will save you a headache in the long run (again – normally more of an issue for fixed budget projects).
- Check to see how often the potential employer is posting jobs. If they have posted a large number of jobs but their hiring rate is extremely low and/or have not spent any money (meaning they are hiring people but never use them which may indicate issues with payment), this should be considered a red flag and this is a common characteristic with scammers.
- Request a video or phone meeting if they send you an offer. There is nothing wrong with pushing back on someone who sends you an offer out of nowhere and asking if you can schedule a meeting. This allows you to 1) verify this is a real person and 2) have a conversation to ensure you are on the same page about the task – your reviews/ratings depend on it. You don’t want to accept an offer for a job you are not capable of doing and receive a bad rating that could have been avoided.
- Finally, I strongly suggest pursuing hourly gigs over fixed rate gigs. Again, I have been working with Upwork for over 4 years and the one thing I have found is fixed rate gigs are black holes. You may have designated milestones and a clear project scope BUT you work until they are satisfied; otherwise, the payment is not released or they can challenge it (one of the biggest complaints I have seen from people). With hourly rates, your work is captured via screenshots so if a client attempts to fight a charge, Upwork will review the work diary and if it shows work has been conducted, they (in most cases) will side in your favor.
Upwork is a fantastic platform for freelancers just starting out. Yes, you may have to start with a lower rate in order to build your client list and reviews; however, don’t sell yourself short. If you have fantastic provable skills – build up your portfolio, make your request rate where you are comfortable BUT apply to jobs with a lower rate to help secure new business.
Still Need Help?
Not sure of your skillset or need additional help getting started? Take a look at our Crash Course To Becoming a Virtual Assistant.