My name is Andy Chase. I’ve been working as a freelance software engineer for about 5 years. When I started working I used Upwork (then called oDesk) to find clients.
See my list of alternatives to upwork here!
Upwork is the Tinder of Freelance
Of course you could go out and in person to networking events, build up a network of random people and tell everyone you are looking for work.
The problem is, you’re not going to do that . You’re not a marketer or a networking expert. You just want work. So that’s why you end up on Upwork.
There’s a lot of competition of Upwork, competing both on price and on quality. More than likely, clients who don’t know a lot about software engineering are comparing you purely based on stereotypes and marketing hype.
There’s also a bit of a game to it, where putting a focused message out there to a wide range of people is more successful then only only applying to the few jobs that you’re actually qualified for.
In real life, when you cold-call your friend’s dad who needs someone to do data entry for his small business, he’s comparing you to absolutely no one. It’s presumed you can do the job (otherwise you wouldn’t have come to him), and social pressures and sheer convenience will likely sway him to your favor.
That person doesn’t have the feeling like they are choosing between 30 good options, they instead have the feeling like cosmic graces have smiled on them and the perfect choice has appeared in front them ready to go.
The biggest problem with Upwork in my opinion is their customer service
Upwork is a glorified job board.
Unlike Craigslist they don’t have a benevolent attitude towards their purpose.
They view customer service as a cost center and anything that can’t be solved by a $5/hr wage support rep isn’t going to be solved.
Michelle wrote Someone stole my identity on Upwork and all I got was this lousy blog post, while it sounds like an exception situation in general, for Upwork customer support that’s about the level of support (little to none).
Upwork has some advantages
Here’s reasons Upwork can actually be a decent deal:
- It’s democratic
- If you apply to a job, you are listed as a possibility.
- Services like Toptal decides what you can work on and what you can’t. While if a recruiter does like you they will try and sell you, if they don’t then its a closed door. And recruiters will strongly type-cast you to a position based on your prior experience and what your profile looks like. You’re full stack but mostly work on backend stuff? They’re probably not going to list you for a front-end job.
- Transparent pricing
- Unlike an agency or a spread-based network, you have complete control over your rate. You can negotiate it client-by-client taking into many factors of each client.
- They guarantee payment
- By yourself, it can actually be hard to get clients to pay you. Personally, when I was on my own it was always a battle to have new clients to try get as much as they can before they ghosted (usually they ended up with a prototype and an estimate).
- Upwork (if you follow the rules, hourly contracts, detailed memos, automatically tracked time, verified payment), they will pay you. I’ve had clients have “issues” with their method of Payment and Upwork paid me on time like always (they also told me to take a break from working until they could figure it out.)
- Being paid on time no matter what is not something to be underestimated, it’s something that turns freelancing from a hobby into a real job honestly. It’s something you can depend on and plan your life around.
- Upwork also pays fast. 10-17 days from the moment you log time each week. With toptal it’s more like 4-6 weeks.
- More popular job boards means it can be easier to find interested clients looking for someone like you.
- Upwork is the 50th most visited site in the world according to Alexa (based on data from people who have the Alexa toolbar installed).