When freelancers are looking for work, job boards, bidding sites, and marketplaces like Fiverr are some of the first places they go. I’ve talked about these platforms quite a few times, but in this blog post, I want to dive into Upwork specifically. Is Upwork legit, or should you stay far away from it?
Just to make sure we’re on the same page, if you’re not yet familiar with Upwork, it’s a platform that connects freelancers and clients. Businesses post work that they need done, and freelancers can send in their proposals for those jobs.
Now, let’s get into all the juicy details.
By the way, I’ve got a video where I share more of my thoughts on job boards and bidding sites.
Is Upwork Legit? Here’s What You Need to Know
Before I get into this, yes, I have personal experience with Upwork. 😉 Speaking from personal experience, these are the most important things you need to know about the platform.
Upwork Isn’t a Scam, But…
Upwork in and of itself is not a scam. The platform is legitimate. But, some of the people using Upwork are scammers.
For instance, I’ve had one too many writers tell me that they were left high and dry after an Upwork client refused to pay them for the work they did.
To be fair, freelancers can just as easily ghost on a client.
Are there scammers everywhere? Yes. Unfortunately, job boards and bidding sites have made it a little too easy for hard-working freelancers to get taken advantage of. This is one of the reasons why I’m not a fan of these platforms. Inherently, they’re not bad things. However, they attract too many people who are going to use them in the wrong way.
And the freelancer is always the one who gets screwed in the end.
One thing that you can do to protect yourself at least a little bit is research this company off of Upwork. Anyone can say anything on these profiles. That’s a good place to start, but go to their website, their social media pages, and look up reviews of them online, if you can find any.
Do your due diligence to make sure, as best you can, that this company is the real deal.
Getting Paid What You’re Worth is Difficult
This is yet another reason why job boards and bidding sites like Upwork are so frustrating. Again, it’s not the platform itself. It’s the way people use it.
Here’s the thing. These platforms are typically very saturdated. This means that they’re very competitive. And this means that in order to get hired, freelancers are willing to charge less than their competitors. So, it very often ends up being a race to the bottom.
Knowing this, what kinds of businesses do you think utilize sites like Upwork for finding freelancers? Businesses who are looking to have their work done for dirt cheap. They go to Upwork specifically to hire professionals for cheap.
This cycle keeps going and going and going. The freelancers actually charging what they’re worth have a far harder time getting hired. Doesn’t seem right, does it?
Is this to say that it’s impossible to make good money on Upwork? No. You can. But it’s certainly not going to be easy competing against other freelancers willing to charge a fraction of what you are.
Some people will argue, “Yeah, but you have to apply and get accepted to be on Upwork.” Listen, we need to use the term “get accepted” loosely, because I just did it to see what happens and I was approved instantly.
So… yeah. Upwork is probably welcoming everyone and anyone with open arms. It’s in their best interest — this is how they’ll make more money. (More on that in a minute.)
You Don’t Own Your Profile
This one is a biggie.
When you rely on a platform like Upwork to find paid freelancing jobs, you’re in a vulnerable position, because you don’t own any of this. You don’t own your profile, you don’t own your conversations, you don’t ultimately have control over any of it, period. Upwork does.
Sure, it’s probably true that you’d have to do something wrong for Upwork to suspend your account. But do you even want that possibility to remain open? Imagine that Upwork is your main source of clients, and therefore your main source of income. And one day, for whatever reason, they suspend you. Your business is kaput.
This is the risk you run when you rely on anyone or anything but yourself to land clients. You need to be in the driver’s seat. You need to have control over this.
Upwork Charges Fees
Yes, you have to pay Upwork in order to work.
This is usually the reason why freelancers will ask me, “Is Upwork legit?” There’s no way it isn’t a scam if they’re charging you, right?
First, let’s talk about what these fees look like. Here’s how Upwork takes their cut. I took this straight from their site. (You can read more about their fees here.)
So, the more you make, the less they take.
All job boards and bidding sites charge some kind of fee or monthly membership. They’re running a business, and this is how they make their money. This, in and of itself, it not scammy.
Does it suck, though? Abso-friggen-lutely.
I just want to reiterate what I said a moment ago: You have to pay Upwork in order to work. Do we not find this a tad odd?
It makes sense why they charge. But the fact that you have to pay them, period, stinks. Also, keep in mind that you’re going to pay taxes on that income. So, a $200 blog quickly ends up being a lot less.
Is Upwork legit? Yes. Is it the best way to get freelance clients? No.
If people used it in a better way, if freelancers stuck to their guns and refused to work for pennies, if that became the standard and clients simply knew they’d have to pay more, it might be a different story (although there are more problems at play than that). But plain and simple, this isn’t how it is.
What’s a Better Way to Find Freelance Clients, Then, if Not Upwork?
I know, I know. I’m doing an awful lot of complaining. But I’m also fully prepared to offer you a solution.
I first built my business using cold emailing, and I still argue that this can be incredibly effective. However, I became worn down due to the fact that it’s very much a numbers game. I wanted to see better results without having to send hundreds of emails.
And that’s how I arrived on the process I use today. I start with LinkedIn cold outreach. You connect with a human being who works for the company you want to pitch.
Once you connect with this person, you take the conversation to email to chat more. After that, you get on a phone/Zoom call with them. Next step, send them your proposal. Then, close the deal!
Yes, this is a very condensed version. Here’s the most important piece of the puzzle: My process for landing clients is about forming real relationships with the goal of helping businesses succeed. If you make that your obsession, you might find that success actually comes a lot easier to you than you anticipated.
Furthermore, because this process means largely bypassing your competition completely, you get to position yourself as an expert and charge way more for your work.
The start-to-finish formula is what I teach in Revenue Spark, and it’s all about setting students up for long-term success and freedom.
If you want to learn more about this process and see if you might be a good fit for Revenue Spark, book a call with me today so we can chat more.
Hope you found this blog helpful!