Upwork is the leading website for hiring freelancers online. It offers access to experts in every imaginable field, from website design, virtual assistants, accountants, and Search Engine Optimization experts.
Upwork rebranded from Elance a few years back and since then has leaped ahead of its competitors at Guru.com, PeoplePerHour.com, and Freelancers.com, to name just three. I logged around $150,000 in billable hours on Elance and, so far, around $250,000 on Upwork. I’ve hired book cover designers, proofreaders, website designers, trademark lawyers, book editors, and more.
When it comes to hiring on Upwork, there are a few pitfalls you might want to avoid. Some can be very costly in time, money, and subsequent mediation if it comes to it. I’ve had to send a few contracts to Upwork to mediation in the past, and many times, you have no recourse if the freelancer has been paid or decides to disappear. They are often in another country.
Before You Hire
There are many reasons to hire people on Upwork. The main two, of course, are you don’t have the skills or you don’t have the time. Not having the skills, of course, makes the decision to hire somebody a no-brainer. Some skills can take many years to master, so why learn advanced website coding or database maintenance when you can outsource it?
Not having the time means either your day is too full to fit the task, or you want to free up some time. The most common task I delegate for this is repetitive form-filling or taking, say, 500 questions from an exam and manually adding them to a quiz engine. Upwork is replete with administrative assistants who will do these tasks for you all day long for anything from $5 per hour.
The golden rule I have for delegating is to eliminate BEFORE you delegate. Having somebody reply to your emails when you could easily set up an autoresponder is pointless. I recently let go of a long-term virtual assistant. I made some changes to my website joining process and decided to send any inquiries to my helpdesk freeing up the money I was paying the VA so I could concentrate on course creation.
So, the long and short is to decide if the task can be eliminated first and only if you can’t do that altogether or with tools, delegate it.
Hiring on Upwork
Upwork allows you to search for freelancers to invite to a job that you then create or to create a job and then invite freelancers to it. After creating the job, you will be presented with a list of potential candidates you may wish to invite.
Before creating your job post, you must be crystal clear on the requirements and end objective. A poorly worded job post will attract bids, but you are inviting a huge amount of communication and dialogue if you do this and, of course, may end up in mediation. Posting something like ‘I need a website’ will attract hundreds of bids, but without spelling out how many pages you need, the designs you like, and the functionality, you are on the road to misery.
Posting Your Job
Upwork will ask you first if it’s a short-term or long-term job you want to create. Long-term would be over 30 hours per week.
Next, you need to create a title for your job post. This allows their software to match the correct category to your job post. If you type ‘edit video,’ for example, the option to post under ‘Video Editing’ as a category will appear. You can change the category Upwork selects. Often, as you type more words, the category will change.
Next, you can add any specific skills you need, such as a particular software brand. The more details you add, the better match you will get after you post the job. If you need them to understand Adobe Premier Pro, for example, you can specify that.
Next, you can specify how long the job should take and the expertise level required, and then you can specify your budget.
This can be the trickiest part of all, to be honest. You must first decide if you want to pay hourly or for an entire project. If you pay hourly, you need to have clear deliverables. You can tick a box specifying that the freelancer has to have their screen time logged so you can see that they are working. Projects suitable for hourly contracts include virtual assistants or admin tasks such as e-mailing customers.
For project posts, there will usually be a final deliverable, but you aren’t clear on the amount of time it will take. If I want a book cover created from scratch or video editing, I prefer to say I’ll pay up to X dollars for the job. The freelancer should usually be able to estimate the work involved and bid accordingly. They can always accept your bid or bid over or under the amount you suggest.
It can be a fine balancing act, but often, you may find that an hourly rate removes the incentive for the freelancer to get the job finished early. Even if you set a weekly time limit, the job can drag on. Upwork does suggest an hourly rate based on the category you have selected.
Next, you need to add your job description in detail.
The more detail you add here, the better bids you will attract. Upwork has a small army of providers, and many will spend all day bidding on any job within their category in the hope of starting a dialogue with you.
Here you can specify exactly what you are looking for and what type of websites or designs you like the look of and want to emulate. You can add colors, styles, and examples and even upload files for them to refer to. You need to specify the size, timelines, milestones and anything else you feel is relevant.
I strongly recommend you start with something specific they must refer to in their bid. This will immediately tell you if they actually read your post or not. Ask them to refer to your website or even quote a phrase. I guarantee you will eliminate around 50% of the bids by doing this.
When you are done, you can submit the job and invite any freelancers suggested or skip that step.
Choosing Your Freelancer
Like online dating or even in person, you will need to sift through unsuitable candidates.
The first step will be to check who has bid on your job and check to see if they mentioned your website or keyphrase. Here is a recent job posting I made for some website assistance. Most of the 80+ bids missed off my URL, pasting in their usual bid telling me they didn’t bother to read my post at all.
Every freelancer (unless they will are brand new) will have a profile. You can check how many jobs they completed successfully, their bid or hourly rate, earnings, examples of work done, client feedback, qualifications, and more. They will also usually send a specific message to you about your job post and why they feel they are suitable.
You can start a message dialogue with your potential freelancer or use the Upwork live conference facility.
You must clearly understand what you want and ensure the freelancer understands the objectives.
Hiring Your Freelancer
Once you are happy, you can hire your freelancer. If it’s a project role, you can pay the entire sum into escrow or set up milestones with agreed-upon dates. You can pay via credit card or Paypal.
If it’s an hourly role, you can specify if they can log manual hours or if it has to be tracked with automated screenshots. You can set a weekly limit and increase the limit later or if the freelancer request it.
Depending on the project, you might hear from your freelancer regularly or at the end of the project. I recommend you check the first stage of the job so you can give guidance early on. For video editing (for example), they can upload the first video for you to check. Waiting until they have done 20 and then expecting them to redo the entire job is unreasonable.
Upwork does have a file-sharing facility, of course, but I often ask my freelancers to upload files to my cloud server. This way, I have a central repository of all my projects in an easy-to-manage location. If my videos need more editing or voice-over, I can share that central folder access with another freelancer.
Dealing With Problems
Occasionally problems occur. Freelancers become ill or fail to deliver, or there has been a misunderstanding.
Whenever possible, try to be fair and reasonable. I once had a freelancer create a video course, but he grossly underestimated how much effort was involved. The course was of very high quality, and I wanted him to create more, so I upped the job price. It was worth it to have such a highly motivated expert creating videos for me.
Upwork has procedures to escalate problems. Usually, if it’s before the money is released, you can get a refund or part refund. I’ve done this when I found freelancers using copyrighted materials but passing them off as their own. I’m afraid this is more common than you would think, and I’ve even caught University Professors trying to scam me this way!
If the job is hourly AND the freelancer didn’t have the screen tracking software turned on, then you should get your money back. If you already released the funds, then it’s unlikely you will get a refund unless the freelancer agrees. This has happened to me a few times when I released a new video course, only to discover they didn’t actually create it themselves. You might think you can start legal action, but if you are in the USA and your freelancer is in Tibet (for example), you may find this process both difficult and expensive.
Upwork in Summary
I don’t think I could do my job without Upwork (and Elance before that). Imagine having to code your own website, learn proofreading, video editing, audio production, adding captions, and troubleshooting databases. It just wouldn’t be possible.
Start with some small jobs and slowly build a team of trusted freelancers you can rely on.
Best of luck.