Upwork Review: Is Upwork Worth it For Hiring?

Jason Quey
July 13, 2021

It’s estimated that more than 40% of the American workforce are freelancers and independent contractors (source).

You can find most of this talent on freelance platforms like Upwork. Upwork is the biggest freelance platform, with over 14 million freelancers.

Should you hire your next freelancer on Upwork? That’s what I’ll discuss in this Upwork review.

Upwork praise and pros

Upwork does a good job of removing scammy and inactive users.

This makes it relatively easy to find virtual assistants and entry-level associates to help you get work off your plate.

Finding and hiring top talent on any freelance platform is time-consuming. Which is why I recommend platforms like Toptal and DesignBro, which curate quality talent for you.

If you want to do the work yourself, here’s a quick process I recommend using:

  1. Write out a detailed job description. Make it clear and specific what you want and do not want. This will give you clarity to ignore freelancers who tell you they can do the work when they can’t. Some quality freelancers will also disqualify themselves if they’re not a fit.
  2. Ask for samples of previous work. No case study will perfectly align with your project. However, it will help to find out a person has the potential to deliver the results you need.
  3. Do a video interview or two. Here you’re getting a feel for the freelancer personally and professionally. I recommend you get intensely curious on the call. Ask them about their process. Ask how they got their previous results. Ask them for the name of those clients and contact information. Then ask what those clients will say about them when you talk to them on the phone. Dig deep into their strengths and weaknesses, and don’t let them off the hook with a weakness hiding as a strength.
  4. Do a small test project. At the end of the day, nothing beats seeing how someone does live. Keep the scope small to minimize your loss if the project flops. But remember, you also want the project to be relevant in case it’s a success.

Where can Upwork make improvements?

Upwork complaints and cons

Finding skilled labor on Upwork is easier said than done

It’s easy for a freelancer to find your job and tell you, “I can do it.” But how many read the requirements and understand your goals? 

Sure, you can ask freelancers to include a special word like “banana” to make them read your job description. Unfortunately, most freelancers are aware of this tactic. What’s worse is some know-how to talk shop, but fail to manage the project.

If you’ve never hired a developer, copywriter, graphic designer, or any other skilled position, you know it's difficult to know what you should ask.

Reddit’s CEO Yishan Wong gave this story when asked how to hire a developer:

“I have a friend who is a designer, and he was hiring developers via eLance (now Upwork).  Even with consultation from friends of his (e.g. me) who were real engineers, it was extremely difficult to find decent engineers who could do the things he needed, deliver reliably, and iterate according to ongoing testing/customer feedback. The end product was merely "okay" - kind of slow, with little glitches here and there.” (Source).

Here’s what a Hacker News user had to say: 

“The race to the bottom finished years ago, and the result is that there are simply no good developers or designers left there. It’s actually an opportunity waiting for talented newcomers, since a single person showing up and acting professionally would get the job described by this poster (and everybody else who goes there seriously looking to build something).” (Source).

This reflects my experience, even in areas I’m familiar with.

One PR freelancer I hired comes to mind. She talked a good game and seemed like she had a solid strategy in place. Month one went well. As the days wore on, projects she committed to stopped. Everything went sideways the moment I held her to deadlines.

To add insult to injury, her negative review made it harder to hire on Upwork again…

Upwork’s flawed rating system

The majority of rating systems have serious flaws.

Consider this:

Before hiring the PR freelancer I mentioned in the last section, I had 13 reviews. Most freelancers gave me 4-to-5 star ratings in five categories. 

I gave my review, which averaged 2.5 stars in five categories. The freelancer gave me a one-star rating in all five categories. Maybe I deserved my one-star rating, maybe I didn’t. The point is, this dropped my average rating to 2.26 stars.

All of a sudden, fewer freelancers wanted to work with a client with 2.26 stars.

If a freelancer is mean and vindictive, they have no reason to leave an honest review. Instead, they’ll go for blood and write a scathing one-star review.

Even after finding great talent, Upwork might terminate your freelancer’s contract

After reading reviews, you’ll learn Upwork has a history of being trigger-happy. By that, I mean they excessively remove freelancers from their system with the remote possibility of having a fake account.

Moderation within reason is good. It makes for a healthy marketplace.

The danger is when you’re working with a freelancer whose account goes dark.

Consider this Upwork review:

“We hired a freelancer through Upwork. We worked with her for three months and were happy with her performance. However Upwork decided to terminate her contract without notifying us. I found out from the freelancer at 6:00 p.m on a Friday.”

“I called Upwork and asked what was going on and WHEN they were going to tell me. They said it entirely up to their discretion and that I "may" be notified in a few days. I pointed out that any time a web developer is going to be dismissed, the person who owns the website needs to know in advance in order to take the necessary security precautions in case there is retaliation. Upwork still didn't really care.” (Source)

If you feel Upwork is not right for you...

Check out our list of Upwork alternatives.

Upwork pricing - What’s Upwork’s fee structure?

Upwork will charge you 3% on every payment you make. This is common among freelance marketplaces

In addition, Upwork costs $49.99 a month for their Plus plan. 

Plus Upwork members receive:

  • Dedicated assistance. Upwork claims they will cut your hiring time in half with smarter hiring and 24/7 dedicated advisor support.
  • Project promotion. You’re able to highlight your projects to attract more in-demand freelancers and agencies.
  • Project tracking. Advanced reporting to track the progress of your projects for improved efficiency.
  • Seamless collaboration. Provide your team with full access and gain greater project visibility throughout its duration.
  • Hassle-free payments. Track all invoices and pay with multiple payment options.
  • Invite up to 15 freelancers per job post. This is 12 more than what the free plan currently allows.

For bigger business clients, Upwork offers a Business plan for $849 per month. You’ll pay a 10% service fee on all payments to freelancers rather than 3%.

Business Upwork members receive everything from the Plus plan, and:

  • A consultative account manager. The account manager will give you strategic guidance on how to use Upwork.
  • Sourcing support. You’ll get experienced talent specialists to help you find the best match for your project.
  • Consolidated billing. Instead of paying per project, you’ll get a consolidated invoice.
  • Enterprise-grade reports. Get company insights and trends with enterprise-grade reports.

Finally, Upwork also offers an Enterprise plan with no price listed. In addition to the Business plan, you get:

  • Worker classification compliance services
  • Custom configurable contracting and onboarding process
  • Project-based or managed solutions, and dedicated account executive

Upwork does not provide much transparency about each feature on its website beyond what’s mentioned above.

Is Upwork worth it for hiring?

Yes, and no.

If you want to train up workers, you can outsource work you know, I’ve found Upwork an excellent source to find quality talent. If that's you, check out Upwork.

However, if you’re looking to hire skilled freelancers to do strategic projects, I recommend: 

  1. Checking out Toptal (read our Toptal review)
  2. Fiverr Pro (read our Fiverr review)
  3. DesignBro (read our DesignBro review)

The Product Marketing Agency Serving Entrepreneurs From Idea to Scale

Jason Quey

I am the CEO and Founder of Growth Ramp. I enjoy helping high-growth startups on their journey from idea to scale.

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