September 6, 2019

Are you using Upwork/Freelancer?

Aquiles Carattino @aqui_c

Sometimes, you have more ideas than time. I was considering starting to outsource some of the things I don't have enough time/expertise to do myself. I wanted to know if there is anyone here with experience using websites such as Upwork or Freelancer, what did you look for, how happy are you with the outcome?

Any experiences are more than welcome!

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    I've done 65 hires on Upwork and spent $20k+ on the platform. I've had some fantastic hires from the platform, but I've also had lots of duds that wasted my time and money.

    I really should write a full-length blog post about this, but here are my quick tips:

    Maintain expectations that it will take you several months to save time by hiring from Upwork. The more complex the task, the longer it will take before you come out ahead on your time investment. Outsourcing requires a lot of up-front effort in the form of writing job postings, writing thorough, clear specifications for what you want, interviewing candidates, and reviewing work. Once you find someone good and find a good rhythm with them, it's a great way to save yourself time, but you're likely to find a lot of bad candidates first.

    The #1 thing I look for in any candidate is communication. Miscommunications are extremely expensive with freelancers, especially for highly-skilled tasks like software development. Avoid candidates who ask vague questions or need re-explanation of things you've explained clearly. The best people I've hired tend to be people who are highly specific and detailed in their communication.

    Take ratings with a grain of salt. Most of the people on Upwork are hiring for things they don't know how to do themselves, so a terrible freelance programmer might have a 4.9 rating because their clients can't tell that they produce code that's hacky and unmaintainable. Similarly, some legitimately good freelancers have dings on their record from unreasonable clients who gave them a 1.0 rating because the freelancer refused to do extra unpaid work.

    Resist the temptation to hire cheap freelancers. You'll always get bids that are tantalizingly low (like $12/hr for "senior-level" Python development), but they often can't deliver what you ask for with reasonable quality. The freelancers who are good can command a good wage. With the bargain basement freelancers, you'll spend so much time managing them and fixing their work that you won't save time overall.

    Finally, start small. Don't hire someone to build an entire mobile app from scratch because it's far too complicated. Start with a job that should take a few hours (and set a cap on their hours so there are no miscommunications). As you get into a groove of working well with your freelancer, gradually give them more hours and more complex tasks.

    Some blog posts I've written about hiring from Upwork:

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      Thanks for sharing your experience, and your blog articles!

      I have started with a contest, and picked two people who communicated well and delivered what I was asking for. I am slowly asking for something more complex, so I can see how they work. It seems that these platforms are very random in terms of quality, reliability and price.

      The cartoonist article really pointed me to what I am looking for one of my projects! That will be very handy! Thanks!

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    I've personally had horrible results with Upwork. We hired ~23 devs over the last few years and only one worked out long term.

    We encountered people outsourcing the work to others even though we specifically said we were hiring individual people to do the work, had people who did on project great, then the next project they disappeared. Just all sorts of problems that ended up wasting our time.

    I had even developed a pretty in-depth coding trial that I would pay them to do. The vast majority of people didn't pass the trial, and most of those that did pass it didn't work out.

    Needless to say, the next time we need someone we'll be looking elsewhere.

    1. 1

      Developing a test to filter out candidates looks like a neat idea, but very time consuming for something the platform is already charging. In principle, freelancers take tests to be certificated on certain skills (and freelancer charges for them). Thank you for sharing the experience. It goes in the same direction of what I thought would happen... Sadly.

  3. 1

    I have both hired and found work through popular freelancing platforms, and from my experience it's a bad deal regardless of the end you're on.

    As someone hiring freelancers it's common to receive on overwhelming number of candidate responses. A lot of these come from account/sales managers who lack the technical knowhow to really understand your needs. Responses often include a cover letter. However, most of these are copy-paste templates that tell you little about a candidate's capabilities.

    As a freelancer who is looking for work it's common to compete with 30, sometimes even 50 other candidates, a lot of whom will offer their service at a very low rate (some even USD 5 per hour). Due to the amount of competition it's difficult to charge more than, say USD 40 per hour. And because of this, many skilled freelancers leave these platforms and look for alternatives.

    Not to mention the high fees (~20%) you'll be paying to use these services.

    Full transparency, I'm the maker of preface.app ⚡️ It's a freelancing platform that seeks to solve these issues by empowering entrepreneurs and making work more accessible remote specialists. Preface has a good pool of freelancers (e.g. designers, developers, marketers, even recruiters!). So if you want to try it out, you can post your job there. Oh, and it's free :)

    1. 1

      Thanks for your link! I've quickly checked it out but couldn't understand how you try to overcome freelancer and UpWork shortcomings...

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        Thanks for checking it out, and good question :)

        First-off the pricing model is different. Instead of paying a percentage fee over the value of the project, you can post your job for free. If your posting doesn't get enough candidates then you can 'boost' it and get more freelancer exposure.

        Regarding the shortcomings as a project owner. You still get many responses. The average so far has been 23 candidates per job of the ones published. I'm working on features to solve this.

        What is the biggest shortcoming of popular platforms that you would like to see addressed?

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          The biggest are the low quality of the work you get, reviews that don't reflect the expertise of the freelancers, nor of the people hiring. Just check the experiences people had on this thread...

  4. 1

    I've had great and not so great experiences. I'm actually trying Toptal soon in order to go live with an app.

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