Have you ever used UpWork or similar market?

I'm looking into the idea of software developers hub from CEE region with a possibility to do perm-like hires. (known for top quality and 40% lower prices). I know there are multiple products like this but UVP will be in customer service (dedicated PO) + contracts (based on EU law) + quality/price ratio.

I really need help from this terrific community!

I'm looking for two things:

  • Have you ever used UpWork or similar and how you got there? Why did you consider to use it? If my only way forward would be Google Ads I need reevaluate how much I need to invest at the beginning.
  • In addition please advise how indiehacker can possibly sell software development services on a scale (or just "doing things that don't scale")


  1. 2

    I came across freelancer and upwork just through google search. Also remember that a lot of times customers and providers use these platforms just to get the initial connection and then discuss rest of the business offline depriving the platform of their commission.

    1. 1

      Thanks! This is very interesting, do you remember what you were searching for? I did a lot of research and spend a few hundred dollars on competition keyword analysis and I was nto able to find anything I could reuse. Gigster, Toptal are not doing a lot of adwords, Upwork is hitting thousands of keywords but most of them are related to VA and content etc. - things that every business need.

      Taking deals offline won't be a problem as freelancer/SH are not contacting the client directly and if they want, I plan to charge per lead.

      1. 1

        I had searched 5 years back ..things must have changed over the years. Even today if i search 'php developer hire' they are there in the top 5 results and i also see their ad.

  2. 2

    I don’t really understand what you are asking. Are you looking for feedback from a developer or a business hiring developers?

    I have used upwork both as a freelancer and as a person looking to fill an expertise gap. If you have some more specific questions, I can answer them for you. I understand all the troubles with upwork from both sides and can probably provide you with a lot of feedback. Note: I am not a developer but I have hired developers there.

    1. 1

      Many thanks for the reply!

      As of now, from business hiring developers. The first and most important question for me is how to attract customers to the platform. How you got there in the first place? Why did you decide to go with Upwork instead of a software house or look for a recommendation? In addition, as you are the best person to ask about it what do you think about escrow system they have? Also general question: Are there any significant bad experiences you had?

      Have nice day and thanks in advance!

  3. 2

    My first question is, what's in it for the software developers? You mention companies being able to hire them for lower prices — how are you going to attract good-enough talent willing to accept perm roles on a lower income?

    I haven't used UpWork personally but I've heard that there are a lot of low-paid, low-quality jobs on there and if a developer is good at what they do, they quickly move on to other platforms or simply get all their business from word-of-mouth.

    There are so many services in this sector — Toptal, Gun.io, Dreamlance.io, Codersclan.com, moonlightwork.com, etc. I would speak to their users, understand their pain points (is customer service the problem? what's wrong with their contracts? are these things that you know for sure are pain points?) and work from there.

    I think there's definitely room for another marketplace — because tech and remote working is the future after all — but as with any other marketplace you have to make it attractive for all the markets you're serving, else there's no marketplace.

    Hopefully I've understood your idea correctly and my comments are helpful — if not please ignore :) Wishing you all the best.

    1. 1

      Thanks! I always appreciate valuable feedback! In general, I'm not looking at low-price jobs at all, minimum will be 20$/h which is enough to attract junior/mid lvl talents in CEE region considering they will have all taxes/insurances paid and as much work as they wish to do. Getting freelancers on the platform will be done manually as a hiring process and the number of them will be strictly related to the average amount of work available.

      From client perspective Toptal is very similar to the idea I have with the difference in price, a minimum size of the project and the approach to the client with dedicated product owner that discuss the actual goal (maybe he/she doesn't even need new software!)
      EDIT: I also missed the point that you can pick a company to do the job (not possible on Toptal but happens on upwork)

      I don't really want to be extremely innovative I just want to piece of a very big cake.
      To summarize my question is more like how toptal/upwork is getting new clients? I asked about upwork in the first place because it's the most popular marketplace and there are plenty of high profile jobs there as well.

      1. 2

        I see, that makes sense! I really like the idea that you would take a more tailored approach with each client, discussing their project, giving them genuine technical and possibly strategic advice, connecting them with the right talent. Based on that description, I wonder if this is a hybrid between Upwork and a modern digital agency/production house? In which case you can look at examples of agencies with the kind of clients you're looking to target and how they get their clients. I have a feeling there'll be a lot of PR involved — prospective clients need to know the awesome projects you've helped to build and find lots of validating info about your company online. Just a few thoughts :)

        1. 1

          Thanks! Yeah, Gigster is one of the examples of such hybrid, but it seems like they doing exactly what you suggested kick-ass PR with lots of press coverage. I hope to find something else that is possible as an IndieHacker ;)) Even if it involves personal reachout.

          1. 1

            Personal reachout will absolutely be a key part of this, at least initially.

            A few key steps I would take:

            • establish your ideal client profile, i.e. who you think needs and has the budget for your service. What is the average size of this kind of business? Any specific industries? What are their pain points? What are the barriers to them using your service? Etc.
            • build a sleek, elegant, confidence-inspiring website targeted at your ideal client profile; make it clear that you and your team have the know-how and the large pool of resources to get whatever they need done;
            • on your website/social media, write useful, well-written content which genuinely helps your target audience — not topics that have been discussed before but questions that are genuinely interesting and are unanswered or badly answered by others;
            • work with clients to build high-quality products and talk about the products you build every chance you get, be ambassadors for each other;
            • gather testimonials after each project and tastefully advertise them on your website and other platforms, talk about every chance you get;
            • cold calling/emails: reach out to your target audience in a highly personalised way, showing you genuinely care about and understand their business. Email them several times if you don't hear back. If they're interested, they'll research you online and see all the constellation of expertise and social validation around your business.

            These all seem obvious but I think applying this approach over time, alongside offering a genuinely high-quality service, will build you a client base. After that, word-of-mouth will take over!

  4. 1

    My experience as freelancer:
    upwork: low quality jobs + low prices
    toptal: it's a good idea and well executed, except for... When I tried to join I did the entry-test in R ( a very common anlysis tool/language) but R was not supported! So I didn't join :)
    malt: very few projects/companies + you can't choose project, they choose you. On the other hand, Customer support is great.
    moonlightwork: I like it, good platform, very good customer support
    angelList: good for long-term relationships

  5. 1

    I've tried Upwork before and was even a dev on it way back when I was getting started. These days, I'd never work or hire anyone from there.

    The quality of engineers and clients both is way higher on Codementor. 10x is also fantastic.

    1. 1

      Thanks for the reply, how do you think that codementor attracts customers? What initially convinced you to move there from upwork?

      BTW. I love the idea of Elixir , I even tried to make it my new niche as a developer but I failed to find any freelnacer jobs.

  6. 1

    The additional question then - who and where do you think I can ask this to get any insight? Reddit? Some Facebook groups?

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