Freelance Writing Jobs: Upwork versus Freelancer

Guru vs Freelancer & Upwork vs FreelancerIf you are in the writing industry and are looking to find some freelance work, there are many options out there for you. One of the quickest way to find clients and get hired is to use a third party website designed to bring clients needing work together with freelancers who have the skills to get the work done.

Upwork and Freelancer are two of these third party websites. Basically, they act as the middle man between the client and the freelancer and, like all middlemen, they take their cut for helping to make the deal possible. This article will compare the two websites from a freelancer’s perspective.

The base of operations for Freelancer is in Australia. It has been around since 2004 and is one of the largest outsourcing services in the world. The number of verified users (clients and freelancers) is close to 8 million and there are over 4 million jobs posted.

Upwork came about when oDesk and Elance were merged together. oDesk had been in existence since 2003 and Elance was the oldest of the freelance websites, founded back in 1999. They announced a merger late in December 2013 and slowly merged users from the two sites into the rebranded website, Upwork.

So, now that oDesk and Elance are one, two of the top dogs when it comes to freelance websites are Upwork and Freelancer. As a long time user of Upwork, I was freelancing when it was oDesk, I have more intimate knowledge of that platform, but I will do my best to provide you with a fair comparison of both sites.

If you want a little more in-depth analysis of how to make money from this site, pickup a copy of The Online Writer’s Companion from FWU’s own PJ Aitken. He made a small fortune on this site and continues to do so. Everything he did and everything you need to replicate him is in this book.

Getting Started

Many of the features that Upwork and Freelancer have in common work basically in the same way. This is especially the case when you are first getting started. As with most freelance websites, the first step is to create your profile. Your profile includes a photo of you, a short description of your services, and a tagline. You can also add a list of skills you have so that clients can search using skills as keywords to find your profile.

After you’ve created your profile, you can start looking for work. Thankfully, the thousands of job postings are categorized. However, you will find that as a new freelancer, a lot of your time will be invested in reading through job postings and weeding out the legitimate, serious clients from those who want the best, but don’t want to pay for it.

The one thing I actually liked about Freelancer is that it does have a feature where recommended jobs will pop up in a transparent window every now and then. It allows you to quickly see a job that is posted that may fit your skill set. I also thought the job postings on Freelancer were visually easier to browse than those on Upwork.

Cost and Fees

Both Freelancer and Upwork are completely free to get started, but because actually getting hired as a new freelancer is primarily a numbers game, you may need to upgrade your membership in order to be able to send out more bids and increase your odds of getting hired. Upwork works on a Connects system, with 60 free Connects a month (and a cost of 1 to 5 per job). Freelancer allows 15 bids monthly. Neither of these will be sufficient for new freelancers who are serious about getting work.

You can remain a free member indefinitely on Upwork. When it comes time to upgrade, Upwork bills $10 monthly for an additional 10 connects per month, as well as the option to buy more, whereas Freelancer offers a 15 bid per month membership for $11.88 annually after the first 30 days and then a Plus membership at $9.95 for 100 bids per month.

Upwork and Freelancer both charge commission fees which are deducted from your earnings. As a new freelancer, the commission will be the same, 20% on either site. If you make $10, your commission fee is $2 and it is taken from your earnings prior to them being deposited to your bank account. Pay attention to the payment method you use as some methods will incur additional transaction fees.

Upwork does have a sliding scale commission that was just implemented in June 2016. This means that once you have earned at least $500 from the same client, your commission fee for future work from that client drops to 10%. If you make more than $10,000 from the same client, your commission fee will drop to 5%.

This is a great system for new freelancers getting started on Upwork, but it has been controversial for existing freelancers who were only paying 10% commission and now have to pay 20% for any new client they take on until they have earned $500 from that client. Many freelancers will never earn $500 from just one client and thus will always be paying 20% commission.

Overall I would have to say that on both sites you will have to spend time and do your research to ensure that you bid on legitimate jobs. Because both sites have workers from all over the world, there will be people who can outbid you. It’s important not to get caught up in the trap of lowering your prices but to instead submit a quality bid that accurately describes what you will provide and why the client should choose you over other freelancers, even though your bid is higher. There will be scammers and those who will try to get a ton of work for very little money. I personally have never been scammed and have always received payment, and many freelancers will testify to the same.

Customer Service

Across the board, customer service for freelance websites seems to be substandard. I will say that prior to the merge of oDesk and Elance, I seldom needed to interact with customer service as everything seemed to flow smoothly. Since the merger, there have been several incidents where the site was not working correctly and I had to contact customer service for assistance.

I find the support ticket submission process for Upwork to be quite irritating and often it would freeze up, requiring me to re-enter all information in order to submit a ticket. They also do not offer live chat support any longer for “free” members so I have to wait for them to email a response. Freelancer does offer live support for their “free” members and in the one instance I had to use it thus far, I found them to be very responsive.


My preference overall is for Upwork simply because I have had significant success in getting jobs and actually earning income. When I first began I averaged several hundred dollars a month but I was working insane hours. After six months I averaged $700-$1,000 working approximately 25 to 30 hours per week. Now because I’ve curated my reputation and can charge higher fees, I’m able to bring in $1,500 to $2,000 monthly working approximately 20 hours per week for a handful of regular clients. Their rating system for freelancers seems fair and feedback on employers is insightful and accurate.

Of course, the amount you make on either site will depend entirely on your skill level and the amount of effort you put into finding and retaining clients. There are pros and cons to both sites and in most cases which you choose will be a matter of your personal preferences and work style. If you are still undecided, I would suggest creating a profile on both sites to start off with and dedicating a set amount of time to finding clients on each to see what works better for your business.

To read more about how to succeed on these sites, read Find Easy Freelance Jobs and Managing Jobs and Clients.

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