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The 2021 Guide to Freelancing on Upwork vs. Fiverr

Should I Become a Freelancer on Upwork or Fiverr?

Both Fiverr and Upwork are freelance platforms where you can share and get paid for your skills. Both offer global freelance work on a project-based or ongoing basis. Fiverr tilts towards short-term gig-oriented projects while catering to a lower-cost clientele. Upwork tends to attract clients with longer-term projects and higher budgets.

2020 was a year of financial instability and high unemployment rates. But there was one segment of workers that fared better than others – freelancers. 63% of freelancers reported that their industry wasn’t impacted by the pandemic and some said opportunities actually increased. If you’re considering freelance work, one of the easiest ways to get started is with popular marketplaces like Fiverr and Upwork.

What is a Freelancer?


Freelancers are self-employed and sell their services to companies looking for help with accounting, web design, writing, editing, administrative tasks, and much much more. Since freelancers are not employees, they work on a contract basis. A client can’t legally tell a freelancer when or how to do their jobs and either party can end the relationship at any time.

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While there are inherent risks for freelancers – financial instability, health care costs, finding clients – there are also a lot of benefits including:

    • Flexible working hours and scheduling
    • Opportunities to work on passion projects
    • Ability to set, and raise, your own project or hourly rates
    • Ability to let go of or bring on clients at your discretion
    • Ownership of your own career and skill progression
    • Being your own boss

Freelancing is an attractive option for experienced professionals that want to strike out on their own and grow their brand and business. It’s also a way to earn extra money alongside your full time employment.

What is a Freelancing Platform?


Freelance platforms are marketplaces for freelancers and clients to connect for short term and long term work. For example, an experienced SEO marketing freelancer can meet clients who need outside help on a new marketing campaign because they don’t have the budget to hire a full time employee. Here at LinkedPhone, we used both platforms to hire voice-over talent for a blog article on professional voicemail greetings.

Some freelancers find clients through their own network but for many, these platforms are helpful for:

    • Access to thousands of potential clients worldwide
    • Payment processing and protection
    • A centralized location for their portfolio
    • The ability to search for jobs that meet your rate requirements
    • Learning the ropes as a new freelancer

The two most popular platforms, Fiverr and Upwork, support millions of users seeking and providing services like bookkeeping, video editing, writing, and more. To get started, decide which platform will provide the most business for your particular services.

Fiverr Overview: The Gig Platform


Fiverr has a famously unique approach to freelance jobs. Sellers create gigs and the buyers search for gigs that meet their needs. The starting price for a gig is $5, hence the name. Sellers can offer any type of service you can imagine like web design, caricature drawing, logo creation, voice overs, and even psychic readings. Examples of gigs include:

    • I will design a minimalist logo for your company
    • I will provide one hour of life coaching
    • I will create a custom Spotify playlist for your party

Fiverr is free and simple to sign up. There are optional skill tests that sellers can complete to establish trust with their buyers, but sellers aren’t required to submit an application to use the platform; they can get started right away.

Fiverr Pro is marketed as a way for highly skilled freelancers to meet Fiverr Business buyers. There are no entry or membership fees.

Before you can become a Fiverr Pro, you’ll need to go through an approval process. This includes detailing your professional background, your college or university qualifications, and providing noteworthy projects you’ve worked on. Benefits of Fiverr Pro include:

    • Fiverr Pro badge on your gigs
    • Better exposure to buyers through search results
    • Ability to set price of gigs up to $20,000
    • Payment in 7 days instead of 14
    • An assigned customer success manager
    • Fiverr is best for one-off projects and fast delivery. If you like creating company logos or book cover illustrations but don’t want long term commitments, you're an ideal candidate for a Fiverr.
    • Prospecting for clients is time consuming so Fiverr is designed for buyers to come to you. When someone purchases a gig, you get an email notification and can get to work.
    • There are hundreds of gig categories which means that no matter what you sell, you’ll find buyers who want your product.
    • Buyers can purchase add-ons for gigs and even leave tips. Your gig might be priced at $5 but that doesn’t mean that is all you’ll earn.
    • New freelancers can use Fiverr to create a portfolio of work and build their reputation.
    • A quick google search will pull up heated debates on whether Fiverr is good for sellers, or forces them to compete on price against sellers in low cost of living countries. When $5 per gig can pay for a nice meal with your friends in the Philippines, it’s hard to make money for those in high cost of living countries.
    • Fiverr charges a 20% commission for every transaction, including tips. Some freelancers find this price to be far too high and exploitative.
    • There are strict terms of service about contacting your buyers outside of Fiverr. If you are caught asking to work or be paid outside of Fiverr, your account can be suspended or closed.

Upwork Overview: The Long-Term Platform


Upwork is the biggest freelancing platform around with 12 million registered freelancers. Instead of posting gigs like on Fiverr, Upwork is a more traditional set up where freelancers submit proposals to job postings. Depending on the skill set and budget, you could end up competing with 50+ proposals.

To submit a proposal to a job, freelancers use their monthly allotted ‘connects.’ Jobs usually require one or two connects, but can cost up to 6 connects for high budget jobs.

The types of skills and clients on Upwork lean towards more professional services. The most successful freelancers on Upwork are skilled in:

    • Web, mobile, and software development
    • Virtual assistant or customer service
    • Sales and marketing services
    • Translation services
    • Admin support
    • Graphic design
    • IT and networking
    • Writing, editing, and proofreading

Upwork is free to use but first you have to submit an application. The likelihood of approval hinges on a complete profile so don’t skip or skimp on any sections. Upwork has become more picky over time about who they let on to the platform.

Once approved, every contract works in one of two ways:

    • Hourly contracts: Both parties must agree on the scope of work, hourly rate, and deadlines before starting a contract. The freelancer must track their hours either through the automated screen capture feature of the work diary, or by manually entering their hours.
    • Fixed price contracts: Both parties must agree that the service will cost a fixed amount of money regardless of how many hours it takes. Try not to underestimate the amount of time needed, you can’t raise the rate later. The money is put into escrow before the freelancer begins work. Upon completion, the money is released.

Freelancer Plus is the paid version of Upwork with a monthly subscription fee of $14.99. Features and benefits include:

    • Visibility into competitive bids on job postings
    • Your profile will always be active and discoverable (even when you take a break from Upwork)
    • Access to 80 connects/month and rollover of up to 200 unused connects/month
    • A personalized profile URL
    • Ability to hide your total earnings on your profile
    • It is possible to be very successful on Upwork and charge high rates for your services. Some freelancers make six figure incomes.
    • There are hundreds of job postings in each niche and the search filters can help you narrow down requirements like minimum pay, expertise level, commitment time frame, and more.
    • Payments, contracts, and proposal templates can all be handled within Upwork.
    • It’s much harder for scammers to use Upwork. Freelancers can see whether the client put money in escrow or if they haven’t connected a payment method.
    • For new freelancers, Upwork is a great place to learn how to work with clients.
    • Upwork provides a professional and polished portfolio.
    • New freelancers need to send out dozens of proposals before they find their first Upwork client and it may take months. If you get discouraged, keep pushing forward and understand that everyone started in the same place. Find inspiration from others who have been down the same path.
    • Most users only receive 20 connects/month. With job postings that require up to 6 connects, you’ll run out and have to wait until next month or purchase more connects.
    • Upworks fee system starts out comparable to Fiverr with a 20% commission for the first $500 billed with a specific client. That fee goes down to 10% once you’ve passed $500 and 5% once you’ve passed $10,000. If you’re looking for short term work, unfortunately you’ll be stuck paying 20% fees forever.
    • Upwork’s reviews and feedback function is a black box. Clients can provide feedback that is hidden from the freelancer but still factored into the rating for the contract. You may never know why you didn’t get five stars.
    • Upwork can take away badges like ‘rising talent’ or ‘top talent.’ You’ll receive an email saying that you don’t qualify for those badges anymore. They won’t tell you why, only that they are still invested in your success.
    • Upwork terms and conditions are very strict, especially around communicating off platform before the start of a contract. If you break these rules Upwork can suspend or even close your account. If you’re not sure what you did wrong, customer support won’t tell you.

Freelancing Best Practices


Both Upwork and Fiverr promise access to worldwide opportunities. Some freelancers find their fees predatory but if you consider that they’re hosting your portfolio, handling your transactions, and prospecting clients for you, it’s not such a bad deal. Regardless of which platform you choose, follow these freelancing tips.

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Reviews, Ratings, Past Contracts or Gigs

    • Both Fiverr and Upwork offer reviews and ratings for both parties. Before working with a new buyer, visit their profile and read any feedback left by past freelancers. Avoid clients that consistently receive poor reviews, it is almost never worth the money.
    • Check out past gigs or contracts before working with a potential client. For Upwork, see what they actually paid for similar work. You’re bidding against other freelancers and the pay may be far cheaper than you can afford.
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Communicate Effectively

    • Problems arise when expectations are misaligned or assumptions are made. Discuss hourly rates, gig fees, project fees, timeframes, revisions, and other details like desired file types.
    • Start off with a small project and provide a rough draft of your work first. If you misunderstood or the customer expected something different, you won’t have to start over and waste time.
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Diversify Client Sources

    • Don’t depend on just Upwork or Fiverr for all of your client work. Consider adding in other platforms to the mix. Look at ways you can promote yourself and grow your business.
    • Use LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or other communities to network. Find out where your target audience likes to hang out and focus there.
    • Check out freelancer and entrepreneur forums to get ideas for how to land clients.
    • Be prepared to handle payments yourself. Venmo, Paypal, or direct bank deposit are popular ways to get paid.
    • Create your own contract template to ensure you have legal recourse and get paid. It can be as simple as an email of terms. Require your client to respond acknowledging they accept the terms.

Let's Start Freelancing


Freelancing can be your full-time income or just a way to earn some extra cash. Be sure to take advantage of the freedom to choose clients and projects. For new and experienced freelancers, Upwork and Fiverr are great platforms to find new clients, make money, and build a portfolio of work.

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A special high five to Tahera Ali Khan for her outstanding research and contributions to this article. We love working with and supporting like-minded entrepreneurs. Thank you Tahera! ❤️

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