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Thoughts on Upwork and other sites for freelancing

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John Johnson
Thoughts on Upwork and other sites for freelancing
on Aug 25, 2018 at 11:55:53 am

Hello, i have a lot of questions regarding this topic so there is no need to answer all of them. I would, however, appreciate if you'd take your time to answer at least 1 or 2 since i may consider trying out such sites. In short, if you have experience with freelancing sites like Upwork, what are your overall thoughts on them, or:

- What kind of skill level ( or experience with video editing ) is required to do the average job?
- Do you need experience in industries like film or tv?
- What kind of work do you ( most often ) find yourself with?
- How often do you work ( per week, per month... ) or how often do you find jobs?
- What are the chances of running into a scam,what types of scams are there?
- Are there any freelancing sites which you prefer over the others.
- Additional information/tips are appreciated.

Just to mention the obvious which is that all of these are meant for video editing jobs.

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Kalleheikki Kannisto
Re: Thoughts on Upwork and other sites for freelancing
on Aug 26, 2018 at 8:56:22 am
Last Edited By Kalleheikki Kannisto on Aug 26, 2018 at 9:03:47 am

I've personally had good success with UpWork. I mainly do 3D animation, some video editing. It started out as an experiment to fill in those days when I didn't have anything from my regular clients and now (four years later) about half my work comes through UpWork. I haven't tried any other services.

1) Skill level: You can start at any level, there are three general ranges there, beginner, intermediate and expert, so you can say which you think you are or pick jobs in those ranges.

2) Experience: Depends on client. For corporate clients, that's likely. A great portion of clients are just ordinary people who need something simple done that is above their own skill level. And you find anything in between. It is usually pretty clear from the job description what skills and experience they expect.

3) Type of work: In the beginning, I recommend taking some projects that are very clearly easy for you to complete and do them to an excellent product, even if they don't pay that well, so that you start right off the bat with good client feedback. That will help with future job search. Also, select things that you actually want to do. Fixed-fee projects are somewhat more risky since you may end up working endlessly to satisfy the client's requests without any extra compensation for it. So that would be more for starting out when you want to show that you complete things to a great product. Aim for hourly jobs at your given rate as you gain experience.

4) How often do you work: In the beginning it took a long time to get a single job, 25 to 50 proposals to get one job. The better you can show that your services match the client's needs the more likely you are to land with that job. The main difference between starting out and now has been the time it takes to get a job. Now it's more like 5 to 10 proposals to get a job. I've gotten as much work as I've had extra time available. It has grown to account for about half my income today. I work about 20 hours per week on the average through UpWork. I could do full time if I didn't have other clients.

5) Scams: I haven't run into any scams. I just avoid jobs that pay way too little. In my experience the bigger the client the better. You can read the feedback other freelancers have given to the client, see how much experience the client has on UpWork, how much they've spent etc. The more the better, usually. Individual people who post a job for the first time may have unrealistic expectations as to what it costs to get a quality result (especially after seeing the proposed budgets on most jobs). There are plenty of freelancers who will do the job for $5 or $10 an hour. Let them. You're not competing with that crowd.

Other: The biggest hurdle is in the beginning. You can spend days sending proposals to jobs without getting any answers, which can be discouraging. If you keep at it, eventually you'll land something. It will improve over time as you complete jobs and start to learn which type of proposals were successful. You also should have better success if you match your UpWork experience level with that of the client's. For instance, for your first job few jobs you could do client's first UpWork jobs. Both sides (freelancers and clients) tend towards better feedback and more experience, so if you have something to show outside UpWork that proves your experience that will be a great plus. Then when you've worked, say, 100 hours on UpWork you've proven yourself that way as well.

Pricing your work is an interesting dilemma. At least 95% of the "competition" on the site will do the job at lower rates than you ever would, so there's no sense in trying compete with pricing. Stand out with quality instead. On the other hand I doubt you'd get any work starting out at regular fees if you got nothing to show for it. I started out with 50% the rate I would charge a regular client and picked only jobs I specifically wanted to do. After 4 years I'm now at around 75% of my regular rates. Since I've found clients that I would never had otherwise this way, I think that's an acceptable compromise. The aim is to eventually earn the same on UpWork as with my direct clients. In actual fact, the difference may be pretty nominal, considering I often give my regular (non-UpWork) clients a discounted price.

The other thing to take into account in your own pricing and job selection is the UpWork commission structure. Since any new clients start out at 20% UpWork service fee, you don't want too many low-paying one-time jobs. It is reduced to 10% after you've earner $500 with a given client and finally to 5% when you go over $10000 with a given client. What you want in the long run is clients that give you repeat business. Just one or two clients that give you a constant flow of work can be enough to make a living, or at least a sizable extra income.

You need to have a tax-registered company (private entrepreneur for instance) and have that verified by UpWork to earn above a certain amount. I don't recall the limit, but it was pretty low, perhaps 2G per year.

Portfolio and showreel are the most important things when starting out, client feedback when moving forward.

Kalleheikki Kannisto
Senior Graphic Designer

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John Johnson
Re: Thoughts on Upwork and other sites for freelancing
on Aug 26, 2018 at 11:01:30 am

Wow now that's an answer that i needed, thanks a lot for taking your time to answer.

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