How to Hire a Freelancer on Upwork: An In-Depth Guide

how to hire a freelancer on upwork

Navigating the digital landscape to find top-notch freelance talent can seem daunting. Yet, with platforms like Upwork, it’s easier than ever. Or at least, it should be. This blog serves as your comprehensive guide on how to hire a freelancer on Upwork. We’ll walk you through posting a job, discuss what Upwork is and its legitimacy, explore the benefits of hiring freelancers, and delve into some of the popular job categories on the platform.

But most importantly, once the boring stuff is out of the way we’re going to tell you how to REALLY find top talent on Upwork. Our tips for how to hire a freelancer on Upwork give you inside knowledge on what to do, and importantly, what not to do. You’ll find out that it’s not difficult to find the very best talent and get the most out of your Upwork experience.

Let’s dive in. If you already know about Upwork and the basics of posting jobs, skip to our tips section for real inside information on how to find the best freelancers.

What is Upwork?

Upwork is a global freelancing platform where businesses can connect with independent professionals across diverse industries. It’s an effective way to outsource tasks, whether you need a graphic designer, a web developer, or a content writer. The platform provides an accessible, streamlined solution for individuals and businesses to grow and expand their operations.

Is Upwork Legit?

Yes, Upwork is a legitimate business resource. It uses identity checks, secure payment methods, and a reliable review system to ensure trustworthy interactions. While it’s always wise to thoroughly review a freelancer’s profile and feedback before hiring, the platform itself provides a safe and credible space for connecting businesses and freelancers.

Like any website or platform, Upwork has its critics. Freelancers themselves don’t enjoy the fees, and some don’t know how to get more connects on Upwork (connects are like tokens required to pay for jobs – remember this, as it will be important later). Some people complain about the long hiring process (however, as the hiring party, you’re in total control of this).

There is also the fact there are literally millions of freelancers on Upwork, which in all honesty means you’re going to get proposals from completely unqualified or unsuitable applicants. Don’t worry – our tips will help you avoid this problem.

Overall, though, Upwork is legitimate and safe to use.

How to Post a Job on Upwork

When you’re looking to hire a freelancer on Upwork, the first step is posting your job. Here’s a simple, concise step-by-step guide:

  • Create an account on Upwork.
  • Click on the “Post a Job” button.
  • Select a job category that best matches your project.
  • Provide a detailed job description, including project specifics, desired skills, and deadline.
  • Set your budget. You can choose either hourly or fixed price, depending on your preference.
  • Choose how you’d like to accept proposals – by invitation only or open to all freelancers.
  • Review and post your job.

We’re not going to go into huge amounts of detail here because honestly, the platform is pretty intuitive. Once you click that “Post a Job” button, the system walks you through everything you need to know.

The more difficult part is knowing the right information to include in your job post, and we’ll go into much deeper detail when we get to our tips on how to hire a freelancer on Upwork.

Popular Job Types on Upwork

On Upwork, there is a wide array of job categories that span multiple industries. Some of the more popular types include:

  • Web, Mobile & Software Development
  • Design & Creative
  • Writing & Translation
  • Admin Support
  • Customer Service
  • Sales & Marketing

The list above is only a very small snapshot of the broad job types on Upwork. Within each of these skill sets, you will find a massive selection of talents, making it easy to find people who are skilled at exactly what you need. Whether you’re seeking a skilled programmer or an adept marketer, Upwork can match you with the right talent to bring your vision to life.

Benefits of Hiring a Freelancer

Before we get into our tips for how to hire a freelancer on Upwork, it’s important to understand the benefits of hiring freelancers. Believe it or not, a lack of understanding in this area is the main reason people don’t find the talent they’re looking for.

Hiring freelancers provides a wealth of benefits. It offers businesses a flexible and cost-effective way to manage workloads, among other advantages.

  • Access to a wide range of skills and experiences
  • Reduced overhead costs compared to full-time employees
  • Flexibility to scale up or down as needed
  • Speedy and efficient project completion
  • Exposure to fresh, innovative ideas

In essence, hiring freelancers enables you to build a team tailored to your business’s unique needs and objectives. We’re moving straight onto our tips now, but keep these benefits in mind as we discuss how to hire someone on Upwork in more detail.

The REAL Tips for Finding the Best Talent on Upwork

So, now the boring housekeeping is out of the way, let’s get stuck into the real reason you’re here. The following tips might be blunt and to the point at times, but they’re a real inside view of how to maximise your freelancer hiring process.

One-off job or semi-permanent staff member?

The first step is to be really clear on what you need. Do you just have a one-off task that you need completed? This might be building a website or solving a particular problem. You might need an essay written or a logo created for your business. You can post a fixed-price job for these tasks (or an hourly-rate job, but we’ll discuss this more later).

The other option is hiring a semi-permanent freelancer. Remember, Upwork isn’t just for single tasks. If you want a virtual assistant, a data entry specialist, a bookkeeper or a marketing professional, you can hire people on an hourly rate and you still won’t have the overheads normally associated with hiring a part-time employee. You can also use fixed-price jobs here, and create smaller milestones along the way. For example, you might want someone to write a blog article for you each month. Just set up fixed-price milestones and contact the freelancer whenever you need them.

Know your budget and be willing to pay

Disclaimer: If you want the cheapest possible workers, you should probably read another article. This one is about finding quality talent, not trying to make people work for next to nothing.

Remember when we listed the benefits of hiring freelancers? One of those was ‘reduced overhead costs compared to full-time employees’. This is absolutely true, and it’s a great reason to use Upwork. But somewhere along the line, people have confused getting a good deal with what is essentially trying to find slave labour.

Believe it or not, the image below contains real jobs posted on Upwork. These are perfect examples of, frankly, some people’s absurd approach to finding help. If you’re hiring somebody to do anything, it’s an investment in your business. So, don’t use terms like ‘this is a new business so my budget is low’. While your budget may be low, this perhaps means your priorities are wrong.

For example, in the modern world, your website is probably the most valuable investment you can make in your business. If you want genuinely skilled people to build your website, here’s a tip: Highly skilled freelancers won’t even look at your job offering $100 for website development. The people who do apply are simply not going to deliver a good product for that price.

Believe it or not, the image below contains real posts found on Upwork.

You get what you pay for

There’s a saying out there: ‘The poor man pays twice’. This essentially means that if you pay extremely cheap prices for something, chances are you won’t get what you want. As a result, you’ll pay for the same thing again. Hiring freelancers who are willing to work for a pittance is a bit like hiring your own child to paint your house. It will be cheap, but you’re going to have to pay a professional to do it again if you want proper results.

We couldn’t find any actual statistics here, but anecdotally we can 100% confirm that a lot of communication between Upwork clients and freelancers begins with “I had someone else start this job, and they completely screwed it up.” This gives freelancers a bad name, but most of the time, it’s because a client has wanted to pay peanuts for expert services.

Have a serious think about what you expect your freelancer to earn. Lowball offers are extremely common for content writers. Here’s a real excerpt from an Upwork ad for a Scriptwriter, and the job headline requests ‘Top-Rated Only’:  

“- Attend our (team)meetings & training (without payment for time, presumably)
– At least 2 years of experience with scriptwriting
– You can deliver within 24 hours turnaround time. We can start with a couple of scripts per week and if you deliver goods I can offer you lots of workload! I upload 14 times a week on my channel, I will pay you 12$ for each script @1600-1700 words.”

So, unless the writer uses AI and provides terrible content as a result, 1600-1700 words would take them (even for a fast, experienced writer) around 3 hours. At $12 a script, this client expects to find an experienced, Top-Rated, highly-skilled, dedicated team member who also wants to give up their time for meetings, and pay them around $4 an hour.

What type of quality would you expect to get when paying someone $4 an hour for anything?

Fixed-Price or Hourly-Rate

Upwork allows you to agree on a set rate for a service (fixed-rate) or you can hire people on an hourly rate.

Hourly rate jobs require the freelancer to use Upwork’s time-tracking tool. It takes screenshots periodically, allowing you to see if they’re actually working on your project. This is a cool safeguard, but do you really want to be checking screenshots and micro-managing your freelancer? We can guarantee your freelancer doesn’t really enjoy it.

That being said, for certain job types, hourly rates are fine. But you do need to have a little trust in the freelancer, which honestly, can sometimes be misplaced.

Wherever possible, we recommend using fixed-rate contracts. This just gives a clear budget for the task required. Most freelancers prefer this, especially highly-skilled individuals who know what their skills and time are worth. So, you can generally attract better-quality freelancers, plus, you never have to be sceptical about whether the hourly charges are legitimate or not.

Posting your job ad

There’s a common misconception that to get the best people, you need extremely detailed and specific job posts. There’s a little truth in this, but let’s look at some of the ways people go wrong.

Lack of details

If you post a job advertisement on Upwork with very few details, it’s nearly impossible for an experienced professional to provide a quote. In fact, most will just ignore the ad, no matter how much they want to work. You don’t need pages of text, but at least be specific about what you need and what’s expected of the freelancer.

Excessive qualifications

Upwork allows you to request specific qualifications for your freelancer. Using these wisely is fine, but think about the relevance of any qualifications you require. If you need a web developer to write in a certain coding language or work with a particular CMS, then they need experience. But if you need someone to look after your social media accounts, do you really need somebody with a degree in marketing?

Asking too many questions

Another feature of Upwork is the ability to ask applicants to answer a series of specific questions, in addition to giving you their standard proposal. The good reason to use these questions is to weed out time wasters who just cut and paste the same proposal for every job. But the reality is, experienced freelancers should have a generic proposal that sells themselves. You’d like to see them tailored slightly to your job, but let’s be realistic. You only need to post one job ad. The freelancer needs to apply for heaps of jobs, so don’t expect a completely unique proposal every time.

The bad reason to use these questions is that it makes your job much harder to apply for. A freelancer with a good earning history and high job success rates (meaning a high-quality freelancer) doesn’t want to spend huge amounts of time answering generic questions like ‘please explain your experience with a similar job’. You can see from their work history that they’ve completed similar jobs successfully.

Ultimately, while these questions filter out some time wasters, it also turns away the best freelancers.

Sending invitations

Did you know that you don’t have to wait for people to apply for your job? As part of the posting process, you can select the top freelancers to send invitations to. It’s a great way to target people who have excellent job success rates.

When you do this, look carefully at the profiles you invite. If they don’t match the type of work you’re looking for, don’t bother sending the invitation. Freelancers appreciate invitations because they can apply for the job without using ‘connects’ (the tokens that Upwork makes freelancers pay for). But you can waste everybody’s time if you send random invites to everybody.

As an example, because most copywriters from an English-speaking background have this skill listed on their profile, they get inundated with requests to record English audio samples. This isn’t what they do, and you’re likely to never get a positive response. So, try to invite people who are a genuine match for your job.

In conclusion

If some of these tips sound a little blunt, we apologise. They aren’t meant to offend, but rather to help you see things from the perspective of a freelancer. Unfortunately, Upwork has become somewhat of a race to the bottom in terms of pricing. Inexperienced and unqualified people charge extremely low rates, and generally deliver a service that matches those rates.

But as an employer or business owner, it’s important to know that there are plenty of highly-skilled individuals on the platform. They’ll deliver great work that can really have a massive impact on your business. Best of all, they will be much cheaper than hiring a company to do the same thing or hiring a permanent, full-time staff member. But quality freelancers also need to be compensated fairly.

The biggest misconception is that freelancers are already of a lower quality than those who work full-time for another company. This is completely wrong. In fact, the majority of really good freelancers choose the freelancing life because they know what their talents are worth, and they don’t want to use those skills to make money for somebody else. The tips above will help you find those people, and get more value out of hiring a freelancer on Upwork.


How to find someone on Upwork

In the search bar, type in the specific skill or job title you’re looking for. Filter results by job success score, hourly rate, or location.

How to message on Upwork

Once you’ve identified a freelancer you’re interested in, click on their profile and then the “Message” button to start a conversation.

What does shortlist mean on Upwork?

Shortlisting on Upwork means saving a freelancer’s profile for future reference. This feature helps you keep track of potential hires for your projects.

How does Upwork work?

After posting your job, you’ll receive proposals from freelancers. You can review their profiles, conduct interviews, and then hire the best candidate. Payment is securely handled through Upwork, with protection for both parties.

How to delete an Upwork account

Go to settings, then click on “Contact Info”. At the bottom of the page, there’s an option to close your account.

Is Upwork safe?

Yes, Upwork provides secure payment options and verifies freelancer identities to ensure safe transactions.

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