I have been a freelancer to various degrees since 2012 and a much more engaged one since starting my Business Ghost Creative in May 2015. My first foray into freelancing was writing articles and, surprisingly enough, a fact book about a particular type of Tea!
I was already an indie author at this stage, albeit a very uninformed one, and I found a site called Freelancer.com I signed up for my free account and got bidding on projects. I went in at ridiculously low prices for the jobs as this was the only way I could think of to get my foot in the door as it were. I began to be hired on a regular enough basis and a few reviews and very little money began to roll in. It was nice to be paid for doing something similar to what I loved.
I did a few more jobs on the site and began to focus only on fiction writing. The money increased (slightly) and more reviews came in. I had a five-star rating and I was happy with that.
In May 2015, when I started the business I began to bid for more and more on the site and jobs started rolling in. As I was highly rated by then, I no longer worked for peanuts, I was in the Cashew league now!
Alas, I had noticed a decline in the quality that was once Freelancer.com. As far as I could see, more and more projects were not real or bidders for projects I posted were not genuine. Freelancer.com themselves really seemed to go on a profit making push, everything was suddenly more expensive and my newsfeed there was getting crammed with rubbish about freelancer t-shirts and services that I didn’t want.
I was offered a place in the ‘Trusted Freelancer Programme,’ which has turned out not to mean anything at all. The only difference I have noticed is that I have a new small badge on my profile and I get messages from freelance recruiters for Jobs that I wouldn’t or couldn’t do, all the time. I keep telling them I don’t do website content, or I don’t live in a certain place as stipulated in the brief, I won’t work for an employer who has no rating or hasn’t verified their account, but the messages come all the same.
As an alternative, I signed up for Upwork.com The set up was a little more complicated than setting up with Freelancer but it was not off-putting in any way. The first thing I noticed after I had set up my profile was how stripped down the whole interface seemed to be in comparison to Freelancer. It all looked so much cleaner and simpler. I set my search setting to look for Fiction only and jobs started to appear in the feed at once. (Unfortunately, non-fiction jobs show with this keyword!) I applied for some and was hired for one of them the next day.
I must admit here that as I was new to Upwork and had no reputation to go on, I was linking to my profile on Freelancer.com so prospective employers could see reviews of work I had done in the past. This is what I believe got me my first couple of jobs on this site.
The first drawback I found with Upwork was with the rating system. Employers seem to prefer to keep contracts open so they cane use you again rather than close after each agreed project and leave you a review. This was a change for my mindset and it took me a while to get used to it. What had happened in my case is that I have worked with a few employers over and over without having to set anything new up. Upwork takes the 10% of new payments that it stipulates and all is well. This has been fine for me but if people were only working on a once off basis I don’t see how they would gather a reputation on the site.
I no longer use my freelancer reviews to get jobs on Upwork, but just talk to the employers and use samples to get the work. Once again this is fine for me, but could be difficult for others just starting out.
As I have been writing this post, Upwork has landed me a sucker punch! They have changed their pricing structure in a way that they say is a reduction in costs to the freelancer. in my experience it will be a massive increase in costs to me (to add to the VAT charges that came in at the start of the year) Projects under $500- which is a lot of the market- will now b charged at a rate of 20% unless your lifetime work with an employer goes above $500 with the new project. What this means now is that if you want to start working with a new employer you will pay double for the project until it reaches $500. In a lot of cases, this will not be the case.
To be fair to Upwork they say that they are making losses on these smaller projects, but I still can’t help see the hole in my own balance sheet growing. As a freelance fiction writer, I find that most employers want to stick to a certain genre. If I get tired of the genre or need a break from it, I will now have to seek out a new employer and work just as hard for them for much less payment; this is not a nice feeling.
So, in conclusion, I don’t know which site is best now! When I started out with this post I was leaning towards Upwork, but the new pricing structure is not for me right now, I will have to see how it goes. I had already taken most of my business to Upwork in 2016 and have been trying to get more business through my website http://www.ghostcreativeservices.com so there are no project fees at all.
Let me know what you think of these platforms. What do you love? What do you hate? Are there any other out there worth mentioning?