Behind the Scenes: The Upwork Process

“I wanna be in the room where it happens.” ~ Aaron Burr, Hamilton

download (11)Hunting for Words has both hired and been hired through Upwork (formerly Elance.) As a result, we’ve got a pretty good view of both sides of the client/freelancer relationship, and realize the frustrations that can happen.

Much of the frustrations comes with not understanding the concept of freelancing or Upwork’s hiring systems. It should be every freelancer’s responsibility to explain just what a freelancer is and how they differ from an employee. Understanding Upwork and other job board sites is a bit more tricky. Here’s Upwork’s process and some of the pitfalls we’ve encountered.

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  1. The client writes a request for bids (RFB) on Upwork. It’s a description of the job. It could involve having a blog post written, an app created, or even a website designed from scratch. The employer also puts in the expected budget.
  1. Freelancers and agencies (like mine!) take a look at these RFBs and determine whether a bid should be placed. A number of factors play into this on the freelancer side, but the biggest two are the asking price and our confidence in our ability to handle the job given our skills and current workload. If it seems doable at the right price, we submit a bid along with other freelancers.
  1. The employer reads and evaluates all of the bids determine which freelancers they want to contact for more information. In our experience, around ¾ of bids are immediately dismissed. The biggest reasons for dismissing a freelancer’s bid are:
    1. Freelancer charged too much
    2. Typos (especially for writing jobs)
    3. Lack of appropriate samples
    4. Cookie cutter proposal letter
    5. Rubbed the client the wrong way
  1. A few proposals are selected for follow-up. In the follow-up, the freelancer and client further clarify the project. Sometimes, a Skype conversation is had to discuss the matter. This is the interview part of the process. It’s much like when you go to a mechanic and you’re discussing what’s wrong with your car. The goal is to come to a final understanding of the job, the amount of time it will take, and how much it will cost.
  1. If everything is in order, the client clicks on the ‘hire’ button for the freelancer. A contract is created which is based on the proposal and the proposed price. This contract can be altered with permission from both parties.
  1. When the contract is approved, most freelancers won’t start work until the escrow account is funded. Using job board sites like Upwork as an escrow gives peace of mind to both parties. From a freelancer perspective, it guarantees the client has the money to pay for the job. From a client perspective, it gives them the ability to withhold the money if the work isn’t to their satisfaction.
  1. Once both parties have agreed to the contract and the escrow is funded (and not before!), then the freelancer is officially hired and work starts. Through this entire process, there should be communication between both parties. However, freelancers are not at your beck and call like an employee!
  1. Once the work is completed and reviewed, it is submitted to the client to make sure that everything is in order. This is where any revisions or corrections are made.
  1. The escrow is released when the client feels that the freelancer has done what was requested. At this point, the client has the opportunity to rehire the freelancer for another project and leave feedback. Freelancers are also able to give feedback on clients.

As the one who enters a lot of bids, I can tell you that we only put a bid on 1 of every 20 (or so) RFBs. If you are interested in hiring through a job board site, you need to learn how to write good RFBs so you get quality freelancers. The main keys are to be detailed about the job and realistic about your budget. That way, the right freelancer gets matched with the right client and everyone gets what they want.