What I Learned Hiring a Freelancer on Upwork

Photo by LUM3N on Unsplash

A while back, I decided I could use a logo for Copy Martin. As someone who regularly does copywriting jobs on Upwork, I decided to flip the script and use the platform to hire a freelancer myself. Admittedly, my motivation was twofold:

  1. Hire a competent designer to create logos
  2. Learn more about the Upwork hiring process to help refine my own job-seeking strategies

Within 24 hours of posting my job, 16 proposals filtered in from various graphic design professionals. Here is what I learned.

Many proposals were templates

At face value, a template proposal isn’t the worst thing. Freelancers want to maximize their time and apply to many jobs. I certainly get that (and made that mistake early on, too).

The problem is that many of the proposals came across as canned. Some even shared the same language. Hello, I have ten years of experience and I’d love to help create your logo, for example. Here are some portfolio items and some companies I’ve worked for. Fair enough. But what will you do to help my specific project along?

Rates varied widely

  • Only 18% of freelancers bid above my stated budget
  • 68% bid at my stated budget
  • 12% of freelancers bid below my stated budget

You can limit proposals to U.S. only

As a U.S.-based freelancer on Upwork, I can filter jobs in my feed by those only hiring freelancers from the U.S. I bring it up here because … well … when faced with this decision, I did opt to limit proposals to the U.S. only.

Why? Simply to narrow the pool of applicants. I didn’t want to spend valuable time sifting through 30, 40, 50 proposals. I assumed that limiting my job to U.S. only would shrink the applicant pool, and it did: I only received 16 total proposals.

Upwork took a 3% cut on the contract

I suppose this is the price of doing business on Upwork. The freelancer also has a percentage of their fee taken by Upwork. It is something to consider when hiring a freelancer on Upwork, especially if the budget is tight.

A few tips for applying to jobs on Upwork

The hiring process is subjective. For example, I found myself leaning toward upstart designers, those that were obviously qualified but not yet established on the platform.

Hell, I work in the same eco system and had to scrape together my first few contracts. Excuse me my natural affinity for fellow freelancers doing the same.

Still, the proposal I ended up selecting had three elements that any good Upwork proposal should include:

1. Personalize your proposal to the specific details of the job posting

In the job posting, I mentioned my copywriting business and included a link to my site for reference. The winning freelancer include some thoughts about how the logo might fit in with my current color scheme. Nice touch.

2. Include details about the deliverables

Specifically, this freelance told me that I’d receive logo variations that could be used on different platforms (something else I mentioned in the posting). This was reassuring because this detail was important to me.

3. Ask follow-up questions about the project

Don’t just ask about timeline or budget. Thoughtful questions can demonstrate a level of engagement that hiring people (like me) want to see throughout the project.

Hiring a freelancer on Upwork is a subjective matter. Sure. But the process taught me plenty about the client perspective. More importantly, it revealed some of the things that freelancers can do to set themselves apart and win more jobs.

P.S. Here is the logo that Rachel, the freelance graphic designer whose proposal I accepted, produced.

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