Are you looking to hire a rockstar virtual assistant who will help you take your business to the next level?
Upwork and Fiverr are two of the more popular freelance markets today with a deep talent pool that can help you in just about anything you need.
Whether you’re looking for a talented graphic designer or a versatile voice over talent, these two freelancing giant’s have everything you’re looking for. All you need is to find the right person based on your preference.
Note: This article is written from an employer’s perspective. If you’re a freelancer looking for work, the information below will provide you insights into the hiring process, fees, and protections on each of the marketplaces mentioned, but will not speak about the difficulties of getting work nor the types of clients you’re bound to encounter.
If you want to learn more about becoming a virtual assistant, please click here.
For disclosure, links to Fiverr are affiliate links.
Intro to Upwork and Fiverr
Though Upwork is probably considered the biggest and most popular among its competitors, Fiverr is not far behind.
Upwork is the result of the merging of Silicon Valley startups Elance and oDesk and unquestionably the biggest of them all with more than 12 million registered freelancers under its belt.
(Elance dates back to the late 1990s.)
Compared to Upwork, Fiverr is younger but has seen rapid growth. In 2012, just two years after it was launched, the company was already hosting 1.3 million Gigs and saw a huge increase in its transaction volume.
In its early days, Fiverr wasn’t really seen as a “serious” freelance platform, as the company hosted a lot of silly gigs. Today though, they’ve become a great resource for business owners with high value gigs and the addition of their “Pro” level service.
Fiverr is known for being a more affordable alternative with all of its Gigs (the term used to define what other platforms consider as projects) starting at a minimum price point of $5 but can go higher depending on the extra work that can be done.
At press time, Upwork was ranked as the 250th most popular site in the US and #442 worldwide.
Fiverr was ranked similarly; #232 in the US and #352 worldwide.
Quick Upwork vs. Fiverr Comparison Chart
What Roles Can You Hire For?
Both marketplaces offer a ton of skills and freelancers you can hire for your projects and with the deep pool of talents each of the platforms possess, it’s almost impossible not to find the person you’ve imagined to be the best virtual assistant that will satisfy your needs.
Remote work has been organized and categorized accordingly so you won’t have a hard time looking for your best candidate whether you’re looking for design professionals or developers and programmers.
Under each of these major categories are several highly specialized areas of expertise, giving you more options and flexibility in finding the skill/talent/freelancer you’re looking for.
Searching for Talent on Upwork
Below is a good example of the skills you’ll find under Sales and Marketing on Upwork:
Clicking on any of the skills provided will take you to another page where you’ll be presented with a list of freelancers belonging to that category.
If you click on SEO specialists, for example, the page you’ll see should look something like this:
The profiles that show next will provide you with useful information about the freelancer like their hourly rate, their location, and the number of hours they spent on Upwork, giving you a better idea on how they performed for past clients.
You can begin reaching out to these freelancers directly as soon as you’ve signed up for a free account. You can also post jobs for freelancers to apply to.
Searching for Talent on Fiverr
Fiverr does pretty much the same though the presentation is quite different. All the major categories are already displayed on top in the form of menus.
Hovering your mouse over each of the categories will display a submenu where you’ll be shown all the specialized skills belonging to each category.
Below is an example of the skills you’ll be provided with if you mouse over “Writing and Translation”:
If you click on one of these submenus, you’ll be presented with a list of gigs offered by several freelancers. You should be directed to this page if you click on “Product Descriptions” for example:
What makes hiring in Fiverr easier for clients is the wealth of information you’ll find once you click on any of the gigs listed.
From a detailed comparison of the packages offered to the reviews the freelancer received for the said gig, making a decision on who to hire becomes easier.
How Upwork Works
How Fiverr Works
Fiverr put together a quick 2-and-a-half minute video on this page to explain how hiring works on the platform.
Employer Protections in Place
Shelling out money to people you haven’t met will always pose a risk to both workers and employers which is why safeguards that will protect both sides are put in place. The section below will expound on its importance.
A two-sided rating system where buyers rate sellers and vice versa, is crucial to the success of freelancing platforms like Upwork and Fiverr.
Popularized by eBay back in the mid-90s, Upwork has established a solid rating system that allows workers to see feedback from past clients.
While clients also receive ratings and feedback from workers they’ve hired in the past, the opportunity to collect a string of positive feedback from several clients given the tendency for short-term projects works best for the workers’ side.
More than the 5-star rating and the excellent feedback, one thing a potential client should look out for is the number of jobs completed where no feedback was given.
Whatever the reason past clients has for leaving no feedback at all, the absence of one should raise some red flags especially when you have a job still in progress more than 5 years after.
One of the features of Upwork I love is the “job success rate” it displays for each of its freelancers which measures the percentage of the projects they’ve completed that garnered them “a great client experience” which comes handy when narrowing down candidates. The higher the score, the better.
The project I had with the developer above was a complete success but in all honesty, a job success rate of 59% is pretty low and I’ll think twice before hiring a freelancer with that kind of score.
Upwork’s freelancer profile page also has a wealth of information much as Fiverr does. For one, a summary of their work history is provided, giving you a better picture of their experience based on the number of clients who have trusted and hired them.
Below is an example of a great profile page Notice the number of “in progress” projects she has that are both hourly and have thousands of hours completed yet she still has a 99% job success rate to show:
Past performance is not always a good indicator of positive results. Yes, they do help you with your hiring decision but they shouldn’t be one of your major considerations for hiring someone.
I’ve been hiring freelancers for quite some time and I’ve come across a couple of excellent workers with almost no work history or feedback at all. There are also those who had really impressive reviews but produce average quality and subpar results.
Do Upwork or Fiverr do any of the work for you, by pre-screening candidates for skills?
In the case of Upwork, being the biggest freelance market comes with downsides too and one of them is the crowded market and stiff competition sellers or workers face. While they did allow just about anyone to create a profile and start looking for projects to work on, Upwork has revamped this system and has become more selective when it comes to accepting freelancer applications.
Today, if you don’t bring something different or a really impressive set of skills on the table, they’ll most likely turn you down because they’ve already got a ton of talents offering a similar skillset.
In contrast, on Fiverr, anyone can set up a seller account and begin offering services.
Fiverr Pro is by application only, and those sellers are the ones hand vetted by Fiverr.
Freelancer Tests and Self-Ratings
Upwork provides freelancers the opportunity to make their profiles more impressive through hundreds of skills tests that they can take for free. These exams are not mandatory and can be retaken after 180 days.
Fiverr also offers their own set of skills tests which are all free and not necessarily required. These tests can be retaken twice within a three-month period.
Both platforms allow freelancers and sellers to hide or show both tests and test scores from their profile for more flexibility.
Below is an example of the test scores of a freelancer I previously worked with.
Clicking on “Details” will show you the different categories included in the test as well as the freelancer’s performance on each of them.
These tests do appeal to me, being an “A-student” back in the day and though they won’t really be a major consideration in choosing the best candidate, I appreciate their value when I need a “tiebreaker.”
It’s a good indicator of how driven and serious a freelancer is in landing projects online. It gives me a better idea who among the candidates are “hungrier” so if all of their skills cancel each other out, I have the tests they took to use as additional criteria.
Monitoring freelancer activity is easy for clients in Upwork with the platform using the “Big Brother” approach through screen capture software.
The platform uses a tool called “Work Diary” which takes screenshots of your freelancer’s screen every 10 minutes while they’re on the clock, allowing you to monitor their activity (or lack of) and assess if you’re getting your money’s worth.
Fiverr does not have a tool or system of this kind because gigs are all fixed price. Gigs come in different packages with each package carrying a corresponding price and a designated delivery time. As long as the seller complies with all the conditions indicated in the package the buyer ordered, everything should be good to go.
The buyer can also reach out to the seller at any time while the gig is in progress should they want to check the status.
Escrow payment is a good way of protecting both the client and the freelancer. It ensures that a client pays for a job completed and a freelancer completes the job agreed upon.
Both Upwork and Fiverr use the escrow system in processing payments. This works with a client depositing funds to the platform’s escrow account and the payment only getting released upon completion of certain milestones.
What makes this system effective is that it shows the freelancer how serious you are about paying them, while still keeping yourself protected in case the freelancer doesn’t comply with what was initially agreed upon.
Fiverr uses the same payment system where the seller only gets paid if the buyer accepts the work submitted.
When you buy a gig in Fiverr, the money gets charged immediately but the seller won’t get the money until they complete and submit what’s required and the buyer accepts the finished product.
Dispute Resolution on Upwork
One of the best features of Upwork that sets it apart from its competitors is the dispute resolution system it has in place.
The platform allows you to file a dispute should there be problems with the final product delivered by the freelancer or if you suspect them of charging you with more hours than they should.
A mediator is tasked to review the case and help get the money back or cease payment altogether. It’s important to note, however, that these mediators aren’t going to be judges of the quality of work. They usually make decisions based on the Work Diary instead.
Dispute Resolution on Fiverr
Fiverr’s answer to dispute resolution, meanwhile, is its “Resolution Center.” Unlike Upwork, however, there won’t be a mediator to help settle the dispute but more of an interactive request depending on what you would like to do with the order.
You’ll be given the following option upon clicking on the Resolution Center option:
- Ask the seller to provide a progress update for this order
- Extend the delivery time
- Ask the seller to cancel the order
The succeeding choices will vary depending on the option you choose.
Once you have decided on the reason and click “Send”, the dispute will be submitted and the seller will have 48 hours to either accept or decline.
Your Employer Profile on Upwork
Also worth noting is the fact some of your client metrics are visible to freelancers who apply for the jobs you post. Information like feedback from your previous hires and the amount of money you’ve spent on the platform are just some of them.
These pieces of information are effectively shown as a means to protect freelancers. Hiring 1 out of 5 job postings is clearly a red flag because it may not be worth their time and effort to impress you when you’re not serious based on your performance.
Spending thousands of dollars on multiple job postings that all resulted in a hire meanwhile, makes you a very attractive potential client not only because of your metrics but the reputation you’ve made for yourself.
In Fiverr’s case, the reviews and ratings you’ll find in the seller’s profile are not the only considerations that will help you arrive at a decision. They also have a tier system that really helps clients narrow down their choices.
For example, they have a Level 1, Level 2, and Top-Rated Sellers, with increasingly difficult performance metrics to hit to achieve the higher levels.
Recently Fiverr added a completely new tier of seller called Fiverr Pro, considered to be the platform’s cream of the crop. Pro sellers’ skills have been proven to be some of the best.
Unlike Upwork, however, a buyer’s history is not available in Fiverr. Sellers are not going to see reviews, ratings, or anything that relates to a buyer’s previous projects.
What Happens After You Hire?
Upon hiring a freelancer on Upwork or buying a gig in Fiverr, you instantly pay them through platform and the company takes a cut for getting you connected.
For project-based work on Upwork, pre-paying a portion of the total project fee into an escrow account is standard. The same system applies with Fiverr with the payment also going straight to an escrow account.
Advantages of Upwork
- A massive global talent pool
- Control over the recruiting/screening process
- Solid and effective freelancer profiles and ratings
- No upfront costs required
- Best for one-off projects or very specific support
Advantages of Fiverr
- It’s cost-effective
- Easy to use and user-friendly
- Active community and supportive forum
- Easy to understand concept
- Fast to shop for specific packages or gigs
With a massive talent pool under its belt, both sites earn money by deducting a fee on payments processed through their respective systems.
On Upwork, freelancers set their own rate and bid either by the hour or by the project.
Fiverr has definitely graduated from its days as “the $5 marketplace.” You can still find gigs at that low price, but most sellers now use tiered package pricing that allows them to provide better service and more value.
Platform Fees on Upwork
In Upwork’s case, most of the money they make comes from the fees they charge on every completed project which can be between 5-20%, depending on the amount of work a freelancer has done. The said fee is already included in the price you pay but comes out of your virtual assistant’s pocket.
For example, if you agreed to work with a freelancer for a $1000 project, the first $500 of that will have a 20% Upwork fee, giving the freelancer $400. The next $500 meanwhile, will carry a 10% fee which would give them $450. All in all, the freelancer would earn $850 while Upwork earns $150.
This pricing system makes sense because it rewards Upwork for connecting you with the freelancer while giving the freelancer lower rates for working on your project through the platform which is so much better than taking the relationship offline or somewhere else.
Do take note too that Upwork will also charge you a 2.75% processing fee on top of your $1000 payment.
Platform Fees on Fiverr
Fiverr earns money in typically the same fashion, deducting 20% from every payment. For instance, if a gig costs $5, the freelancer stands to earn $4 with $1 going to Fiverr. If you buy a gig extra for an additional $5, Fiverr takes $1 from that payment once again, leaving $4 for the freelancer and upping his or her earning to $8.
All purchases on Fiverr are subject to an additional service fee of $2 on purchases up to and including $40, and 5% on purchases above $40. Per Fiverr, “this helps us operate our platform and offer 24/7 customer support for your orders.”
My Experience with Upwork
The most successful project I had with Upwork was the redesigning of this website back in 2012. If you want to know how the site used to look like so you can appreciate how big of an overhaul it has gone through, you can check it out at the Wayback Machine when you have the time.
Suffice to say, I really loved the work the developer has done for me. He was very responsive, quick, and I got him at a very good price. I even re-hired him later for another project which he completed equally well. It was disappointing I couldn’t find him anymore when I needed his services once again. It’s like he completely disappeared.
I’ve been using Upwork for some ongoing work for quite some time and I can confidently say that some of my best hires have come from this site, way back when it was still Elance.
Though it is generally a project-based platform, I’ve had a couple of long-term hires that worked out really well, they’re almost doing it full-time, including a virtual assistant whom I worked with for more than 2 years.
Getting Burned by Upwork Contractors
While my experience with the platform has been generally satisfactory, I’ve also seen worse, having been burned for around $10,000 for a couple of web development projects that never really saw the light of day.
Those were some of the more painful and expensive experience I wouldn’t want anyone to go through.
I wasn’t able to take advantage of the dispute resolution safeguards in the first case because I foolishly agreed to take the project with the developer “off-platform.”
For the second case, we amicably agreed to just terminate the contract after a few of the milestones were met (though some of them were not on time). Technical incompetence kept the development company from completing the job which really sucked, to be quite honest.
My Experience with Fiverr
I’ve also been a Fiverr customer for years — with varying degrees of success.
Some of the gigs I’ve gotten the most mileage from were the book cover for Virtual Assistant Assistant, my podcast voiceover and intro music, and some website fixes.
I’ve ordered graphics for social media and display ads, video intros (including the “logo-slam” you see on many of the Virtual Assistant Assistant videos), transcriptions, blog posts, and even the custom chatbot on this site.
(The chatbot was my most expensive Fiverr order — over $300 — feel free to test it out!)
Some of the graphics I’ve gotten back have been unusable, and many of the articles required heavy editing, but for the most part my experience has been positive.
In fact, I recently found a Fiverr seller to clean up a malware infection that plagued several of my sites.
Which Should You Choose?
If your project requires skills that belong to a very specific niche or a bigger talent pool, Upwork should be the better the option.
If the project is simple and you’re working with a relatively small budget, Fiverr is the way to go.
Related: Our top alternatives to Fiverr to hire freelancers
Now that you know more about Upwork and Fiverr, which of the two platforms do you see yourself using in the future?
Will it be the more seasoned Upwork or do you prefer the more cost-effective Fiverr?