If you want to make money online, there are plenty of great freelance sites available where you can sell your skills. This is great news for the most part but can be a little confusing when choosing which platform is right for you. In this post, we’re going to compare two very different freelance sites: Upwork vs Fiverr.
Upwork vs Fiverr: The basics
Upwork was formerly known as “Elance-oDesk.” This is because it was originally two different freelance sites: oDesk and Elance.
Before Upwork, Elance and oDesk were the two largest freelancing sites that were battling it out for dominance. Following the merger, Upwork rebranded itself and became by far the largest site of its kind.
This large size is one of Upwork’s greatest assets; making it one of the biggest markets on the web for freelancers.
Upwork also boasts a large set of tools and features. This includes a “Work Diary” that tracks your hours on a project (by taking screenshots of your computer and counting keystrokes), integrated invoicing and payment processing, collaboration tools, and more.
The size and reputation of Upwork also means that it attracts a lot of larger brands and companies looking for long-term contracts. This is a great place for contractors and others looking to build lasting relationships. The fee structure also promotes this kind of transaction.
The size and reputation of Upwork also means that it attracts a lot of larger brands.
The sheer size and scope of Upwork is something to keep in mind when comparing Upwork vs Fiverr. Many freelancers run their entire business through Upwork, while a number of companies use Upwork as their primary means of hiring and managing staff.
Fiverr began life very differently. The original concept behind Fiverr was that it let you buy “anything for a fiver.” Hence the name! Very often, this would mean novelty “gigs,” which could include caricatures, custom songs, voiceovers, and more.
Fiverr also attracted a lot of creative professionals who sold gigs such as video edits, custom video openers, short passages of copywriting etc., however. Over time, Fiverr began to lean further into this new direction, eventually becoming a serious site for buying and selling services. While it’s still possible to find novelty gigs, the company primarily promotes work such as digital marketing, writing & translation, programming, music, etc.
Both Upwork and Fiverr are freelancing sites then. However, Fiverr is geared more toward creative professionals working on a more “gig-based” basis. Upwork, conversely, has grown to become more of a traditional recruitment tool and job-listings site.
Finding work on Upwork vs Fiverr
The best way to illustrate these differences is to compare the process of finding work on each site.
On Upwork, you will create a profile that contains your qualifications, skills, previous work experience, career highlights, hourly rate, and portfolio. You can also take online quizzes to demonstrate your expertise in the areas you’ve listed. You’ll need to submit proof of ID to verify your account, and you’ll then be able to browse available jobs that match your search criteria.
If you wish to submit a proposal for a particular job, you will need to use your limited supply of “Connect tokens” which replenish each month. Alternatively, you can wait for an employer to contact you and invite you to submit a proposal.
If you are successful, you’ll negotiate your rate with the client and decide whether you wish to be paid per project or per hour. This will determine whether you are paid based on “milestones” or whether you will need to use the Work Diary tool to track your productive time.
Fiverr places the ball very much in the creator's court.
You can find a huge range of different gigs and opportunities on Upwork, ranging from permanent high-paid positions, to freelance contributes to indie film projects.
Conversely, Fiverr places the ball very much in the creator’s court. After creating your profile, you will create a “gig” that will promote a certain skill. Gigs titles must follow a set naming convention (“I will…”). Choosing a category will create different fields to fill out. Gigs no longer need to include a $5 option (most don’t) but you can also set different packages and different extra services to provide flexible pricing options.
When the client submits an order it will enter into your queue and you will then receive feedback depending on how you met the brief, your turn-around-time, perceived value, etc.
What it means for you
Ultimately, what this means for you, is that Upwork encourages long-term work for a single client; whereas Fiverr allows you to complete lots of smaller gigs.
What’s more is that Upwork involves filling roles and completing projects that are set by the client. Conversely, Fiverr lets you define your own gigs and thereby “productize” your services. You aren’t selling general “editing” skills anymore, but rather offering to edit a set type of video, for a set purpose, with specific predefined variables. Fiverr lets you control the type of work you produce much more closely but this, in turn, will limit your appeal in many cases.
Professionals who work on Fiverr run the risk of struggling with high volumes of orders. However, they are free to work as they wish. Conversely, Upwork may require you to submit to constant monitoring and surveillance.
Using Upwork also means a lot of “busywork.” You’ll need to take tests and manage your account if you want to stay relevant. Lack of activity means your profile will stop showing up in searches. You’re also limited as to the number of jobs you can submit proposals for; and the process of submitting proposals itself is often a time-consuming endeavor.
That said, Upwork typically attracts larger clients and brands; whereas you’ll more often be working with YouTubers, photographers, designers, and other creators when using Fiverr.
Upwork fees vs Fiverr
Another way that Fiverr and Upwork are similar is in their fee structure. Both Fiverr and Upwork charge commission on payments sent. However, Fiverr is less expensive as compared with Upwork.
Fiverr charges $1 on gigs up to $20 and 5% on any payments above that amount. This means that if you get paid $100 to edit two minutes of video, you will receive $95. That said, you will also need to process payments via PayPal, incurring an additional 2.9% + $0.30. So, you would actually receive $91.95.
These amounts do not change, regardless of how your business scales. If you earn $1,000, you will lose $85 in fees.
Upwork’s fees are considerably worse, however. Upwork charges 20% on the first $500 from each client. Thus, completing the same work on Upwork would only earn you $80. If you mainly completely smaller gigs for UpWork, you will lose almost a quarter of your wages.
This is completely counter to the way that most recruitment firms work. It is standard practice in the industry to charge the employer and not the employee. Nevertheless, Upwork persists in punishing freelancers for using its services.
That fee goes down to 10% for the next $9,500. However, that still puts it much higher than Upwork. The amount only goes down to 5% for total payments over $10,000. Remember: this resets if your next job is with a new client.
Upwork allows multiple different payment methods, so you may be able to avoid PayPal fees. However, some clients/employers may request to use PayPal – so that might be outside your control.
The only scenario where Upwork charges less is when you earn more than $10,000 from a single client and don’t get paid via PayPal. This again heavily encourages users to look for longer-term work.
Upwork Plus Accounts vs Fiverr Pro
Those looking to get more from their accounts may be interested in upgrading to Upwork Plus or Fiverr Pro.
With a Plus membership on Upwork, you’ll receive 80 monthly Connects vs 10 (a proposal can cost you more than 1 Connect). You’ll also receive other benefits – such as better reporting, a custom URL, the ability to see competitor bids, etc. Plus membership costs $14.99/month.
Fiverr Pro works very differently. Becoming a Pro means your gigs will be listed as such and you’ll be able to charge more and attract bigger clients. There is a separate “Pro section” of the site that only lists the top professionals and does away with the gimmicky gigs. Pros also receive some additional features, such as seller requests. These allow you to respond to jobs posted by clients, in a manner similar to Upwork’s primary model.
Becoming a Fiverr Pro is free but you will need to submit an application that includes some questions about your expertise, qualifications, and previous work.
So, Upwork vs Fiverr: who wins?
I’m not going to beat around the bush: I don’t like Upwork. I love Fiverr.
I believe that Upwork forces the freelancer to adhere to the rules set by both Fiverr and the client. Upwork requires a lot of upfront time to set up and often takes months to show returns. Yes, it is one of the biggest markets on the web: but with that size also comes a large amount of competition. With a payment scheme that promotes long-term contracts, and tools that favor the client, this offers the worst of “both worlds” as far as entering the gig economy is concerned. In short, Upwork has many of the pitfalls of traditional job-seeking and employment but without the security or perks.
If someone is checking your screen multiple times an hour, you might as well be working in an office! While it’s true you don’t have to use this tool, the fact that it exists means that clients are well within their rights to request that you do.
Fiverr isn’t perfect. The reliance on PayPal is frustrating and managing work volume can be hard work. But it also puts you in the driver’s seat. You can choose the type of work you want to provide: work that you enjoy and that plays to your strengths. You can set your price in stone, deal with as many clients as you like, and even promote your gigs on social media and other platforms.
I don’t like Upwork. I love Fiverr.
But of course, that is just one guy’s opinion. There are legitimate reasons to prefer either of these platforms and they both have their advantages. If you’re willing to put in the time, the best option is of course to try both.