Before you read this blog, be sure to check out FC TV 003: Creating a Job on Upwork. This will give you a run through of all of the sections you need to complete when you create Upwork jobs. I’m now going to dig a bit deeper and share with you my techniques for attracting the very best freelancers to your projects.
So if you aren’t familiar with Upwork, I’m going to tell you a bit more about it.
So why Upwork?
Upwork is huge. By huge, I mean HUGE when it comes to freelancers. It is the ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ giant of the freelancer marketplaces. Formed out of a merger between perennial favour Elance and oDesk, last count on Upwork has the number of freelancers at 9 million+ and over 1.5 million clients.
It’s a marketplace in the truest sense of the word – you have available to you a variety of freelancers from virtual assistants, graphic designers, accounts right through to engineers.
So if you want the greatest diversity of freelancers who will compete hard to secure your job then Upwork should be in your top 5 of freelancers.
Once you get your head around how to list a job on Upwork (FC TV 003: Creating a Job on Upwork), it becomes quite easy to run projects through them.
So let’s get into my tips…
I find people who hire freelancers generally fall into 3 camps.
The ones that don’t have requirements sorted out when they list a job on Upwork and wing it. Including winging it through the project by hoping that verbal explanations and a few messages via Upwork and Skype will make miracles happen..They’re the type of people who live an emotional roller coaster life, generally unprepared, but with high, unrealistic expectations. They are continually frustrated because things don’t work out and they can never figure out why – but it’s easier to blame others instead.Hiring freelancers is no exception and they generally are the ones to get really angry when their freelancer projects fail. They blame the freelancer the majority of the time and walk away bitter, only to attempt future freelancer projects that always results in the same failed outcome.I consider these people to be insane. Freelancers don’t like them either.
You know the people I’m talking about. They run late for meetings, sloppy with getting stuff done and a bit frustrating at times to be around. It’s not their fault they tell you – they’re just busy and they’re right. They are busy. But as Tim Ferriss puts it – ‘Being busy is a form of laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action’.
Except it kind of is their fault. They don’t say no to stuff, they don’t spend time thinking and planning and they are terrible when it comes to outsourcing and delegating. But their heart is in the right place and when it comes to freelancers they have a balanced view – they’ll own up when things are they’re fault.
When it comes to freelancer projects they make it work, but it feels a bit like driving a sedan car over a cross country track. There are bumps galore, the car gets bogged regularly and it involves a lot more effort than what is required.
They generally kick off freelancer jobs on Upwork in advance of having their requirements, which is okay so long as they catchup on the requirements before shortlisting. But often or not they’re behind on writing the requirements. Which can mean there’s a long time between listing the job and having meaningful requirements sorted out. Often Tornadoes will hire freelancers who are misinformed on the scope of the project. This can lead to pain later on when questions of scope start to come up.
Generally these people are overachievers who are organised in just about everything. They’re the type to have their socks labelled so they never get mixed up and like getting everything sent to then in soft copy so they can file it away.When it comes to freelancer projects, they’re on the ball. They’ll normally have their requirements sorted out well in advance of listing their job on Upwork, are able to clearly articulate the scope of what they want to delivered – and have generally have a high record of success in getting their freelancer projects delivered.I’m proud to be a freak. Just don’t ever say it to my face.
So what am I trying to tell you from the above? Please be a Freak.
If the thought of being one causes nausea, then please at least be a Tornado bordering on Freak. You’ll do yourself and your freelancer on Upwork a huge favour if you have requirements ready to provide when you start shortlisting your freelancers.
Upwork provides you with 2 options around listing a job:
Pay close attention to the difference.
Part-time short term work is generally considered by many freelancers as a pay by the hour type arrangement. It means you are looking to hire a freelancer with no commitment around duration or what’s involved. This can be fine if you have an ongoing need for someone to do ‘stuff’ for you – like a virtual assistant. But it can also end up being costly if you pay by the hour.
So if have a short term need and you also have a fixed scope in mind (for example scraping data from 10 websites to build up a database for contacts) then be very clear to call that out and only choose a fixed cost option. It helps if you can be very specific around what you want and the steps a freelancer needs to do to complete your project. So requirements are critical.
Don’t let a freelancer talk you into a ‘pay by the hour’ for a fixed scope. Or if you can’t avoid it, then get the freelancer to do sample of what you want done (which you will pay for), see how long it takes and then ask the freelancer to commit to a fixed price for the remaining iterations based on this benchmark.
It pays to spend time on Upwork looking at comparable jobs to yours. It will help you get a sense of the skills you should also be looking for in your freelancer as well as the categories under which your project was listed.
Why is category important?
On Upwork it provides two things:
Categorises your project so freelancers who fall into that category can easily find and be alerted to your job. This means you are likely to get more relevant and skilled freelancers applying for your job.
You are prompted with relevant skills that Upwork has mapped based on the category your job belongs to.
Imagine for a moment you are a freelancer. You’re trying to run a business (or perhaps you are doing this as a hobby). Either way you’ve got a number of competing priorities on your plate. You have jobs you are trying to complete on Upwork and other freelancer marketplaces whilst trying to source new business at the same time, all the while trying to deal with the unrelenting demands of clients who want changes or have questions. It’s not easy. I take my hat off to them.
So how can you help? By providing details.
The name of your project and the work to be done are the most important fields to be completed when you submit a job on Upwork. If you don’t get these right, then your project will be on shaky ground from the start.
Issues like scope management, poor freelancer selection, friction with your freelancer and even potentially disputes escalated to Upwork can eventuate.
So take the time to provide details.
I like to break my names down into chunks that make it easier for a freelancer to figure out what the project is and whether it suits their skillset – straightup.So I’ll give you an example – I have a chemical engineering project where I want to produce a generic form of panandol. If I tried out all four of the following, which one do you think I would get the best proposals for?
a. Chemical engineering project
b. Chemical engineering project – URGENT!
c. Chemical engineering – generic form of Panadol
d. Chemical engineering – produce a painkiller
Correct Answer? C
a. Is way too generic. I’ll get anyone who doesn’t have a lot of work on and is looking to make good money apply for this one. Why? Because it’s open ended. It implies I really don’t have a clue about my scope yet. Therefore less scrupulous freelancers will see me as a cash cow to make as much money from as possible.
b. I would run away if I was a freelancer! You have the issue I explained in a) above. In addition you are also already signalling to freelancers that you have no idea how long it would take to do this project and you have unrealistic demands. Translate that to a client and freelancer relationship and it would be like President Obama (USA) getting married to President Putin (Russia) – a relationship immediately on the road map for divorce. In short you won’t attract high quality freelancers, who are familiar with their trade with this name.
This categorises the job. Tick.
This also tells a freelancer enough detail around the job to figure out what it involves. Tick.
This doesn’t communicate any unrealistic expectations by the client of the freelancer. Tick
You would attract high quality freelancers to this job.
d. Could work – but if you know enough specifics, then why not share it in the name of your job?
Your moment to shine has arrived! Take your keyboard and make beautiful poetry!This is where you get to share as much information as you (and I!) deem relevant. I normally structure this content into the following:
I provide a background on the project including what it is I’m looking to have delivered. One word of caution. If you are anxious about the sensitivities your project, for example it could be the next Facebook and you don’t want the world to know about it yet, then be generic with the information you share.
For example with the chemical engineering project I’m launching I would only share details around what I am looking to do. I wouldn’t share any details around why I’m looking to do it or what the product will be used for or even the product name.
So an example of the background might be:
I am looking to hire an experienced, reliable and delivery focused chemical engineer to deliver a pain killer the emulates the same physiological effects on humans as Panadol. I am looking to start this project in 10 days and therefore am seeking proposals within the next 5 days so I can shortlist.
Only shortlisted freelancers will be contacted to progress discussions. Requirements are available which I will share only with shortlisted freelancers.
This is where having a great set of detailed requirements comes handy. Although you won’t be listing your detailed requirements here. You will need to provide a high level logical scope of what needs to be done.
So if I was developing a new Panadol competitor I might (warning: I’m have no idea about chemical engineering) list the following:
Analysis and confirmation of chemical composition
The provider is to produce a detailed analysis that determines that chemical composition of Panadol. This will informs me as to the proposed composition for my new Panadol equivalent.
Confirmation of chemical composition
The provider is to provide an update specification on the agreed composition, based on feedback from me.
Deliver product prototype
The provider will deliver a range of 1000 pills that have been developed based on the composition specification.
The provider will then produce an initial batch run of 100,000 units of this pill which will also be packaged and shipped to me, using packaging that I will provide.
You get the drift? You need to provide a logical, high level view of what you want delivered so the freelancer has one of those immediate “got it” moments.
What I’m looking for
If you followed Tip 3, then you would have a reasonable knowledge of the skills and experience you want your freelancer to have. Or you may already have a lot of experience with freelancers and know enough about the type of project you are running. Kudos to you.
Either way now’s your time to write this down. This fulfils two purposes:
It gives you street credibility.
You do not want to appear like the ‘new kid on the block’ when it comes to freelancing, even if you are. If you come across as a newbie, then some freelancers will spot you a mile away and take advantage of that. Whether it’s through over-inflated quotes, unrealistic timeframes (for example a 6 week project taking 24 weeks) or generally taking a back seat on quality.
When you are clear about the skills, experiences and behaviours (or what I call ‘Other’) you want your freelancer to to have, you are drawing a line in the sand that only the best can cross over.
It gets you who you want applying – but not all the time.
There are some freelancers who will apply for your job, even though their skillset and experience is nowhere near the criteria you have set. They could be starting out and they need that first client and I feel for them. However most times you’ll find by being clear about what you are after, freelancers will read your job and self-select responsibly.
Now for the purposes of meaningful illustration – I’m going to deviate away from the chemical engineering scenario and focus on a scenario that is closer to my technical comfort zone….web development:
-PHP skills 5.3
-My SQL 5.7
*you can also put skills in the Skills needed section (refer below). I do both, but I find that Upwork doesn’t normally have all the skills I like include in my jobs, so I used the ‘Describe the work to be done section’ more often than not
-5+ years developing websites
-Experience working in developing cutting edge blogs
-Proven work in developing user centric design to create stunning user driven web designs
-Solid English communication skills – including written and verbal
-Ability to provide regular updates on progress with this project (every 2 days)
-Availability via Skype during business hours to discuss the project
-Delivery focused with an equal focus on quality
-Proven track record of history on Upwork, with =>94 feedback
I never disclose my budget. Never ever. It’s kind of like showing your cards in a poker game. Why give away money for free?
So if you opt for a Fixed Price job, you will be expected to provide an value for your budget. Using my earlier tip, go and research comparative projects to yours on Upwork and get a sense of their budget, then half it. Yes – half it.
Why? Because budget should be used as a placeholder to provoke further discussion. So if you select the Fixed Price job option my standard line is:
“Budget is indicative only. To be discussed further.”
If you don’t already have a sense of how long the project will take based on researching comparative projects, then start with a basic placeholder.
-If you think it’s a small project – go with 2-3 weeks.
-If you think it’s a medium sized project go with less than a month.
-If you think it’s a larger project go with 1-3 months.
You need to strike the balance between being ridiculously aggressive with your timelines vs being crazily laid back. If anything, you don’t want to have your project delivered in 12 weeks when in fact it could be a 6 week project.
With whatever I put down, I will normally mention this is a placeholder and to be discussed further.
I mentioned street credibility with freelancers. This one will definitely win you street credibility. If you do not mention what you are expecting freelancers to give you as part of their proposals, you are signalling to them they can just about give you garbage.
So for example when I first started out hiring freelancers I would get responses like:
“Here is the price: $2400”
Or “it will take 4 weeks” (and no pricing provided/or updates made to placeholder bids)
I’d then be left having to follow up with freelancers to source further information that were non-existent in their one line proposals You or I don’t have the time to be chasing up freelancers.
So instead you need to lay the ground rules for how proposals are to be provided. As a minimum:
-Costs (broken down by each deliverable)?
-Timeframe (broken down by each deliverable)?
-Extra services provided and costs?
-Warrant and support (timeframe) – if applicable?
-Who your contact point will be for the project?
-What the composition of the team that will be working on your project will be?
-When the project would be delivered by?
Where I give bonus points is when a freelancer will take the time to complete a proposal document in MS Word or PDF. This demonstrates they care and they are keen for my business.
Last of all, if you have the time to read each freelancer’s proposal in detail – there is one other bit of information I’d ask a freelancer to respond to:
You don’t need to play police interrogator but you can learn a lot from asking a few questions from your freelancers, like:
-What would be the challenges with delivering this project?
-What would you need me to provide?
-What is your preferred real time communication tool?
-Who would be my contact point for engagement on this project?
-How do we manage any changes to scope?
By asking questions, you get to understand the operating style of the freelancer and get a sense of understanding around how you could work with them (or not).
Before I forget – you may notice on Upwork there’s functionality to upload attachments:
My personal preference is not to provide any separate documentation at the job creation stage. What I provide in the details should be enough at this point. You can share your requirements and any other relevant document later on when you have an NDA (or not) in place and you’ve shortlisted your preferred freelancers.
I have a level of discomfort with having documentation I’ve written floating around with freelancers who may not have appropriate processes to manage privacy or confidentiality. This is particularly so where the documentation may contain confidential concepts or ideas. Again that’s just me.
It’s probably fine if your project is not that commercially sensitive, but if it is, then wait until you shortlist freelancers.
I will not bother looking at freelancer proposals without a cover letter, for two reasons:
They provide a valuable snapshot on who the freelancer is, the work they’ve done and why they would be able to do this project (from their perspective).75% of the time they are a copy and paste job, but they still provide valuable information particularly if I haven’t worked with a freelancer before
It’s a sign of the freelancer’s motivation.
You want a freelancer who is going to work with you, not against you, to get your project delivered. If they take the time to write a cover letter (even if it does involve some copying and pasting from previous cover letters or indeed they use a template every time) I don’t care.
I’m not expecting a cover letter is going to have everything I need – but where I see a cover letter that has:
attempted to summarise my project
attempted to summarise how the freelancer would deliver my project
has questions the freelancer asks that indicates they’ve understood what I’m trying to deliver
then I feel the freelancer will put extra effort into my all important job. So my last tip – always ask for a cover letter.
So you create a killer job on Upwork…then what? Well you wait for the proposals to come rolling in and then you check out FC TV 001: How to Shortlist Freelancers
Good luck listing creating your job and let me know how you get on with it in the comments below.
Also – if you have tips on how to list a job on Upwork, Freelancer or any other freelancer marketplace, then let me know in the comments below.
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