Upwork is a freelance platform that connects companies with contractors through its network.
The way it works is simple: a client posts a job, freelancers can apply to it using ‘connects’ (which they pay for), and then the client can review applications and make a hire.
Freelancers like Upwork because it protects payments with its escrow fund-holding system and provides a job board that’s updated every hour with dozens of jobs spanning many sectors and industries.
Clients like Upwork because it offers up a large freelancer talent pool which they can either browse at their leisure, or simply post a job and receive applications. Combined with software that allows for tracking remote workers, job platforms like Upwork provide a great way to bolster the workforce.
With Upwork’s steep fees for freelancers and hoops for clients to jump through though, you may find yourself wondering what else is out there. Read on to discover the best Upwork alternatives in 2022.
Best for Small Gigs: Fiverr
We’ll start with the 500-pound elephant in the room, Fiverr, the only other freelance platform that has infiltrated mainstream culture and inspired many YouTube challenges in the process.
The primary difference between Upwork and Fiverr is that while Upwork has a job board for freelancers to scroll, Fiverr asks the freelancers to post gigs themselves, and it’s the clients that do the searching.
For better or worse, Fiverr has created a reputation for itself as the number one platform for the gig economy. The Fiverr challenge on YouTube speaks to this, as influencers pay sums of anywhere from $5 up to $100 on a variety of freelancers before comparing the quality of work each person produces.
The downside of this reputation is that freelancers can have a hard time charging the market rate for their services. Though Fiverr isn’t alone in this struggle, Upwork also attracts many low-paying clients and freelancers willing to work for next to nothing.
However, Fiverr, unlike Upwork, does offer a premium service for top-tier freelancers looking to stand out called Fiverr Pro. Freelancers can apply for Fiverr Pro, but only the best are selected, which makes it easy for clients that want to hire the best talent in their respective fields.
Upwork does help freelancers stand out with badges such as ‘rising talent’ and ‘top rated’, yet these are acquired primarily as a result of how much the contractor has earned on the platform.
Best for Finding Writers: nDash
nDash is a more recent platform, founded in 2016, that helps clients find elite writers to produce blog posts, white papers, and other forms of content they might need.
The platform is home to more than 10,000 writers, all of whom have varying levels of experience in different industries and verticals.
For clients, there’s a free option and premium payment plans, and a comprehensive calendar view to make it easy to onboard several writers at a time.
For freelancers, unlike Upwork where you would find a job and apply to it, nDash allows writers to ‘pitch’ content to the companies it has on its books. While there are some open assignments which invite applications, there’s an onus on the freelancer to go out and find companies they’d like to write for and pitch them ideas.
Best for Sourcing Elite Talent: TopTal
If Fiverr is best for small gigs and affordable labor, Toptal represents the opposite end of the spectrum as a platform that only hires the top 3% of the freelancers that apply to join the platform.
If you’ve worked on Upwork before as a freelancer or client, you may have found that it’s difficult to find top talent as it can feel like a free-for-all at times. With TopTal, due to its restrictive selection process, the freelancers are all of a high standard, and as such clients can expect a premium service.
Brands like Shopify and Duolingo use and endorse the platform, which speaks volumes to the kind of talent it attracts.
Similar to Upwork, freelancers, once accepted by the platform, will need to apply to jobs posted by clients. Technical experts from TopTal will also identify the client’s needs and suggest suitable candidates for any jobs they post.
Best for Flexible Hiring: PeoplePerHour
PeoplePerHour can be seen as a hybrid of Upwork and Fiverr in that freelancers can both apply to and set up jobs. This flexibility is helpful for freelancers who want to actively search for jobs but also make their own so there’s always a chance that clients can reach out to them.
For clients, PeoplePerHour is a low-cost option since posting a job is free and paying freelancers is also free, though credit/debit card fees will be passed onto the client.
PeoplePerHour provides freelancers and clients a quick way of getting started on jobs due to the flexible hiring options, and caters to a variety of professions and industries.
Best for Custom Projects: Freelancer
With Freelancer, clients can make their hiring decisions based on applications, but they can also put on contests to inform their final decision. Freelancer contests are a unique way to identify the right fit for the role, as they allow you to see how various freelancers go about completing the specific challenge you set.
Freelancer also differs from Upwork in that clients can choose to post various types of projects, depending on what they want the hiring process to look like.
For example, here are some of the projects clients can set up:
- Featured Project - Featured projects populate the home page of the website, which means they’re more likely to be seen by more freelancers.
- Recruiter Project - Recruiter projects are outsourced to Freelancer.com’s recruitment team, who’ll identify several suitable freelancers for the project.
- Urgent Project - Urgent projects are posted immediately and should ensure you make a hire within 24 hours.
- NDA Project - If the project you’re hiring for includes sharing confidential information, then an NDA project will help you protect that information when making a hire.
Best for Hiring Vetted Talent: FreeUp
FreeUp is a platform that pre-vets freelancers, allowing clients to pick from a small pool of highly specialized talent. Hiring only the top 1% of talent that applies to join the platform, FreeUp aligns with clients looking for the best freelancers in their field.
Unlike Upwork, FreeUp isn’t a free-for-all marketplace. Instead, the hiring process is more of a case of talent curation, as FreeUp identifies the best candidates for each client based on their job description. Typically, clients will have several candidates to assess within 24 hours of posting a job.
There are three levels of freelancer talent with recommended hourly rates that clients can choose from based on their project needs:
Entry Level - $5-15 per hour
Mid Level - $15-30 per hour
Expert Level - $30-75 per hour
Best for Collaboration: Guru
If you need to hire several freelancers to work together on a project, Guru is an excellent option as it provides dedicated spaces for collaboration called WorkRooms. WorkRooms allow you to collaborate effectively with the following features:
- Private messages
- Task assignment
- File sharing
- Status updates
- Invoices and payment
Beyond WorkRooms, Guru gives clients the option to pay freelancers one of four ways:
- Fixed Price
Each payment method supported by Guru is backed up by features in the platform such as ongoing milestones, due dates, and internal time tracking.
Best for Traditional Hiring: FlexJobs
FlexJobs is the black sheep of this list in that it offers both traditional hiring combined with remote freelancer hiring. Since 2007, FlexJobs has been one of the largest online job boards for creating or finding remote, work-from-home, and flexible work opportunities.
FlexJobs hand-screens every job opportunity that pops up on its site, providing flexible job-seeking applicants with a vast number of opportunities to sift through (27,952 at the time of writing).
Another benefit of choosing FlexJobs over Upwork is that there are no fees on any income you earn when you land jobs on the platform. Plus, the advanced search filter helps you find jobs in your specific field.
The catch is that those seeking work on FlexJobs pay for the privilege, choosing from the following four payment plans:
- 1 Week
- 1 Month
- 3 Months
- 1 Year
Remove Doubt from the Hiring Process with Insightful
Hiring freelancers can feel like a risk, especially if you’re relying on third-party job sites to vet them - if they do that at all. You want to uphold productivity without sacrificing quality output.
To define productivity in business, you have to factor in the time employees or freelancers spend engaged with meaningful work as it’s a significant metric to track.
Monitoring internet activity through time tracking can play a big role in maintaining high productivity levels, especially when you look to the freelance talent pool to support your teams.
Think of it as performance management for remote workers - activity monitoring software can help you keep tabs on progress and integrate freelancers into the workforce seamlessly.
Workforce productivity software Insightful offers various features for tracking time effectively and incorporating freelancers into the fold via shift scheduling and app usage monitoring.