The Complete Upwork Review for Business Owners

upwork review

Six weeks ago we sent one of our senior Social Media Managers onto Upwork, the online platform where you can hire freelancers or get hired as a freelancer. It's supposed to be fast, smooth and easy, all things we can attest that are definitely true. Initially, we went in to examine the culture, see how it worked, and were considering if it would be a good way to connect KTMG with the community.

We created a profile, optimized it, bought credits, and were ready to rock. Our representative started to get job offers almost immediately. At the start, it seemed like a really good way to meet new clients, but as we went along, we become increasingly uncomfortable as professionals in that space.

We weren't being sought after by businesses, rather, we were being sought after by other media agencies - and there's a lot of problems with what we saw during our interactions.

Upwork advertises itself as a place to "build your business with the top freelancers," but we ultimately found it more concerning than anything, and our findings indicate that there is a huge risk to business owners who are considering hiring on Upwork.

The following are things every business owner should be aware of when considering whether or not to hire through freelance companies.

Table of Contents

Is Upwork a Good Place for freelancers?

Who was Hiring us and Why?

Hiring KTMG to Create an SEO Report

Hiring KTMG for Content Writing

Hiring KTMG for Blog Content

Is Upwork a Good Place to Find Freelancers?

The Take-Away

upwork reviews

Is Upwork a Good Place for Freelancers?

To begin, we wholeheartedly agree that Upwork is an excellent place for freelancers to work if you're looking to pick-up the odd job here and there. If you have flexibility and can "pick and choose" what projects you take then its not a bad place to setup shop.

However, we believe that it would be incredibly difficult for a freelancer to sustain themselves full-time on Upwork, due to the consistently low paying projects that exist on the site.

Sometimes, you'll find a hidden gem that pays you what you're worth, making Upwork a moderately decent place for freelancers who have other sources of income.

One small hinderance for some is that a freelancer needs to buy credits to apply for a project, which can have its disadvantages if you don't have that extra room in your budget.

We found the credits to be affordable otherwise.

Upwork will also give you free credits occasionally so you can keep applying to projects - they do, after all, take 20% of your earned wages, so it's worth it for them to help you keep finding work.

In the end, we made a lot more revenue than we spent on credits which helped to offset the cost of them, but, the poor wages and the 20% commission did leave a bad taste in our mouth.

Who was Hiring us and Why?

Because Upwork is a cheap place to hire web designers and creators we assumed there would probably be many business owners on there who would need assistance with their social media management, content creation, or SEO.

Of the 25 contracts we were awarded during our time on Upwork only 2 of them we hires directly from a business or business owners - the other 23 were from media agencies who are, of course, tasked with managing their own clients projects.

Outsourcing work is normal and fair game, but when you closely examine the conversations we had on Upwork and the objectives of our project employers there were a lot of alarming things - leaving us gravely concerned for the business owners who are hiring the agencies we worked for.

Hiring KTMG to Create an SEO Report

The Job

Our first example of questionable activity came on our first client, someone running their own media agency, who asked us to put together a marketing strategy coupled with an SEO report.

Initially our Social Media Manager was taken back by this, wondering why an agency would outsource such a simple task and not perform it in-house to be able to maintain quality control.

The Problem

Our client wanted us to create this report for them because (they said) they were trying to avoid paying for SEMrush, a popular SEO monitoring tool that is used to properly manage the web development and SEO of any given businesses website.

The cost of SEMrush ranges from $119 USD to $449 USD per month.

At KTMG, SEMrush is an imperative part of our business - without it we wouldn't be able to make changes to our clients SEO, we wouldn't know what's working and what's not in terms of our efforts, and we wouldn't be able to properly audit both ourselves and our clients competitors.

Our client in this situation is going to charge their client a hefty markup for what we provided to them, without even being able to check if the information is accurate!

review of upwork

We could have put anything into that report, and while we did use SEMrush to compile the data, we could have very easily been full it, without our client, and the business they're serving, ever knowing better.

These sort of operations from another agency are concerning because they're not operating in their clients best interest and they are leaving themselves open to extreme errors - all of which they're billing for. The other concern that comes into play is the marketing component - any agency who will outsource a marketing strategy and a detailed SEO report for their client is disconnected from the business and cannot serve them in the way that's needed.

Our Social Media Manager added the marketing strategy into the report without knowing the innerworkings of the business, but it didn't matter if this report was generic or not, because the person who hired us didn't seem worried about the quality of the work.

We could have just made the entire report up, adding whatever directions and details we wanted.

They are not taking the time to properly manage the business, or the strategy, and will sell that report to their client under the guise of having done it with a proper understanding of the fundamentals of their business.

By our standards of integrity this is misleading, unprofessional, and the complete opposite of how you should be handling the affairs of the businesses who have hired you.

Hiring KTMG for Content Writing

The Job

In this example, we were hired to write captions for social media posts by another agency owner. The person who hired us wanted the captions to relate to a blog post they provided to us. This person was paying $20 for four captions.

Again, this is something that sounds like simple outsourcing, but let's really break it down.

The Problem

When a professional agency creates a social media post there are several steps they take to ensure the posts are optimized through google keyword planning, connected to affiliates as necessary, and are set to perform their best with the maximum allowed reach potential.

As you might imagine, this process is usually quite time consuming.

So, at $20, we had to skip all the important steps.

We wrote up 4 generic social media captions, sent them forward, and the client who hired us was thrilled with them.


Because they know their client wont know the difference between a thought out social media post and one that was just slapped together. All they cared about was fulfilling the order and doing it quickly.

upwork review for business owners

Hiring KTMG for Blog Content

The Job

In one of our most disheartening conversations, we met someone who was "trying to start" their own media agency and required content for their website. They wanted to hire us to write 8 blogs for them for $50 USD, which works out to $6.25 per blog - yikes.

And while it's no secret that writing jobs pay very little on Upwork, how little is little, exactly?

Many agencies we found hiring for writers on Upwork were charging as little as 2 cents per word. The standard payment for even the most basic professional writing starts at roughly 8 cents per word, and that certainly doesn't include deep research, editing, optimization, or publishing.

The Problem

Unfortunately, if businesses do hire this person looking to start their own agency, they will be hiring someone who doesn't have a complete grasp on how blogs need to be written.

In fact, if they're "looking for the easy way out" this early in the development of their own business they'll most certainly continue to operate in this manner, buying low quality blogs on Upwork then turning around and selling them to their clients for fair market value.

upwork review

Is Upwork a Good Place to Find Freelancers?

While it's best to keep all your marketing initiatives in-house, there still might be a time when you need a freelancer. If you're a business owner whos considering using Upwork to hire there are some important points to keep in mind:

- Don't hire the cheapest person who's willing to take the job. Good work isn't cheap, cheap work isn't good, and you're running the risk of buying something that has no technical value.

- Read real Upwork reviews from other business owners such as yourself. Visit Reddit, Facebook, and other social forums to get real feedback from real people.

- Just because someone has a good rating or a lot of hires it doesn't mean they'll produce quality work for a low rate. We cannot stress this enough - professionals are flexible with their rates but they will never heavily discount them. If its cheap, it's probably terrible.

- Interview the person whos going to be working for you and make sure they gel with you and your business. Especially if you're going to be paying them per hour.

- Always view the previous work of your potential freelancer.

The Take Away

As a business owner its important that you're protecting your reputation, moving forward in the right direction, and not wasting your investments. If you decide to go with a marketing firm, as opposed to a freelancer website like Upwork, be sure to ask them if they outsource their projects to freelancer websites. If they say no, we encourage you to get that guarantee in writing.

If they wont give it to you, run like crazy.

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