/ Last updated: April 12, 2023

Why I don’t use Upwork anymore

I spent the last 6 weeks taking my site, to the next level. Here are the top takeaways when setting up a homepage.
Christopher Marken - Reading Time:

Every business needs a website to present who they are and what they do. But despite it being 2022, it is still complicated to set up a site that looks decent. At least if you have any ambitions to have a site looking the way you want.

I spent the last 6 weeks taking my site, angelofsweden.io, to the next level. Here are the top takeaways when setting up a homepage.

  • UpWork / Fiverr and other sites where you can find freelancers abroad are a jungle. The rating system on their sites is broken and can not be trusted to find good freelancers.
  • Consider going for Squarespace or a similar service and do it yourself. You will save a tremendous amount of time, at the cost of having to settle for a templated design.
  • If you go with WordPress, pick a paid theme and change nothing in the design. You will have to work backward from the design provided and engineer content for all the design elements.
  • If you hire a freelancer, pick someone on recommendation from someone you know and trust.
  • High pricing from a freelancer is not a predictor of quality and skill. But low pricing most certainly is a predictor of a lack of skills.

For the full story, continue reading.

If someone would be able to find a good freelancer in a low-cost country, it should be me!

I’ve worked in teams with people from India before. I know their culture and ways of working. I’ve run large projects and teams. I’m used to recruiting and evaluating people’s abilities. And I’m technically savvy enough to put together a site myself. I used to be a developer back in the day.

I was very confident 6 weeks ago. This project will be an easy one. It’s just a website.

So I created an account on Upwork. A service where you can find freelancers from around the world. Good fit with my budget I thought. In my head, I had a budget of 5k SEK (€500). Based on my understanding of the number of hours it would take and the rates on Upwork ranging from $10 – $25 per hour.

I wrote a specification of about 2 pages and posted it. Including an ask to get a rough project plan from applicants. Now all I had to do was to wait and look at all the proposals from eager freelancers. At least so I thought.

But the offers from freelancers were almost all canned, and expensive

Within 10 minutes I had several replies. Almost all have ignored my questions on how to approach my project. Writing things like “I can handle all your requirements”. And then they had copy/pasted their standard presentation of what they were good at and links to irrelevant portfolio projects.

I did 4 interviews with the best applicants. Picking candidates based on their reply as well as their rating from previous projects.

I Asked for a quota. 2 Indian agencies offered me between 20k SEK and 30k SEK to complete the project. This is more than two times what a Swedish freelancer would charge. So much for outsourcing to India is cheap.

I spent 1 hour talking to an Italian guy based in Thailand. His room was so dark I could not see his face. But what was worse, he just did not stop talking unless I interrupted him. Going on about things not important to the project. Project meetings with him would be a nightmare.

Finally, I settled for a cheap freelancer with a prospect to help me with SEO work in the future

I finally settled for Muhammad. A Pakistani guy. He was also able to offer SEO (Search Engine Optimization) services which I would be using in the future. There was just one problem. He had only a few projects done at Upwork. But his rate was extremely cheap, 2k SEK (€200), and he was good at addressing my points, not copy/pasting a general description.

He told me his price was low as he wanted my SEO business down the line. Made sense. And the risk was not that big for me monetary wise.

After doing some reference checks on him, I was satisfied. We set up the project with 4 milestones. Putting 500 SEK (€50) in escrow for each milestone.

2.5 weeks later I canceled the project with my freelancer

It started to dawn on me that Muhammad would not be able to complete the project.

His skills were not strong enough. All he was able to do was install a premade WordPress theme. But he could not handle customizing it. And he kept asking me to release the escrow money and assuring me all would be delivered within a week or so.

But I cut my losses. Mostly it was lost time. So I canceled the project. It ended up with Upwork releasing a total of 1k SEK (€100) to him. I did not want to spend any time disputing it. It was a small sum compared to the time it would take to fight.

Then I had to spend time cleaning up his mess

I spent 3 hours changing passwords and cleaning up the database from his clumsy work. He had installed the test environment on top of my production environment. Rookie mistake.

How did I end up here? I was supposed to have a technical person to help me with this so I didn’t have to do it myself. Damn you Chris for being so cheap!

UpWork was not an alternative. It’s broken. Their rating system does not work. Willem from BookBoost explained to me why this is the case. Freelancers rate the employers and vice versa. And when a project fails, you have no incentive as an employer to give an honest rating to the freelancer. As this would result in you having a bad review back at you from the freelancer.

Would LinkedIn work better to find a tech partner?

I extended the project specification and posted on LinkedIn asking for referrals. It was now 6 pages. Hoping to tap into my network for referrals. But I got 30+ offers from agencies exactly like the ones on Upwork.

This time people were offering quotas of 50k SEK for the project. I guess having “Angel Investor” as a title on LinkedIn makes people think you are made of money and they can screw you over.

There was just too much information to weed through with all the applications. I did a quick calculation in my head. The evaluation of a new freelancer, plus all the work managing the project, plus the monetary cost itself for the work just didn’t make sense.

I had hoped to get someone on the recommendation. But no one was available.

How hard can it be to build the site myself?

I decided to do it on my own. I looked around and signed up for a subscription to Elegant Themes (Divi). Which is a drag-and-drop no-code builder. Since then I’ve spent many hours battling with CSS margins and padding.

The site is up and running now. It’s not as good-looking as I would like it to be. It amazes me how complicated it still is to make a responsive site. Unless you want to use a premade theme out of the box. Where you don’t change a thing.

Doing it all over again I would probably have spent even more time on finding a good freelancer on reference. This time by reaching out individually people in my network.

But the site will do. For now, until there is time to take the business to the next level.

Thanks for reading this far. Let me know if you liked this format. It was more on a personal note this time, but I figured it is useful for all entrepreneurs who also need a website for their businesses.




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