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droleary
Member

What’s your Upwork overhead?

As I mull over how to wind down my account by the end of the year, I find that the real sin of Upwork (for me, at least) is the sheer overhead of the site.  There are profiles to enhance, invites to review, posts to scan, work logs to check, feedback to request, disputes to settle, and more.  I certainly haven’t had all of those on my plate as overhead, but what ones I do have make Upwork unattractive/unprofitable.

 

So, starting in 2016, I plan for my policy to be this:  Upwork’s cut of my pie should not exceed 30%.  They already take 10% in cash, so I’m going to limit my Upwork activities to 1 hour for every 4 hours I can actually bill to a client.  What that really means is that I won’t be on Upwork any longer, because I have never received a legitimate invite to a job, and I have zero expectation that time spent searching job posts is going yield a quadruple amount of work (it certainly hasn’t in the past).

 

Does that seem like a reasonable course of action to the rest of you freelancers?  Especially those of you who would call your time here a success.  Based on your own experience, is my fairly arbitrary 30% close to the mark?  Should I go up?  Down?  Any insights are appreciated.

 

12 REPLIES 12
lysis10
Member

Yeah, there is a lot of overhead. Agreed there. There are those dream clients who just pick you and escrow and release without much overhead, but that's rare. A lot of times people want to talk to me about a $200 job that I already know what I need to do. Tell me the topic and let me go with it. You don't need to talk to me....that's what I feel like telling them. If it's for $1000, obviously I'm more inclined but chatting with me over a small amount cuts into my time and it's annoying.

 

There are two types of people who are like that though. The ones who got scammed by the $3/hour jokers and then new clients who aren't sure how the whole thing works. I understand their hesitance in both scenarios, so I do it.

 

I actually have Skype off right now. I have an off-Upwork client who wants to give me SEO tips after every article I write for him... for like 2 hours lol So, it happens in the off-Upwork world too. lol He's paying me, so I just keep silent that I actually learned SEO from Google so giving me tips is dumb and most of them are wrong anyway.

 

So, after my side rant... lol   I want to do the same as you. 33% Upwork, 33% <site I'm not allowed to name> and 33% something else after Elance closes.

 

I couldn't even imagine doing 2-3 bidding sites full time. That would kill my soul. 

My combined site-specific overhead hours for Upwork and Elance, where my experience has been similar since May, are roughly double my billable hours.

petra_r
Member


@Darrin O wrote:

 There are profiles to enhance, invites to review, posts to scan, work logs to check, feedback to request, disputes to settle, and more. 

 

Especially those of you who would call your time here a success.  Based on your own experience, is my fairly arbitrary 30% close to the mark?  Should I go up?  Down?  Any insights are appreciated.

 


 I spend minimal time on the site (other than the forum which I don't count as it's for fun) -

 

I guess I spend about an hour a week checking and tidying up my work diaries. I don't touch my profile (it's not been changed substantially in years) I don't get invites as I'm set as unavailable, I never had a dispute, I don't look at job posts. When I communicate with my clients it's work related and while working so gets tracked (and billed)

 

Let's go to the high side and say I spend an hour and a half -  including withdrawing money etc - I bill on average 55 hours a week, so that makes just under 3 %.

 

That's the very reason why I prefer to go for long term hourly contract. It radically and dramatically cuts the overhead. I also love being part of a client's team, rather than someone who just flies in, does something, and vanishes again.

suznee
Member

Darrin,

 

I don't spend as much time with Upwork any longer. To time consuming. I focuses more on work off of Upwork elsewhere. I have done well with it. I have two clients on Upwork (one a long term, the other not to active) I have received invites, but many either are to many hours per week or not a good fit.

 

I use to love Odesk, but it seems that as you stated to much time invested and little gain, I would rather spend my time elsewhere where I am benefiting from it.

Nice topic Darrin, useful stuff.

Happy to see that you'll be around in 2016. Good that you changed your mind.
---- easy like Sunday morning ----


@Setu M wrote:
Happy to see that you'll be around in 2016. Good that you changed your mind.

I didn't change my mind so much as I'm trying to figure out what makes practical sense.  I don't see the point in just closing my account and doing a "rage quit".  I did connect with a number of great clients, and I'm not going to abandon them if they need other stuff done.  If more of Upwork's clients were hiring, I'd be happy to be here.  But they're not, so I'm planning my next course of action.

 

And that means I really won't be here in 2016.  I've had zero hires via Upwork in months, and so that will mean (in 2016) that I'll be visiting the site zero times.  Even if I didn't count the Community section as overhead, I don't see that I can materially add anything to the conversations here when I'm no longer engaged with their platform.

 

Spot on Darrin, and timely. I just sat down today and started the same task of deciding whether my time spent on UW is worth it to my business to stick around. It is not - but this isn't anything I didn't see coming when I merged over from Elance. UW has been merely an experiment for me. I've been underimpressed with it since Day 1.  

I have great clients on Elance (that refuse to move to UW), so I will keep both accounts open until it closes for good.

But soon...me gone. 

🙂 

 

 

I can assure all you Elance refugees that you're not the only ones in this boat. Upwork today is nothing like oDesk two years ago, and I too often wonder about how many hours I spend on Upwork not working, just to get to even half of what I was doing a year ago,

I'd like to make this place 33%. I think there is money to be had here, but making $100k is a lot more overhead and soul sucking than $33k. I know I can do $33k without even trying. $100k would be me banging my head against a desk many many times a day. lol The whole bidding wars starts to get to you. 

 

Elance is basically dead, so I need to get on the wagon and start pounding the online pavement for a third source. I think if you did 30% here, you'd feel a lot less tied to the noise of JSS and all that. The whole reason why people go crazy over the smallest things here is that it's their livelihood. If you made it only a part of it, I think you'd laugh off that crazy JSS or the bad searches, etc.

It's not unusual for freelancers to spend more time on marketing than client services. IMO, the key question is not "What's my ratio of unbillable to billable hours? but "Are my marketing efforts generating enough income to justify my time?" 

 

If I were earning (say) $40k annually at UW, I wouldn't care if my ratio of unbillable to billable hours were 2-1 or even 3-1.  If I were earning just $100, I would either:

 

(A) Pursue alternative marketing channels; or

 

(B) Rethink how (and to whom) I market my services here. 

 

This last point is important.  I spent 13 years on Elance, and during the first 8 years, I took a "jack-of-all-editorial-trades, shotgun approach to marketing.  I bid on any project for which I seemed qualified.  It was only after I adopted a targeted strategy - after I became very picky about the types of projects, clients and industries  I pursued - that I achieved real success, earning 3 times more money during my last 5 years than during the first 8 years.

 

Picking a random billable-to-unbillable hours ratio may not be the best approach.

 

 

 

 


@Peter G wrote:

Picking a random billable-to-unbillable hours ratio may not be the best approach.


This is very true, but my figure isn't exactly random.  It is arbitrary, but only in that the larger market for my time has its own overhead that is essentially arbitrary.  I think that's what Jennifer is getting at when she talks about splitting time between sites.  I'm basically saying I'm doing that already, but I'm looking to put Upwork at the priority that it belongs.

 

So, for example, it definitely would be simplistic to set a percentage when just earning $40K on Upwork.  But in the bigger picture, if I can earn $45K on another site with 40% overhead or $30K on a site with 10% overhead, I absolutely can determine the relative worth of all the alternatives.

 

That's where I am with Upwork.  In my year long experiment, I'm likely going to finish up at about 100 hours work, or roughly 2h/week.  To find that paucity of work, I have spent at least 10h/week searching for clients who are actually interested in getting quality work done.  That's just not a sustainable ratio, especially compared to the alternatives.  There's little more I can do to "market" myself to Upwork's anonymous clients who all seem to be looking to clone billion dollar companies for $300.

 

lanwanman
Member

Great topic Darrin! Regarding Upwork, I have wrote in the past freelancers should have a "reasonable 'expectation' of success." Still, that is not the case with Upwork.

 

I log in each day just to review any invitations. Most have been a waste of my time to review since the invitations involved new clients on Upwork. I did receive one a few days ago that I actually bid on. -- interviewing Thursday....

 

Upwork...so much time, so little success....

 

ADDED: Funny how they place the "Flag as inappropriate" link directly above freelancers' advertised rates on freelancer profiles...lol....

Ron aka LanWanMan