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What’s your Upwork overhead?

Community Leader
Peter G Member Since: Aug 1, 2015
11 of 13

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.





Community Guru
Darrin O Member Since: Jan 20, 2015
12 of 13

@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.


Community Guru
Ronald T Member Since: Sep 14, 2009
13 of 13

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


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

Ron aka LanWanMan