Discover the pros and cons of using Fiverr and Upwork. Why not use both?!
When you begin with your (online) freelancing journey, it’s normal for you to consider all available options. After all, you want to stack all the odds in your favor.
Thankfully, there are many available freelancing platforms (in 2020). The most outstanding ones are:
If you’re familiar with YouTuber content, you’ve probably watched a couple of videos that mentioned Fiverr (in a funny way). And it’s likely that you discovered Upwork by looking for information about freelancing.
Freelancer.com and PeoplePerHour.com are alternatives that one may look up *just because* they happen to be freelancing platforms. However, in my opinion, they’re not worth a penny compared to Upwork and Fiverr.
I may write an article discussing these two other platforms in the future, but for now, let’s focus on Fiverr and Upwork.
About Fiverr – Pros and Cons
When Fiverr came into existence 10 years ago, it was spot on. The idea that you could find freelancers to do things for you at $5 was a dream come true to most clients.
However, it quickly turned into a nightmare for most freelancers that were providing ‘low-level’ services. If you were charging something around $100, you would find someone proposing the same service at $5 on Fiverr.
This era popularized the idea that online services were actually not worth a penny. It made popular the notion that online freelancers should not get paid more than a few dollars for their work, independently of how long they spent on it.
That being said, Fiverr shouldn’t be avoided at all costs, and there are definitely ‘pros’ to using it.
Pros of selling on Fiverr
No entry barrier
It’s extremely easy and simple to set up a profile on Fiverr.
You can sign up very easily on Fiverr using a social media account or a basic email address (unlike Upwork).
You may think that it’s not a big deal, but it really *is*.
On Fiverr, you can start filling your profile and creating your gigs as soon as you sign up on the platform. If you’re good and lucky enough, it means that you can start making money within days.
Tons of micro-services
Fiverr is a lot more flexible than Upwork when it comes to the range of services you can provide. The ‘micro-services’ that you can sell on Upwork can be very specific in terms of both deliverables and price.
On the other hand, Upwork is more all-encompassing and focuses on job ‘categories’ rather than services. Fiverr’s clients do not care about your job categories. They will hire you based on the micro-services you provide.
To give you an example, let’s say that a client is looking for someone to crop and photoshop a picture. On Upwork, a client would have to go through “Graphic Designer” profiles and spend hours sourcing the right freelancer.
On Fiverr, it would take 10 seconds:
Since Fiverr’s core offer is to get things done for ‘cheap‘, it generally comes with the notion that things should be done quickly as well.
While that doesn’t sound too exciting at first, it can make things a lot more profitable (especially if they’re ‘easy’ to do). After all, the faster you deliver, the faster you get paid.
It may be hard to find the line between ‘fast turnaround‘ and ‘half-baked deliverable‘, but that’s the whole point of Fiverr. Clients don’t expect wonders and they’re usually in a hurry.
Good source of side income
If you look at Fiverr with the right mindset, it can become a really interesting place to make extra bucks.
Fiverr is no Upwork, and you’re not going to build a freelancing ‘career’ on it. However, if you see Fiverr for what it’s – a micro-services platform – it can quickly turn into a profitable side-project.
If you think about it, doing a couple of $10-50 gigs on Fiverr could make you hundreds of monthly dollars on top of your Upwork revenue.
A corollary to the previous point is that Fiverr really *is* low-maintenance.
On Upwork, there’s no way you can succeed if you’re not very active and constantly available. The Upwork algorithm pays a lot of attention to this kind of signal, and there’s nothing worse to Upwork than being inactive.
On the opposite, Fiverr does not care too much about your degree of activity. Most of the time, the only reason to log in is either to do the initial chat with a client who ordered a micro-service or because you have to deliver something.
The most successful profiles have 30+ listed gigs and they don’t have anything particular to do apart from waiting for clients to come in. No maintenance required.
Cons of selling on Fiverr
The most obvious con is the low quality of clients that are lurking on Fiverr.
Most clients are looking for the cheapest of the cheapest. We could call that the *Fiverr mindset*.
When the very first thing that a client has in mind is about finding ways to pay the lowest amount of money possible, it’s not possible to build a long-lasting relationship.
And most of the time, clients are not just ‘greedy’, but they’re also impatient and even aggressive in some cases.
Another problem that’s obvious on Fiverr is that there’s absolutely no way you’ll make big bucks with a single gig, no matter how big the project is.
People are on the platform for cheap gigs, and there’s absolutely no way you’ll get paid for what your service is worth at market prices. That means that you can expect to be paid *below average* whatever you sell on Fiverr.
The consequence is simple: you have to take in a lot more clients to make up for the loss of money from getting paid less than usual for basically anything.
No growth opportunities
On Fiverr, it’s basically *come as you are, leave as you are*.
There’s little chance that you’ll grow along with your Fiverr success. Most of the time, you sign up on the platform with a specific set of skills and deliverables, and it’s highly likely that you won’t learn anything new.
The potential for growth is important in freelancing because it’s what lets you learn new skills, improve your expertise and increase your hourly rate.
There’s none of that on Fiverr.
No long-term contracts
There’s no way Fiverr clients will hire you on a ‘recurrent’ basis.
The platform is not really built to handle long-term relationships, so it’s not only a conceptual limitation but also a technical one.
Long-term contracts are the key to a successful freelancing career. This internal inability means that Fiverr, by definition, should not be your main concern in the first place.
Money withdrawals take forever
Unless you’re a ‘Top-Rated’ Fiverr freelancer (whatever that means, ugh), it takes *at least* 14 days to get your funds available on Fiverr.
Once you deliver your micro-service, a client has up to 3 days to approve the delivery (on top of the 14 days waiting period). Provided that most clients on Fiverr are unreliable, you can expect your money to take a good 17 days to be available.
This kind of delay is really below standards considering that it only takes 5 days on Upwork to withdraw your money for fixed-price gigs.
About Upwork – Pros and Cons
I have much less reluctance to recommend Upwork than Fiverr when it comes to freelancing platforms. To me, Upwork is a platform that virtually has no competition. It has a monopoly on online freelancing, and that’s *not* a bad thing.
We could probably talk for hours about Upwork and its way of handling the freelancer-client relationship. However, we want to stay pragmatic and therefore focus on concrete pros and cons.
Pros of working on Upwork
An endless pool of clients and gigs
Upwork is the most prominent and biggest freelancing platform around. Its client pool is huge and never-ending. You could literally refresh the site every minute and see new projects being published on spot.
The fact that there are so many clients *dilutes* the high competitiveness of the platform. It makes it a bit more bearable, considering the fact that not *all* freelancers apply to *all* gigs, and that they’re busy with other clients most of the time.
Since there are a lot more clients than on Fiverr, it also creates a more *diverse* pool of gigs and projects you can choose from. You can go any day on Upwork and find at least one or two interesting gigs.
More interesting gigs
That pro is directly correlated to the previous point. Since there are more gigs, there are also more *interesting* gigs.
By ‘interesting’, I really mean things that are both challenging and fun to do depending on your field of expertise.
Most of the stuff that people want on Fiverr is usually boring. On Upwork, there are a lot of clients who want top-quality services and they are ready to put money on the table.
To give you an example, I’m a Paid Advertising consultant. It means that my daily life consists of planning and managing advertising campaigns for big brands and e-commerces.
If I were to work on Fiverr, the best I would get would be stuff such as writing ad copies, designing advertising banners and boring stuff like that.
On Upwork, however, I find clients with established brands who want to me to develop entire strategies and run 5-6 figures advertising campaigns. That’s a lot more interesting.
Better quality clients
Of course, Upwork has its fair share of idiots, like any platform on the Internet. However, the quality of Upwork’s clients is a lot higher than Fiverr’s ones.
If we had to take a scale from 1 (shittiest) to 10 (best of the best), the average quality of Upwork’s clients would be around 7, when Fiverr’s clients would be around 3-4.
I find that there are really two things that increase the quality of clients on Upwork:
- Each client has a past history and reviews associated with it. Basically, as a freelancer, you are able to see whether a client is shitty or not (and how much he pays).
- Upwork clients have more money. Usually, it comes with better behaviors, more honorable expectations and overall a better sense of business.
To me, this sole ‘pro’ point really justifies establishing your freelancing career on Upwork rather than anywhere else.
Easier for clients to find you
Fiverr to be a very chaotic place. Really, try to perform basic searches on the site, and you’ll end up in a confused state.
The platform looks like a total mess with text, images, numbers, and colors all over the place.
On the other hand, I find Upwork to be more hierarchical and better organized:
This simple ‘UI/UX’ thing matters a whole lot since it’s what clients use to find freelancers. If your profile has the right skills, the right categories, and the right job title/overview, you can be sure to be on the radar of interested clients.
I’ve already said it, but to me, what really disqualify Fiverr as a serious contender to Upwork is its inability to form long-lasting bonds with clients.
Upwork has an hourly feature that lets you be paid on a ‘per hour’ basis. Your hours can be logged either by using Upwork’s recording software, or either manually.
This feature really lets you accept full-fledged contracts that can last for a very, very long time (years in some cases). Some of my own contracts have lasted for months.
The ability to build long-lasting relationships doesn’t just mean that you can work long-term with a client, but it also means that you can *upsell* services to your client.
For example, say that you’re doing recurrent graphic design work for your client (advertising banners). It’s not excluded that at some point, you may be able to upsell other services such as email design, landing page design, etc.
Cons of working on Upwork
Getting your profile approved is hardcore
The most annoying bottleneck that you can have on Upwork is not getting your profile approved. I’ve written a comprehensive article about it and how you can get it approved.
It’s not a real *con*, per se, and especially if your profile gets approved instantly. However, for most people who struggle to get approved, it can take months or even years. If that happens, you can say bye-bye to your Upwork adventure (at least for a while).
Given that it’s the biggest freelancing platform in the whole world, it totally makes sense for them to be super restrictive. However, it’s sometimes *too much*, especially when there’s nothing particularly awkward about someone’s profile.
Truth be told, this ‘con’ really benefits to freelancers who’re already established on the platform, since it diminishes the pool of potential competitors.
Getting Top-Rated is a very long process
On Upwork, there’s something called the ‘Top-Rated’ badge/status. I’ve written an article about how you can become Top-Rated on Upwork.
That status is *very* important and it really differentiates freelancers on the platform. Most of the time, gigs will go to Top-Rated freelancers rather than ‘regular’ freelancers.
It will take you a good 4-5 months to become Top-Rated on the platform. You first have to become a Rising Talent, and then wait for another 90 days before qualifying for the Top-Rated status.
The process is long, there are a lot of requirements and you may or may not be selected by the algorithm to qualify for the status. This can mess with your psychological state, and especially since you need to maintain a ‘Job Success Score’ above 90% to qualify.
Basically, the Top-Rated status is a temporary ‘con’ that becomes a ‘pro’ as soon as you receive it. Not too bad.
Mismatch between expertise and hourly rate
There is a recurrent problem on Upwork when it comes to what clients are looking for, and the kind of hourly rate they’re ready to pay.
You’ll find dozens and dozens of clients who claim they’re looking for an ‘expert’ in any given field (with, of course, the ‘$$$‘ rate). As long as they put money on the table, that’s fine, right? Well, most don’t.
There are usually two scenarios with this kind of clients:
- Fixed-price: The price is ridiculously low. It’s sometimes even lower than on Fiverr (and this very idea is hilarious).
- Hourly rate: They are not transparent and straightforward with the hourly rate. Once you apply, they beat around the bush until you discover that they want you to work for a below-average hourly rate.
Since there are so many clients on Upwork, there are also dozens of clients like this. It’s hard to avoid them at first, but you then refine your senses to spot them.
Competition is ruthless
The freelancing world is a harsh place to navigate. It’s highly competitive and everyone wants his own share. That makes sense.
Upwork is a place with no pity for newcomers. When you get started on Upwork, you end up competing with Top-Rated freelancers with years of Upwork history (and dozens of reviews).
You have to constantly use your brain to convince clients that they should trust you, the guy with almost no Upwork history when the dozens of Top-Rated freelancers want the same thing as you.
To put it differently, I would say that Fiverr’s competition is *quantitative*. There are hundreds of gigs that are identical to yours. Upwork’s competition, on the other hand, is really *qualitative*. The problem is not that there are ‘too many’ people applying, but that their profiles outstand yours by a long shot.
Clients have the last word
Since the contracts are a lot more substantial than on Fiverr, it makes sense to give more weight to clients on Upwork.
However, it can become a real source of trouble if the client is dishonest with destructive tendencies. The bigger the contract, the more his review can impact your ‘Job Success Score’. No need to say that a low Job Success Score almost automatically means that you won’t get hired ever again.
Since clients are rotating a lot more on Fiverr, it’s not a problem if one or two clients leave bad reviews on your profile. You can make it up with dozens of new clients. On Upwork, review scarcity is a real thing, and even more so when it comes to reviews.
That means that you have to be extremely careful and selective with your clients (which is not always possible at the beginning), as to avoid this kind of situation.
There are probably other ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ that could be added to this list. However, I believe that I’ve covered the most important points when it comes to comparing Upwork and Fiverr.
To sum it up with a sweet table:
- No entry-barrier
- Speed deliveries
- Good source of side income
- Low maintenance
- Low-quality clients
- Small money
- No growth opportunities
- No long-term contracts
- Long withdrawal delays
- More clients
- More interesting gigs
- Better quality clients
- Better organized
- Long-term contracts
- Hard to get approved
- Long ‘Top-Rated’ process
- Expertise and hourly rate mismatch
- Ruthless competition
- Clients have the last word