How Agencies Should Properly Vet Freelancers on Upwork

  • October 4th 2014
  • by Marvin Russell
How Agencies Should Properly Vet Freelancers on Upwork

For 10 years my agency has hired 100’s of people around the world, in 20+ different languages and 20+ different countries. We started using Upwork a few years back, and it’s literally changed my core business methods. I can also graciously say Upwork has saved me hundreds of thousands of dollars. But it wasn’t great at first. We almost stopped using Upwork many times, until we realized the problems we had were not the fault of the freelancers we found on Upwork; we were the problem.

In my experience, there are more bad freelancers around the world than good ones. But it’s not just the bad freelancers at fault, it’s the people who hire them as well. If you don’t know or understand how to hire someone in a different country, then you could lose lots of time and money on Upwork. As an agency, you can pay a great developer $10 per hour as opposed to $50 per hour. That’s an enormous amount of savings that can make you way more money.

Below, I am going to show you how to properly and safely vet freelancers around the world before you hire them, using I’m also going to show you how to easily filter the bad freelancers out, and how to find and hire the good ones.

5 Reasons Agencies Should Use Upwork

  1. Access to million of freelancers around the world
  2. Global competition, so much lower hourly rates. Pay 20% of what you’d pay for a local developer.
  3. No upfront fees to Upwork. However, you do have the option to place your budget in escrow, until you approve the final work. Upwork gets paid when you pay your freUpworkr. (They take a small percent of your budget)
  4. Your money is safe in escrow until everyone is happy and you are ready to pay your freUpworkr.
  5. Upwork does a great job of disputing issues and typically sides with the employer, not the freUpworkr.

My 5 Step FreUpworkr Selection Process for Upwork:

1. Create Your Ad

a. Get rid of the fluff – Don’t overcomplicate what you need with extra information about your company, your passion, and your 10 year vision. That stuff is great but it confuses the message.

b. Be extremely clear – Be very specific as to what you want. Use bullets or line breaks to specifically list off each task you want and how you want it completed.

c. Always give a deadline – Always ask how long things will take. The biggest problem with freelancers is timelines. They wear many hats, so hitting a deadline can be a challenge for them. Also, be very specific about your deadline. Tell them if they cannot hit it, please do not apply. This will let them know how serious you are.

d. Give them a budget in the ad – I always add a budget in the ad otherwise you will waste your time with people who will over bid you to see if you’ll bite.

e. Ask for work samples – This is critical because half the applicants won’t give you any because they are inexperienced or didn’t even read the ad.


2.  Select Your First Round of Candidates

You are going to get a lot of freelancers from around the world who apply for your project, unless you localize your search of course. But if you are looking for a great deal, the global economy will provide freelancers in all countries of the world who are more than capable of providing you a service at a fraction of the cost of a US freUpworkr.

However, in my experience there are far more bad freelancers than good. You just need to know how to pick the bad from the good.

#1 Rating – 4.5 to 5 stars is usually good enough for me. Obviously the higher the better.

#2 Earnings – I usually look for people who have made between $5,000 to $20,000 on Upwork. That let’s me know that they are not too big and not too small.

#3 Number of jobs – 10 or more jobs is a plus. You need to know that they have done this many times to feel at ease.

#4 Rate – Don’t always go for the lowest bidder. That’s a huge mistake. Look at everything else and if the price is right, go for it.

#5. Personal responsiveness – Ask yourself if their response to the ad sounds like a template or something they personally responded to after reading the ad. The more personal, the more they understand the project.

#6 Work Samples – You’d think I would rank this higher, but the items above are quick little visuals that will get you to this point.

#7 Profile Image – We are all human. It’s only natural to look at the person you are hiring. This will help your gut make a better decision.

3. Ask Your First Round of Questions

You may feel like you’re reiterating requests from your ad. But reiteration is good, especially when you are hiring a freUpworkr from a different country or culture. You don’t have time for mistakes. Here are 5-6 questions I always ask after I select my top 5 candidates:

Question 1:  Do you have any questions before I make my final selection?

Question 2:  Are you able to hit the deadline I provided?

Question 3:  What day can you start?

Question 4:  Will you be performing the work, or do you have a team of people?

Question 5:  Communication is critical. Can you get back to me within 24 hours of every request, if not sooner? If you cannot, I will not be able to hire you.

Question 6:  Do you mind if I have a senior developer review your work once you are finished?

4. Ask a Final Round of Questions

Before I make my final selection, I ask just a few more questions, and then I am ready to choose.

Question 1:  If I select you today, are you ready to begin?

Question 2:  How do I get a hold of you?

Question 3:  Can we schedule a weekly meeting at the same time each week?

Question 4:  When can I expect to see something?

5. Make Your Final Selection

With all of the information you’ve collected and using all the data you’ve seen; it’s time to make your selection. This is the key part of the process. You must now go with your gut feeling. Your gut never lets you down. Use the information you’ve gathered and ask yourself which candidate gives you the best feeling. There are so many times I have regretted not going with my gut instinct. But I will never make that type of rookie mistake again.


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