I was recently asked to answer this question on Quora and it’s something I get asked quite a bit:
I used to be very successful on Elance, but the same profile/strategy is performing poorly on Upwork. What are the possible reasons for this?
Here’s what I think you can do to win on any freelance site, including Upwork. Upvote if you get value from it:
First, I’d want to know what your strategy was. It’s possible that it was something that exploited how Elance worked that’s now been shored up with the migration to Upwork. If that’s the case, then it’s just important to understand that is the limitation of gimmicks.
That said, I’m assuming that’s NOT the case so let’s dive into some of the reasons why it might be different and what you can do.
1. Competition. The stats I can find show that Elance was around 2 million freelancers in 2013 and oDesk was about 3.1 million. Even when they became Elance-oDesk, you still had two separate sites and so on Elance were competing with roughly 2 million other freelancers.
Those numbers have grown and the sites have now combined and Elance-oDesk (now Upwork) reported 9.3 million registered freelancers in 2014. So now you’re competing with roughly 7.3 million more freelancers.
So, it’s just a lot more competitive now.
2. Rich Get Richer. It’s always difficult to get inside the inner workings of sites like these but if you try to sift through the public statements they do make, I believe it’s pretty clear that Upwork is focused on helping the “cream rise to the top”. That is, surfacing what they consider the best freelancers on their platform and displaying their profiles much more prominently on more searches even if they’re not 100% relevant.
Of course, relevance is always important and I’ll cover that but Upwork seems to be less concerned with it and more concerned with surfacing high quality freelancers. This is quite a bit different from Elance. I found on Elance that I could rank for searches even if I wasn’t always the highest rated developer based on how I targeted my profile with keywords, skills, etc. Upwork still has that a bit, but it seems to be less effective.
So, what can you do?