Upwork vs Fiverr: Which One Wins?
The competition to become the world’s top online freelancing platform is a two-horse race between Upwork and Fiverr. That’s why we put together this quick guide to both platforms—to help you make a more informed decision about which service to use.
Let’s get started by looking at the basics of both services and parse out their respective differences, advantages, and drawbacks. With these in mind, you won’t get burned the next time you need to hire a freelancer or offer your services for hire online.
The start-up process for each platform is relatively simple. Let’s take a look at each one.
Formerly known as Elance-oDesk, Upwork is the world’s leading freelancing platform. Since 2015, Upwork has connected millions of businesses with independent contractors offering services such as copywriting, software engineering, web development, and more.
Upwork boasts over 12 million registered freelancers, and their platform facilitates over $1 billion USD in transactions annually.
Upwork is an exclusive service that offers a “freemium” subscription model to its customers. Getting started with Upwork requires users to apply, after which their application is reviewed within (usually) 24 to 48 hours.
Unfortunately, Upwork tends to deny applications from users who don’t have “in-demand’ skills. In other words, if Upwork considers your skillset to be too saturated for their platform, they have no problem with rejecting your proposal. The good side, however, is that once you’re in, you’re in for good.
A “Basic” Upwork membership is 100% free, whereas a “Plus” membership costs $10 monthly. By opting for the “Plus” membership, users can bid on additional contracts and access a host of benefits that help connect them to relevant buyers or sellers.
Founded in 2010, Fiverr is the second-largest two-sided global platform for freelancers and those seeking their services. Fiverr offers millions of one-off jobs, known as “gigs” by the site users, starting at a low price of $5 USD per service.
Thanks to its rock-bottom pricing scheme, Fiverr has attracted millions of budget-minded users and over $100 million in venture capital financing.
Unlike Upwork, anyone can sign up for Fiverr and have their account registered in minutes. On the Fiverr homepage, new users create an account by answering a series of questions designed to draw out what their skills are and how they can match with buyers.
Once registered, users can post their first “gig” for free. After that, users can opt to pay for a “Fiverr Pro” membership, which allows users to match with clients more easily and with fewer hassles in the event of buyer-seller disputes.
For newcomers to the freelancing economy, the battle of “Fiverr vs Upwork” is clear-cut. Since Fiverr is a non-exclusive platform that anyone can sign-up for, it makes sense for new freelancers to opt for this platform. However, more experienced freelancers should consider applying for an Upwork (and then Upwork Plus) account.
Who Are the Freelancers?
On both platforms, there are a variety of freelancers across a wide range of industries and professions. Below, we’ll break down the main differences between freelancers (and their typical clientele) on each platform.
Upwork, as an exclusive platform, tends toward more experienced and credentialed users. If you’re a buyer, Upwork is probably your go-to option for superior quality services (although at a higher cost). All freelancers on Upwork are heavily vetted, so you can feel a bit more confident about avoiding frauds and scammers.
For better or worse, anyone can make a Fiverr account. Therefore, freelancers across various industrial sectors, and of all experience levels, use the platform.
Fiverr maintains a strict moderation team that enforces their terms of service. So, there’s no need to worry too much about weeding out fraud—Fiverr’s team does most of that legwork for you.
What About Fiverr Pro?
Fiverr Pro is a premium version of Fiverr that is exclusive to “top quality, hand-picked professionals, trusted by the world’s biggest brands.” Freelancers who qualify for Fiverr Pro have experience working with major companies, and their rates usually exceed hundreds of dollars per service.
Larger companies with deeper pockets are better served by Upwork or Fiverr Pro freelancers. By contrast, start-ups and budget-minded buyers might be better off seeking out young and early career professionals on Fiverr for their lower rates.
Communication with The Freelancer
There are often questions regarding how the communication process works within each platform.
Upwork has a built-in chat feature that allows buyers and sellers to exchange messages. The Upwork moderator team cautions against outside communication (due to the potential for scamming), but external messaging isn’t outright banned.
Like Upwork, Fiverr also has a live chat mechanism that facilitates easy conversation between buyers and sellers. Live chat lets users flesh out the details of assignments before they’re agreed upon—making the whole transaction flow smother from start to finish.
Knowing how Upwork works regarding customer support is important. Any questions regarding payment issues account hiccups, or other concerns can be resolved by visiting the Upwork Help webpage or by contacting a customer support representative (available 24/7).
Fiverr has a dedicated Buyer Help Center as well as a Seller Help Center. The Help Center is a one-stop-shop to field all concerns related to account settings, order management, getting paid, and more. If users can’t find what they’re looking for at the Help Center, they can contact Fiverr’s corporate offices directly.
Who Should Purchase and Who Should Start Working Here?
You can think of Upwork as a slightly more “upmarket” freelancing platform. In other words, Upwork is a marketplace dedicated to longer-term, higher-budget projects by professionals with years of industry experience.
The price of a service on Upwork can vary dramatically. For instance, a basic logo design might run you anywhere from $100 to $5,000 for an expert-level service with fast turnaround time. Copywriting might cost between $0.05 and $0.50 a word.
The cost of the service depends on the experience of the freelancer, specific requirements of the project, and the expected delivery time.
Sites like Upwork cater to senior copywriters, web development experts, and veteran graphic designers with impressive resumes. As such, competition is less intensive on Upwork because there are fewer freelancers on the site with similar skillsets.
Fiverr appeals to a slightly different market of buyers and sellers. Those starting out in the industry, or buyers with strict budgets, are better off looking for a freelancer (or customer) on Fiverr.
A standard logo design on Fiverr costs between $5 (the lowest base price for a Fiverr project) and $2,700 depending on the demands of the gig. Given the low market price for services on websites like Fiverr, we recommend them for new freelancers (less than two years of industry experience) looking for short-term projects.
Competition on Fiverr is fierce. Since Fiverr is a barrier-free platform, anyone can create an account. Consequently, a glut of freelancers around the world uses Fiverr, creating a surplus of sellers that drive prices down.
Plus, freelancers in the developing world (e.g., India, Southeast Asia) have the advantage of offering lower rates thanks to their lower cost of living. In turn, freelancers in North America have to compete by lowering their rates to match their competitors.
Given the exclusivity of Upwork and the (relatively) higher price point for services, we suggest freelancers with extensive industry experience apply for an account. As a rule, applicants with no less than two years of freelancing or in-house work experience should consider Upwork.
On the other hand, industry newcomers who don’t mind working at a discounted rate should try Fiverr.
Landing a Job
So, how do you land your gigs?
Securing a job on Upwork is a streamlined process that resembles a regular job application. Freelancers can browse listings of relevant jobs in their industry, and then select an “Apply” button.
After being redirected to an application portal, freelancers submit their application, resume, and cover letter to the buyer. Within a specified timeframe, applicants will hear back from the buyer regarding the status of their application. If approved, freelancers can begin working on the project right away.
When it comes to Fiverr vs Upwork for securing jobs, Upwork clearly comes out on top. This is because Fiverr involves a more complicated process for securing gigs. Unlike Upwork, Fiverr has a bidding system in which each Fiverr Basic user has 60 monthly “connects.” Connects are used to bid on gig contracts that are posted by buyers.
Fiverr Pro users have an extra 10 connects with which they can bid on projects. This process resembles an auction, with the highest bidder awarded the contract. Winning bidders are notified via an in-app message and an email from the client, at which point the project can commence.
Upwork is unique in that it allows users to decide whether they want to bill their client per project or per hour. The better billing (and tracking) option ultimately depends on the nature of the job. Small tasks (e.g., landing page copy) are better suited for an hourly pay model, whereas large projects (e.g., web development) are naturally suited for per-project payments.
For hourly projects, Upwork provides a built-in tracking mechanism that takes screenshots of a client’s computer screen at random. The screenshots provide evidence that the client has worked on the project for the number of hours that they’ve cited.
There is no built-in mechanism for tracking hours on Fiverr. However, Fiverr isn’t necessarily a trust-based system. All gigs on Fiverr are paid for on a “per project” basis, meaning there is no need for a buyer or seller to track the number of hours worked. Instead, the freelancer receives a predetermined payment amount upon completion of the gig.
Payment Processing & Fees
In Upwork (Customer)
Fortunately, Upwork’s customers don’t have to pay a dime in fees. However, Upwork does offer a $10/month premium membership option.
MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover, or PayPal. Most payments are subject to a 3% processing fee.
In Upwork (Freelancers)
A relatively steep payment processing fee burdens Upwork’s freelancers. The upside, however, is that the fee scale is sliding, with higher-value customer-contractor relationships being charged less than smaller ones.
Below, we’ve broken down the sliding scale fees that fall on Upwork freelancers. You’ll notice that the more a customer is billed, the less the freelancer is charged in fees:
- 20% Fee: First $500
- 10% Fee: $501-$9,999
- 5% Fee: $10,000+
For example, a freelancer charged $490 for the first project of a particular client; the freelancer is charged $98 in fees (yikes!). However, if the freelancer charges another $550 for their second project with the same client, then they would be charged 20% in fees only on the first 10 dollars (i.e., $2 in fees) but 10% on the remaining $540 ($54 in fees) for a total of $56 in charges.
In Fiverr (Customer)
Payments via the Fiverr system are facilitated via a secure proprietary payment platform. Payments are released to sellers only after the verified gig has been completed to the buyer’s satisfaction.
The Fiverr business model is dependent on fees paid by buyers after every transaction, including a two-dollar processing fee for purchases up to $40. Transactions exceeding $40 are charged at a rate of five percent.
No processing fee for MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover, or PayPal.
In Fiverr (Freelancers)
We’re often asked, “how does Fiverr work” when it comes to payment processing. Fiverr has a flat fee of 20% that’s charged to every “seller” (freelancer) on their platform. In other words, a freelancer will only keep 80% of the proceeds from their sales. Payments are facilitated via Fiverr’s secure built-in payment processor.
Fiverr’s speedy, low-fee payment processor makes it one of the best freelance websites for those looking to get paid in a hurry. By contrast, Upwork’s is a bit more cumbersome, more expensive, and requires longer processing times for the money to show up in your account.
What Happens If You’re Not Happy with the Service?
Upwork includes a dispute resolution feature that allows for reported cases to be mediated by an Upwork administrator. The most common dispute type involves the number of hours reported by the freelancer, which is resolved according to the Upwork Hourly Protection policy.
To file a complaint under the Upwork Hourly Protection policy, follow these steps:
- Select “My Jobs” under the “Jobs” panel of the contract
- In the Contract Room, select the freelancer’s name
- Select “Request a Refund”
- Complete the dispute form.
Fiverr maintains a Resolution Center that works out contract-related disputes between buyers and sellers. The Center constitutes the first line of defense that either party has at their disposal, and is meant to offer expedient solutions to problems regarding:
- Order cancellation
- Irregular progress updates
- Extended delivery times
- Quality expectations.
As Upwork’s most recent earnings call reports, the platform is outrageously demand constrained. The Upwork platform is vastly oversupplied with freelancers looking to connect to suitable buyers. This makes Upwork an excellent choice for buyers looking for competitively priced contractors, but it also means freelancers will have a hard time getting a foothold in the market.
We’re often asked, “is Upwork worth it?” The answer to this question depends on the scope and size of the project you need to hire for (if you’re a buyer), or your experience level and pay expectations (if you’re a seller). Low-budget projects, whether you’re buying or selling, are better suited for Fiverr and Fiverr competitors.
There’s no “one size fits all” freelancing platform. Either they’re too exclusive (by overly vetting freelancers), or too saturated (by allowing anyone on board). However, we think Upwork does a pretty good job of striking a balance between the two.
Ultimately, Upwork is the better platform when it comes to Fiverr vs Upwork. Although far from perfect, Upwork is a well-moderated marketplace for serious buyers and sellers. By contrast, Fiverr might be the better choice for those starting out as freelancers, or for buyers on a tight budget.