Tools: How we use Upwork at MultiMerch

People sometimes ask me what tools and services we use at MultiMerch on a regular basis to help manage and grow our business. There are a few of them so I'll cover this in a series of blog posts.

Let's start with Upwork.

If you're not familiar with Upwork – it's an online platform for businesses to connect with freelancers. It was created during a merger between two largest freelancing marketplaces – Odesk and Elance – back in 2015. Freelancers on Upwork offer all kinds of services ranging from development, design and marketing to translations, video editing, legal services, accounting and others.

During the last few years, we've been using Upwork on an on-and-off basis to find freelancers for various tasks and here's what I learned (I'll give some of my Upwork hiring tips in the end of the post).

Development

A few years ago MultiMerch was pretty much a one man business with me as the lead developer and there was always more work than I could handle alone. Therefore, once in a while I posted a job ad on Upwork looking for an OpenCart developer to help me with this.

There are tens of thousands of developers of all kinds on Upwork so hiring a perfect match is a non-trivial task. If you're looking for a generic web developer, you'll most likely get swamped with applications and will have to choose from dozens of them.

I didn't have the budget to hire a full time developer so my hires usually worked with me on smaller short term projects and my main concerns were always code quality and communication.

If you're looking for a developer on Upwork, I would strongly recommend offering the selected candidate a smaller test task first to see if they're generally in line with your expectations. Hiring a person you're not familiar with for a long term project is a recipe for disaster.

Some tips for hiring a developer on Upwork:

  • don't go with the lowest price – in most cases, you'll waste your time and money
  • pay attention to jobs in progress – if a person is working on 25 concurrent projects, why be his 26th?
  • offer a smaller task first to see if you're a match
  • rely on previous feedback – but don't make it the single criteria of choice

Design

While I can tell great designs from poor ones, I'm absolutely not a designer myself so all my attempts at design usually crash and burn. Therefore, during our MultiMerch years we were in need of a decent designer on a regular basis – usually for things like our website, various holiday banners, business cards and the actual MultiMerch interfaces.

Upwork is a great place to look for designers if you know how to search for them. Over the last few years, I've found a number of great designers who helped us turn MultiMerch into something that doesn't hurt your eyes then you look at it.

Here are some of our Upwork designer hiring tips:

  • designers are not developers – if someone offers you to do both design and development, they're most likely bad at both
  • look at their Behance and Dribbble portfolios – good designers will usually have an account on one or the other
  • compare their work with today's design trends – in 2017 you don't usually want to hire a person with a portfolio that looks like something out of early 2000s or worse
  • look at past work history – decent designers will not usually work on things out of their domain such as translations or web scraping
  • give rising design talents a try – some of them are great!

Marketing

Marketing is a really broad term so depending on what you're looking for exactly Upwork may or may not be the right choice for you. We've had mixed effort hiring people to help us with our marketing efforts, but the main reason for this is that we didn't have a proper job description. Still, I'd recommend Upwork for the following marketing services for smaller businesses:

  • searching for and aggregating relevant content
  • generic social media posting and scheduling

Larger marketing projects such as planning and managing marketing campaigns may require something more than hiring an Upwork freelancer, though.

Translations

Translations are where Upwork worked for us the best. Last year we've started offering complete translations of MultiMerch into some of the most popular languages among our user base such as Portuguese, French and German – and Upwork has helped us tremendously.

If you're looking to translate your website, software or anything else, Upwork is a great place to start. While we're still perfecting our Upwork translation hires, here are some of the tips I can share so far:

  • know your word count and publish fixed price projects – translators usually work on a cost per word basis, not a hourly one
  • give lower rate and new applicants a try – we've had success with new Upwork users who can offer quality service at a lower rate

General Upwork hiring tips

Here are some of the general things I've learned while hiring people on Upwork that may help you do it more efficiently:

  • add a line in your job description requiring applicants to mention your name (or something else) when applying – you'll be surprised how many applicants don't read job descriptions
  • look at past feedback, but don't swear by it – it's common for poor services to receive 5 star reviews
  • pay attention to previous jobs – experts in a particular field will not usually waste time doing generic jobs
  • use "preferred qualifications" job filter to weed out clearly unfit hires
  • consider searching within a specific geographical location – Eastern Europe is known for great and affordable developers and designers (especially Ukraine & Belarus)
  • build relationships with your hires – don't treat them as temporary employees, but look for building a deeper connection – working with someone you know and trust will result in a more fruitful collaboration

Upwork vs Others

There are a few other places I used to look for freelancers in before settling with Upwork, but most of them didn't really work out. Still, you may consider giving them a try:

  • Fiverr – for smaller tasks that are not related to design and development
  • PeoplePerHour – for jobs related to content writing, proofreading and editing
  • Freelancer.com – for pretty much anything, although we haven't had much luck
  • specific communities – if you're looking for an OpenCart developer, try OpenCart forums, if you need a designer, try contacting one through Dribbble, etc.
  • local freelancing websites – you may have more luck hiring someone close to you geographically and culturally through a local website

I really hope these tips will help you and make you more efficient in hiring freelancers on Upwork.

Does your business require freelance work? Are you a freelancer on Upwork? If so, feel free to share your thoughts in comments!

  • Paolo Reyes

    This is a great a blog! I normally surf through fiverr.com instead. And since they are only $5/project, the result is as cheap as it can get as well.
    Maybe next time I will explore more with upwork

    • Martin Boze

      Definitely give it a try! You won't find someone willing to work for $5 a project on Upwork, but there are great rising design talents starting at $5 hourly and the result will be infinitely better than what you can get on Fiverr.

  • Nice one