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I freelanced on Upwork for a bit. It was all the worst aspects of having an abusive boss (the platform itself), and all of the worst aspects of freelancing (unpredictability, getting ripped off by shifty clients).

"Creepiest shit ever" is a pretty accurate description of Upwork. If Upwork's attitudes and policies were described to me in the 90s, I would have said it was lame, unrealistic science fiction with an over-the-top villain.

If anyone wants to do freelance work, I'd recommend marketing yourself directly to local businesses, print some business cards, schmooze. It's about as much work and stress as using Upwork, and you don't have a misanthropic middleman taking their cut.




It blows my mind that UpWork does so well as a platform. I have never had a good experience using it. And I don't know anyone who says good things about it.

I think there is a real market opportunity for a startup that can provide a way to connect businesses who need short-term or specific project work (i.e. they don't want employees) with freelancers who want to work in that mode while (and this is important) avoiding the creepiness and flaky nature of UpWork. Conversely, it would also need to avoid being too similar to having the middleman as an employer.

I probably know 50 people who would jump on a platform that hit this sweet spot in a heartbeat.


I feel you should check out Codementor, as to me they are that kind of a platform: https://www.codementor.io


I've tried Upwork in the past and the platform made me miserable.

I've been using Codementor for the last year or so and been very happy with them. For the past year I've worked for a US client and since a few weeks I work for an Australian client.

Why I like Codementor:

- The payments are done on time and they don't extract some platform fee as far as I know for the freelance jobs. Or it's invisible to me (perhaps more likely). What I ask per hour is what I get.

- There seems to be a decent amount of jobs available every month and not too many people respond to the same job as me at the same time. So there's a good chance that if I respond the job, I at least will be invited for a video call with the potential client.

- The rates on the platform seem decent (they advise setting somewhere between 40 - 80 USD, no race to the bottom imo). I'm based in Thailand, so these are rather nice rates for living here - I can save /a lot/ of money every month. My costs of living is currently around 1700 USD per month, everything above I can safe.

- I don't have to install software on my computer that spies on me to make sure I put in the proper amount of hours. And I actually tend to work more hours than I bill my clients, but I don't need software to keep me in check.


If you're charging $80/hour but then work more hours than you charge your effective hourly wage is less than $80/hour. This is an incredibly low wage (less than half) for typical web design work in my area (New England).


I guess it's all a matter of perspective. As stated earlier, in the Netherlands I worked as a freelancer for 70 EUR an hour (probably around 80 USD or so) and there it's not considered low. You'd probably be in the 10% highest earners in the country. And then I'd also probably lose ~35% of my income on income tax. Here in Thailand I pay pretty much no tax and cost of living is cheaper so for me this is a great improvement.


Oh, $80/hr is still well above the top 10% of earners in the US, it's just not very much for web design.


Any tips for freelancers who are recent engineering grads? I have some portfolio items, but I still can’t claim more than 1 year experience


Spend a year working for a consulting company, to learn the ropes. If I were a business looking to have a freelancer build something for me, 'a fresh grad, with less than a year work experience, who has never done this sort of thing before' is not who I'd hire.

I have 9 years experience, and if I were to to go into freelancing (The kind where you solve problems for businesses, as opposed to the kind where you're a 9-5 1099 contractor), the first thing I would do is to take a job at a consulting firm, and spend my time there learning. Figure out what works, and what really, really doesn't.

That job is probably going to suck, but you'll have a much better idea of what to do, what your customers really hate about working with big firms, and your resume will look much better, when you can put down "I did the thing I want you to hire me for, in a consulting firm, for 18 months, I know how this works, and I can do it better."


Very solid advice.

Working as a consultant will also let you build a network that you can use when you want to go independent. Obviously you have to be careful not to poach from your old company, but often there are side projects and jobs too small for a large consultancy that are a good fit for an independent contractor.

When I was a consultant I considered it a slight failure if I didn't get a job offer from the client at the conclusion of each engagement. I never took any of them up on it, but if I'd been in the market it would have been a hell of a way to basically get paid for an extended job interview... and lots of people I know who decided to get out of consulting went over to the client side. That's a pretty standard path, really.


> I have 9 years experience, and if I were to to go into freelancing (The kind where you solve problems for businesses, as opposed to the kind where you're a 9-5 1099 contractor), the first thing I would do is to take a job at a consulting firm, and spend my time there learning. Figure out what works, and what really, really doesn't.

I have to disagree.

I've worked for several tech consulting firms(8 years of experience) and then started my own consulting company 2 years ago. And in my running a successful consulting firm involves 3 key skills(in order of importance).

Sales - This is definitely the hardest and most important skill. And unfortunately is also the skill developers usually have the least experience in. This involves finding leads and closing deals. This will take a long time to do and is emotionally very rough for most developers.

Customer/Relationship Skills - If you're already a nice a polite person who doesn't mind eating the occasional shit sandwich this mostly involves repeatedly learning the lesson that however important you think communication it's more important you think.

Execution - This is mostly involves a combination of being able to correctly identify requirements and technical execution skills. Most developers usually have plenty of experience hear.

The experience most developers lack is sales. And most consulting shops won't put you anywhere near a sales or account management role unless you have previous sales experience or have spent significant time at the company. A much faster route to learn these skills is to just start a company and start doing them. (while reading a bunch of books and talking to anyone you can who has relevant experience)


> Execution - This is mostly involves a combination of being able to correctly identify requirements and technical execution skills. Most developers usually have plenty of experience hear.

How do you think a fresh-out-of-college junior with less than a year of experience going to be at execution?

Knowing nothing but that, I'm going to take a statistical guess, and say: "Probably not great." I'm going to make another statistical guess, and say: "They probably don't even know what they don't know."

Also, joining someplace that's not consultancy-focused (like Google or Facebook) isn't necessarilly going to help with building relevant experience.

Yes, you're going to learn a lot about how to move protobufs around from one distributed system to another, and how to do on-call, and how to work in the cloud.

No, this is not the most useful set of skills to have, when the insurance broker down the street wants to pay you $XYZW to build them a custom SalesForce widget.


Sorry I wasn't disagreeing that the fresh out should get some experience. Just I don't think that working at a consultancy is going to be much more helpful than working any other development job.

> Also, joining someplace that's not consultancy-focused (like Google or Facebook) isn't necessarilly going to help with building relevant experience.

It's soo much more important to have worked for one of these companies. If you have Google on your resume it will work magic. Clients love that. It'll help with leads, it will help with negotiation, and it will help close deals.

Honestly the two things I wish I'd done before I started my company was work for amagoobooksoft and put in some time at a sales job.(cold calling or some type of lead gen)


That's great advice. Even with quite a few years of experience at a large firm as a product manager, I was pretty clueless when I first switched to an industry analyst/consulting firm. This is spite of having been a client of said firms.

There's no way I would have known where to begin if I had just set out on my own.


> Any tips for freelancers who are recent engineering grads?

If you have a relevant degree, why not to apply for a remote job position instead? That would help to build your CV, and allow to switch to contracting later on.


Stack overflow jobs board thing is the best place imo to find remote Dev positions. Harder for new grads.

Angel list might be a place to find remote AND newbie friendly jobs.


Second AngelList for this purpose, though keep in mind the salary trade off to work remote for a new grad is likely gonna be considerable.


I can only speak for myself, doing mostly web dev/maintenance for local businesses at this point in my life.

I started trying to freelance online, with little success. When I mentioned to a dentist that I was freelancing he asked me to fix his old website. A small store owned by a friend asked me to make a website. Later the dentist asked me if I had cards to give to a friend.

About 75% of my business since then has been word-of-mouth. The rest has been me contacting local businesses that don't have websites. Business cards and flyers are supper cheap.

That being said, after three years, I'm only now starting to feel comfortable. There were very long dry spells, in between short periods of intense business, and word-of-mouth takes a very, very long time to operate (hence me reaching out to businesses without websites). I had to depend on my wife financially for stretches. I've also had to learn design, which is a much different skill-set to programming and has been very difficult. The main reason I went down the freelance path is because in my last salaried job, my boss developed substance abuse issues and unpredictable behaviours, which lead me to having a burnout. It's been hard but it's gradually starting to pay off. For all the difficulties, it is much more rewarding than watching all the value I generate go to some guy with a business degree who got through college doing elementary algebra.

Anyway, that was a fun rant, hope it was helpful to someone.


This kind of makes sense in the same way that AirBnb does. There are more users looking for work than employers looking to hire, just like there are more tourists looking for cheap accommodations than landlords willing to rent their space. The platform will cater to the group with the higher bargaining power.

However, the surveillance just seems like an absurd waste of resources. The author quotes $400 for the job, why does it matter how many hours it takes them? If you think $400 is too much, then bid on the project.




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