In this post, we’ll help you decide between Upwork and Fiverr, comparing the two freelance marketplaces in terms of:
- Quality of clients
- And more
In the end, we’ll help you decide which platform gives your freelance business the best chance of success.
Fiverr vs Upwork: Key Insights
- Fiverr is a better platform for gaining experience. If you’re starting from scratch — both new to freelancing and not sure what skill you’d like to offer — Fiverr’s emphasis on short-term, low-priced projects is great for gaining experience. With Fiverr, you can rapidly test different freelance skills, and a variety of niches within each skillset. Once you find a winning service, it’s then a lot easier to switch to Upwork or go out and get clients on your own.
- Upwork is best suited for people who are new to freelancing but have an existing and in-demand skill. The projects you find on Upwork are longer-term and higher-value — some even with Fortune 500 companies and well-known brands. As long as you can compete for a job with your existing resume, it’s easy to establish yourself on the platform. However, just make sure you can deliver a five-star experience for your client. A negative review at the beginning of your Upwork career makes it an uphill battle from then on.
Fiverr allows freelancers to create gigs for a large variety of services. Freelancers starting out on Fiverr can create up to 15 different gigs, which are then listed in the Fiverr marketplace.
The price of Fiverr gigs can range from $5 to $995 per gig.
Clients then find your gig (most often through a search on Fiverr) and place an order for the service you provide.
Freelancers then deliver what’s specified in the gig in a specific time frame. Once complete, they submit their work and get paid through Fiverr.
Fiverr is most known in the freelance space for short-term and lower-priced projects from individuals and “solopreneurs” looking for very affordable services.
As a freelancer, you keep 80% of the transaction.
On Upwork, clients post projects that freelancers can apply to. For most projects, you’re competing against multiple freelancers. As a general rule of thumb, the more basic your skill is, the more competition there is.
While there is short-term work on Upwork, the platform caters to businesses looking for experienced freelancers for long-term projects. It’s for this reason that it’s more common to see full-time freelancers on Upwork than on Fiverr.
As a freelancer, your fees on Upwork are:
- 20% for the first $500 you bill your client
- 10% for total billings between $500.01 and $10,000
- 5% for total billings over $10,000
In addition to these fees, you may need to pay a small fee for “connects,” which are digital tokens used to apply for jobs. (For example, applying to a job may require four connects.) Upwork has a free membership that includes a limited number of connects per month. You can upgrade your membership for a monthly fee to get more, or you can buy them.
Why Should Beginner Freelancers Choose Fiverr?
Reason #1: It’s Easier to Get Jobs Without Experience
On Fiverr, you create pre-priced freelance service offers (called “gigs”) and wait for clients to hire you. In contrast, most other freelancing sites (including Upwork) work the opposite way: clients post projects and then choose freelancers from the pool of submitted proposals.
As a result, new freelancers are at a disadvantage on Upwork because they’re usually competing against people with more experience. Plus, it’s easy to waste time submitting proposals to clients who have no interest in working with a beginner.
That’s what’s great about Fiverr’s unique structure: it serves as a filtering mechanism that helps you avoid wasting time applying for jobs you have little chance of getting.
Since potential clients review your profile, experience and pricing before ever contacting you, you’ll only hear from people who already think you’re qualified to do the job they’re hiring for.
And in that regard, the site’s structure also has the added benefit of serving as a sales funnel, because once a potential client is looking at your profile, or at one of your gigs, you have a prime opportunity to close the deal; it’s easier for them to say “yes” than to go back to the search results and find another option.
Key Takeaway: Fiverr’s supply-driven, productized model — where freelancers create gigs that clients can “order” — levels the playing field for those with limited experience.
Editor’s Note: In 2021, Upwork introduced a feature called “Project Catalog,” which is a marketplace for pre-priced gigs that functions identically to Fiverr. The program is still in its infancy and it’s not yet clear how popular it will be among Upwork’s client base. However, it may make the platform more accessible to beginners.
Reason #2: Fiverr Has a Bigger Variety of Clients
Fiverr offers access to a wider range of client types than any other marketplace. All kinds of people hire freelancers on the site, from students to small business owners to people who just need help with a single, one-time task that’s outside of their skillset.
For example, one of The Ways To Wealth’s editors previously offered editing services on Fiverr.
These are some of the projects he worked on for clients:
- An English-language dissertation written by a German Ph.D. student.
- 30 blog posts for the website of a publicly-traded information security company.
- The listing and policies for an Airbnb rental property.
- A script for a YouTube video about old-school rock ‘n’ roll artists.
- A short story about two space-traveling avocados.
While you will find some projects like these on Upwork, the site is centered around businesses — especially those that regularly use freelancers (often for high-value and/or long-term, ongoing contracts).
If you have no freelancing experience, no feedback on the platform and a limited portfolio, it’s very difficult to win those types of jobs.
On the other hand, someone who needs a YouTube script edited, a resume formatted or a cover letter proofread is much more likely to hire a freelancer with limited experience.
And because these jobs pay less and tend to be one-off assignments, there’s less competition from more established freelancers who would rather work on more lucrative projects.
Key Takeaway: Fiverr has a more diverse mix of clients and projects, including small one-off projects from individuals (which are easier for new freelancers to get).
Reason #3: Fiverr Is a Better Place to Learn (and to Make Mistakes)
If you piece together everything we’ve discussed in reasons #1 and #2, you can start to see why Upwork has more long-term potential:
- It has more professional clients, including many businesses, nonprofits and even government agencies.
- It tends to offer bigger contracts, many of which are for long-term and ongoing projects.
But there are corollaries to those points:
- Professional clients expect professional freelancers.
- Bigger contracts come with more demanding quality expectations.
If you’re serious about your freelancing career — or think you may be serious about it in the future — it’s very important to make sure your skills, as well as your ability to deliver a job accurately and on time, align with the client’s expectations.
That’s because success on any freelancing platform depends on your reputation on that site. The better your feedback, the more contracts you’ll win and the higher rates you’ll be able to command.
Conversely, a poor feedback profile amounts to a death sentence. If you have even a couple of negative experiences while getting established on a particular site, it will be difficult to recover.
And what many new freelancers fail to recognize is that there’s a lot more to earning positive feedback than just doing good work.
It’s also about things like…
- Understanding how to interpret client requests, which are often vague, incomplete or otherwise unclear.
- Understanding how to read and interact with clients across a range of personality types.
- Understanding when (and how) to ask for clarification, and when to use your own best judgment.
- Understanding how to handle conflicts and disputes about things like the scope of the project and the list of deliverables.
Mastering these interpersonal skills is crucial for success as a freelancer, and doing so takes time and experience.
That’s why it’s a smart idea to start out on Fiverr, which offers access to easier projects and has less long-term earning potential; you can use the site to learn how to be an effective and efficient freelancer, and then transition to Upwork once you have a strong portfolio and more experience working with clients.
Key Takeaway: Most new freelancers make mistakes. It’s better to make them on Fiverr, which offers less long-term scalability, than on Upwork, where you can make significantly more money once you get established.
Why Choose Upwork Instead of Fiverr?
Reason #1: You Have Experience in a Skillset That’s In-Demand
Like Fiverr, Upwork has a feedback system that makes it more likely potential clients will hire experienced freelancers. New freelancers on the platform lack this feedback, of course. Fortunately, there is a lot more that can be done to stand out with your freelancer profile on Upwork.
Your profile on Upwork is like a resume. Just like a resume, the more you can discuss your experience in doing the thing that client wants done, the greater your chances are of getting hired.
So, if you do indeed have a background in a specific skill — such as freelance writing or web development — and you’re able to create a knockout Upwork profile, you can easily be in the mix for high-paying projects right away.
If you don’t have experience, you then lack both quality feedback and a winning profile. And although winning a job without either is not impossible, it’s very difficult.
Key Takeaway: If your past experience qualifies you for a high-paying job, skip the low-paying gigs on Fiverr and head to Upwork, where clients are more often looking for experienced freelancers on a long-term basis.
Reason #2: Upwork Has Higher-Quality Clients
When it comes to teaching freelance consultants how to grow and scale their business, no one has been more successful than Alan Weiss. In the classic best-selling book Million Dollar Consulting, he writes:
As a consultant, you are far better served doing $50,000 in business with a single client than doing $5,000 with each of 10 clients. Accepting all business as quantitatively equal, no matter what the quality, dilutes effort and confuses perceptions. (And $50,000 from one client is far more profitable than $10,000 from each of five clients. It’s not what you make in this business; it’s what you keep.)
While the advice is aimed towards high-level consultants, the principle is what you want to take away. Specifically, freelancers are better off working with a small handful of clients than with dozens.
As most freelancers come to realize at some point, there’s the actual work that needs to be done and then all the other stuff (preparing proposals, sales calls, revision requests, invoicing, leaving feedback, sending invoice reminders, etc.). And all that other stuff — which is often unpaid work — adds up in terms of both time and stress.
As noted earlier, Upwork caters towards longer-term, high-paying projects. For most freelancers, clients who are looking for long-term work (and who have the budget to pay for it) are what allows a freelance business to succeed long-term.
Key Takeaway: Upwork has the type of clients who will allow your freelance business to succeed long-term.
Fiverr vs Upwork: Final Thoughts
I personally got my freelancing career started on Upwork. Looking back, what allowed me to quickly obtain high-paying clients in the freelance writing space was:
- Being credentialed in financial services (I’m a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™).
- Having work samples that proved I could get the job done.
When one of our own freelance writers, Jenni Sasson, detailed her experience launching her freelance writing career on Upwork, she had 18 months of editing experience on her resume.
In both situations, it’s clear why Upwork was the better choice: both of us were able to leverage our past experience to quickly grow on the platform.
Fortunately for those who lack experience, this is where a freelance marketplace like Fiverr can help you gain the necessary experience (as well as improve your skills) to put yourself in a place for winning higher paying freelance projects.
What to read next: How to Start Freelancing.