Major drivers of the creation and growth of the gig economy include technology, demographics, life/work balance, and the 2008 financial crisis. Since the phrase “gig economy” was coined back in 2009, this segment of the workforce has exploded. Initially, “gigging” was used by musicians, then by actors and other artists. Later, the term referred to freelancers who worked several part-time jobs, as opposed to being a full-time employee at one company. Over time, the phrase has morphed, and it now applies to transportation, food delivery, and numerous other services.
A 2017 Freelancing in America study by the Freelancers Union and Upwork estimated that nearly 57.3 million Americans (over 36% of the nation’s workforce) are now freelancing. By 2020, that number is projected to grow to over 40%. Marketdata estimates that the US market for gigs and part-time work is $2.58 trillion.
While gigging was originally considered to be the preference of millennials, it has spread, and now includes a large percentage of boomers who are working and living longer. What’s the appeal?
For freelancers, it provides:
- The ability to be your own boss
- Flexibility in hours and location
- Better work-life balance
- A much less stressful work environment
And for employers, it offers:
- An estimated 30% reduction in costs
- Reduced headcount and overhead
- Expertise and talent that can be utilized as required
As this segment of the economy has grown, so have the number of companies that cater to the needs of freelancers and their clients: As of this writing, there were 128 different platforms. In this article, we will look at industry leader Upwork and 27 of its closest competitors.
Upwork is perhaps the best-known and largest of the freelance marketplaces, Originally called oDesk, the company changed its name to Upwork in 2015 after it acquired its competitor Elance. Upwork is a global company headquartered in Mountain View, CA. Annually, twelve million registered freelancers compete for three million assignments, which are sourced from 180 countries and create an estimated value of over $1 billion.
Types of Freelance Platforms
We’ll broadly segment Upwork’s competitors according to the services they offer. We’ll review each company based on variables such as services provided, fee structure, ease of use, and reliability, which include:
- General Freelance Platforms
- Design Platform
- Development Platforms
- Freelance Writing Platforms
Sites Like Upwork
Upwork is the major player but there are plenty of interesting alternatives to the leading freelance platform:
- Hubstaff Talent
- Mechanical Turk
- Working Nomads
- Freelance Writing Gigs
- 99 Designs
- Dribbble Scout
Although Hubstaff Talent is positioned as “a free directory for companies seeking remote talent,” it’s obvious that it caters to agencies. Initially, it seemed like was a raison d’être was a time-tracker for companies’ off-site workers.
“We provide simple but effective employee time tracking software for Windows, Mac, Linux, Chromebook, iOS, and Android. Our lightweight desktop timers take screenshots and measure activity levels so that you can monitor your remote employees. Our mobile apps let you track time working or driving and offers fleet or employee location tracking via GPS.” (hubstaff.com)
Additional services include payroll, internet monitoring, project management, cost controls, and employee attendance, all in support of monitoring a company’s remote staff.
Both clients using Hubstaff to find agencies and freelancers and companies monitoring their remote staffs give this platform high marks. So an unaffiliated freelancer should probably seek a different solution.
Hubstaff Talent vs. Upwork
Hubstaff and Upwork have very different business models. Both offer time-tracking features, but for very different purposes. Upwork’s time-tracker is primarily for the client’s benefit, whereas the Hubstaff tracker benefits the agency.
Credo’s forte is the care they take in vetting and matching talent with their clients. Freelance marketers with SEO and digital skills are only able to be added to the Credo public network after being interviewed and vetted. They charge freelancers an annual fee.
“After working with a number of clients who had been burned by illicit consultants, John Doherty was inspired to create [a company] that would help companies find reputable search marketing and SEO professionals.”
Credo ensures that all freelancers operate within the Google parameters, professionally communicate with clients, and monitor and manage the metrics that matter most.
In business since 2013, Credo works with freelancers and agencies to improve their go-to-market strategies, which generates over $16 million in assignments.
The clients of Credo are elated by the experienced, respected marketing providers they connect with, and appreciate the hiring process, including interviews, proposals, consultations, and engagements.
Credo vs. Upwork
Credo has a more consultative approach, with both freelancers and agencies providing services and clients. When engaging with clients, it enforces standards for freelancers. It has an annual fee base, as opposed to Upwork’s protocol of withholding a percentage of payments on a weekly or hourly basis.
Advisable is purely a freelance marketplace that connects top talent in various fields with clients seeking project work. Prior to onboarding, all talent is extensively screened, so that a client’s search can be expedited by Advisable personnel. Its main draw is “talent on demand.”90% of the time, clients hire Advisable’s first recommendation within three days. Clients have no additional fees to the client; they simply pay for the freelancer’s time and services.
In addition to its existing talent pool, Advisable will post a client’s needs online to find the most qualified applicants.
Advisable vs. Upwork
Advisable gets high marks for how quickly it accesses talent. It has a better applicant- screening process, and its protocol for posting clients’ needs online is a definite plus.
Upwork’s biggest competition is Fiverr, which has been in business since 2010 and is headquartered in Tel Aviv. It was developed as a two-sided platform for people to buy and sell digital services.
Fiverr provides a myriad of Freelancer Services on Demand, including graphics and design, digital marketing, writing, video, music, programming, and tech. Although services may still start as low as five dollars, some projects now reach five figures. The site features what Fiverr refers to as “top- quality, hand-picked professionals.” Each freelancer on the homepage is “pro-verified” and offers their services for a set project fee or hourly rate.
Fiverr vs. Upwork
On Upwork, a client posts a job and a suggested rate (either fixed-price or hourly). Freelancers then submit proposals, including their rates. On Fiverr, the client scrolls through a list of freelancers, categorized by specialty and ranked by price. Fiverr advertises the services of freelancers, and clients determine when and how to engage.
As the name implies, Freelancer is a true freelance marketplace. With over 9 million projects and 17 million users, it’s one of the largest and fastest-growing platforms. Its business model is fee-based, and it offers up to 30 million professionals on demand. Clients post their jobs and a suggested rate, and freelancers respond with proposals and their pricing structure. Key features of the site include time-tracking, payment verification, live chat, and customer support.
Freelancer vs. Upwork
The two formats are very similar; the primary difference is the “Contests” feature on Freelancer. Clients may start a contest at no fee, other than the reward for winning the contest. For a fee, Freelancer also offers a project management feature that isn’t available on Upwork. Also, from a freelancer’s perspective, this site may have even more competition than Upwork, which benefits the client by creating a wider selection of talent.
Founded in 2014, Outsourcely offers a distinctly different approach: matching potentially full-time employees with to companies, especially start-ups and scale-ups. This marketplace operates in 180 different countries and has over 400,000 potential freelancers and employees. Clients directly engage with prospects via video chats, instant messages, direct emails, and phone calls.
Clients may search a talent base for specific organizational needs, or post positions and allow applicants to apply. The platform allows companies to meet organizational talent and fill skills gaps while containing costs.
Outsourcely vs. Upwork
Outsourcely focuses on long-term employment, rather than project-based assignments. It also encourages direct contact between the company and the potential employee, with the end goal being hiring.
During an introductory posting period, clients pay no fees to Outsourcely, but long-term plans start at $19 per month. Also, it doesn’t withhold a percentage of the fees paid to the employee.
Workhoppers positions itself as a “matching site” for “flexible jobs.” It focuses on local freelance, contract, and part-time professionals with no commissions or recruiting fees, which effectively eliminates middlemen.
How does it work? The Workhoppers platform uses a proprietary-matching algorithm to identify the proper talent. The client then chooses from a list of filtered and curated profiles to select prospects, and is then free to directly communicate and negotiate terms with talent.
Workhoppers vs. Upwork
There are several noticeable differences, including:
- The local nature of the client/freelancer relationship.
- Direct negotiations between clients and freelancers, perhaps face-to-face.
- The talent receives 100% of their fees, and no percentage is withheld by Workhoppers.
FreeeUp was founded in 2015 by Nathan Hirsch and Connor Gilivan, after years of frustrating freelancer experiences. The co-founders decided to create a better experience via pre-vetting.
The FreeeUp model offers a greater degree of exclusivity than others. Only the Top 1% of all freelancers will be selected for a potential assignment, which streamlines the search for the client.
The platform recruits, interviews, and vets thousands of freelancers every month—to give you access to the Top 1% of applicants, and to introduce a freelancer from the marketplace that matches your needs within one business day.
FreeeUp vs. Upwork
The primary differences involve exclusivity and ease of engagement. Freeeup is very client-centric. They identify the most highly-qualified freelancers; and They scour the internet for talent and recommend between up to three candidates within one business day. The clients pay no fees or commissions.
With offices in Athens and London, PeoplePerHour has been in business since 2007. They’re a self-described “quirky bunch” that’s in business to match start-ups and smaller companies with excellent freelancers and provide greater flexibility. While they focus on hourly projects, they also specialize in major projects that require dedicated teams.
The PeoplePerHour platform allows clients to post jobs and receive freelancer proposals on an hourly or fixed-price basis. The site also enables clients to view freelancer profiles, so they can identify talent for specific problems or projects.
A dashboard allows clients to track, manage, and pay freelancers. The service holds funds until all work is approved.
PeoplePerHour vs. Upwork
Both marketplaces allow clients to submit jobs and receive freelancer proposals, and provide time-tracking, two-way communication, and payment management. However, PeoplePerHour offers a fixed price to freelancers that aren’t on Upwork.
Founded by Inder Guglani in Pittsburgh, PA, Guru has gone from being a struggling start-up to an established market leader in this fast-paced, emergent industry. To date, Guru has paid over $250 million in fees to approximately 3 million freelancers.
It’s free to post a job on Guru, and posting is simplified by their posting templates. A client may pay a fee to promote the job on the site. As with other marketplaces, freelancers review job postings and submit proposals to jobs in their fields of expertise. Jobs are virtually posted from every country, worldwide.
Guru vs. Upwork
Both sites allow clients to view freelancers’ profiles and portfolios, and rank them based on client feedback from prior assignments. However, Guru has a distinctly more international feel, in terms of both clients and freelancers.
TaskRabbit is a unique platform, since it focuses on the handyman realm (including mounting televisions, assembling furniture, storing items, and heavy lifting). It also focuses on individual clients, as opposed to corporations.
The platform does match service providers with freelancers who have a very different skill sets, and it identifies providers, provides communication features, and manages payment transactions.
TaskRabbit vs. Upwork
Although the two companies provide a similar “sharing of talent” service, the skills required of the freelancers and the types of clients vary greatly.
Produced by industry-giant Amazon, Mechanical Turk (MTurk) focuses on another specific segment of the gig economy, by offering human intelligence through an Application Programming Interface. MTurk offers on-demand resources to address the things humans can still do better than computers, which they refer to as Human Intelligence Tasks (HITs) .
Service providers visit the MTurk site, complete HITs, and submit their fees to clients for approval and payment. The site processes payments in the form of Amazon gift cards or via Amazon Payments
Mechanical Turk vs. Upwork
MTurk offers a completely different model, particularly in the way work is completed, submitted, and paid for. Although Amazon says the only requirement for participation is access to the internet, the model, verbiage, jargon, and acronyms are highly technical.
Founded in 2009 in Berlin, Twago (Teamwork Across Global Offices) is the leading platform that facilitates online introductions and collaborations between clients and freelancers in Europe. The model mirrors Upwork, Freelancer, and Guru, in that clients submit jobs or assignments, and contractors submit proposals. Once the client settles on the appropriate talent and negotiates payment terms, the remainder of the transaction and feedback loop are handled on the Twago site.
Twago vs. Upwork
The biggest difference between Twago and Upwork is geography. Although both platforms work universally, Twago’s target client is European.
Established in 2015, CloudPeeps is an online marketplace that links companies with freelancers. In addition to freelancer profiles, it features packages of services with a fixed price or designated time period per project.
The service is free to clients, but freelancers pay for a monthly plan and a percentage of earnings. The Plus Plan is $29 per month, which provides 15 proposals.
CloudPeeps vs. Upwork
Although there are similar services, the cost to the freelancer is higher on CloudPeeps, although the percentage of fees withheld from earnings is substantially less. Freelancers will need to analyze their anticipated amount of work, the type of work offered by clients, and the number of competitors.
iFreelance is an online marketplace for companies seeking freelancers to write, design, build, and market projects. Clients can either post jobs and solicit bids from talent, or search profiles to identify an appropriate fit and contact the freelancer directly. The service is free to clients.
Freelancers have the option of several different, very reasonable membership plans, ranging from $6.25 to $12.00 per month—with no commissions withheld from earnings. And freelancers can bid as often as they like, with no additional charges. The site features a broad range of services to clients, including legal, accounting, engineering, and architecture.
iFreelance vs. Upwork
The greatest appeal of iFreelance is the cost structure. There are no client fees, there’s a low monthly membership fee for the freelancer, and no commissions are withheld.
The OnSite website offers “quality, curated, freelancers” with no contracts, no timesheets, and no commissions. Only 5% of freelancers will meet OnSite’s requirements. Clients can post jobs, where they’ll instantly be directed to the appropriate talent by OnSite personnel. Or they can search the entire talent roster. The site also accommodates direct messaging between clients and freelancers.
OnSite vs. Upwork
As evidenced by the bad grammar in OnSite’s slogan, the platform leaves a bit to be desired, and doesn’t instill a great deal of confidence in the client or the freelancer. That said, the site does list Google and BBC as clients.
Working Nomads features remote jobs to digital workers. “Work remotely from your home or places around the world.” As opposed to most sites that tout their curated freelance talent pool, WorkingNomads focuses on curating the best digital jobs.
The company appears to be a relatively new start-up, but the list of jobs and opportunities is impressive, both in terms of quantity and quality.
Working Nomads vs. Upwork
The primary difference between Upwork and WorkingNomads is that the jobs posted on the latter is more permanent in nature, although still remote.
Crossover takes a different approach: It featuring long-term, full-time employment for high-paying positions. The company was founded by Andy Tryba, who has served as an advisor to the White House on the future of the US job market.
Crossover says that location is not an issue when seeking talent, due to “the new way we work.” The sophisticated model tends to resemble a very high-end recruiting agency. When seeking talent, they are discerning, and only hire elite workers from 98 different countries.
Crossover vs. Upwork
Crossover doesn’t really compete with Upwork, other than that they’re both online platforms seeking job talent.
At Textbroker, it’s all about content. With over 100,000 verified US authors, 53,00 satisfied clients, and 10 million content projects, Textbroker is the world’s leader in digital content.
It’s a robust site that offers plagiarism protection, a rating system, translation services, content packages, video tutorials, and downloadable forms.
Textbroker vs. Upwork
Textbroker offers a more specialized suite of services, and it’s solely dedicated to content. So freelance writers and clients who strictly have content needs should explore it add it to their toolboxes.
Freelance Writing Gigs
Freelance Writing Gigs (aka Freelance Writing Jobs) is a different kind of platform. Although there is a jobs board, this site is intended for freelance writers to read, learn, and discuss issues and questions. For $30, clients can post a job for 30 days. Then freelancers review the job board and submit bids or proposals.
Freelance Writing Gigs vs. Upwork
Upwork is a much more sophisticated marketplace, with more services for both clients and freelancers.
WriterAccess hosts over 25,000 writers, strategists, editors, and translators, all vetted and rated. The site differentiates itself by offering tiered memberships for their clients, which range from $39 to $349 per month. Pricing is either is per-word or fixed-price. All work is guaranteed and nonrefundable.
WriterAccess further sets itself apart via its annual Content Marketing Conferences and writing contests, which help them match talent to clients’ needs.
Freelancers are paid by the word, hour, or project, all based on a rating system informed by application review, portfolio reviews, online test scores, and other metrics.
WriterAccess vs. Upwork
This model is very different than Upwork, but it’s been in place for seven years. Its qualifications for freelancers and go-to market strategy make it a preferred site for more sophisticated clients.
At Trustshoring, an actual human will guide you through the process of finding tech talent and match you to a tried & trusted freelancer or team from Eastern Europe. They come from an elite pool of developers and tech teams who are pre-vetted and have been successfully working with Trustshoring clients before. Trustshoring understands the individual needs, business model, existing tech setup, in-house knowledge and tech requirements to match you to a hand-picked partner. This means that apart from saving time by not having to post a job and screen dozens of applicants, the success rate is very high. Apart from that, the personal touch of being consulted by an experienced professional for free is what makes Trustshoring special.
Trustshoring vs. Upwork
Trustshoring has a smaller talent pool, but a personal advisor who will match you to the right tech talent based on their process and criteria. Unlike Upwork, Trustshoring stands out for not being an open marketplace but only allowing chosen, pre-vetted partners to apply for your project.
Other Upwork competitors tend to target specific skill sets, such as development and design. Some of the more popular sites are listed below, according to the category.
YouTeam vs. Upwork
Freelance Design Platforms
99 Designs focuses on logos, websites, and book covers.
CrowdSpring focuses on allowing clients to choose from work done by competing freelancers.
DesignCrowd concentrates on graphic designs for business cards, posters, t-shirts, and websites.
DribbleScout allows designers to display their creations in an effort to gain clients.
Freelance Development Platforms
TopTal features the Top 3% of talent in software development, design, and project management.
Codeable specifically targets WordPress and helps you with related projects.
Conclusion: Upwork Is a Strong Buy
While writing this article, I tellingly received an alert from the Motley Fool, which highly recommended investing in Upwork. In other words, the gig/sharing/flexible economy is poised for ongoing growth. We can only imagine that additional competitors will join the ones profiled in this article in the foreseeable future.
This partial review of alternatives to Upwork highlights the various ways that platforms and marketplaces are approaching the market and soliciting clients from various segments (which have differing needs and requirements), including homeowners, scale-ups, and agencies of all sizes and degrees of sophistication. These sites compete for clients, based on the sizes and skill levels of their talent rosters, as well as their software capabilities, associated costs, and ease of use when identifying, hiring, and paying for providers.
Freelancers need to determine which companies best fit their needs, skills, and compensation requirements, and which sites attract the clients in their niches.
The majority of these companies are young, if not infantile. Over time, they’ll keep evolving their models and offerings. As the market expands, the strongest will flourish, so it’s a good time to be in the gig economy.
Max is a SaaS enthusiast and loves actionable content that provides direct value.