Why it takes so long to land a client on Upwork or Fiverr

The cost of freelancing

Starting a freelancing career has become one of the hardest things to do today. This is largely because of how crowded most freelancing platforms have become, namely Upwork and Fiverr. For instance, Upwork has 20 million freelancers. In addition to the overcrowdedness on these platforms, freelancing on Upwork relies on you purchasing what are called connects (yes, you have to spend money). Connects are tokens you use each time you send a proposal to an open project. 


Using connects on Upwork to land projects can set you back at least U$300 per month to land your first couple of clients. But the journey does not end at getting your first few clients, you need to be amazingly good at what you do to satisfy your acquired clients. Furthermore, you need to juggle delivering work to active clients while continuing to send proposals to new projects so that you have a pipeline of projects you can attend to when you are done working with your active clients.


Fiverr is completely free for freelancers but the platform also comes with its challenges. Fiverr is incredibly crowded with freelancers. Every possible niche of service that could be offered on Fiverr has already been discovered and is being fulfilled by freelancers on the platform.


Platforms like People Per Hour also suffer the same problem of overcrowdedness and newer freelancing platforms like Contra have quickly become crowded as well (in less than 12 months).

Clients see your work as a commodity

Now that all freelancing platforms are crowded with talent, clients have adopted a mindset that treats freelancers like a commodity that they want to purchase at the lowest bidding price. This is why, after receiving 10s of proposals on a project, clients tend to simply look for the cheapest bidder with relevant experience.


This commodity factor has made freelancing a very slow business for people who are looking to get paid what they are worth. It makes freelancing a bitter race to the bottom that is only possible for Asian, and more recently, African freelancers to fulfill. The field of software development is a prime example of how Asian and African freelancers have come to dominate the freelancing world due to being the only ones who are happy to take up the race to the bottom. 

Clients take longer than you think to hire

In most cases, projects that have been posted by clients go on to not be fulfilled at all. So you should bear this in mind when evaluating why clients aren’t contacting you. This problem also happens on projects where the client seems very promising. They might invite you to multiple rounds of interviews and even request unpaid work tests. So in other words, be very careful how you spend your time and resources applying to projects. You need to gauge if a client will likely make a hire or if they are just exploring with no hiring intent.


In the context of Upwork, you will also receive invitations to projects as well as receive direct messages from clients who would be enquiring about your services and skills. Whether you are applying to a project or responding to a client who reached out to you, you should always investigate their past work history to determine whether they pay the type of rate you want to charge (see their average hourly rate), if they have good reviews, and if their jobs posted to jobs completed ratio is good. 


This also happens on Fiverr. Many different clients will send you messages but it’s very hard to tell if they are seriously interested in hiring you or not. This is particularly more challenging on Fiverr because Fiverr does not allow a seller (the freelancer) to see much of a buyer’s past work or statistics when they reach out with a message. So you are forced to treat every client the same way even though they aren’t all equally serious about hiring you.

Your portfolio or skills might be weaker than you think

This is a hard pill to find but it’s fortunately quite easy to swallow once you know. It’s just that it’s hard to know what you do not know. So you need to ask someone who is already busy working with clients about what they think of your past work or portfolio for you to get actionable feedback to improve your skills or portfolio. 


While your portfolio or skills stack might be holding you back, the ball is always in your court for improvements. Never look at your portfolio or skills as fixed things that cannot change or evolve. You need to constantly improve or change your skills and portfolio to keep up with the evolving needs of the clients you hope to serve as a freelancer. 


You need to continue iterating your portfolio so that you reach a level that will get clients excited at the prospect of working with you. Even when you get to that level, you shouldn’t stop improving your portfolio. You can always create a fake or “dummy” project for the sake of adding a new piece to your portfolio. Don’t wait for clients to come your way before you start building your portfolio.

It's hard, but don't give up. At least not within 6 months.

Freelancing is not for the faint-hearted. You need to give your freelancing career a chance for at least 6 months to establish a sustainable flow of clients. You must commit 10 hours a week for 6 months and at least U$200 per month for purchasing Upwork Connects.

Not everyone has extra time or money on their hands to spend without any Return On Investment (ROI) guarantee. However, with disciplined focus, planning, and saving, you can create your opportunity to try out freelancing for six months. Good luck and happy freelancing! 

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