Tips for Hiring Freelancers Effectively on Upwork

Upwork (formerly oDesk and Elance, companies have merged) is by far the best site online I know to find freelance workers.

Our whole company is based on Upwork, so thank God for them!

Here is a bunch for short tips for how to hire freelancers effectively on Upwork for those who are new to the site…

1. Don’t just post one job…

There are so many jobs being posted on Upwork, that if you don’t “refresh” your posting by posting new jobs your original post will get swept away with the tide.

Posting new job postings DAILY is fine! Do it.

Also, when posting multiple jobs for the same role, try different things: for example different job posting names, different (but still relevant) categories, etc…

Try different things so that you give yourself the best chance to find top talent.

2. Make the name of the job post attractive and relevant


Above is an example of some of our own jobs that we have created.

I’ve included here in the job titles the experience needed (e.g. entry level / junior), what type of position this is for (e.g. Full Time / Part Time, etc…) and the job role (Graphic Designer, Virtual Assistant…).

There is no one way to do this, but remember that your job needs to stand out against all the competition!

So think copywriting when you create the job title and description – you are trying to SELL your company actually.

3.  Include screening questions in the job description

Having good screening questions will save you a HUGE headache in sorting out applicants. This is a MASSIVE HACK that I recommend that you use.

Don’t just include bullshit nonsense questions, make them actually useful.

There are two major types of questions that I use.

One type of question is related to requirements that are necessary for the job.

Examples for these types of questions:

What type of computer do you use?

(If I need a mac user, anyone who doesn’t have a mac is automatically disqualified.)

What devices do you have for testing?

(If I need a QA tester who has certain android and iOS devices, if he doesn’t have them he is out.)

The other type are actual queries that I’m uncertain about and want clarification on.

For example, lets say I want to make a cross platform app and I actually really need to know what is the best language / framework to use for this, then I will include that as a screening question.

Our app needs to be cross platform, working on both iOS and Android devices.  Which framework or language do you recommend to use to achieve this and please explain why…

So in this example, this is a truly important question that I need to know. Applicants who are spammy and don’t take the time to properly read and answer job postings either won’t write anything or will write a copy and paste bullshit answer – all those guys are automatically out.

Then from the guys who actually take the time to respond, you can compare their answers and usually several things will occur:

1 – You will find that lots of applicants point to the same solution, so you just got smarter about your project, which is a good thing in itself and you cleared up some doubt.

2 – You’ll find that its pretty easy to tell who has a clue and who doesn’t from how they write their responses and you’ll also get a pretty good inkling of how their written English is.  2-in-1.

job-screening-questions-upworkI will almost always include a question about salary expectations. 

This is an important part of the screening.  If your salary expectations don’t meet then they aren’t a candidate.

Personally I will rarely / never let the candidates know the salary we are willing to pay because frankly it is not relevant.

Either the price they WANT to be paid is within our budget or it is not. I don’t believe in haggling, I want everyone who works with us to be happy with their salary.

Oh and BTW – don’t trust the official hourly rate listed on peoples’ profiles. These are usually thumb in the air numbers that the freelancers are hoping to get, best to totally ignore this figure especially if the numbers don’t make sense.


Personally I include the questions BOTH in the job posting AND in the dedicated section Upwork provides for screening questions (its a bit hidden…)

Scroll down to the bottom of the Job Posting page and click on the “Freelancer Preferences” section, which will open up a whole host of options, including the section for screening questions.

Because I just know that you’re going to ask, what I normally do in this section is the following:

  • Anyone can find and apply to this job.
  • I usually leave the “Preferred Qualifications” section untouched (sometimes I might try English Level – Conversational, but usually if I need good English I will add this as a screening questions instead.)
  • And I request that a cover letter be included.

4. Don’t get tempted to jump on a skype conversation too early

A lot (most) freelancers will try and suck the unwary into skype conversations and then try to make the “sale”.

Don’t do it (unless you’re really new and its a novelty) because it is just a massive time suck.

Use the screening questions in the posting to filter candidates and then selectively contact ONLY the ones who you think could be great candidates after you have messaged back and forth and got a sense of them.

5. Test different things to see what works best

I kind of wrote about this above, but just put out lots of job posts and see what works best.

Is there a day of the week that brings in the most freelancers?

Are there certain categories that work better for this specific role?

Try adding different required skills in the skills section and see if that has any effect.


Lastly, if you have questions leave comments below so that I can improve this post.

The idea is that these are some “hacks” to get better applicants on Upwork and ultimately for you to be able to hire the best freelancers for your project.

Good Luck!

Author: David Janner

David Janner is a former M.D. and the Editor-in-Chief of MAKE APP Magazine. His passion is app development and app marketing. You should follow him on Twitter and Facebook and Google+ in order to get the most important industry related news, hot off the press. If you would like to arrange a 15 minute app marketing session to discuss your App Store Optimization strategy, contact him here.

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