If you want to grow and scale your freelance business, you'll ultimately need to get off of marketplace platforms like Upwork and Fiverr. Here's why.
Freelance marketplaces like Upwork, Fiverr and Freelancer.com are a great place to start when you’re just developing your small business. For many new freelancers, stability is their biggest fear. Given the sheer volume of jobs available on these platforms, that fear is quickly quelled.
But finding work is just one part of the stability equation. The other part is scalability.
Scaling your business requires finding the right mix of securing new business, building relationships, and growing the business and revenue. While working through marketplaces can help with the former, the latter two pieces of the equation are also critically important. And scaling them becomes very difficult when you rely on marketplaces to drive your business forward.
There are two key reasons that scaling your Freelance business mandates a move away from dependency on freelancer marketplace platforms like Upwork and Fiverr.
In order to enter the “building relationships” piece of steps-to-scale flywheel, you actually have to own those relationships. When you work through a marketplace like Fiverr or Upwork, all work discovery, communication, and payment must go through these platforms. Ultimately, this means those relationships are owned by the platform, not by you.
Building relationships with clients must happen organically. It happens when you hop on a call last minute to show you care about the work getting done. It happens in their company’s Slack channel, where the broader team can see your personality, and the true value of your work.
Most marketplace freelancers consider the platform fees the cost of doing business. Those who don’t work on marketplaces will tell you that paying upwards of 20% in fees is highway robbery.
Consider the opportunity cost lost to that 20%. You could put that money directly into your business. You could invest in demand generation via paid media campaigns on social media or invest in new partnerships to engage your community. You could offer incentives to past clients for referring their friends and peers.
I consider myself to be a fully scaled sole-practitioner. My take home pay is over 6 figures, and my costs of doing business hover between $3-5k annually. Do you know what all of your cost to take home pay ratio is? If you don’t, it’s time to do some math.
Investing in the right stack to support your journey to scaling your business is critical. We’ve rounded up a few of our favorite paid and free tools to support the future of freelance work.
If you’re a seasoned marketplace freelancers, consider a transition period. Check out our step-by-step guide to graduating from marketplaces here.