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Finding the Best Developer for Your Project: Upwork Hiring vs Working Directly

Finding a developer can be hard today, but finding a skilled and experienced developer can be a real challenge.

By Alex HayesPublished 4 years ago 8 min read

Finding a developer can be hard today, but finding a skilled and experienced developer can be a real challenge. Although there were 23 million software developers in 2018 globally, the search and hiring processes are still time-consuming.

Companies in the USA or Western Europe are looking for the developers overseas due to the lack of local talent. Moreover, offshore rates are usually lower, so this also helps to reduce the overall development costs. Of course you always need to pay the price with your time spent on communications, but with no geo limit you can find an expert in your industry, saving time in the end.

There are a lot of platforms that let you find and select an independent worker. We want to look at the key aspects of finding a developer via the platform and directly without third-party services. Both options have their pros and cons. Let’s see which one is more effective and in which case?

It is worthwhile to say that hiring the best developer requires some preparations and effort from you too.

Hiring via Upwork

Upwork is a popular international platform that allows companies and freelancers to cooperate remotely. With 12 million registered specialists, it’s the largest online marketplace for individual freelancers, teams and agencies.

How does the service work?

You can use the platform as either a freelancer or a client, and even both. Creating an account on Upwork is free of charge and the process is straightforward enough — just follow the hints that the service provides when you are setting up an account. With a Client account, you can add specific information related to your business: company name, website, contact details, etc. You should also link a payment method that you are willing to use—be it a credit card or PayPal. Once you are all set, you can start posting your job offers, which is also free by default, but you may pay for additional promotion.

To find the most appropriate candidate, you should describe the project as clearly as possible, including the required skills and expertise. When posting a job you can choose between two options that you may use to pay for a project—hourly rate or fixed-price bid. After your job post goes live, you can either wait for candidates to apply for it, or look through the talent pool on your own and invite those who seem to be qualified and relevant to the job.

Upwork provides text and video chat features that allow interviewing the candidates and share feedback. Besides, this feature comes in handy in the case of payment disputes. If a freelancer fails to meet the contract terms, the dispute arises. To handle it, only communications within Upwork are considered by the mediator.


A global network of developers

This is one of the biggest advantages of using Upwork as the platform operates in more than 180 countries. Therefore, you get access to freelancers from all over the world, extending beyond your geolocation. For example, the developers from New Zealand, the Netherlands, Russia and Ukraine have the highest coding test scores.

Moreover, if you perform a simple search for “developer” within Upwork, you will hit thousands of specialists. The Web Development category alone includes over 250,000 candidates, so you will certainly find your perfect match.

Transparency and accountability

In fact, the platform tries its best to ensure that the interaction between the freelancer and the client is transparent. Upwork has introduced appropriate measures to protect both parties. For example, it has a time tracker for hourly-paid freelancers to monitor the time they spend on a job. Moreover, it takes screenshots of the contractor’s screen 6 times per hour. For those who are paid for a fixed-price project, Upwork’s escrow transfers money soon after the milestone is approved.

The safety and legal rights on the product, and all the related documents are clearly defined in the Upwork terms and conditions—every participant agrees on them registering at the platform.

If you are dissatisfied with the deliverables upon the project completion, and you fail to come to an agreement with the contractor, Upwork offers assistance in solving the dispute. In extreme cases, they start the arbitration process.

Easy and hassle-free payments

As we have already mentioned, clients can link either a credit card or PayPal to their account. Both methods are hassle-free per se. Added to this is the fact that Upwork has its own licensed and secure escrow services, which is a convenient function for both freelancers and companies.

Furthermore, there is an opportunity to choose to pay hourly or fixed-price. If you select the first option, check the average hourly rates in the market first to be more realistic about the cost. The living costs differ among the countries, and so do the freelancers’ rates. It makes no sense to overpay 25 percent+ to the US-based developers to get a quality project. Hence, check the IT services rates based on countries to have a clue. If you choose to pay a fixed price, you should set clear well-defined milestones and results you expect to receive upon the project completion. It will help you avoid disputes.

Average fees

Naturally, Upwork charges the fees for providing services. For clients, this is only 3 percent for processing payments via their system. There are no charges for job posting or signing up.

For freelancers, the service fees range from 5 percent to 20 percent and depend on the total billing amount generated by a certain client. For the first $500 earned from one client—it’s 20 percent, for up to $10,000—10 percent, for the earnings over $10,000 the site charges 5 percent. Thus, the Upwork system tries to motivate contractors to look for long-term cooperation.


Fake freelancer profiles

Upwork is a huge platform with millions of users. Unfortunately, it is not an easy task to screen all of them and verify their identities properly. As a result, there are freelancers who have fake profiles—fake names, fake photos, fake skills, and fake reviews. Therefore, you can’t have complete confidence that you work with the right person.

In order to avoid being scammed, use video calls to hold an interview with a candidate. First off, this will help you to confirm that this is the same person from the picture. Another reason to have a video chat is to assess the candidates’ abilities and technical knowledge. Since the ratings and reviews can be falsified, you shouldn’t rely on them. You can check the portfolio and the previously completed tasks of a freelancer, but to be sure that you contract the best developer, you should interview the potential candidate.

Manual screening of candidates

Don’t think that you will find your match immediately after your job posting. Even having access to a pool of developers, you still need to evaluate them at your own risk. Sifting out the most relevant developers from the list of potential candidates and selecting the best one will be an essential part of hiring.

Upwork’s verification and rating systems don’t reflect true picture in every instance. So, take your time to qualify the best developer for your project on your own.

Working directly

No doubt, working with a developer or a team directly is a more efficient way of cooperation. You don’t need to use third-party services like Upwork to reach out to contractors. You can maintain communications via phone, email, messengers, or even face-to-face meetings (for local developers). This fosters trust and acts as a win-win scenario for both parties. Development teams can better understand the project’s objectives, while the client can effectively monitor the work done. However, it will take more time and effort to find a good developer for direct cooperation.


The first thing you will do is asking your friends, employees or business partners for references, and they will, in turn, ask their friends or acquaintances. The advantage here is direct contact. This way, a developer is more likely to accept your offer over others. The disadvantage, however, is a limited number of potential candidates. Also might happen your friends didn’t order software development services before, so you might consider finding new friends development teams directly.

Social networks and ratings have become multi-purpose tools that can help you find people and information of any kind. There are professional networks like LinkedIn, where you can find individual developers, and independent rating platforms like Clutch that focus on development agencies and teams mostly. Many users utilize such sites for marketing and promotion purposes.

Developer conferences, forums, communities.

This is a good way to get into tech pools both locally and internationally. It enables you to find a developer in a specific area with specific skills and tech stack. But the process of recruiting them may take a lot of time and effort.


Better control over the quality of work.

Since you communicate with the developer directly, you can monitor their work more effectively. For example, you can agree on using custom management tools to keep track of the project development stages and ask for immediate upgrades.

Fewer misunderstandings.

The ability to reach out to the developer via any means of communication facilitates the negotiation process. This way, you can hold regular meetings, make timely updates on project requirements, etc.


Trust-based cooperation.

Third-party platforms like Upwork have client protection measures in place (e.g. escrow services). Therefore, if you are not satisfied with the job done, you can recover your money through disputes. This is not the case with direct cooperation as it would be a hassle to prove that you paid for the project. In many issues, you have to trust a developer as you share your confidential and proprietary information with them.

No guarantees.

Since setting up a contract or any other agreements depends on you and not every size of a contract is worth taking it to court if something goes wrong, it might happen you end up with no guarantees of getting your project done. The success of your project completely depends on the developer, your initial negotiations process and gut feeling :)


So, which is a better way to find the relevant developer for your project — Upwork hiring or working directly? The thing is that no option is perfect. Your choice should be made on a case-by-case basis. Apparently, if you need a developer for a one-time project, Upwork might be a good place to explore. Still, if you are looking for long-term partnership, it would be better to invest some time and money in finding a developer for further direct cooperation.


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