All views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which the author has been, is now, or will be affiliated. These views and opinions do not reflect the official policy or position of the platform where this article is published.
All pricing-related information, charts, figures, and pictures (screenshots) have been obtained from the following publicly accessible official web pages: Upwork, Freelancer, Fiverr, Guru, and goLance, for comparison purposes only. Analysis and comparisons are presented within this article with no intention to favor or diminish any of the above-mentioned freelance websites in particular.
Some Useful Comparison Article FAQs:
Why these five freelance platforms?
I either used to work or I’m still working on the freelance websites compared in this article. I’m sharing my first-hand unbiased findings and experience related to fees for both clients and freelancers.
Why comparing only fees and not features and/or other elements?
Two reasons. I wanted to write an article, not an eBook, which will be required if I’m to compare all features, as well. Second, my focus is only on the fees as the most crucial component of any freelance platform’s business.
Do you guarantee the accuracy of all information presented in this comparison article?
To the best of my knowledge, all information presented for comparison purposes only is accurate and up-to-date. All fees and price-related information have been checked one more time at the day this article is published. I don’t guarantee or accept responsibility for the accuracy of the above mentioned after this article is published and shared online.
Does your comparison favor or try to diminish any freelance website in particular?
This is an unbiased comparison article that sticks to the numbers, first and foremost. My personal experiences, working history, including the fact of whether or not I’m still working on all or some of these freelance websites have nothing to do with the comparisons presented in this article.
And now, without further ado, let’s compare the fees of the top five freelance platforms. Remember! There are no winners and losers in this comparison game, only properly or poorly informed clients and freelancers.
Plain and simple, whether you are a freelancer or client on Upwork, there’s no single work-related activity you can do for free. If you want:
- To bid (submit proposals) as a freelancer — you pay for every connect (bid) you use.
- To pay your freelancer as a client — you pay a processing fee for every payment you make.
- To access the additional perks as either client or freelancer — you pay a membership fee.
Upwork charges you each step of your freelance way.
The catch with Upwork’s scalable pricing model is that the more you earn — the less money you will have to burn on fees.
Upwork “math” has become commonplace in the freelance industry, but it still amazes me. Let’s say you earn $600. For the initial amount of $500, you will pay a 20% fee. That’s $100 for Upwork and $400 for you. For the remaining $100 you will pay a 10% fee because you have earned $500+. So, that’s $10 for Upwork and $90 for you.
Let’s see what happened to the project worth $600. If I didn’t get lost in all these numbers and percentages, Upwork takes $110 and you’re left with $490. One day when your lifetime earnings reach $10K+, you will pay a 5% fee.
Let’s not forget that in order to win this theoretical $600 project, you had to use at least two connects (in the best case scenario). That’s $0.30 to be deducted from the amount you earned so far $490. Actually, that’s the most optimistic scenario. Every freelancer knows best how many proposals it takes for him or her to win a project. One in two or one in ten.
Freelancer Plus membership used to be $10 a month if memory serves me right, and now it is $14.99. No more free bids/connect, that’s the point. You have to pay to play.
Now that Upwork has taken all there’s to take from a freelancer, it’s time for a client to reach for his wallet. In my example, we used a project worth $600. Our hypothetical client will have to pay a real 3% processing fee. This means $18 go to Upwork’s pocket. What about a client’s membership.
Let’s assume that a client will pay for a Plus membership just like his freelancer had to do. That’s $49.99 per month. And, just because you pay a membership fee as a client, it doesn’t mean that you will avoid a 3% processing fee.
Luckily for our imaginary Upwork client, he doesn’t have to pay for a Business membership worth $499 a month. He can settle for a Plus or even a Basic (free) membership for clients.
I think we’re ready for a quick recap of all Upwork’s payment “checkpoints:”
The initial test project’s value………….....………..….$600
The freelance fee for the first $500 (20%)…..…….$100 (unavoidable)
The freelance fee for $500+ (10%)…………....………$10 (unavoidable)
The client’s payment processing fee (3%)………….$18 (unavoidable)
Freelance Plus monthly membership fee……….….$14.99 (avoidable)
Client Plus monthly membership plan……….….…..$49.99 (avoidable)
Two Connects ($0.15 each)…………………….......……..$0.30 (unavoidable)
Upwork gets (if both freelancer and client pay for memberships): $193.28
Upwork gets (if freelancer/client opt to free membership plans): $128.30
Don’t you just love it when the numbers speak for themselves? No need to comment or provide additional explanations. No time to waste. I have four more platforms waiting in line to analyze and compare their fees for freelancers and clients.
Freelancer (dot) com
This platform has an impressive list of available membership plans. The great thing about them is that you can choose to pay monthly or save money by choosing annual plans you pay for monthly or annually (prepaid).
Now, I have to be painfully honest about these membership plans. They used to make sense when Freelancer made it possible for freelancers to pay a 3%, 5%, or 10% project fee based on the specific plan.
Now, it’s all the same thanks to a flat 10% fee. I clearly remember that Freelancer decided to change its pricing policy almost immediately after Upwork doubled its fees.
Truth to be told, your current membership plan determines the number of available bids and additional perks. However, at the end of the day, it all comes down to a service fee, which stays the same regardless of your plan.
The clients are in the same boat with freelancers on Freelancer. They may pay less in terms of fees (3%), but they can’t avoid the above-mentioned membership plans.
There’s one exception, though, when you get involved in the assisted or preferred freelancer program. As a freelancer, you have to pay a 15% fee instead of 10%.
On the other hand, a client who wants to be assisted while searching for the most suitable freelancer will have to pay extra for this or any other additional service on Freelancer.
Finally, a client on Freelancer also has to pay for the transaction fees depending on the preferred payment option.
This platform’s fee for sellers (freelancers) hasn’t changed since day one. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you always had to pay 20% to Fiverr for all gigs you sell there. Now, if you go through Fiverr’s Terms, you will see how they found a way to put it nicely. You don’t pay 20%, but actually keep 80%. Fiverr semantics at its finest.
When it comes to Fiverr buyers, there have been some drastic changes. If my memory serves me right, as a buyer, you used to pay $1 on purchases up to $20 and 5% if you buy gigs worth more than $20. Now, you pay $2 on purchases up to $40 and 5% for gigs above this amount.
This freelance platform has been “hibernating” for quite some time. At one point, I wasn’t sure whether it’s still active or not. If you think that I’m exaggerating, you can check their blog and see for yourself that there has been a two-year gap between two posts. Then, a few weeks ago they reminded the freelance world that Guru is still alive and kicking with the introduction of new features, such as ID Verification and All-Time Transaction Data.
Now, when we talk about the costs, it seems that the clients just can’t avoid the handling (processing) fees. On Guru, as a client, you have to pay a 2.9% handling fee for every invoice. The good news is that you can count on a 3% Cash Back program, but only for the limited payment options.
Guru freelance fees depend on membership plans like no other platform. Plain and simple, if you want to submit more proposals and leave less money on Guru, you have to pay more for the most favorable membership plan.
Talking about Guru membership plans that make all the difference for freelancers, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that they put an extremely important note at the end. The fine print always leaves a bad taste in your mouth, doesn’t it? I used to have a problem accepting these membership fees on Guru. I felt even worse when I realized that these “favorable” prices were reserved for freelancers who are willing to make one-time annual payments. If you decide to pay for these membership plans on a monthly basis, then it’s going to cost you much more. There’s a price difference of more than 30% for some Guru membership plans depending on your choice to pay for these monthly or annually. Someone may say, you just have to change the perspective. You are actually saving money when you pay annually. True, if you have enough money to cover the costs of your membership plan for the whole year right here and right now.
This platform has lowered their freelance service from 10% to 7.95%. That’s a bit unusual for the freelance industry. Why? All freelancers are simply used to accept the fact that fees go up by default.
I also have to say that’s not enough only to lower your service fees. You have to keep all other “things” intact. I’m talking about memberships and bidding limits. goLance hasn’t even considered to introduce membership plans or limit the number of bids while reducing their service fees.
It’s in my freelance nature to be cautious. Very often one good thing, such as a fee decrease, is “compensated” by some other bad thing. For example, you have to pay more for your membership or to bid. That wasn’t the case with goLance. I’m talking about some basic freelance principles, such as free membership and unlimited bidding.
This platform didn’t try to “compensate” their service fee decrease by charging the clients. goLance is still absolutely free for clients to use. There are no Client payment processing fees on this freelance website. On the contrary, goLance clients can count on CashBack. The amount of money the clients get back depend on their preferred payment option: 5% for bank transfers and 2% when a debit or credit card is used.
I took two screenshots by using a fee calculator on goLance website. You are free to try it yourself first-hand. (Link to a goLance fee calculator) It’s eye-opening to compare goLance CashBack and no-payment-processing-fee structure against Upwork’s no-CashBack and a 3% processing fee.
To be honest, that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to compare my findings from the beginning of this comparison article when I analyzed Upwork’s earnings from a test project worth $600. I was eager to see what would happen if this project were to be posted and processed on goLance.
I believe that this goLance vs Upwork comparison table will suit me just fine. Let’s see.