Upwork’s Top-Rated Freelancers: How To Hire the Best

Upwork’s Top-Rated Freelancers: How To Hire the Best

It’s true: Hiring can be hard. Sometimes, the trouble starts when you aren’t quite sure whom you need to hire or what skills they need to have—all you know is you need help, now. Other times, it just feels hard to find the right person when you need them.

Hiring doesn’t have to be difficult, though. And working with independent talent is one of the best ways to build the team you need right now.

Seriously—63% of hiring managers who don’t work with independent talent say that they aren’t fully confident in their ability to find the right professionals for projects.

But nearly 80% of hiring managers who do work with independent professionals feel differently. They’re confident they can find the talent they need … and for a lot of them, that talent is right here on Upwork.

How Upwork makes it easy to hire top talent

Even though I’ve primarily worked as a writer throughout my career, I spent three years working as a corporate recruiter. And the companies I worked at didn’t use Upwork for talent acquisition. We followed the “traditional” recruitment process:

  • Using job boards
  • Searching on LinkedIn and social media
  • Posting jobs on a careers page
  • Offering incentives and perks to existing staff for referrals
  • Hosting interview events
  • Attending in-person job fairs all around the country

I’d even buy job ads on Craigslist in a pinch.

The first time I did hire someone on Upwork, I was delighted by how easy it was. Within a matter of hours, I had just the right person for the job—and my Upwork account had all the tools I needed to make the process as smooth as possible.

Related: What Is an Employee Referral Program?

Leverage Upwork’s Talent Badges for instant insights

One of the features I find particularly useful on Upwork are the Talent Badges. (I actually really like these from both a client and a talent perspective.)

Talent Badges appear as small, colorful icons on talent profiles. Once you know what each badge means, it’s a quick way to get an idea of each professional’s level of expertise.

  • Rising Talent badges indicate the professional is new to Upwork, but already exhibiting early signs of success.
  • Top Rated professionals are noted for providing great customer service to their clients. They’ve earned at least $1,000 on Upwork in the past 12 months, and they have a Job Success Score (JSS) of at least 90%.
  • Top Rated Plus badges appear when a Top Rated professional has earned at least $10,000 and worked on a large contract in the past 12 months. They also maintain great client satisfaction rates and an outstandingJSS.
  • Expert-Vetted Talent badges are awarded to the top 1% of Upwork talent providing select services. Each professional with this badge is vetted through personal interviews, soft skills assessments, and hard skills analysis or testing.

You can see these talent badges in search results, too—and even use them as a filter option when searching talent profiles.

Badge Filters

Granted, talent badges aren’t the only important criteria when hiring an independent professional for your next project, but they can be quite helpful.

To really find the best-fit talent for your project on Upwork, you’ll want to follow a few additional steps that can set you up for success.

Conduct skill and role assessments

As with any hiring process, you need to be clear on the kind of help you need. This is the only way to truly ensure you’re connecting with the right candidates for a job.

If you’ve primarily hired full-time staff in the past, you may immediately think you need to create the same kind of role when you identify a skill gap in your organization.

Some of the most nimble (and effective) teams take a different approach, though. It’s known as skill sourcing, and it can help you get more innovative work done in an efficient way.

When you skill source, you maintain a core team—and then bring in independent professionals who can provide specific skill sets for the duration of a project. Your current team won’t have to reskill, and you don’t have to launch a full-scale hiring initiative.

Review your company’s culture and values

You’ll also want to take a fresh look at your company’s “employer brand”—or in this case, client brand.

While you want to be honest about your company’s mission, vision, goals, and values, you also want to make sure that you’re emphasizing why you’re a great client. This might be a pivot from your usual recruitment strategy, but it’s important.

Think about:

  • What your company stands for, and why an independent professional might be proud to bring you on as a client
  • How your company culture is or can be supportive of professionals bringing specific skills to the table
  • Whether your brand’s reputation accurately reflects what you want people to know and think about the business
  • Ways that you can provide social proof to back up your brand values—including testimonials from previous partners and clients (Upwork makes this easy, as the talent you work with can leave feedback on your profile)

Once you’re confident your company is putting its best face forward, it’s time to start getting more specific about the job at hand.

Develop a hiring budget

Budget is an important part of hiring an independent professional—and on Upwork, it’s good to share your hourly or project budget upfront. You don’t have to, but doing so can help you connect with your ideal candidates faster.

Be sure to review your operating plans and financial projections to come up with a budget for your hiring. Don’t forget to factor in any associated fees that you may encounter when listing jobs and sourcing talent.

If you aren’t sure how much to budget, look for similar job listings on Upwork to get a feel for how much other clients are budgeting. You can also look at the profiles of talent with related skill sets and establish what the going rates are for professionals in your industry.

Attract top talent with a targeted job description

Once you have your budget nailed down, you can include it in your job description.

You’ll want to write a job description that’s targeted to specific professionals. To do this, make sure you include:

  • The real skill set or job title you’re searching for (say “Customer Service Representative” not “Helpful Community Conversation Rockstar”)
  • What your company does and who they serve
  • An explanation of your problem and needs—remember, you’re looking for someone who can help you achieve a specific goal or carry out a defined task
  • The qualifications, including level of experience, that you would like the person you work with to have
  • How long you expect the project engagement will run for, and with what kind of time commitment (for example, five hours a week for 12 weeks)
  • Your budget for the role

When you start a new job post on Upwork, we’ll walk you through the entire process and help you estimate the scope of your project.

Job post creator

We’ll even suggest the categories of work where you’re most likely to find the right professional.

Review talent profiles to find the right fit

There’s no right or wrong way to go about searching for job candidates and reviewing proposals, but I personally find it easiest to:

  1. Post my job in Talent Marketplace
  2. Wait several hours, allowing proposals to come in
  3. Review the first batch of proposals, saving my favorites to a shortlist
  4. Run a talent search and send invites to the job, if I haven’t received many proposals that I like (though this almost never happens)
  5. Reach out to the talent I’ve shortlisted with any initial questions or a request to set up a Zoom call through Upwork Messages

I’ll keep repeating steps three through five until I’ve found the right fit. In my experience, this typically happens very quickly—I usually find the right person for my project in the first 24 hours after I post a job. That said, there’s nothing wrong with the process taking longer! It’s best to take your time and consider all of your options to find the best-fit independent professional for the job.

Proposals inbox

Talk to independent talent on Upwork

Don’t be afraid to ask talent all of your questions. The pros you meet on Upwork are used to working with clients, and they’ll be able to:

  • Provide any additional information you need
  • Help you figure out what, exactly, you need help with (this may necessitate engaging in a paid consultation, which can be a great starting point for many projects)
  • Explain how they see the project process evolving
  • Discuss pricing and timelines

Your conversation may not progress like the typical in-person interview process you’re used to. That’s OK. You can meet talent from all around the world on Upwork, so embracing asynchronous communication tools like chat and Loom will help you make the best hire.

But you’re more than welcome to start a phone call or Zoom meeting with talent, too! Just remember to keep all of your communications on the Upwork platform before you have a contract in place. You can access every communication tool you need within Upwork Messages.

This is an important part of the Upwork Terms of Service, and it’s meant to help keep you (and talent) safe as you’re getting to know each other.

Plus, having an ongoing record of all of your messages can help you work more efficiently!

Related: The 16 Best Interview Questions To Ask Remote Workers

Build long-term talent relationships that last

Once you find the right fit for your project, you can easily extend a job offer and enter into a contract with just a few clicks. You and the talent you choose will have a dedicated contract workroom where you can share files, messages, tasks, and more.

Upwork also makes it easy to maintain your relationships with talent. While your project will come to a natural end—be that in the immediate or distant future—your Virtual Talent Bench™ gives you quick access to the name and profile of everyone you’ve worked with in the past. This way, you can reach back out to your favorite collaborators for their help on future projects.

Keep expanding your talent pool with Any Hire

You don’t have to choose between sourcing Top-Rated talent on Upwork or working with professionals you happen to meet through your network, either. Upwork Any Hire lets you bring any talent you work with onto the platform and manage your contracts, compliance, onboarding, and payroll in one spot.

So go ahead—put some feelers out in your network to meet talent in your area, keep hiring on Upwork, and bring everyone together using a platform that you know and trust.

Tap into the top 1% of talent with Upwork Enterprise

Ultimately, hiring the best talent on Upwork comes down to three key things:

  • Proper planning, including knowing what skills you need—and what budget you have to pay for them
  • A well-written job description
  • Good communication with prospective talent

Even though I’ve used Upwork to find talent many times, I’m always delighted by the speed at which I receive great proposals to each of my job posts.

And, because Upwork walks me through the setup process each time I create a new Talent Marketplace job post, I’m confident that I’ll always find the right person for the job. And you can too!

Plus, there’s another way to find and hire top talent in our work marketplace: Upwork Enterprise. You’ll get to use all of Upwork’s collaboration, sourcing, and project management tools plus benefit from access to skilled sourcing professionals who can help you find just the right fit for any project.

They’ll connect you with Expert-Vetted Talent and other Upwork pros who are ready to work—and have experience with clients who have needs like yours.

Getting started with Upwork Enterprise is easy. Just get in touch with our team to set up a call—we’ll take it from there.

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Author Spotlight

Upwork’s Top-Rated Freelancers: How To Hire the Best
Emily Gertenbach
B2B SEO Content Writer & Consultant

Emily Gertenbach is a B2B writer who creates SEO content for humans, not just algorithms. As a former news correspondent, she loves digging into research and breaking down technical topics. She specializes in helping independent marketing professionals and martech SaaS companies connect with their ideal business clients through organic search.

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