Building Community and Earning Income During Wartime

When the war in Ukraine broke out in February 2022, many people had to immediately move to bomb shelters or relocate to a safer location and most in-person jobs were no longer possible. At the time, I had an established and successful business as a UI/UX designer and owner of an agency on Upwork. I continued working and I soon became the sole lifeline to support my family and cover relocation expenses.

Given my positive experience on Upwork, I wanted to help other individuals in Ukraine create Upwork profiles and earn income to support their own families. Along the way, we also established a sense of community, which is so important given the stress and uncertainty of wartime. Below, I’ve highlighted how I’ve helped Ukrainian talent build their businesses on Upwork during the war, along with a few success stories featuring Ukraine-based freelancers.

Table of contents:

Offering one-on-one guidance to professionals in Ukraine

In wartime, everyone has a mindset of wanting to unite and help one another and I wanted to do what I could to help others succeed on Upwork—especially with so many lost in-person jobs.

The most experienced experts in marketing, design, development, and other online specialties lost their jobs with Ukraine-based companies as the Ukrainian economy came to a standstill and they were looking for new ways to earn income.

Even before the war broke out, many personal and professional connections reached out to me to learn more about how to succeed and earn income on Upwork. Once the war started, I offered one-on-one guidance to individuals who asked for my support.

One of the most interesting examples was my friend’s father, who was interested in offering Photoshop services on Upwork. He created a profile, translated it to English, and asked for my help with writing proposals. Working in Photoshop and creating an Upwork profile is something my friend’s father never considered before the war. This is just one of many examples that shows how the job market suddenly shifted and individuals turned to Upwork to earn income during a difficult time.

I was consulting up to 10 people at once and the demand for guidance and advice was soon so high that I faced challenges keeping up on my own while continuing to support my clients.  

Expanding support with online resources and networks

I realized I could do more to support others to get started or grow their businesses on Upwork—while freeing up more of my time to focus on client work. I explored ideas to reach a wider audience.

Weekly webinars

I started by offering weekly webinars in partnership with other Ukraine-based freelancers and owners of agencies on Upwork. We promoted the webinars on social media and other channels to spread the word and drive attendance.

The webinars didn’t have a set agenda or formal presentations. Rather, we simply shared our personal experiences.

During the webinars, we covered these topics:

The webinars captured so much attention that we were invited for an interview with a well-known Ukrainian YouTube channel and the video attracted a large number of views.  

Online networking group

During the war, many people have lost their social connections and I personally haven’t seen one of my best friends in almost two years because he relocated outside the country.

To support the demand for sharing best practices and building community, I also created an online networking group through Telegram called Upwork Club. This group enables Ukraine-based independent talent and owners of agencies on Upwork to forge connections during a challenging time.

We started the group in April 2022 and within four months, it grew to 4,000 members and now has more than 6,000 members. I regularly post helpful content and tips for freelancers on Upwork and others have the opportunity to share their own experiences and best practices with the group. Other features of the networking group include online courses to drive freelancing success and opportunities to refer one another to Upwork projects.

As the group grew rapidly, I needed additional support to help oversee day-to-day administration, so I hired a support team. My time was freed up to launch a premium version of the networking group. The premium version includes even more content to help independent professionals in Ukraine build their businesses and work with clients around the world.

Building community through in-person events

In addition to the engagement and connection built through online networking, members of the group were also eager to meet and collaborate in person. We hosted our first in-person meetup for freelancers and owners of agencies on Upwork in October 2022. More than 50 people attended.

Following the initial meetup, the demand for in-person events was clear, so we began meeting more frequently to exchange ideas, build community, and motivate and energize each other. In the fall of 2023, we hosted a conference for more than 200 attendees. During the event, we discussed ways to build our Upwork businesses and continue to better serve our clients. We record and share transcripts for every networking event, whether online or in-person, to help the broader community of freelancers and owners of agencies.

Conference in Ukraine

Attendees at a conference in Ukraine to learn more about how to work on Upwork.

Bohdan image

The author, Bohdan Huriev, speaks at the conference he hosted.

Hiking tour

To break away from the routine of day-to-day work and have time to clear our heads, our group also hosts more informal social events, including a hiking trip to the Carpathian Mountains, a mountain range west of Ukraine.

Success stories featuring skilled Ukrainian talent

Through the online community and both virtual and in-person events, I’ve met many inspiring professionals who have turned to Upwork to support their families throughout the war. Below are just a few of the many examples of Ukraine-based independent talent who have experienced success on Upwork.

Yurii Zanyk, WordPress website developer and SEO expert

Yuuri

Yurii Zanyk is a Top Rated Plus WordPress website developer and SEO expert. He specializes in developing WordPress websites, enhancing clients' online visibility, improving site loading speeds, and optimizing websites for search engines. Yurii prioritizes staying updated on the latest trends and methodologies in website development to provide exceptional outcomes for clients. This comprehensive approach helps boost conversion rates and drive more revenue-generating traffic from Google to his clients’ websites.

What he did before the war

Before transitioning to freelancing on Upwork, Yurii was a web developer at a local, Ukraine-based company, where he gained extensive knowledge about the website development cycle. A YouTube video featuring another successful Upwork freelancer inspired Yurii to resign from his full-time position and focus on offering web development and SEO services on Upwork.

How he came to Upwork

Soon after seeing the YouTube video, Yurii created a detailed profile accurately showcasing his skills and strengths and started submitting proposals. He quickly received responses and interest from prospective clients, which helped him steadily build his business on Upwork. One of Yurii’s most successful website optimization projects to date resulted in the client tripling their website traffic.

“Upwork's support for Ukraine played a crucial role in not only retaining my existing clients but also in attracting new clients looking to support Ukrainian workers,” said Yurii. “This solidarity enabled me to maintain and enhance the quality of service provided to my customers, regardless of war. Upwork has also been instrumental in my ability to support my family's well being while affirming my own sense of being as a valuable and essential professional.”

Andrew Tsopych, senior full-stack developer and agency owner

Andrew

Andrew Tsopych is an Expert-Vetted senior full-stack developer and leads a software development and design agency on Upwork. He focuses on innovation and progress while helping worldwide clients benefit from tailor-made tech solutions. Andrew’s agency, Intobi, delivers custom software applications to ensure both monetary gains and cost savings. He takes pride in his involvement across all phases of the project lifecycle, including business analysis, research, evaluation, UX/UI design, development, and support.

What he did before the war

Before building a business on Upwork, Andrew was a software developer at an outsourced company. He was the third employee at the company and initially joined as a specialist before growing into a more senior-level developer role. He was ultimately named the chief technology officer (CTO) and helped the company reach 100 employees while working on projects in the insurance, finance, banking, and construction space.

How he came to Upwork

Andrew first found out about Upwork while exploring new opportunities to find clients at his past company. Since then, Andrew has turned to Upwork to find and secure work for his own software development business. To stand out from other independent professionals and agencies when submitting proposals, rather than only highlighting his own experience, Andrew thoughtfully analyzes and addresses clients’ technical needs and recommends valuable solutions.

“I have to give a lot of credit and gratitude to Upwork,” said Andrew. “Clients on Upwork really helped me stay afloat at the beginning of the war and to this day, Upwork helps me find new clients and complete meaningful projects. As a result, I can support myself and my family, pay salaries to my agency staff, and pay taxes to Ukraine. This certainly supports the country's economy during the war.”

Anna Shtonda, graphic designer

Anna

Anna Shtonda is a Top Rated Plus graphic designer who focuses on helping clients’ brands stand out, captivating their target audience, and improving customer engagement. She specializes in seamlessly integrating visual elements into projects and ensuring each client's brand becomes instantly recognizable, leaving a lasting impact.

What she did before the war

Before the war, Anna led the design team at a Ukrainian beauty brand, producing a range of marketing materials, including brochures, catalogs, advertising banners, packaging, and social media visuals. Anna attended Kyiv National University of Technology and Design, where she graduated with honors.

How she came to Upwork

Soon after the war started in early 2022, Anna created an Upwork profile and began submitting proposals for graphic design projects. She has since completed more than 120 projects on Upwork with clients across a wide range of industries.

Anna offers services for a variety of design assets, including:

  • Brand Identity materials and logos
  • Print design such brochures, posters, leaflets, flyers, postcards, wedding invitations, business cards, display boards, menus, and catalogs
  • Layout design for websites, outdoor ads, print, and social networks
  • Business presentation design and pitch decks
  • Banner ad design and social media content for Facebook, Instagram, and Amazon
  • Digital publication and marketing materials

One of Anna’s long-term clients is a U.S.-based company with Ukrainian roots. The company develops charging stations and solar panels and has helped Ukrainians by providing charging stations for hospitals and military personnel during the war. Anna has partnered with this client for more than a year. Collaborating through Upwork makes it easy to communicate with this client and others despite being located in different parts of the world.

“I’m grateful to my clients for being in my life and each of my projects offer invaluable experiences that provide not only income, but also great friendships that continue to this day,” said Anna. “Freelance work through Upwork also enabled me to go abroad with my sister at the beginning of the war and support our lives in Europe for three months, although living expenses in Europe are higher than in Ukraine.”

Oleh Plavutskyi, UI/UX designer and agency owner

Oleh

Oleh Plavutskyi is a Top Rated Plus UX/UI designer and runs a design agency on Upwork. His agency, KLATS, crafts intuitive and user-centric design experiences that drive business growth in software as a service (SaaS), healthcare, artificial intelligence, e-commerce, and online education.

As the founder of an agency, Oleh wears many hats in addition to working on UI/UX projects. He also oversees management, delegation, and talent acquisition, which enables him to stay energized and continually learn as the team pursues ambitious goals for both clients and themselves.

What he did before the war

Before the war, Oleh led a successful UX/UI agency in Ukraine. In early 2022, his client work came to a halt as Ukraine's economy was impacted by the war. Oleh decided to create an Upwork profile offering UX/UI design services to clients and expand his reach beyond the Ukrainian market.

How he came to Upwork

Oleh first heard about Upwork from his girlfriend, who already had a successful graphic design business and several long-term clients on Upwork before the war. When Oleh initially created his Upwork profile, he secured his first client within a week.

On his profile and in proposals, Oleh highlights past experience and quantifiable results, such as helping a client increase website traffic by 20% or boost sales by 15%. Over a year and a half later, his agency has grown into a team of four, fueled entirely by Upwork clients.

“Upwork gave me incredible opportunities and a talent pool accessible on this platform, empowering individuals like myself to rebuild and thrive,” said Oleh. “In these challenging times for Ukrainian businesses, Upwork has become a lifeline for me and my family. It wasn't just about building an income; it was about securing stability and safety during a period of immense uncertainty. The platform's global reach allows me to work remotely and continue providing for my loved ones, offering a sense of normalcy and hope amidst hardship.”

Get in touch for support on your UX/UI projects

I’m inspired by every Ukrainian professional I’ve had the opportunity to connect with, both online and in-person. Each person brings unique skills and experience to help drive exceptional results for clients across industries and around the world. I’m eager to continue building community and helping individuals grow their businesses on Upwork. If you’re interested in supporting and engaging independent professionals based in Ukraine, search through available projects on Upwork.

I partner with clients to bring ideas to life and increase user engagement through UX/UI design and software design for SaaS, CRM, and ERP, with a specific focus on management platforms and mobile applications. If you’re looking for a skilled, experienced partner for an upcoming project, get in touch through my Upwork profile and we can discuss your specific business needs, UX/UI requirements, and project goals.

This article was submitted by and expresses the views and opinions of the independent freelancer listed as the author. They do not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork, and Upwork does not explicitly sponsor or endorse any of the views, opinions, tools or services mentioned in this article, all of which are provided as potential options according to the view of the author. Each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situations.
This article was submitted by and expresses the views and opinions of the author. They do not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork, and Upwork does not explicitly sponsor or endorse any of the views, opinions, tools or services mentioned in this article, all of which are provided as potential options according to the view of the author. Each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situations.
Article Author
Author
Bohdan H.
Top Rated Plus
Software AI Design Expert
Kharkiv, Ukraine
Software design expert

Read more from Bohdan Huriev