This morning I received an email from a freelancer website called Upwork.

“I’m pleased to share that, thanks to customers like you, Upwork is now trading as a public stock on the Nasdaq (under the UPWK ticker).  Your Upwork experience will stay the same.”

We make it possible for businesses to find, hire, work with and pay freelancers anywhere, anytime.

Upwork was formed in 2014 from the merger of Elance and oDesk.

On Tuesday evening Upwork priced its IPO at $15 per share, above the expected $13 target. With nearly 12.5 million shares in the IPO, the company has a $1.5 billion valuation.

“This IPO event is not about raising money. We have cash in the bank,” stated CEO Stephane Kasriel.

For the six months ended June 30, 2018, Upwork saw total revenue increasing 28% to $107 million, with a net loss of $7.2 million.

October 2, 2018 mid-morning, UPWK is up 30% to $20 on 5 million shares traded.

Last year 375,000 freelancers earned money on Upwork, working with 475,000 contractors.

I am one of those “contractors”.

In the last 10 years, I’ve executed 155 contracts, employing freelancers in 15 different countries including these three from the UK, Russia, and the U.S.

Over the years, I’ve hired software engineers, translators, programmers, graphic designers, copy-editors, architects, IT developers, 3D-modelers and market strategists.

Because I communicate clearly, don’t haggle, pay promptly – and give bonuses where appropriate – I have the highest possible rating as a contractor.  This helps me attract highly-rated freelancers in any of the 60 job categories on Upwork.

I can read their reviews, they can read mine.

Contractors and freelancers are incentivised to behave well, and do good work.

The Upwork feedback system is double-blind. The other user cannot see the feedback you left them until after they have left feedback for you, or until the 14-day feedback period expires. At that point your feedback will become visible in your contract. It may take up to 24 hours for new feedback to show on your public work history.

Here is an Upwork case study:

I manage an academic website that gets about 60,000 unique visitors a month.  The content provider uses an obscure typesetting program called LaTeX – popular with mathematicians, physicists and philosophers.

One day, the content provider got in a jam with the Latex files.

I logged onto Upwork, created a “New Job”:

“I need help with a LaTex files,” I wote, “We use boylexth.tex with includeonly commands to bring in boyext1.tex or  boyext2.tex or both of them. With boyext2.tx it doesn’t compile, won’t produce a pdf file.”

Upwork immediately spat me out a list of candidates who have listed “LaTex” as one of their skills.

If there are too many candidates, I can filter for: “Hourly Wage” “4-star reviews +”, “Above 90% job success rate”, “Proficient English”.

I can also filter for test results on Upwork’s voluntary internal testing systems:

Note: this happened around 1 a.m, Vancouver, BC time.  One of the advantages of working with a global talent pool is that freelancers in Europe and Asia are generally awake while we are sleeping.

Within 10 minutes I received a message from a Russian high-school teacher who has a Masters in Theoretic Science.

Hi 🙂 Am I right that you want to solve the only problem of generating three variants of PDF from LaTeX source? Than I think I can deal with it. Tell me what operating system you use, and show me your main *.tex file. I will look and ask you more questions.

This Russian man was highly-rated and has earned over $200,000 on Upwork (you can also filter for “Total Amount Earned”).

I hired him.

Eight minutes later:

1) Open boyext2.tex file, scroll it to the bottom and delete “end{document}” command. 2) Open boylexth.tex file, scroll it to the bottom and delete “begin{multicols}{2}” and “end{multicols}”.  3) Try to generate, find in folder generated PDF, open and check.

“It is perfect now,” I told him, “You are a genius.  I will leave you a 5-star review.”

“Greatest thank you for the motivation,” the Russian replied, “I am happy too!”

I paid a fixed price of $50.

Of course, not every job goes this smoothly.

LaTex file corruption is right in Upwork’s wheelhouse – because the work is digitised and does not require visual sophistication or cultural nuance.

Sometimes the collaborations take perseverance.

I have an Upwork employee in Bangladesh who does website maintenance.

At the beginning of our professional relationship, I used to send him long, pedantic instructions only to have him respond “I did it”.

His curtness irritated me.

I wanted to fire him.

But I slowly figured out, he’s telling me, “This shit doesn’t have to be so complicated –  I don’t need a 400-word essay discussing potential subplots in a parallel universe.”

So now I tell him: “Do this”.

And he replies “I did it”.

An Upwork employee in Bangladesh taught me that I am wind-bag.

I’m grateful for the information.

Usually in life, the rules are tilted in favour of people with money.

I suspect Upwork works better for the contractors than the freelancers.

For Upwork, wages are a sensitive issue.

I pay my Bangladesh dude $17 an hour.  That’s triple his posted rate.  A good deal for me.  And – I think – for him too.

“We make more money when freelancers make more money,” Kasriel points out.

“A contractor says if the work is not done under the second milestone time than he will cut $50,” complained one freelancer on the Upwork Community Forum.

“If your client has added this term after completing your first milestone, you`re not obligated to accept it,” responded the moderator.

“The baby boomers are retiring. They were much less likely to be freelancers,” stated Kasriel, “The millennials are now the largest generation in the workforce. Almost half of millennials do some amount of freelancing today.”

Upwork earns an average 14% commission on each transaction.

Full Disclosure: I am an Upwork contractor and I have purchased UPWK shares on the open market.

Written By:

Lukas Kane

Lukas Kane was previously the CEO of a North American investment news syndicate. He was also the Communication Director for a consortium of publicly traded companies. A Senior Writer at Equity.Guru, Mr. Kane writes about mining, cannabis, energy, technology and biotech.

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