Should Virtual Assistants bother with sites like Upwork?

You might have seen some outsourcing websites where freelancers can register, bid, and apply for jobs posted up by companies and individuals around the world. Upwork, People Per Hour, 3desk, Fiverr, Guru, and oDesk are just a few of those sites but there are many more out there. But do online job sites actually lead to paid work for Virtual Assistants?

My experience of freelancing job sites

Personally, I know very few Virtual Assistants who have secured decent work from a freelancing job site but that’s not to say that some people don’t or won’t.

I know a Digital Animator who gets clients from a specialist niche job site, but I think the problem with the more mainstream job sites is there are so many generalists competing against each other and you have to spend so much time writing proposals and bidding, you’d never actually get any work done.

I registered on a few sites when I first started out (because I didn’t really know where to look for work at that point) but didn’t get any work from them.

I also didn’t like how they made me feel

To be honest, I felt as if I was part of a cattle market. Like I was struggling to prove my worth to strangers and that I had to justify my rates or lower them in order to be chosen. It felt a bit demoralising actually.

Cheap as chips and paying peanuts

If you want to go nowhere follow the crowdFrankly, I think a lot of people who post jobs on freelancing job sites are looking for someone cheap.

They know they can hire someone willing to undercut everyone else or someone living in a country with a lower cost of living who can afford to do the job for half the price of everyone else – and this leaves you out of the running unless you’re willing to undervalue and underprice what you do.

And a professional business owner should never do that.

I personally think it’s much better to do your own thing, market yourself as a professional and go after clients you want to work with rather than sitting around hoping to get picked and taking part in a demeaning race to the bottom.

I think a Virtual Assistant should be proactive and decide who they want to work with and what tasks they want to undertake, instead of feeling like they need to take on every piece of work they’re offered because they can’t afford not to.


You have nothing to lose (except time and perhaps a bit of confidence) by giving these freelancing job sites a go but, like all your marketing efforts, assess the results and if you can see that they aren’t working for you then stop focusing your time and attention on them.

Wanna sort your marketing once and for all?

Marketing is simple once you understand how it works because, while the platforms we use will always change, the principles remain the same.

Learn the principles of marketing and you will always know how to get work.



Cleo- aka

I joined ” Upworks”, sent numerous proposal and they all were people trying to get my personal information from all over the world. Luckily I decided to contact the companies they said they represented and was told they were all scams, not one was real. One person even presented himself as a pastor of a very large Non-profit organization.
I accepted a job offer, due to having family responsibilities and am building my business part time. I now use contacts from my network events.

Sabra Way

I tried Elance for a while and even paid for a few extras on the site. I found the overall quality of the offered jobs to be poor. Lots of writing crap blog posts – almost link bait – for pennies. When I did bid on work I have the same feeling as Joanne described in the post. Pick me, Pick me! I got all the way to a Skype interview for one potential client where my skill set (nutritional supplement knowledge) was essential. I gave a fair quote and so be honest, lowered my rate a bit, becasue I wanted the work and becasue I knew that those bids got more work. In the end the potential client exclaimed, ‘Oh that is more than double what I want pay!’ In my opinion the bidding process takes too much time for little or no reward.

Joanne Munro

I agree; you’ll never be the cheapest and you wouldn’t want to be. Thank you so much for your comment and taking time out to contribute to the site, it’s really appreciated. x

Nicolle French

Hi guys I signed up to a few of these sites when first starting out but soon found that the simply drained my energy and took my focus away from creating great work to writing bids all day. For some of them if you don’t accept a job in super speedy time (and by this I mean 5 mins or less) you lose out which is not what I personallyfeel is a great start to a client/freelance brief. I soon stepped away from this model as if clients want the cheapest proposal they will shop around and have no loyalty to your brand.

Sharon Lewis

I registered with a few too and had a response from a proposal saying other VA’s were cheaper, even though I had reduced my fee within the proposal. I had another that kept emailing me making appointments to ring me in response to another proposal – and he never rang – just kept emailing me, apologising and making new appointments – he still never rang. So, I agree, try it – but try to put more effort in elsewhere, where the quality of the Client is a little superior.


I joined Time Etc and although the work was coming in, if you were not quick enough to accept the task then another VA got it. I have had no work from them for 2 months, due to them saying I have negative customer feedback but I have never seen the feedback. I have only done 3 tasks in 3 months!!!!!!

Joanne Munro

Thank you for taking the time to comment Suzanne. I’ve never used sites such as these but they had always seemed a waste of time – if they were that good then surely all the VAs would be using them! I think working for sites like these also make you a bit of an online temp – at the mercy of another (but invisible) boss. I’ve always thought it better to go out and get your own clients and be recognised for the work you do – and paid well for it! Thanks for sharing your experience Suzanne. x

Vanessa Thomas

I’ve been with Time Etc for over a year now, the tasks that come in initially are fastest response wins but I soon got offered my own clients rather than the random tasks… I now have 4 clients who keep me as busy as I want to be, they all top up the same amount of hours each month so whilst my rate has only gone from £11 to £13 an hour, I know where I am each month and feel I’m gaining valuable experience for the future having never been a VA before.


I signed up to one of these sites – but didn’t find it very effective for the amount you were paid per hour. I don’t think you can beat finding your own clients and coming to a ongoing business relationship where you build up a rapport with them.


i’m a beginner in this field but i like it very much. I have more than 6 years experience as an markting/ manager/ personal assistant and I’m eager to become a successful virtual assistant. I placed lots of proposals on freelancing job sites but no response. Where should i start from? How can I put myself on the market and get noticed? Thank you for the amazing job that you do helping hundreds of youngsters to find their way!

Joanne Munro

Thank you for your comment Andreea. I suggest a combination of reading my post on 23 ways to market your business and buying my guide on how to get clients. It outlines the only way I use to get clients – plus, you have marketing experience so just think of yourself as the product! Most of the people who read my site and who become VAs are actually women aged 30+ so not just youngsters. To be a good VA you have to be resourceful and to communicate well. Where there’s a will, there’s a way! x

Kelley H

I had a horrible experience with Elance. I bid on and won a couple of jobs, worked very hard and did good work. My first job, I did excellent work but because the client would not verify themselves with the hours tracker software my hours could not be verified. My invoice was rejected. I was ripped off to the tune of about $700 USD (about $1000 CAD). The second job I won, same thing. The client simply would not verify himself. I didn’t do any of the work but much time was wasted still. There are many ways clients can take advantage of newbies on the site and get a lot of work done for free.

Joanne Munro

Hi Kelley – that sounds AWFUL! What a nightmare and that is such a lot of money to lose. I’ve never used Elance myself so it’s really interesting hearing from people who have. Your report doesn’t make me want to go near it to be honest…


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