A few days ago, Jack Sillis from Upwork.com‘s marketing department approached me with a proposition. Would I be willing to write about social media best practices and perhaps share Upwork’s own insights into the topic? In turn, I might receive citations and additional publicity for this blog.
Well, sure, here is the post he recommended — nothing surprising here, and I think you’ll agree the concepts are pretty straightforward. Be responsive, empathetic and quickly take charge of social media messes with respectful and creative initiatives. Certainly don’t play the “silent” game, or worse, the legalistic or angry fight-back approach.
Trouble is, I’m thinking about the “why” behind Sillis’ communications with me, and here we run into the messy contradiction between marketing and price/value.
I use Upwork. A lot. I don’t like Upwork, one bit. Why? Because it is the result of a merger of two previous online contractor/client matching services, resulting in skyrocketing costs at the low end of the pricing equation.
Previously, I was able to obtain the services of absolutely competent technical support contractors for as little as .50 an hour (that’s right, fifty cents.) Now, the minimum is $3.00 per hour plus fees, plus (for a Canadian) exchange rates, bringing the real cost to closer to $4.00 an hour.
You might be saying – Whoa. After all, anyone who can receive competent help for $4.00 an hour without breaking minimum wage rules should be happy all the way to the bank, but there is another problem — prices have escalated in sympathy along the scale, so the person you might have happily paid $4.00 an hour under the old rules now charges $12.00, and so on.
The higher fees don’t have much harm for very short-term projects/challenges, and here Upwork continues to serve well, in solving immediate and more challenging problems. As an example, our son had a university math exam approaching within days, and couldn’t understand the Markov Chain. We discovered a South African tutor to help him through the problem in an hour for $15.00 US plus fees, and another contractor whipped out the solution to a messy database issue for about $10.00 — obviously these services would be much more expensive elsewhere, especially since they needed to be fulfilled urgently.
However, the merger has messed up my budgets for ongoing services, which I was able to solve only by searching far and wide before discovering timedoctor.com and its free recruiting service. With a modest-fee monthly software, I was able to find at least one reliable service contractor ready to work for $2.50 an hour directly and without fees, other than very modest PayPal delivery charges.
We’ll throw one other piece into the puzzle. With its new higher fees and margins, of course, Upwork can “up” its marketing initiatives. More money equals more marketing. Or is it the reverse? Heck, this is a marketing advice blog and I’m supposed to be telling you that marketing is good because it helps you collect better revenue because the market perceives you offer better value or your services truly are worth the money you are paying.
If we ignore the past, and recognize that Upwork acts as a broker, so most of the additional revenue really flows to contractors who probably are quite happy to be receiving at least $3.00 an hour rather than .50 cents for the services, then Sillis’ initiatives make absolute sense. Build the online reputation, expand demand for the service, and you might even find the support contractors for your social media services within Upwork’s ranks. (Though I think you would need to be careful, because in general the level and speed of response requires both immediacy and enough problem-solving authority to make things right. The former may be easy with 24/7 potential offshore service capacity, but I doubt a home worker based in the Indian subcontinent could have the authority to make a renovation project turning sour into something sweet.)
Upwork won’t solve with some marketing initiatives my distaste for the changes that resulted in a 300 per cent cost increase, even if the original costs were absurdly low. However, I’ll accept that some effective marketing on this organization’s part is still valid for the great masses of potential clients — and, so, in the end applaud the initiative.
Do you have opinions about online contractor-matching services, or social media marketing? You can comment below or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.