There's a growing number of freelancers and independent contractors in the American workforce. Some freelancers choose this style of work for its flexibility, others are forced into it as a result of the pandemic or the increasingly pervasive gig economy. The Freelance Forward Survey found that, as of this year, freelancers make up one third of the American workforce. A 2017 study from Edelman Intelligence predicted the majority of the workforce would be freelancers, gig workers, and independent contractors by 2027.
COVID-19 just accelerated the freelance takeover, a boon for apps designed to facilitate freelance work arrangements like Fiverr (NYSE:FVRR) and Upwork (NASDAQ:UPWK). But which company is leading the market?
The two leading freelancer platforms on the market are Upwork and Fiverr. Upwork, founded in 1999 as Elance, has become the hub for freelancers looking for long-term clients. The platform is great for workers looking for projects lasting 4-6 months, and for companies looking to assign those projects. Fiverr is designed for freelancers to advertise their services. Founded in 2010, Fiverr allows users to sell their services for fees ranging from $5 to thousands.
Fiverr excels in daily growth, but Upwork shows longevity
Upwork is a freelancer platform that fosters long-term projects and client relationships. Features like document sharing streamlines workflow, making it ideal for freelancers working on long-term projects. It's ideal for freelancers with existing relationships and reputations.
Fiverr’s model is much more suitable for one-off jobs and short term gigs. In part, that’s why its web traffic remains steadily higher than Upwork's page views. Fiverr’s daily page views per million is up since the beginning of the pandemic. Fiverr’s most recent page view numbers have increased 52% from February. Meanwhile, Upwork's traffic is down 67%.
Both Fiverr and Upwork are capitalizing on this tectonic shift in the American workforce. Since the beginning of the pandemic, both platforms' Apple app store ratings have risen significantly. Upwork's ratings are up by 68% since the beginning of the year. Fiverr's ratings count is up by 56%.
Upwork's social media momentum suggests sustainability
The biggest indicator of long-term sustainable growth lies in social media, and Upwork is the clear leader in that space. Upwork’s long-term client-friendly model is helping the company maintain steady growth, reflected in its social media following. Fiverr has a higher Twitter follower count, but its numbers are declining while Upwork’s are increasing year-over-year. Fiverr's count is down almost 4% from a peak in June. Upwork’s following is up almost 4% in the same time frame.
Upwork is also growing at a faster and steadier rate on Facebook. Its Facebook likes have increased by 16% this year, compared to Fiverr’s 9%.
The reliable growth is most apparent in Facebook mentions. Upwork's Facebook 'Talking About' count surged 583% in June. Fiverr has been more sporadic and unpredictable, with sharp declines in July and earlier this month, when the company saw a drop of more than 400% in mentions in less than a week.
Ultimately, the two services split the market share. While there's some overlap between the two, they fulfill different needs in the freelance ecosystem. Upwork is a better platform for longer term projects, in turn, helping the company grow more sustainably as the fabric of the American workforce shifts from a dominant full-time work economy to one led by independent contractors and freelancers. Generally, it’s a better platform to find specialized talent and consultants for longstanding assignments.
Fiverr is better to find workers for one-off jobs or outsourcing. It’s a better platform to find the logo designer for a new small business or a voice-over artist for a brand’s commercial, but it's not necessarily prepared to fulfill the needs of the changing dynamic of the American workforce. While both platforms are performing well during the pandemic, social media metrics suggest the future looks brighter for Upwork.
About the Data:
Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online, jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings, and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.