Changes to the way skills are organized on Upwork will make it easier for freelancers to get in front of potential clients and for clients to find the freelance talent they need for their next project. The move that’s driving this shift? A new ontology for the Upwork platform.
“An ontology is a way of representing information and the relationships between pieces of information,” said Zak Hubbard, director of product management at Upwork, who’s leading this project. “In our case, we are representing relationships between categories, skills, and the many deliverables that clients request and freelancers produce on Upwork.”
It’s an initiative that Hubbard explains is more than a decade in the making. Upwork, launched as oDesk in 2003, was initially designed with a particular type of work in mind: software development.
As the platform has grown, there has become a need to evolve the way skills and jobs are classified to expand into new categories and jobs. An enhanced classification structure can help both hiring manager and talent through more precise profile-to-proposal matching, which essentially moves the hiring process along.
The challenge? Skills aren’t rigid
“If you built a marketplace for designers, or voice actors, or customer service reps, you would not build it to look like Upwork looks,” Hubbard explained. Each type of occupation draws on a different set of skills, creates a different type of deliverable, and is measured by different criteria. What makes sense for one service may not fit another.
As an example, consider two existing categories on Upwork:
- Design and Creative
- Web, Mobile, and Software Development
If you’re a freelance illustrator, it’s easy to see which category you align with. And if you’re a project manager looking for a database expert, you can quickly determine the best place to start your search.
But what about web designers? Specializing in a skill area that can rely on solid design and artistic skills as often as advanced coding knowledge leaves web designers stretched between the two categories.
Deciding which category fits best is a bit of a toss-up. And that means freelancers and agencies aren’t sure how best to categorize their profiles, while clients aren’t confident they’re searching the right category for the talent they’re looking for.
The goal of the new ontology is to provide a more custom experience that fits the norms within each different industry.
“It’s almost like we’re building new micro Upworks,” said Hubbard. “We want an Upwork that’s optimized for designers, and one for writers, and one for SEO experts. Rethinking Upwork’s ontology is a way to do that scalably, and it’s going to have a big impact on how our users use Upwork.”
How Upwork’s new ontology may change your experience
While this new approach will eventually roll out across Upwork, we’ve started by reworking the experience for design and creative skills. Here are a few examples.
Specialized profiles for freelancers
Freelancers and agencies can now create specialized profiles, a different version of their profile that can be optimized with a tailored title, summary, and portfolio. Since they launched, those who’ve created a specialized profile have averaged:
- A 33 percent increase in job invitations
- A 31 percent increase in interview requests
- A nine percent increase in offers
Portfolio previews in search results
Another shift is the addition of portfolio previews to search results, a feature that will make it easier for creatives to showcase their favorite work samples to potential clients.
Filter talent by deliverable, style
Businesses looking for freelance talent will still be able to search by sub-category, such as audio production or motion graphics. However, they’ll also find new filters designed specifically for the context of creative work: the type of deliverables, visual design style, and more.
“We want to meet our users where they are,” said Hubbard. “We want to learn how businesses use Upwork and explore which dimensions are most important to clients when they make a decision—and what we can do to further improve the process so it’s more descriptive and more targeted.”
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