Laptop computer displaying logo of Upwork.
Image: Adobe Stock

Work marketplace Upwork announced the launch of Upwork Academy, an educational hub designed to help professionals build their independent businesses. 

The Great Resignation has seen many Americans leaving traditional jobs in favor of positions that allow them to work remotely. According to CNBC, the trend of workers quitting their jobs isn’t likely to end soon, with some experts predicting the end of job loyalty. In a recent study by Microsoft, a surprising 52% of Gen Z and millennial workers said they were likely to consider switching jobs this year, a 3% increase from 2021.

Rather than move to another full-time staff job, many of these workers will transition to freelance work. A recent Upwork study found that 59 million Americans—about 36% of the entire U.S. workforce—performed some kind of skilled freelance work in 2021.

SEE: The most in-demand skills for freelancers in 2022 (Tech Republic)

Upwork Academy launches

Workers considering pivoting to freelance work may find the change frightening or isolating. Upwork Academy was created to address the needs of these workers, with a variety of upskilling resources, mentorship and educational opportunities to help freelancers build their brands and businesses. The Academy includes the release of 11 on-demand educational courses on how to take advantage of the platform’s burgeoning freelance opportunities. In addition, it will provide the ability to connect with the Upwork community. 

“Most people coming to Upwork for the first time are new to freelancing,” said Francis Murphy, vice president of community at Upwork. “It isn’t the same thing as being part of a business, where you’ve interviewed, you’ve got the job, and the company guides you through the first steps. Upwork Academy is our way of doing that for freelancers.”

Upwork Academy includes courses on topics such as creating a profile and submitting proposals. Upwork also introduces Academy Coaching cohorts, designed to help users succeed. Upwork Skills Certification is now rolled into Upwork Academy. It features skills assessments, test preparation materials, and opt-in certifications for web, mobile, software development, and design and creative.

“We see an increasing demand for new skill sets in the technology sector, the development sector and for IT professionals,” said Murphy. “We know these skills are always in demand by businesses around the world. We want to make sure the talented people on our platform represent all those sectors. At launch, we’re allowing users to verify their development skills through certifications. There are north of 20 different certifications for mobile web development. When our clients look at these professionals, they can see they have been certified by Upwork.”

SEE: Tech workers not getting the upskilling they need in the pandemic, report says (Tech Republic)

Revamped community platform and content

Upwork’s new initiative includes a complete redesign of the Upwork Community, including a new homepage, updated forums and features to increase functionality and scalability. The company also plans to launch the Career Path Database by the end of the quarter. It includes photos, videos and audio of personal stories that illustrate the paths people took to arrive at their different careers. Guides and worksheets will help users reach their goals.

“Upwork is a unique tool and opportunity for each person who uses it. The new offerings in Community are built to meet those unique needs: education, discussion, thought leadership, and so much more,” said Murphy. “Our community was positioned as a support channel for a long time. While we’re still here to help, we now offer much more through content, connection and community-building.”

Tips for freelance workers

Murphy offers tips for freelancers looking to build a successful career. He stresses the importance of creating an effective profile. “The profile is the window to the many clients we have on Upwork, from small businesses wanting to hire a one-off to our enterprise clients, which are some of the largest companies in the United States and the world,” he said.

It’s also crucial to draft a compelling proposal. “Some members of the Upwork community say, ‘I’m sending all these proposals out, and I’m not getting anything back.’ Sometimes it just takes that little bit of guidance to craft the right thing,” he said.

Murphy stresses being specific because people hiring freelancers are looking for particular skill sets. “If you’ve got a niche in your sector, whether you’re in as broad a sector as mobile development or web development, what is your specific niche? What is it you offer that other people don’t?”

New community groups and events

Upwork will roll out over 20 community groups that the company says are “collaborative and celebratory places for the Community to connect, learn and grow across themes like identity, industry, interest and impact.” These include location-based groups from countries such as the United States, the Philippines, Pakistan, Kenya, Egypt, Ukraine, Moldova, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Germany, with more planned for later this year. Other new additions include an event hosting platform, a Community Event series, interactive workshops, and an Upwork LIVE Support for Talent in Ukraine event.

To celebrate the release of Academy, Upwork will host a virtual event on June 7 at 9 a.m. PDT. It will explain Upwork’s new on-demand resource for talent and discuss the improved Community experience for independent professionals.