Late February 2022, life changed overnight for the 44 million people of Ukraine.
Following a large-scale invasion of the country by Russian forces, millions were forced to flee their homes. Others stayed back and suited up to join resistance efforts. Despite how people mobilized, in a matter of days, one thing became very clear: the country and its people needed resources, and it needed them quickly.
Across the world, humanitarian relief workers sprang into action to provide on the ground support and to field donations. Organizations began to identify the best ways they could help out in some form — be it monetary, through essential services, or pivoting operations to better serve those directly impacted by the war.
One of these organizations was freelance talent marketplace Upwork. We sat down with Ignacio Lizarralde, a member of Upwork's engineering team, to learn how in a matter of days the team was able to get a multi-part relief campaign up and running to help its community of freelancers, clients, and the people of Ukraine.
Supporting its dense network in eastern Europe
From the very first day of the crisis, the team at Upwork was acutely aware of the sizable impact it would likely have on their community. Not only are hundreds of freelancers who depend on the platform for work based in Ukraine, Russia, and eastern Europe, but also a number of the company’s direct team members reside in the region. As a result, Upwork knew they needed to take swift action and offer support to those impacted in whatever way they could, leading the team to map out three critical work streams.
“We had to tell our team: pause what you're doing because this is the most important thing for us to focus on right now — our community is in crisis mode, and we need to help.”
A million-dollar donation and a matching pledge
Upwork’s first action item was to focus on donations, which simply meant getting money in the hands of relief workers as quickly as possible. Knowing how dire the situation was, the company donated $1 million through DirectRelief before building out more involved relief initiatives. The company also pledged to match up to $100,000 of its team members' donations to additional nonprofits providing relief support across Ukraine.
Bringing new product functionalities to life in less than a week
In order to better facilitate a stream of donations from its users, the product and engineering teams began identifying ways to optimize and add new features to the platform that could better support talent listed on its marketplace. The first was a peer-to-peer donation feature that allows anyone using the platform to “hire” talent based in Ukraine and pay them with no expectation of work. Upwork waived all fees involved, and this feature gave teams and users the ability to directly send money to freelancers in the region on Upwork.
“This initiative went from idea to production in just five days, and it’s designed to help 8,000+ freelancers in Ukraine receive immediate aid directly from generous Upwork users.”
Additional features Upwork built for their community of freelancers in Ukraine included:
- Ensuring Job Success Scores of freelancers based in Ukraine wouldn’t be negatively affected by ratings or open contracts.
- A way for freelancers to share their safety and work status with clients directly within the platform during the ongoing war.
- Expedited payment processing, letting freelancers on hourly contracts quickly access much-needed funds.
Getting the word out about available resources for Ukrainian talent
The team at Upwork decided to put together a marketing campaign designed to raise awareness of the resources it was providing to Ukraine-based freelancers in its talent marketplace. It needed to build a landing page that could effectively communicate and direct those in need to the resources available to them, which the team was able to get live using Webflow in just a few days. This provided an overview of product enhancements and features the team had built out to better support talent facing crises in the region, as well as announce the donation functionality for organizations or hiring managers looking to use the platform to support freelancers from Ukraine.
Before the Ukrainian crisis, there was COVID-19
Upwork began looking into no-code tools two years ago, at the start of the pandemic. The team needed to launch a resource hub where it could announce relief packages for freelancers hit hardest by loss of work, as well as communicate other ways the company was planning to offer assistance — and it needed to do so ASAP. They didn’t have their own in-house CMS and knew a simple page builder wouldn’t cut it. They needed a flexible, secure solution that would let them get a page up and running in just a matter of days.
Members of the Upwork team had prior experience with Webflow and knew the platform would be just what they needed to bring this campaign to life. And the beauty of Upwork’s business is that the company is its own customer. They found a Webflow freelancer on the talent marketplace, briefed them on the project on Friday afternoon, and by Monday morning, they had a fully-functional COVID-19 relief page up and running.
“Everybody kept asking our team: “How did you do this? This is magic.’”
Webflow gives Upwork the power to dream big and move quickly
After seeing the power of no-code on full display following its COVID-19 relief campaign, the team realized how a tool like Webflow could help them tackle high-priority initiatives at scale in a fraction of the time. Because of this groundwork, they knew they had the resources and framework in place to quickly offer support at the onset of the Ukrainian crisis. Seeing these programs come to life has compounded the entire organization’s ability to spin up new projects rapidly. In turn, teams across the organization are empowered to dream bigger, realize the impact their company can have on its community, and see their visions come to life visually.
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