Contra is a really interesting freelancing platform to analyse because it challenges a few of the values of the big guys (Fiverr, Freelancer, Upwork, ...) and has also raised a lot of money: 50 millions!
It therefore has the means to do something great, and also rings a bell for many freelancers. Finally, design-wise, it is also on the more exciting side, which, once more, puts it aside.
Alright, so what is Contra?
The only 0% commission freelance website.
Contra core value proposition is that they don't take a cut of your revenue. When a client spends a dollar on their site, all of it (minus banking fees, taxes, ..) goes to the creator, the freelancer.
This is obviously very different from the other major freelancing platforms and begs the question: how do they make money?
At the end of the day, you want the freelancing platform you're relying on for your revenue to stick around, which makes it a very valid question. The answer on the other hand, is not so clear.
There is Contra Pro, an on-request paid plan ($29/mo) that gives freelancers advanced analytics and favors them in the freelancer directory on the site. More features included in that plan are the custom portfolio website that you can create using Contra. You can even host your portfolio site on your own domain.
I'm confused, is this a website creator app or a freelance site?
Contra is a fancy portfolio creator site with a freelance marketplace attached
Good question. From my analysis, it seems indeed like the Portfolio part plays a big role, and the marketplace itself, not that much. This can be seen for example from the little amount of filtering and search options available on the site.
It would also make sense given the 0% commission, there is less of an incentive for the company to develop the marketplace part.
Now, don't get me wrong, you can still post a project and contact freelancers as you'd expect from any freelancing platform but the focus is more on helping freelancers create a good looking profile, than to actually match employers and employees.
Who is Contra for?
A freelance site for developed (richer) countries
Contra focused on people in the US and Europe, looking to start a side-gig as an independent worker. This can be seen in the hourly rates (usually above $25/h) as well as the supported countries for payouts (many asian and african countries are not fully supported yet.
Given that the focus is also on creating a great portfolio, rather than acquiring one's first work experience, it is not the ideal platform for freelancers who're just getting started, and who don't have that much to show.
In an interview, the CEO mentioned that the part of their goal is to turn "Engineer at Stripe" into a great site with projects and case studies of what you did, making you even more hire-able.
This of course, is not applicable to everyone.
So, should I sign-up?
Summary and conclusion
It is a good question. In general, I have not been impressed by the platform and find the features very similar to other more popular sites. At the end of the day, the freelancers with great reviews and a good portfolio will have an easier time, but even then, there are so many of those great profiles, that competition must be tough as well.
Finally, I recommend always looking at incentives. If they don't take a cut, they're not that motivated to have you make money.