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Special Project

Special Project
From the 16th Annual Shorty Awards

Breaking the Rules of Work and TikTok

Silver Honor in Business to Business

Entered in On a Shoestring


Upwork is a global freelance marketplace that wanted to attract both talent, and those needing to hire freelancers. Their promise is to do away with the “old ways of working”—strict 9 to 5 jobs, in-office requirements, forced commutes, and any other part of work that doesn’t work for people. Our objective was to create an ownable TikTok presence that would make Upwork stand out against other B2B competitors like Fiver, Indeed, and LinkedIn. We thought, “if Upwork messes with the norms of work, why not mess with the norms of TikTok to stand out?

Strategy and Execution

Our research revealed that there was a thriving conversation around “new ways of working” on TikTok, but it all looked the same, and wasn’t owned by any one creator or brand. The subgenre is known as #WorkTok, and if you’re a white-collar worker you’ve probably seen it; people TikToking from their desks, giving “work hack” ideas, using TikTok native features like greenscreening over enterprise software and using title overlays to help tell their story. We took these conventions and turned them on their head, using handmade, practical effects like cardboard titles and backdrops to play with people’s expectations. What they thought would be another “work hack” TikTok from a work-from-home setup was revealed to be a fake backdrop in a lush old growth forest. Even the familiar TikTok audio of a cartoonish flute was revealed to be a live flutist in the woods. We established this style—always playing off a familiar #WorkTok trope, and turning it on its head. We printed office backdrops on towels, traveled to Oregon orchards and the beaches of Miami, built a robot, and recreated video chat and calendar software interfaces as cardboard backdrops. All exuded fun, human ingenuity, and most importantly, a memorable style that stood out on TikTok and had never been done before.


We had fun, but so did folks on TikTok. 20% of Upwork’s new follower growth on TikTok came from this content. Compared to Upwork’s benchmarks this content was up 417% for views, 281% for engagements, and 225% for impressions.


Entrant Company / Organization Name

Swift, Upwork


Entry Credits