Not feeling good about Upwork

Upwork is a rescaled and rebranded eLance.

Upwork is a platform for clients and freelancers to find each other, collaborate and trade money for (deliverable) goods and services. They have a desktop app, iOS and Android apps, website and community support forum.

Upwork provides a variety of useful services to freelancers. Freelancers can set their own hourly and flat fees, offer projects and deliverables and respond to work offers. Upwork verifies users identities and payment methods, acting as an escrow between parties.

Upwork job feed

In order to submit a proposal for a job, a freelancer has to pay in Upwork credits, called “Connects” purchased for 15¢ each in groups, or purchase a monthly membership starting at $14.99 in which they give you 70 connects a month, plus a custom profile url and the ability to keep your earnings confidential. They have a desktop app to track times worked

Upwork also takes a pretty steep cut as a service fee:

  • 20% for the first $500 billed with the client
  • 10% for lifetime billings with the client between $500.01 and $10,000
  • 5% for lifetime billings with the client that exceed $10,000

The fees apply whether or not you’re a paid member. I wouldn’t think the fee structure were so bad if the service made up for the high fees with value. (Spoiler: It’s not worth it.)

While I enjoy the interface and see the usefulness of the services offered on the platform and through the app, there are some problematic issues.

Under certain circumstances Connects that a freelancer spends on proposals are refunded automatically. According to Upwork, one of those circumstances is when they remove a user that is violating the TOS (like my lovely scammer.) However, no connects have been returned to my account and two more listings that I had submitted proposals to were also removed and those connects have also not been refunded.

This lead me down another rabbit hole, it’s just about impossible to directly contact support. I had an issue not being able to log into the app, after a completely futile search for straws to grasp at I gave up and started changing settings in my account to see if that would resolve the problem (it did, I had to turn off the option to log in using Google.)

I tried the community forums for this problem and had a moderator of the forum tell me that if the job post was in violation of the TOS I would have my connects refunded and they were working on it. I asked how much time I should allow and was scolded by another user. So charming.

I put out 14 proposals and three were scams, that’s not a good sign. That’s a very high percentage of scams from my very small unscientifically selected sample. Of the 40 connects I spent on proposals, 18 went to scam job listings. This doesn’t take into account the time I wasted trying to resolve the problem with the app or submitting proposals to scammers.

The lack of technical documentation or support for the apps and hidden or missing customer service that avoids members at all costs makes me really nervous. Also, I think I’m out of luck as far as getting those connects refunded.

If there’s some miracle improvement or the platform turns out to be a freelancers Garden of Eden, I’ll definitely write a new review but for now I’m sure there are more snakes.

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