Upwork is for Thieves & Fools

here ends the positivity bit

Right now I am beyond vaguely angry. I am livid.

I am hoping that when you read and understand what I am about to show you here, you will feel the same too. Further than that, I hope that you will start to think about how you may be having a role in this yourself. This is an issue that only many of us can solve. One person may seem to stand out front waving a stick but it is only through many people taking action that we have any hope of change.

Look at this job I just opened on Upwork:

Upwork shame on you

I opened this job because it looks like it has my name all over it Music, Writing. If you haven’t already, please read it carefully and take into account the highlighted parts.

So what “Austin” is saying is that he wants exceptionally professional work of approx 2,000 words, with option for up to a total re-write on his whim, for an unspecified reward.

We can see though that he wants someone who will deliver best results for lowest rates. Can you see the disconnect?

If we research “Austin” a little more we see that his average pay rate since about 2013 (over 5-6 years) is $3.25 per hour.

WHAT THE FUCK! Are you completely sociopathically insane, on day release with not only men in white coats but men in blue after you? No, “Austin” believes he is a businessman, a thought-leader, a visionary, therefore he can treat people like dirt.

To give you perspective, my rate for general writing is $37.50 per 500 words so that is $150 for 2,000 words. Many Pros would be starting at $200 seeing this is in a specialist domain. That is before we address the somewhat vague rewrite clause.

Let’s see what little extra research Upwork allow me to do before investing my expertise, time & trouble to this:

more Upwork shame

If you look at the totals, it seems like “Austin” pays out. But look at the per hour and how many hours these poor (and say that factually I think) people have had to put in to get that pay. Yes, $1. That ladies & gents is what “Austin” thinks other people are worth. ONE FUCKING DOLLAR. I bet “Austin” would be paying even less if he could swing it.

Now If I had Upwork on the phone, they would say something like oh but this is fair, Freelancers & Clients can set the terms and conditions under which they work, we only provide the platform for opportunity.


Upwork say that Free Test work should not be asked, expected or entered into in any circumstances. Yet their website is littered with job postings where the “client” says to get considered, you need to do a job for free – or for a reduced pay. I have done a few in-hope: I can tell you that you don’t land a proper job.

I just had someone seem to Ghost me after he pumped me for how I would solve his problem. I was silly and gave my considered idea which was an hour or so of consideration, including checking with Jane’s not inconsiderable – therefore valuable – IT expertise and the time to type it out over two long messages that answered his questions. Round 3 he asks for free samples from me to prove it to him. I declined free test work seeing there was no contract on the table. He ghosted

I have asked Upwork to look into this situation several times where the service you find yourself in absolutely does not match the adverts where they offer a professional environment. The best I ever get in response is an automated response. They don’t even offer back the “credits” I wasted on chasing what they indicated to me were real opportunities. Any other product and Upwork would be in court for misrepresentation.

Upwork facepalm – so the request for free Test Work that contravenes your terms doesn’t need action

On that subject, most of the Upwork “jobs” I have applied for have gone through to the keeper. They expire with no hire made. So 5-50 people wasted their time and credits applying for jobs that didn’t exist. We don’t get refunded those credits so we can apply for the other “exciting” job opportunities the offered as booby prizes. Again no response from Upwork. Maybe those jobs are the product of a job-bot, not even “Austin”s equally pathological cousins.

Upwork even closed my public visibility, telling me it was because I wasn’t active earning money whilst I am in the middle of a $500 contract! Ok so you want people to not be successful here on your platform that promises professionalism?

Oh wait, you want people successfully paying you monthly to get the opportunities you already said they have. So based on that logic, I could have delivered cars with no steering wheel then offered a Pro Plan to get the wheel the new owner purchased based on seeing a car with a steering wheel? I’d not have lasted long out of prison with that sort of business practice.

What professional job opportunities do you have Upwork? Is there a secret space I have to pay to get into where you have real jobs from real clients where the pay is real?*

Worker’s Parasite

Let’s get back to that second image:

Notice the 5-star reviews from Freelancers. You could be forgiven for thinking that I am wrong and Upwork really is a worker’s paradise where clients & freelancers skip through conceptually creative business arrangements of mutual honesty & benefit.

I’ll stop that fantasy right there. I said I have made the mistake of trying the free or cheap test work before. They were always for people like “Austin” who wanted much but returned nothing to balance the Karmic scales, let alone the amount of food I can put on the table for our girls. This Upwork job is going to be for a Click Bait site where they offer no value whatsoever to their clientele. The articles, even if well researched & written, will become garbage full of inaccuracies and lead only to the conclusion that the reader needs to buy a very expensive object using their special affiliate link. There’s no paradise there.

There is also no paradise truth on those 5-star reviews. As a freelancer you feel compelled to only give a 5-star review lest your client give you 1-star and say terrible things about you that take your overall score below the perfect 100% that terrified potential clients think they need to see to solve their terror.

That 4-star review was most likely from someone as horrifyingly irate as I am right now. That is the furthest he/she could dare go to say this client isn’t a human being in the finer sense of the idea at all.

What can we do?

No #1 thing to do is not to support these sorts of people. That is why I put a cross over the “Submit Application” button on Upwork. Have enough spine to take yourself out of the fear that totally screaming sociopaths like “Austin” will ever help you build a better life.

No #2 make sure that you & your business are not tainted with the stink of “Austin”. It won’t matter how much Yoga you do or avocado you eat, you & your business are headed toward being on the receiving end of this sort of ire. Most won’t publish articles about you, many won’t even Facebook it but it will be there and if you get a whiff of it then please root out any sense that other people are only there to serve you their finest moments for your worst.

Keanu Reeves

What do I do about Upwork? Well that is a really curly one. If I was (and I know I am prone to being unusually honest for a business owner) sitting on enough work to keep me amused (and those girls fed) then I’d give Upwork the bird and fly free. But I need to build a better flow of work. I manage to land something every once in a while. Is it worth the pain? This is the curly one? Much of me would love to say no. But the other part says, seeing you don’t know of any other place where you can see work coming from, you gotta suck it up. There has to be a result tho or it is only dishonoring myself to allow “Austin” and Upwork – who I see as being expressions of the same thing – to have the sort of leash on me they do.

I live in hope and still try to work out how to offer my message to the world so while you may not think this article is positive-y enough I am trying to build a better world.


The next morning I wake to find this email in my Inbox from Upwork:

Upwork double dipping

Ok, Stephanie, while I am delighted to see that you are doing something, it seems that you think that you can punish the Freelancers for the sins of the “Clients” – your sins really as you control the jobs.

You already take 20% off jobs – off what the worker gets paid whilst the job poster pays nothing (and largely doesn’t care that we get “shorted”). As a musician, if I hire a Manger he takes 10% of what he lands me. So nothing until I get paid from the work he raised. Upwork now look to get paid an average of $5 for every job seeker they have on their books, then 20% on whatever they land. Sounds good for them.

From looking in the Community forum, I see that I am far from alone in my frustrations with Upwork overall. There are people who are saying that a year or so after arriving at Upwork, they can barely land any jobs. The few they do are for insulting money or don’t even complete as the “client” is so uncommitted.

So why not address the terrible job quality? Well Upwork knows the workers are more desperate so they think if job posters have an easy time of making jobs (no costs or actioned penalties) then there will be a steady stream of coin flowing in on the other side which they can siphon from – with a mofo of a funnel it seems.

Nothing against Upwork earning money, lots of it even, but putting up a video with a pretty lady nervously reading from a cue isn’t helping me to see that this move is anything but selfish.

*I did however get another sniff that there are Professional sections for some kinds of jobs, but it seems that the process to get in is largely impossible unless Upwork headhunt you.

So the jobs we see are shitty, Upwork knows it, but is happy to pretend they don’t stink by telling us that the turds are worth an average of 30 cents more next month than they are today! These people should be working for a dictator as his spin doctors.

I think maybe Upwork made up my mind for me on the should I stay or should I go dilemma as they have my profile shut down so no one can see me to ask me to pitch on jobs so my only hope is to pay. Pay to see shitty jobs that are not worth the pain, let alone the few scraps of coins I get back.

2 thoughts on “Upwork is for Thieves & Fools

  1. That is absolutely ass backwards and the expectations or rather demands are absurd for the peanuts offered! That is in no way a sustainable model.
    I do not/have not used that service Benedict, You can be certain that should I ever want to try my hand at the areas which that website covers I never will.
    I fully understand people that are working to very tight budgets and whatnot.
    However, that sort of level is plain taking the piss!
    I personally would rather work for free than entertain that insult, Working with a person that is actually everything which that clown claims to be, Then if it did take off loyalty would carry with it some meaning with a goal to building something.
    Since a rate of $3.25 an hour, Which is below £3.00 here in England is where you are at I assume Benedict mate, Many levels below what any of most basic, soul & mind crushing lowest wage jobs pay an hour.
    Then the shit icing upon the shit cake with a shit cherry upon top is the new “policies” that the website is rolling out for all it’s suffering TALENT side of clientele…A shit sandwich that one must pay them for.
    I do not have a face palm/plant worthy of this level of a miserable failure.
    All the very best your way Benedict, Appreciate the heads up

    1. Thanks Mr Frogzwell

      I am in Oz where a base per hour is $20. That is for wiping a counter, not skilled work. To work from home I could manage $10 so long as I am guaranteed a lot of work. But even those claiming to offer reliable work won’t commit to enough hours, let alone the $12.50 they need to pay to allow that kind of decision.

      I get that in outer Bwlheuadiastahn $1 per hour may be great but that is $1 less 20% to Upwork = 80 cents. But I would also assume that someone where that sort of wage is a godsend probably lives in a shack with no internet and no training in anything but surviving hand to mouth growing potatoes or sifting garbage (which is what Upwork feels like on most days).

      Each to their own and all that but honestly it is so incredibly hard to find any properly paid jobs (anything that might average out to $10 per hour once you multiply the time anticipated job time by 2-3, which is the average real “time spend” for most good freelancers).

      And then so many of the potential “clients” are just plain rude. I had one just respond to me in condescending tones that suggested I was silly because he can’t explain his rather incomprehensible, but very passionately held, ideas for whatever the hell he thinks should be done. He makes it clear that despite demanding a lot of Portfolio to prove my abilities, enough to have “shortlisted” me, he didn’t look at anything in that portfolio because that makes it clear that I have at least a passing understanding of that artistic-ism he claims to want and that I don’t understand. More wasted time and passion.

      Oh well…

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