Wave goodbye and leave Upwork

Why it is High Time to Leave Upwork for Greener Freelance Pastures

Everything needs to start somewhere, including your freelancing career. For many freelancers, that place is a global freelancing platform called Upwork. But if you’re looking to progress as a freelancer, staying here forever is a not a good idea. At some point, you should leave Upwork and find better paying and more challenging projects elsewhere.

I’ve worked on Upwork for around five years, had dozens of clients. I wrote about everything from SEO tips and tricks to how to get a construction permit in Canada, increased my rate tenfold and finally figured it was time to leave Upwork.

And, if you’re looking to take your freelancing or blogging career to the next level, you too should probably finally leave this platform.

Here are a couple of reasons why you should leave Upwork (and other freelancing platforms):

Too Much Low-Bidding Competition Upwork

Leave Upwork if you're not paide wellOkay, so this isn’t anything new and it didn’t bother me when I was charging $5 for 500 words, or even when my rate was $10. I could still compete with countless freelancers that accepted the same work for just a buck or two. I new I could still offer better articles and I made sure to let my potential clients know the type of quality they could expect from my writing. Of course, positive feedback from previous clients, good testing scores and, most importantly, a well-worded cover letter all helped here.

But once you start valuing your work more and start asking for better rates ($15 and above) it is going to get harder for you to land a project on Upwork.

In other words, leave Upwork if you can’t find good-paying projects.

Clients Often Want Cheap Before Excellence

There are two main reasons for it. The first one is that there are plenty of clients who don’t know the difference between a freelancer who bids $1 and the one who bids $20. They believe they are getting a good deal if they hire a guy to work for $3/h but don’t stop and consider what they’re getting (or rather not getting) for that amount.

On the other hand, when they see someone bidding $15, $20 or more just for one blog post, the first reaction is “this guy is overpriced, I can certainly get someone cheaper than that!”. Again, they are not seeing the bigger picture here.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bidded a certain amount, only for the potential employer to try and “negotiate” it to less than half of that. Now, I have no problem adjusting my rate a bit, but only to a point. You should always have a minimum rate below which you don’t accept work. The bottom line is: don’t let clients undervalue your work.

If you value your work and don’t want to be paid a pittance – you should probably leave Upwork and try your luck elsewhere. That said, there are still clients who are willing to pay better freelance rates, but they are more and more few and far between.

Upwork’s New Pricing Model is Terrible to Both Freelancers and Clients

Upwork has to make money of its own. How they do this is by taking a fee from each project you do. I find their policy completely reasonable. What I don’t find reasonable is how big this fee is.

Starting May this year, Upwork has introduced a new pricing model. For the first $500 you bill, Upwork’s fee now rises to 20%. From $500.01 to $10,000, the fee goes down to 10% and for more than $10,000 the fee goes to 5%.

Here’s how Stephane Kasriel, Upwork CEO explained this decision in a comment to Forbes:

This is a change and people are voicing their opinions, but we’re confident that our new pricing model is the right decision for Upwork’s community overall. For years, our business had a flat fee that helped us become the industry leader, but what we need now is a smarter model that drives sustainability, not only for us as a company but for freelancing online.

Kasriel continued:

As the market leader, this is us looking years down the road and establishing a model that serves online freelancing well. I believe that the new pricing will lead to a better equilibrium where we can invest to bring more and higher quality jobs overall. It’s all about growing the size of the pie for freelancers.

That all sounds fine and good and one can’t argue the limits of a one-size-fits-all approach that Upwork was using so far. But are freelancers happy? Absolutely not and many have already decided to leave Upwork because of this move, feeling that the platform is trying to squeeze them for all of their money.

Lots of Bugs and the Site is Often Down for Maintenance

Ever since oDesk and Elance joined forces and formed Upwork, the site has been plagued by various bugs. Granted, the problems are fixed (well, mostly) today, but you’ll still encounter a hitch here and there. The problems mostly include the site being down for several hours, even a whole day, making it difficult for freelancers and clients to communicate. As a result, you might end up being late to deliver your work to no fault of your own.

As such, it is a good idea to have an alternative means of communication with your clients.  Email, Skype or Hangouts can all work well if Upwork goes down. The last thing you want to happen is to miss a deadline just because Upwork was down. The client might or might not accept this as an excuse, but think of the positive reaction he will have if you don’t allow something like this to break your communication and still manage to deliver your work on time. Now, that will speak volumes about your dedication to that project and the client will consider you more highly.

Poor Customer Service (and Slow)

Upwork’s customer service is largely regarded as terrible by freelancers and clients don’t think much better of it either. In fact, countless freelancers have complained online that Upwork has closed their contract without providing any reason for it. This left even their clients confused. One day they are working with someone and are satisfied with the work that person provides.  The next the freelancer’s account has been suspended.

Upwork rarely explains why your perfect 100% score was downgraded to 80%, even with a 5-star feedback. The best you might get is a very generic explanation that “there are many reasons you can get downgraded”. This doesn’t help at all.

Oh, and if you stop being active on the platform (or have already decided to leave Upwork), you’ll also get downgraded. Keep that in mind in case you land a job elsewhere and want to come back. Seeing your profile get dropped for a few months of inactivity is also a reason to leave Upwork. More so if you don’t really plan on returning to it.

Your Freelancing Career will get Stuck if You Stay Around for too Long

Upwork is still a good place for a freelancer to make his first steps. You can earn some money and make contact with clients. But you shouldn’t stay there forever.

You will need to make the next step in your freelancing career.  You won’t be able to do so by staying on Upwork. After all, Upwork is only a middleman between you and the client. A middleman that takes 20% from the freelancer and another 2.75% from the client. For many freelancers, this was as good reason as any to leave Upwork in the last year or two.

Plus, Upwork also has a reputation for being a place where freelancers are woefully underpaid. Many clients stay away from it because they don’t believe they can find skilled freelancers there. That is, of course, depending whom you ask – freelancers or clients. Both have issues with Upwork and it will take a great deal convincing the other side otherwise.

Being an Upwork freelancer isn’t something you should be satisfied with. Make the next step and leave Upwork. Start your own blog, contact clients directly. You’ll soon witness new opportunities, ones you haven’t considered or thought possible before, open up for you.

Do you agree with me or not? What other reason to leave Upwork can you think of? Tell me about your experiences in the comments below.

Vladimir Covic
  • Luningning Tolentino
    Posted at 15:49h, 12 September Reply

    Thanks for your post, Vladimir. I’ve noticed that Upwork services are not getting any better. Downtimes are very frequent so clients and freelancers have to settle using their email or Skype to communicate. This was what happened with my last job. I haven’t got a job there for quite a few months because of a family problem and I was surprised to see my profile switched to private today with no prior notification. The notification sent was dated 11 Sept. 2017.

    I sent them a message informing them of how I feel and my sentiments. I’ve been with odesk since 2008 and that’s almost 9 years. I’ve been referring friends even up to now and this is what I got! Add to that the high Upwork fees! I’ve also noticed that most clients’ offer are too low!

    You are correct! It’s about time to act and find other venues!

  • Lorin Cerina
    Posted at 11:51h, 29 August Reply

    Just 2 days ago I found your blog. And today my account on Upwork is suspended. Reason? To many proposals, no contract … and I was in middle of negotiation. They gave me that email for discussing my suspension, but since they changed rates for project, I believe that I’ll forget about Upwork all together.

    So, in fact while I was getting them money, I was good designer.

    What I have notice over 2 years, the prices went down (either per hour or per project). You know that little info how much Client is paying per hour? For example, you see posted job, the price seems OK, than you see that client is paying 6 or 3 dollars per hour. And mainly those from UK, USA, Australia. Like, client wants logo for 30$ and than you have 50 or more bidding for job. So it seems to me that Upwork is more like 99design or Freelancer, than for long term jobs or projects.

    Anyway, thanks for this post, since I feel a little less traumatized by fact that I tried to get job and because of my willingness to give them 20% for job under 500$ I was penalized.

    Just keep writing 🙂

    • Vladimir
      Posted at 12:23h, 29 August Reply

      Sorry to hear that your Upwork account got suspended Lorin. I hear it can be a drag to have them reactivate it. On the positive side, you probably don’t really need it and can find work (better paid most likely) somewhere else. In any case, thanks for your comment.

  • Charlotte Cherre
    Posted at 14:33h, 28 August Reply

    I’m so glad I found this post! I used to use Elance for freelance writing and editing work, then put that on hold while I had a full-time career as a small business owner. I recently returned to grad school and have been considering Upwork gigs just to bring in some extra cash here and there, but it doesn’t sound like it’d be worth the effort whatsoever. Thank you for the advice!

  • Ryan Biddulph
    Posted at 07:53h, 28 August Reply

    It may be OK to leave your profile up, on Upwork Vladimir but I dig the message here. Leaving behind lower energy sites helped me earn more money online. Like attracts like. Or better put, when you position yourself as an authority, build your services page through your blog and befriend niche leaders higher paying clients come your way. I have seen this personally with my consulting businesses.


  • VADaniel
    Posted at 22:36h, 26 August Reply

    Thanks for the thoughtful article.

  • Allyson
    Posted at 15:26h, 26 August Reply

    I have a question regarding the membership fee for “connects.” No articles or reviews mention this, but it appears freelancers need to pay to even be allowed to bid on jobs. This turned me off immediately. What’s the deal with connects?

    • Vladimir
      Posted at 15:44h, 26 August Reply

      Hi Allyson. That’s not actually the case. With a free plan you get 60 Connects per month that you can use to bid on jobs. Most jobs cost 2 Connects (they can cost between 1 and 5 Connects), so you’ll probably be able to bid on 30 jobs each month. At the start of the next month, the Connects reset back to 60, whether you used them all or not. So they don’t carry over. Now, if you get the Freelancer Plus Plan, you can get more Connects (70). If you use, let’s say 50, the remaining 20 will rollover to the next month so now you’ll have 90 Connects. You can have up to 350 Connects with the Freelancer Plus Plan. I think you can also buy Connects (for $1) if you want to with the Plus Plan. Otherwise, you get them completely free whichever membership plan (Basic or Plus) you are using.

  • Marc van Sittert
    Posted at 09:15h, 25 August Reply

    Agree totally. Big, wet bites are taken out of my ass for every job and for a high-volume-low-margin (supposedly) model, their fees are way to high. Also – exactly that happened to me – I got a five star review from a client and within days was suspended, ostensibly for being “too active” fishing for work and not matching skills with offers… Really… I’m reinstated but haven’t been back frankly as the entire experience soured things so dramatically.

  • GoodFoodTrip
    Posted at 04:54h, 25 August Reply

    Hi Vladimir! I’ve been on Upwork (well, Elance and oDesk) for 8 years already and I have been thinking of moving on. I completely agree with you! 20% for every project and that doesn’t even include the $2 charge whenever you transfer your money to Paypal or have your money deposited to your account. It’s really getting insane!

    I plan to put up a new website where I can showcase my skills. I hope you can write a blog post on contacting clients directly… I would like to know more about that soon 🙂

    • Vladimir
      Posted at 10:49h, 25 August Reply

      Thanks for your reply. Sounds like a good topic for one of my next posts.

  • rhea
    Posted at 03:03h, 25 August Reply

    I cannot agree more!!! Add the unreasonable suspension of accounts and unverified disapproval or new applications to their rotten customer service. Worst platform to deal with. They are taking too much advantage of their freelancers.

  • Lisa Jo Rudy
    Posted at 20:44h, 24 August Reply

    Wow. Never heard of Upwork, so can’t comment personally — but $5 for more than a half hour of work seems like a rotten deal to me. There are MANY sites that offer freelance leads, and there are even content mills that pay better. Affiliate marketing is a fine thing to do, but only if you already have a big following and something to sell. A better direction is to hone your craft, build up your collection of great writing clips, and start marketing to real clients. Look at freelancewritinggigs.com or freelancewriting.com each morning and apply! go to your local newspaper. apply to the editor of the newsletters you get from your insurers. ask friends “who writes your marketing material?”

    • Vladimir
      Posted at 10:48h, 25 August Reply

      It’s not that bad Lisa Jo. You have to keep in mind that: 1. Clients tend to pay less if you’re not in US, 2. Most freelancers on Upwork work for much less, 3. The cost of living is different in US from other parts of the world. In any case, I’d like to thank you for your suggestions, I’ll definitely try them out.

    • Jan Hill
      Posted at 14:37h, 26 August Reply

      Exactly. You should be marketing to real clients who pay professional rates – nothing below $50/post, more like $100+. Get away from this “race to the bottom” mentality. You deserve better!

  • Jonathan Ephraim
    Posted at 20:26h, 24 August Reply

    One thing that I would add it that it takes too long to get paid. Whether you are a new or established freelancer, you’ll be stuck in a cycle of spending enormous amounts of time bidding on work. IN the meantime the work that you have completed will take at the very least a week to get to you. I also hate that they charge you an additional fee (albeit $1) for a PayPal transfer — after you have paid 20% for just conducting the business on their platform.

    • Vladimir
      Posted at 10:45h, 25 August Reply

      I agree with you on this Jonathan. For hourly contracts for instance the client is given a whole week to review your work (so it doesn’t matter that you were given a short deadline) and then once he approves it, instead of releasing the money immediately or within 24 hours (remember, the money for hourly contracts is already invoiced to the client by Upwork), they take another week to “approve it”. So you have to wait two weeks for your money. This could go so much faster. I deliver work, client has 24-48 hours to review and approve, Upwork releases the money in the next 24-48 hours. Everybody would be a lot happier.

  • Ibrahim Abdullah
    Posted at 20:02h, 18 December Reply

    A very nice blog post!

    I agree with most of what you’ve written here.

    The last part of the post got to me more than the rest of it. If one’s not to remain stuck on Upwork for long, what do you suggest-as a tangible step-for one to do? As a content writer, I mean. Should I start my own website and integrate Google AdSense in it to earn money for myself? I’ve been ghostwriting for the past year on Upwork and have written my fair share of romance and horror novels. Should I perhaps start writing out for my own self and find a publisher?

    • Vladimir Covic
      Posted at 20:36h, 18 December Reply

      Thanks Ibrahim, glad you liked the post.
      Personally, I haven’t fully left Upwork yet as I still have some clients there, but I’ll see to get them to pay me directly via PayPal or Skrill than through Upwork. Starting your own website or blog and integrating AdSense is definitely one way to do it. You can also go with affiliate marketing. Another way to earn money is to sell something through your blog, like an ebook. As for whether you should start writing for yourself, that’s up to you and I don’t really know much about writing books, but you can always try publishing on Amazon. Btw, here’s a good link explaining how you can earn money blogging: http://www.problogger.net/make-money-blogging/

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