In the beginning Upwork sounded like freelancer heaven. I had been researching and considering a variety of platforms and Upwork just had the best interface and it seemed to have great postings as well.
So I signed up and began applying to jobs and asking for a fair wage. This was difficult because Upwork takes a 20% fee on the first $500 for each offer and most of what I would have been doing were small onetime sorts of projects.
I quickly figured that with no reviews on my profile I’d need to lower my rates. For my first two jobs, the rates I charged worked out to less than minimum wage.
The next three jobs were higher but still not what I’d consider “fair” given I had a clear advantage in industry experience and I was being paid more at my “real” job.
The rule of thumb is that freelancing pays higher than salaried gigs. After all, the employer is unencumbered by overhead costs like health care and retirement plans, technology upgrades and support, rent, staff parties, insurance, etc. But most posters on Upwork are unable to do this or simply unwilling.
So after five five-star reviews and great feedback, I’ve become disenchanted. I’m considering leaving Upwork.
In my opinion there are two main reasons the Upwork marketplace looks this way:
1. Upwork sells people looking for services the idea that they can have anything for little money. I have seen outright delusional requests from people willing to pay very, very little money. This is not really possible when you consider quality but in my opinion it’s not possible at all because a job done half-well is only technically done.
2. Upwork doesn’t require posters to pay to post jobs so anyone who’s dreaming up a project feel they can waste other people’s time by purporting to want to solicit services they do not actually intend on buying. An ungodly number of the jobs I applied to would receive lots of applications without even any interviews to follow (Upwork let’s you see these numbers). So it’s difficult to know who is serious about hiring and you may end up wasting your time applying to jobs.
3. This might solve the others, but the issue is that anyone can sign up for any skill–or they could at some point. Many skill pools are full of what you might consider impostors, which devalues the time and expertise of people who’ve put in the time to learn and practice.
Part of my experience could be that the market is already saturated. I signed up sometime early last year, but it’s possible all of the better clients already had their go-to freelancers by then. It’s also I think an issue of human nature. Putting inexperienced service seekers in a position where over 20 freelancers might be grovelling to work on their small project let’s them see the job competition first-hand, igniting that latent slave trader mentality I’m sure is present in even most of the best us. This leads them to an expectation of not having to pay the full price for what they’re getting.
It’s a bit of an ugly thing.
On the other hand, please consider if you personally might want to stick it out for the “long” haul. Eventually, you might have enough reviews on Upwork that you become considered an Upwork authority in your field. Of course you might have been quite good at your job to begin with, but like I said Upwork is filled with wonderfully delusional service seekers the Reddit community has amicably labelled “farmers.” (I don’t actually know the origin of that nickname.)
What bugged me about this experience was seeing just how many people WANT the services I and others with the same skill set as myself offer but are not willing to pay an hourly wage that would transform to a minimum wage yearly salary.
This was my 3 cents. Takeaway? Freelancers need to eat too.