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On October 8 I received an invitation from Upwork via email to be an early user of Project Catalog, which is designed to reduce the amount of time I need to spend finding new projects on Upwork.
Today I went to sign up for Project Catalog and found the following:
I need to enter a description of my services in 75 or fewer characters. The space for entering that information appears to be hard-coded to begin with “You will get…” So, the first 12 characters are filled in my Upwork, leaving me with up to 63 (63!) characters to convince a prospective client that I am the right person to hire for their project.
I must chose one and only one Project Category (of which at least two of the menu options apply, leaving out at least 3 other major project categories describing the work I do for my Upwork clients). My catalog entry options then expand to include 65 language options with the option for me to choose up to all 65.
Then I have a choice of 7 Business Types (e.g. Startup, Small, Micro), 7 Plan Formats (e.g. Excel, Word, PowerPoint) and 5 Plan Purposes.
Of these choices, in my case 5 Business Types, 4 Plan Formats and 4 Plan Purposes apply.
But I can only choose 1 of each of these three criteria, I’d have to create 80 (80!) different catalog entries to cover all the choices that apply to work I have done for previous Upwork clients.
Next, I am required to enter 6 pieces of information in order to create “pricing tiers”: 3 choices of Delivery Days and Number of Revisions across Starter, Standard and Advanced project types. I entered 15, 30 and 60 for Delivery Days and 100 as Number of Revisions (which is setting me up to have a disgruntled and complaining Starter client who leaves negative feedback for me if it turns out I actually need 20 days to complete their project).
After making these entries I then have to click on each of 8 project elements across each of the three pricing tiers to confirm what a Starter, Standard or Advanced project would entail.
Then I had to present a single Project Price for each of 3 “pricing tiers,” which might be possible for some freelancers on some projects but is a total guess for freelancers who, like me, choose to do only hourly projects, none of which are identical to one another. Yet again, this “pricing” item is likely to lead to prospective clients complaining that I’ve quoted a higher price on their project in real time when Upwork told them I would only charge them a lower set price.
(This might deter potential clients from contacting me because they THINK they know what my pricing would be for their project when, in fact, the price I quote them once we discuss EXACTLY what they need is almost certain to be lower OR higher than the single $ amount I have been forced to enter here for their pricing tier/project type.
Then I was required to add examples of similar work I’ve done for other clients. Unfortunately, the only file types acceptable here are JPEG or PNG and I never provide my work to any client in these formats. So, a potential client has no idea of the quality or content of the work I have done for previous clients. But this page of the catalog entry process requires at least one image in either of these two formats be added before I can complete this catalog entry (!), so I considered putting in a picture of myself.
Unfortunately, I am still a work in progress so this picture wouldn’t represent a completed project I have been involved in. But no single JPEG or PNG image would come even close to representing the type of work I do. So, I added three nice pictures from a Caribbean sailing trip. They have nothing to do with any of my projects, but they are very pretty. But, although the entry form claims the file size has to be below 10 MB, multiple files below that size wouldn't upload.
The next page required me to provide a brief “Project Summary”, then outline the steps that are required for a project. In truth, each of my projects has many steps, none of which are identical from project to project. So I listed six possible elements of a project, marking each as “optional”.
Then I had to add some “Frequently asked questions.” I added two and then hoped to call it a day.
But, no, next I was asked for my “Requirements for the client.” I provided one answer, then warily pressed the “Next” button.
Sure enough, there was still more information I had to provide, including a number for “Maximum number of simultaneous projects” I can handle, confirmed that I owned the copyright for the files I included in the JPG/PGN section, confirmed that I have read Upwork’s Terms of Service and that I agreed to a provided “Privacy Notice” that “By submitting this project and activating it, I understand that it will appear in Upwork search results visible to the general public and will show up in search engine results, even if my profile visibility is set to Private or Upwork Users Only.”
So I checked both boxes and clicked “Submit for Review.” Now my submission is “Pending Approval” by Upwork. I am on pins and needles about the approval requirement. (Not really.)
I shudder at the thought that I’d need to go through this leeeengggggtttthhhhy process another 79 times to create a catalog entry for each type of project I can complete under the choices provided for this new “feature.”
So, I’ve spent the better part of an hour setting up one catalog entry (out of a potential 80) to see what happens in the way of great new clients and projects coming my way, but this looks like yet another inflexible algorithm-based “tool” that is pretty certain to be of little use to any freelancers who are not willing to pigeonhole their project types, expected completion times, number of allowed revisions, etc., etc.
And I can imagine that having 1,000s of other freelancers in my field using this catalog will actually hurt my ability to get new clients if Upwork convinces clients that they need to first use this "catalog" to find freelancers for their projects, similar to the way that so many clients are convinced that the only freelancers worth considering have JSS numbers of 90 or higher. (My JSS is well above that, but for many good freelances it isn’t.)
Sometimes I wonder whether Upwork really thinks through the execution of this sort of “improvement.”
This "catalog" idea might work well for a few active freelancers, but it would be a much better idea if it allowed for more flexibility and ranges for many of its entries rather than a single number or value. The robustness and usability of this new feature, which I suspect is actually intended primarily to help clients more easily select freelancers, is not even close to what I’d expect from a global company serving 10,000s of thousands of active freelancers and clients each year.
Thank you for providing your feedback about the Early Access Program, it’s very helpful as we test and refine this feature further. As mentioned in the notification inviting you to the program, we are in the early stages of testing (alpha stage to be more precise) and freelancers that agreed to participate might not see all the options they need and might find certain feature limitations. We will continue to build out and improve the feature as we do internal testing and receive more feedback from customers like you, who are in the Early Access Program. Thanks for your help!
I'd like to follow up on your comment about creating 80 projects. Please note that the feature was designed with the primary intent to showcase projects that you repeatedly do for clients or projects that will spark a relationship. Projects are meant to be flexible and can be adapted to the types of projects that you want to create. It's important to note that currently, freelancers can add up to seven projects to their profile.
Regarding the character limit, the intro you mentioned doesn't count towards the limit and you can include a custom description up to 75 characters in length.
Just to confirm that it can take up to 5 business days for the projects to be reviewed. Please allow 24 hours for the process to be completed. If your projects are still under review after 24 hours, let me know here. Thank you.