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Is Upwork's messaging to clients inadequate? Causing problems?

Is Upwork's messaging to clients inadequate? Is it causing too many serious problems for clients, and for freelancers?


I have been wondering about this. I did NOT want to add to an existing thread created by any single client who came to the Forum with complaints about loss of money or time or other frustrations. This is DEFINITELY not about a single client. This is something I have been thinking about for quite some time, based on the complaints and threads of MANY different clients.


I am concerned about how often I see clients post here in the Forum complaining about disappointing experiences while using Upwork. And when one looks into it, at the heart of the problem was serious misconceptions or misunderstanding on the part of the client.


IN MY OWN work as a freelancer, I have run into major problems with clients who had serious misunderstandings about the nature of an hourly contract, and confused many aspects of such a contract with a fixed-price contract.


It IS POSSIBLE that Upwork has done everything it can possibly do to help clients understand how the platform works, and to help them understand how they can use the platform successfully.


But it is ALSO POSSIBLE that changes could be made to make it MORE LIKELY for clients to be successful here.


It is all well and good to say "they should have read the instructions." But when so many clients are having such serious problems, I have to wonder if there is something more that can be done.


Is there something more that Upwork could or shoud do?


Is there something more that YOU do as a freelancer, that I could learn from?


Does anybody have any suggestions?

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Hi Preston,


You raised a valid issue. Many freelancers are facing this problem. But, one major issue is employee send proposal without realising that he will be unable to do job and employeer sometimes select the candidate without proper verification on knowledge and skills of employee.


I also have used other freelancing platforms but Upwork is much better than those. 

Additionally, yea sometimes we came across the situation when counter person is short tempered or arrogant, in such situation, you can request upwork to consider the issue.


That is a great point - and another problem that I had not even mentioned in my original post:


Clients can have major problems when they hire a freelancer who does NOT have the right knowledge or skills for the project.


Experienced Upwork users know that the right thing for a client to do in such a situation is to close the contract as soon as possible and only continue working with the best freelancers on the team. Experienced Upwork clients also know the value of hiring multiple different freelancers to work on the same or similar tasks, so that they are able to compare the relative value of the freelancers.


But so many times in the Forum I have seen examples of clients who did not understand these basic concepts. We see clients who think that by using Upwork, they are "buying" something, like "buying a finished mobile app." But if a client uses an hourly contract to hire an underperforming freelancer, or a freelancer without the skill needed to perform a certain task, then the client may be "buying" nothing at all.


I think many clients would think this is obvious in a "brick & mortar" situation... But some clients seem to apply "magical thinking" to their Upwork project. Some clients don't seem to realize using Upwork just means hiring real human beings, and the same principles apply here that apply if one is hiring "in person": If you hire the wrong people and continue working with them, you're unlikely to get the results you desire.

When I used to care more about ... well, about everything, I would often point out to various mods that many clients find this site confusing, complicated and confounding. Not user-friendly ... at all. I've spent much of my time trying to explain how things work to my clients, which is difficult when I'm not familiar with the client interface. The bulk of this sort of guiding should be on Upwork, not freelancers.


Freelancers are left to their own devices to figure things out (and that's fine). Clients shouldn't be. I'm embarrassed for clients that they have to come to a public forum for help, that they can't easily find how to submit a ticket, that Upwork has decided to start charging clients for things that should be free. That they are limited to three invites, that Upwork won't clean house, so a client's first experience here is a bad one, meaning they likely won't come back.


All that said, I do believe clients should take a little time to understand the basics. But just as Upwork allows anyone and everyone to set up a profile (no matter how clueless they are), so can clueless clients post jobs without a wit's worth of what comes afterwards.


Well, maybe I didn't really address what you're wondering about. But if Upwork's messaging to clients is as bad as it's messaging to freelancers, then yes ... problems are caused.


Re "Clients can have major problems when they hire a freelancer who does NOT have the right knowledge or skills for the project". Of course clients can and should do a better job of vetting properly, but I believe a bulk of the onus is on Upwork for allowing unqualified, inexperienced and unskilled people who have no business freelancing sign up and start working.


We all know there are many freelancers who have misleading profiles, profiles filled with lies about location and skills and language levels, things that are not discovered until it's too late and clients are irate and left with a very bad impression of Upwork. And that's a hard pill to swallow - that those "bad apples" and their behaviors casts a pall on all of us.

Thank you for your excellent post, Virginia. It touches on some important points.


When I see complaints from clients who have had a disappointing experience, one thing I think they often miss is that that Upwork is simply a facilitator of normal freelancing. Upwork did not invent freelancing. Nor did Upwork invent the practice of hiring people to do things.


Most of the problems clients face have nothing to do with Upwork per se, but relate to mistakes they make as clients that would have been mistakes had they been using any other platform, or no platform at all.


I think there may be a tendency among some clients to see Upwork as an "app" through which they can input certain parameters, and easily get a certain results. They have a filter on their phone where they can select a certain photo of a person, and they can put it through a filter, and get a modified photo in which the person has funny cat ears or something.


They approach Upwork the same way: I'm going to post a description of a website, pay $100, and Upwork spits out the result. That may happen some times. It would be cool if that is how Upwork (or any website) could work. But in the real world, things are rarely so simply, and Upwork doesn't make promises like that.

This is what I said on a post about making freelancers specialize too much causing issues.


I've never gone through the job posting process but, I do go and check out what people are saying on the other side. I don't think the clients that are too specific are going to have a hard time hiring someone. It's the hundreds of listings that are two sentences long, super vague or even worse don't tell you what the project is at all.


I saw many clients complaining about not getting any proposals. I think if upwork had job post templates, where they filled in the blanks in a prepopulated form, it would be good for people who aren't experienced or well versed enough to properly put together a posting. And make the other posts that didn't use the template have a minimum word count of 75 or 100. 


I've seen a steep decline in the quality of job posts and even worse decline in fixed-rate jobs (my preferred method). I know I'm not wasting my connects on listings that I need to ask a couple of questions before I know I would be interested.


Something has definitely shifted within the last 4-6 months with the quality of public job postings.

Preston, your post touches many valuable aspects regarding client 'confusion'.


One such 'confusion' that peeves me endlessly is when a client posts an hourly contract but who then, during the interview stage, ask for a fixed price. 


I have no idea what Upwork's client interface looks like, but I do feel that when a job is posted as 'hourly', it should STAY hourly. 

I wish there was a feature on hourly postings where I could submit a proposal and include a fixed price bid. I loathe hourly jobs and never apply to them but lately, jobs that would normally be fixed are now hourly.

re: "One such 'confusion' that peeves me endlessly is when a client posts an hourly contract but who then, during the interview stage, ask for a fixed price."


I completely agree that this is inappropriate.


re: "I have no idea what Upwork's client interface looks like, but I do feel that when a job is posted as 'hourly', it should STAY hourly."


I have have hired on Upwork dozens of times. Even if I try to put myself into the mindset of a complete newbie, it is really hard for me to see how there is confusion about what type of contract is being posted. I believe that it is possible for a complete newbie to be confused, but I think most clients know exactly what they are doing if they post an hourly contract and ask a freelancer to agree to a fixed-price contract.


It is inappropriate client behavior.


An hourly contract is a fair, equitable way to hire someone. Clients should not be playing "bait-and-switch" tricks by posting hourly jobs and insisting on fixed-rate. Clients should be willing to hire freelancers using an hourly contract.


Especially since this is unnecessary... Clients do not need to do "bait-and-switch." There are plenty of freelancers - such as Lauren in this very thread - who are happy to do fixed-price contracts and even prefer them over hourly.

Another place where Upwork's messaging could be improved, and doing so would benefit clients and Upwork itself:


I recent thread was started by a frustrated client who was surprised to find that even though she is in Canada, and intentionally selected a Canadian freelancer, Upwork's charges were all in US dollars, rather than Canadian dollars.


Petra pointed out that this has been a problem for many years.

If every website in the world charged uses in U.S. currency, then the fact that Upwork doesn't make it clear that clients will be charged in U.S. currency would be understandable. But the client who started the post pointed out (accurately) that she spends money on international sites, and is charged in local currency.


I don't doubt that there is SOMEWHERE on Upwork's site that states the facts, but this client was genuinely surprised. She was also clearly disappointed that there was no recourse.

I'm beginning to wonder this myself. I just came across an hourly job post and the description specifically said they were looking for two pro bono grant writers, and it's a great opportunity for a new graduate to get experience. OMFG. Seriously? We are not here to work for free. I do have a client account although I haven't hired through it yet, but I do have plans to when I get to the point I'm ready to do some work on a specific project of mine. And I'm getting ready to dive into that account right now to see if this was just blatant disregard for the TOS or if they really are so clueless that they'd ask someone to PAY to apply to a job that, even if they get, they wouldn't get paid for. And if they hired this person, and how would that even work? How can you even hire someone on UpWork without paying them? I mean, I know, you can't, but like, are they even thinking this through or caring? The more I think about it, they are just blatantly ignoring TOS. 


I've had so many clients ask to go off platform. I've had so many clients tell me when I work fixed-price projects that I'm getting paid before the work is done, because they have to put the work in escrow. I don't think it's because they don't read TOS. These were all smart people. They just don't care. They just want to screw over the FL and get the work for the cheapest they can. They want to take advantage of someone, and for some reason they think the FL will be amenable to that. Which is just, well, insane. 


Okay, rant over. I don't know if the messaging is wrong or if so many clients are just disrespectful to honest FL who are skilled at what they do. 

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