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Long Term Client Ready to Quit Upwork due to Frustration with Placeholder Bids

Active Member
-- - Member Since: Oct 7, 2016
1 of 20

It used to be that if we posted a request for bids for a fixed price contract that we would actually get fixed-price bids.  Now, virtually every vendor bids the exact amount as the fixed price that was offered as a placeholder bid and then asks to have a discussion to "finalize" the requirements.  In other words, they want to sell higher priced services on an hourly rate.   They demand to have a skype call.   Seems like Upwork is now a referral service - not a job bid board.   


These fake bids are a waste of time and we won't be inviting anyone with a placeholder bid to our projects in the future.   I don't like the requirement to insert a bid amount- it basically means that vendors don't actually have to think about their actual bid.   


Are there other websites besides Upwork that are more client-friendly?   


Any thoughts on how to limit the number of fake bids?

Vladimir G Moderator Member Since: Oct 31, 2014
2 of 20

Hi there,


We're sorry to hear you're unhappy with the proposals you're receiving on your job posts. Our team will contact you soon to take a look at the proposals you mentioned, your job posts and assist you directly. We appreciate your feedback.

Community Guru
Will L Member Since: Jul 9, 2015
3 of 20

There are a few things that might be making freelancers you're hearing from not post simple fixed price bids on your new projects, including:


1) Other than paying $291 and going to arbritration, there is no certain payment protection available on fixed price bids when a client doesn't want to pay for work done. (Low-priced projects make it uneconomic to use arbitration at all for many freelancers.) Tracking time on hourly projects using Upwork's TimeTracker software is more reliable in terms of payment protection for freelancers.


2) Many clients don't understand their own projects, so the fixed price budgets they post with their projects are unreasonably low compared to the amount of work and skill level required.


3) Some clients rely on "mission creep" to get their projects completed to the level they require - they keep adding new tasks to fixed price projects and threaten freelancers with non-payment or poor feedback if the freelancers don't agree to do what is essentially free work not agreed to in the original conversations with the client. 


None of the above may apply to you, so maybe what you're seeing in recent bids is just a random, short-term phenomenon and you will soon see fixed price responses more in line with what you used to see in proposals by freelancers you haven't worked with before.

Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
4 of 20

You have correctly deduced the fact that Upwork's user interface and the overall design of the fixed-price contract model lead to this happening.


You may find it more efficient and effective to switch to hourly contracts.

Active Member
-- - Member Since: Oct 7, 2016
5 of 20

The point of having a fixed price is that the bidder takes the burden of a proper bid- not us.   Fully understand that there may be questions on the scope- but the practice of bidding a low placeholder bid intentionally rather than asking questions to flush out the scope of the bid seems deceptive.  


These aren't difficult scope projects- take a chosen Wordpress theme template of the vendors choice and format it so we can add our content based upon the posted scope.   Why a vendor needs to talk about it on Skype instead of asking direct questions in a bid or qualifying the bid is beyond me.


We have an excellent client rating- we have paid every fixed price contract.   But if the end result of Upwork changes is that we can't get reliable fixed price bids- we will find another platform where we can.  Don't mean this as a threat- our $100K or so in past projects isn't material enough to be a threat.   But we can't be the only one who shares this concern on the erosion of actual bidding.

Community Guru
Will L Member Since: Jul 9, 2015
6 of 20

Your problem with getting true fixed price bids may have nothing at all to do with your trackrecord. And the type of projects you have may be more suitably paid via fixed price rather than hourly.


If what you are seeing is a real trend in freelancers in general not wanting to submit set prices in their fixed price proposals, Upwork could make changes to the fixed price structure that encourages freelancers to use it more, such as:


1) Not allowing single milestone fixed price projects

2) More clearly recommending to clients and freelancers that work not begin on a milestone until it is fully funded by the client and all previous milestones have been fully funded and escrowed released for payment to the freelancer

3) Not allowing clients to contest escrowed payments they releated to payment to a freelancer


This would take a lot of leverage away from clients and eliminate the games some clients play, which Upwork may not want to do. But under the current fixed priced system Upwork may be seeing the same trend you are - freelancers are increasingly wary of agreeing to fixed price projects.


This may be especially true on projects that provide net income of less than $291 to the freelancer. 

Community Guru
Will L Member Since: Jul 9, 2015
7 of 20

3) Not allowing clients to contest escrowed payments they released for payment to a freelancer

Active Member
-- - Member Since: Oct 7, 2016
8 of 20

Thank you for this response.  This has been helpful in seeing why vendors would have concerns with small dollar fixed price projects even from established clients.  We don't do single milestone fixed price contracts even on small projects- perhaps we should be mentioning this in our request.   We also haven't contested a milestone payment in the past- surprised to hear that clients do that but I could see the potential for misuse on both sides.

Community Guru
Melissa T Member Since: Dec 5, 2014
9 of 20
Another way to see it is prudence (aside from the obviously spammy bidders). I rarely submit a proposal for a job without needing to ask clarifying questions about requirements and scope. I’ve never “demanded” a Skype call, but I regularly ask questions and indicate that my bid could be updated based on scope.
Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
10 of 20

For what it's worth, this is certainly a valid concern.

This has been discussed in many other threads.


There are many clients as well as freelancers who would like it if clients did not need to specify a dollar amount for fixed-price job postings. We think this would help the situation.


We often discuss "work-arounds" to the current system, such as explicit messages in the job posting stating that the stated dollar amount is a placeholder only. But there are limitations in how effective this can be.


I think most job applicants are seeing a dollar amount and assume that is how much you intend to pay for a given task, or see the job posting as a starting point - an opportunity to begin a conversation about the project - and not an actual request for a bid.