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Spam applications and other issues

Hi, I've been using Upwork for a while for a while from time to time as a client, and in the past, extensively as a freelancer.


I've tried to do hiring recently and ran into a couple of problems that I haven't really experienced before, at least, not nearly to the same extent.


1. A lot of recycled applications that demonstrate no evidence that the freelancer read the job post. Likely automated posts based on keywords. Is there a way to not see this spam somehow? There's a Decline - Recycled application option, but, judging by the amount of copy-paste applications, it probably does nothing to prevent the freelancer from sending more spam? If Upwork feels that it's so important to make more freelancers send more applications to extort fees from them, would it at least not be possible to add a warning for clients indicating something along the lines of "This freelancer has submitted another applications that reuse >30% of the text of this application 745 times in the last 30 days" to stop time being wasted reading this junk?


2. There's was a question "would you like teams to apply to this job or only interested in the solo freelancers" at the last step of posting a job, which I think is fairly new. Despite answering that I'm only interested in solo applicants, a third of applications are speaking of "teams" or "us". What the answer to that question actually does and why it seemingly has no impact on who applies to the job?


3. What is being done to prevent fake applicants? For example, I've got some applications from freelancers allegedly from US, Canada and Norway not looking genuine and having a profile and/or application written by non-native and non-Scandinavian speakers. Some listed experience with Indian companies and claims they're American, some had headshots that look AI-generated.

4. What is being done to filter AI-generated applications? Some applications I get are concatenations of GPT response with the recycled portion of the application not relevant to the job.


There are some qualified candidates, but the overall amount of junk applications makes Upwork look completely unfeasible. It did not used to be like this. Is it a permanent situation now? Didn't use it for hiring for a while and flabbergasted how much the average quality of the applications have declined due to spam & machine-generated junk.

Community Member

As to point 4, the same issue is going on fo the freelancer side.  Steaming piles of AI-generated crap that are vague and useless as to what the actual specifics of the job are.

Unfortunately this seems to be the way things are headed on the platform, on both sides.

Community Member

Pavel— I agree with a lot of what you're saying—something should be done for sure! but I have to object to "This freelancer has submitted another applications that reuse >30% of the text of this application 745 times in the last 30 days." (Well, 745 times, sure, but the over 30% reused was what caught my eye.)


The reason being—while I read every job post and make sure I'm tailoring my proposal to that exact client at that exact moment in their business life, making sure to mention them by name and the needs they stated in the listing—a logo design (for instance) is done with the exact same steps each time unless there's something odd about it, so when I say "and this is the steps I use to approach your logo design," of course that's my standard explanation of how-I-do-a-logo. (I have a different, but also standard approach for stakeholder research... a standard approach for business naming... etc. After all I've been in business for 18 years!)


Having to change wordings for jobs that are mainly the same, would result in garbage-sounding proposals (nonsense thrown in so it's "phrased" differently), or proposals that simply cut off before giving a clue to the potential client, because saying something that's done in a standard way gets penalized.


As Miles said, we see this on the freelancer side as well—and in fact job listers are now encouraged to use AI, resulting in Upwork-sanctioned vaguery and irrelevancy.  😞  


I know you're not aiming the idea at sincere freelancers who take their time to craft personal responses (that just happen to have steps in them that don't vary when the job is the same), but in case Upwork might get any ideas about automatically booting proposals, I just wanted to say that the problem is more complex than it seems. Great proposals from experienced pros who want to offer you their tried-and-true approach, could be swept up in any auto-booting.


And great proposals from experienced pros are having a hard enough time lately, as a dip into the forums confirms.  O.O

Community Member

The problem is, when spammers use AI (in a dumb way), it recycles the job posting to make an application repeating everything the application has said; but this doesn't look like a persuasive application, so spammers contatenate a few paragraphs of a non-AI written recycled application.


I understand what you're saying regarding personalisation, and I have done it in the past as well when I done freelance work, but nowadays it won't make you stand out because of AI spam and would actually look like noise, compared a few concise words that address the client's needs precisely IMO. What makes an application stand out has pretty much reverted.

Community Member

Is not a permanent situation, it going worse and worse.

Open doors here: any bot able to register with easy. No verifications, no testing, nothing. So spaming encouraged.

Community Member

Have to agree with you, Pavel. It also puts capable freelancers out of the eyes of a potential client who has gotten exhausted reading through junk proposals.... and the sad thing, these types are very quick to bid and flood a project in minutes, so the client is already turned off to bother further. Having done both roles myself in the past as well, I know what you mean but there is another side.

Since posting a project is free like any public job post, clients should realise any desperado is going to respond. What you as a client could do is request for a "pay for higher value bids" feature. So say, pay a certain $ and only get proven stats in the category apply. Higher for officially certified freelancers notified/ be able to bid. That would reduce your issue immensely. Stats and cerfications as a filter for a price would resolve most of what you have listed... So a few bucks for proven past stats in the same job category and  higher prices for officially certified ones would immediately solve all of this. And freelancers would also be notified its not a windowshopping client as many projects posted end up with 50+ bids and no response to anyone at all. And if they are qualified for it and it costs them nothing, they will run to apply. Win win both ways!

Since you are out of freelancing for a while, you may not realise bidding expenses have just increased exponentially for freelancers as well. Bottom line is sadly it is only getting worse on BOTH sides. But one has to agree that freelancers are getting the short end of the stick more than clients as freelancers pay to bid with connects, pay to boost their bid with more connects to be seen and now general bidding prices/ number of connects have quadrupled as well.

So by having clients PAY for quality project bids, they can help cut connect costs from qualified freelancers (make it free or 1-2 connects maybe so most of the qualified ones will surely apply) and then only the best of the best would flood the project with sensational bids. One cannot expect to post a random project for free and get Picasso or Michelangelo or their protege to apply. So requesting such an option of paying for varying amounts of quality bids would be very useful if a client is serious to get someone good.

Clients are spamming as much as freelancers in terms of Ai generated lengthy project details that make no sense, promise of certain $ that they then manipulate through a bound contract, repeat posts and multiple (scam) hires for the same project posted over and over again for months on end and fake locations are actually more of a client thing as they hire cheap virtual assistants in the US/ UK to post jobs and then the freelancer ends up  being connected to/ talking to a project manager in another part of the world where one knows that type of money can never come from. So much time wasted to pay/ apply, chat and convince for a job that does not go through or pay enough.


Ask to pay for better bidders. Make it lucrative/free for them to bid by actually paying for them to bid. Only the best will come then.

Community Member

"Ai generated lengthy project details that make no sense" are autogenerated by Upwork once a client enters a title while creating a new job post. It's as much a design issue as it is a clients' fault.

Yes, that is correct. As a freelancer, I don't bother with such job posts where the client has not even bothered to write a few words of what they actually need and its probably a fake job post anyways. So it runs both ways. If a client is not seeing direct addressal of his needs in the first paragraph, he can also just not bother to read the rest. My point is that if a freelancer wants to engage further to see if that cryptic job description is worth it, he needs to pay connects whereas it costs nothing to the client to 'try talking' to a freelancer no matter how good/ bad the proposal. Basically one has to see Upwork as free recruitement service from a client's point of view and as with any free services, there will be a ton of spam and its upto the client to take the time to get what he needs. There is really not much room to complain when you are not paying anything to get 50+ folks applying... good or bad, they still have bothered to pay and apply. Some freelancers think numbers over quality bids and wrong or right; that is their business approach- it hurts serious clients and qualified freelancers likewise.

On the other hand, if anyone should complain and is actually paying for quality, it is the freelancer and hence junk/ scam job posts are not fair. It is a paid service for them when jobs cost different amount of connects and one would assume the job is more authentic based on that, but it isn't. And add the bidding to boost your bid visibility to clients feature to make things even more expensive. Jobs that don't close or client doesn't even engage with even one freelancer should have all the connects refunded to the freelancers. Connects needed have now risen to 12-18 per bid if you didn't know, making it even more expensive to bid on jobs. So the demand to make sure these are quality/ guaranteed jobs should be unquestionable from a freelancer's point of view. I'm sure you agree no one would pay for junk.

Requesting for a paid client version of projects where only higher quality bids and qualified/ certified freelancers can apply (for cheap or free) would really reduce all the client woes you have mentioned and bring things to a fairer standing. Freelancers would also feel more confidence in your job post and apply with their best. What are your thoughts on that?

"it costs nothing to the client to 'try talking' to a freelancer no matter how good/ bad the proposal" isn't necessarily fair: it takes time to review the proposals, set up the calls and actually speak.

I think the bright line for me is the extent of the proposals by fake accounts. You'd always get high-quality and low-quality proposals, but the fact that there are so many fake ones, and it takes a bit of effort to recognise those just makes it a lot less attractive to use Upwork as a first port of call. And it raises an obvious question of what happens if you don't recognise a fake one, or if there are other scams running unhindered now. Upwork used to be a convenient way to hire, but the next time I'd look for referrals through the network first.

Yes, scams are running both ways and it is good if you can have access to referrals within your network. But the access to the number of options on Upwork is still going to be unsurpassable. As I said, simply do not expand on proposals that do not address your needs directly in the first few lines. And if you do chat, make sure they are addressing your need in the first few messages as well. It is not fair to have to spend time to sift through so much junk and spam, I agree, but being free, one has to consider it the side effect is what I mean and find ways not waste time on them. Upwork demands no money to open an account and post a job, there are other sites where clients need to pay fees before even registering to be able to access freelancers. And once you do sign a contract on Upwork, there are rules and safeguards enough as a client to ensure you are not cheated, so if it is a scam you can get out of it as long as you approach cautiously with new freelancers till trust is built up.

On the flip side there a lot of clients using remote assistants to appear from the US, UK and then they connect you to their 'project manager' who is in a country which you know will not pay that amount. Then those trying to tie down freelancers with contracts and threats of bad reviews. Or post a job for a certain amount of $, then take you through hours of chat and zoom calls to see that what they offer is actually peanuts for tons of work. Or scam freelancers by demanding samples or getting enough of the work done then bailing on them. Or doing all of the above all at once 🙂

It is only getting worse as more and more of each side comes online everyday, and you are right to have complaints for the service you recieve even for free, but what of the freelancers who actually pay for each bid and get the same? It used to be convenient way to get hired as well, and now having to deal with scamming clients every week has made a lot of time, effort and money waste on the freelancer's side. As a freelancer pays differently for each bid, one would expect the quality of projects to be relevant to the price, but they are not. They seem to be as random and open as the spam proposals you recieve.

Community Member

I havent hired before but Point 2 got me. I am guilty of using 'we' instead of 'i's and thought it would sound better. Although i do not follow it up with 'us' but reading your post, it leaves me wondering.
As for the spam, it sort of goes both ways - there are lots of spam clients with job posts, location, description - mismatch
I think its a transitional phase that would slowly stabilize with time and in the meantime you sort of adopt to recognize the Ai and sc(p)ammers. 

Community Member

Hello Pavel,

I kind of couldn't get this point of you are you saying that ai generated proposal the freelancers are submitting are not geniune or the A.I generated job posting is a scam.

Can you elaborate please.🙄

It goes beyond the fact that AI proposals are low-quality and spammy, which is indeed subjective.


More than half AI-generated proposals I've got for a job I posted were from brand new freelancer profiles, allegedly, from Western countries with Western names, but there were tell-tale signs of those being fake, such as profile text written by a non-native (and non-Scandinavian) speaker. There were other signs too, but the language is the most obvious one.


My impression was that there's some sort of organised operation behind these profiles. Or perhaps a coaching service teaching freelancers how to obtain fake IDs, create multiple profiles to apply for jobs without paying for connects etc. If Upwork still does identity verification, the process has clearly been breached. (Or abandoned to grow sheer volume of proposals and freelancers, if one is a conspiracy theoretist.)

No more verification here. Bots are welcomed.

yeah that's right the spammers are acquiring the place where the deserved one should be 
I'm a freelancer and I support you on that issue.

Community Member

I am experiencing this as well and it is such a time waste.


Mostly it is "easy" to spot fake profiles as their TZ is not matching their location while also having very generig sounding names and profile pictures.

But I recently got scammed by a profile where all the boxes had a green tick, except when I went on a call he sounded Asian and I could see on his computer Asian timezone.

I do not understand why freelancers are faking it? I do not mind where a freelancer comes from, but I obviously can not build up a business relationship on lies.

I support you with that and also the scammer clients who faking the job post are also onn rise we freelancer waste our connects on those jobs and I'm from Asian country it is expensicve for me to buy new connects you can assume that.

Dear upwork do something about spammers and scammers.🙏

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