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Jul 14, 2022
How to Handle Vague Job Invites From Clients

Disclaimer: This post was originally written in 2016. It has been edited to remove references to things that now violate the Upwork Terms of Service. Thank you to Community Manager Mike J, who asked if I would be interested in editing this after I posted an update apologizing to the Community and letting everyone know I could not edit my post.


How to handle a Client who sends an Invite, but the job does not outline specifics for the role the Client is looking to fill. Tips for confirming the client is legit and making sure you fully understand the job before accepting the offer.


My Process
I recently received a private Invite from a client, who had seen my profile and wanted to know how I could help him. He wasn't sure how to handle the complex job he wanted to hire for, and had not yet created a proper job post.

Because he did not post job details, I was initially a little concerned that he was a legit Client, so I hope my little story here helps others who encounter this.

His message gave me a general idea of what he needed, and he included his website address in his message. 

Warning: Technically this violates the "no contact rule", but it's not a red flag because typically clients do not know about that rule.

The first thing I did was visit his website and crawled around his Social Media sites. I then checked out his Upwork job history. This confirmed he was a real client, had paid over $20k since he joined, and that his business was real.

Checking his Upwork job history required a little bit of additional work (job history was extensive) but his reviews were very good and showed recent hiring activity. The client's hire rate was over 70%, which is actually a very good ratio.

Once I completed this research, I replied and said that I was interested, and suggested we meet via Skype (Note, that is no longer allowed and it's a violation of the TOS). I asked him to commit to an hour interview and Q&A, so that we could flesh out the job details. (This is a typical interview time for many of my prospective clients because the role I am being hired for is often a Managerial position with possible B2B client-facing responsibilities).

24 hours before the meeting I submitted 12 questions about his business via the Upwork Message Center, and told him that we would need to go over these items during the meeting. He responded 2 hours later with answers to my questions in an MS Word doc, which I thought was really great.

Warning: This sort of file COULD contain contact info, but this one did not. If you're looking at a job post that has a MS Word doc or PDF, it could will contain contact info, because again, most clients do not know the "no contact" rule.

The next day we met and went through my questions in further detail, talked about his business needs, and discussed payment terms and hours.

I then wrote up a 1.5 page proposal that was a summary of the interview, along with payment terms and a list of goals I'd commit to in the first 30 days. I sent this to the Client via the Upwork Message center as a PDF.


Update: I just heard from this client. They REALLY need system and process development, but like so many Agencies, they keep putting this on the back burner. He said he's too busy to hire for this role right now. Could be true, or maybe my rate scared him off. Time will tell.

Note: This is actually the 2nd time I have received this sort of job invite with no detail. I won the earlier job, doing pretty much what I described above.

1. If you get a direct message from a Client who whose job post is vague, don't assume it's a scam. Sometimes Clients just don't know how to hire an independant contractor for complex roles.

2. Research the Client before responding. View their history on Upwork, and if necessary, ask the Clients for details about their business. Confirm they have paid users on Upwork recently. Generally speaking, a hiring rate over 60% is better, and 30% can indicate they may be paying freelancers off the platform, which is a huge violation of the Upwork TOS. It can also indicate that they just do not hire much on Upwork. 

3. Prepare to do some additional work to get the job. In cases like this, the Client is ready to hire, but isn't sure how to go about it. This means asking relevent questions before the interview, and making sure your questions are discussed in the meeting or before hand via the Message Center.

4. Prepare a proposal. In a case like this, the Client may not be sure what kind of job post to create. Use this to your advantage and create a custom, tailored proposal. This will help the client create the job details in Upwork. Yes, it's an extra step, but not really that different from creating a detailed cover letter and submitting a bid proposal to an existing job post. Plus, you already have your foot in the door and you should continue to present your best professional face to the Client.

5. Do not work for the Client until you receive an offical job offer via Upwork. Just because the hiring process was a little different intially doesn't mean this legal step should be skipped.