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Client exploiting samples to get a free job

Ace Contributor

There are many clients who request samples in photoshop jobs, to test your skills, this could be ok and I often work on these tests and forward them with the proposal.


The problem is that some clients just use these "samples test" to exploit freelancers and get a free work.


Today I have applied to a job where there was a portrait to retouch as a "test", and 5 more portraits to edit as the job itself.

I have worked on my test, as many others did, and I have seen that the client replied to everyone or almost everyone who applied, me included. He told me I did a great job, but he still needed to look at the other works to decide which one to choose.


Well, after a few hours, he closed the job and nobody got hired, I suspect he just needed that picture retouched and have opened that job just to get the work done for free.


How Upwork deals with this type of situations?

The conversation is locked so I cannot even flag the client for free work.



As I have already said, most of the times I watermark the sample so that the client can't use it.

This is a plus for a client because he already see what the exact result will be (but without being able to use it without payment).

If I don't do this, my chances to getting hired are close to zero, in most photoshop jobs there are over 20-50 bidders, and most of them are from India/Bangladesh/Philippines.

These people have a huge advantage on the bid because they can still work for 3 U$ per hour and they can make a good living in their country, so I must push on quality, and the only way to show the client I can provide it is attaching a sample (watermarked).

This is how I won my first job.



@Andrea M wrote:

As I have already said, most of the times I watermark the sample so that the client can't use it.

This is a plus for a client because he already see what the exact result will be (but without being able to use it without payment).



 Andrea, it would be a massively better use of your time if you quit doing free samples (with or without  a wwatermark) and spent your spare time creating some really knockout samples for your portfolio., which is, at the moment, just not going to make any client take one look and hire you just on the strength of your fabulous work.


There is nothing really "wrong" with it as such, but it is (frankly) really not demonstrating advanced skills and originality. To catch the eye of the clients with the good budgets for work that is a cut above the rest, the first samples in your portfolio have to make the client catch their breath and want to hit the "Hire" button.


When you demonstrate "solid basics" only you indeed put yourself in the same class as dozens of self-taught "solid" people who can use basic photoshop functions, but do so far cheaper as they live in countries with a lower cost of living.



Are you aware of how many "Photoshop Experts" there are on this site? All the graphic designers here can do what you do, and get paid for it, without sending samples; watermarked or not, you're ignoring the TOS Upwork has in place. If you can't get hired based on your proposals and merit, with or without free samples, doesn't that tell you something isn't working?


I would suggest you try and concentrate more on that web developer stuff you mention on your profile, and forget the Photoshop work - there's no money to be made in that one skill of removing backgrounds and adding blush to a model's face, at least not as a reliable and long-term source of income.


Work on your profile to emphasis the other skill, learn how to recognize worthwhile jobs and clients other than the slime balls using you and other freelancers to get free work. And move on. 


You asked, and you've gotten more than enough great advice here. Either be willing to take it, or find another way in the real world to make a living.

I know I would have less competition as a programmer but so far the only 2 jobs I have had are photoshop related.

I wish to demonstrate my skills in programming jobs/server related stuff as well but all the proposal I have made there have been rejected, even if I have always explained in details how I would fix a certain problem or implement something such as Paypal IPN payments for example.

Community Manager
Community Manager

Hi Andrea,


I've checked and see the job you are referring to was removed by our team, that's why you received your Connects back. As our agent advised on your ticket, make sure you have an active contract and use one of our Payment Protection programs before doing any work.