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Connects Policy – What Change Is Coming?

Community Guru
Will L Member Since: Jul 9, 2015
1 of 11

I’ve had a quick scan through Upwork’s latest quarterly report to the US government.

 

Upwork says on Page 48, “…the recent changes made in the pricing and packaging of Connects purchases has and may continue to result in user dissatisfaction and negatively impact fill rates.” So, it appears reducing the number of freelancer proposals by raising the cost of freelancer proposals results in some portion of clients not hiring any freelancers at all for their projects, which is the opposite of Upwork's stated goal in changing its Connects policies.

 

Upwork goes on to say on Page 57, “…we anticipate further changes to Connects pricing and policies in the future in an effort to improve fill rates on our platform, which may have a negative impact on our revenue.” It isn’t clear whether this means any increase in Upwork’s fee income on filled new projects will be more than offset by Upwork receiving less income from Connects-related fee income. 

 

Regardless, it looks like more change is coming in regards to how connects are used by Upwork to affect freelancer bidding behavior and generate revenue for Upwork.

Ace Contributor
Gergana K Member Since: Dec 11, 2019
2 of 11

Good catch, Will. Indeed, despite what a few community gurus always say when they tirelessly explain  that Connects were introduced to lower the number of unqualified freelancers sending proposals left and right - and thus "separate the weed from the chaff" - increasingly this doesn´t look to have the had the intended effect. The indiscriminate paid connects policy is a blunt tool because it discourages many successful, top rated freelancers with high chances of getting hired from applying too, and very likely this more than cancels out any positive effect achieved by discouraging lower-rated FLs. But we know Upwork´s wheels turn veeeery slowly and it will probably take a while before this hits them in the face (or in the pocket) to the point that they decide to devise a more intelligent approach. 

Community Guru
Will L Member Since: Jul 9, 2015
3 of 11

Gergana,

 

The amount of money being generated by Upwork's current connects policy must be significant (or "material" as lawyers and regulators like to say) or Upwork would likely not have mentioned the subject twice in its filing.

 

I expect the pricing of connects has little to do with the bidding strategies of freelancers on higher value projects, but there have been a lot of freelancers who have complained on this board about paying for connects, so freelance bidders - and the clients they target - on lower value projects must have been effected significantly. Upwork has said that retaining freelancers is not a priority, so it must be the complaints of clients that are driving this reassessment of connects policies. 

 

It is very interesting that Upwork says it is considering changing the connect policy despite the risk of lowering its overall revenue in the process. This could mean that low-priced projects, the clients who post them and resulting revenue are too important to lose - revenue being generated by selling more connects to freelancers is less than the project-related revenue that has been lost (or will be lost if the policy isn't changed).

 

We'll see.

 

 

Community Guru
Will L Member Since: Jul 9, 2015
4 of 11

Now we know what changes were coming to the Connects policy...

 

https://support.upwork.com/hc/en-us/articles/360057604814-11-24-FREE-Connects-to-Do-More-on-Upwork-

Community Guru
Christine A Member Since: May 4, 2016
5 of 11

Gergana K wrote:

Indeed, despite what a few community gurus always say when they tirelessly explain  that Connects were introduced to lower the number of unqualified freelancers sending proposals left and right - and thus "separate the weed from the chaff" - increasingly this doesn´t look to have the had the intended effect. 


Actually, it was Upwork themselves who gave this explanation when they introduced paid connects: https://community.upwork.com/t5/Announcements/Upcoming-Changes-to-Connects/td-p/580451

 

From what I've observed, 'good' projects (i.e. ones with clear descriptions and decent budgets) are still attracting a huge amount of bids, while lesser projects are attracting only a handful (especially if a client is new and/or has an unverified payment method). It seems like Upwork is already trying to address this problem with the new "open to new proposals" badge and the current survey that asks us for input on how to improve job descriptions. But maybe they'll have to give out some free connects, too, if they want people to take a chance on less popular projects. But personally, it won't change my bidding behaviour. 

Ace Contributor
Gergana K Member Since: Dec 11, 2019
6 of 11

Sure, Christine. Upwork´s explanation of their connects policy is what it is because they still have to "sell" it to freelancers and justify it somehow. Which is why I´m surprised when I see FLs themselves defending it as if whatever Upwork says is the word of God. Forgive my cynicism, but I have a feeling this universal paid connects policy (universal because there is not even a minimum free allowance, as you very well suggest would be a good point of compromise) is just down to sheer avarice. 

Community Guru
Nichola L Member Since: Mar 13, 2015
7 of 11

Gergana K wrote:

Sure, Christine. Upwork´s explanation of their connects policy is what it is because they still have to "sell" it to freelancers and justify it somehow. Which is why I´m surprised when I see FLs themselves defending it as if whatever Upwork says is the word of God. Forgive my cynicism, but I have a feeling this universal paid connects policy (universal because there is not even a minimum free allowance, as you very well suggest would be a good point of compromise) is just down to sheer avarice. 


____________________________

Gergana, 

 I think Upwork needs to rethink the connects system too. I don't think they should have connects at all, but to have a system similar to some other sites, where you buy an annual subscription - perhaps a graded one. 

But avarice doesn't come into it. Like all of us, Upwork is a business. Like all of us, Upwork has overheads. Like all of us Upwork has to file its taxes. That doesn't mean we can't criticize or moan or complain, but Upwork has provided all of us (particularly if we are top rated or higher) with work, which we may not otherwise have had. 

Just my two cents and by the way, it is "separate the 'wheat' from the chaff, not the 'weed' - just sayin'  Smiley Wink 

Ace Contributor
Gergana K Member Since: Dec 11, 2019
8 of 11

You are right, Nichola, it is "wheat from the chaff"... sticky fingers!!

(But I guess "separate the weed from the chaff" could work too...if you like that kind of thing, of course Smiley Wink.)

 

My issue with connects is not that they exist - it´s that there are multiple types of situations, which have been described over and over in this forum, where FLs simply waste them on applying to job posts that have been abandoned, that never lead to a hire at all or that are simply deceptive (advertise one thing, but ask for something completely different). In all of these cases and probably a few others that elude me, FLs do not have any recourse of recovering those connects. Whenever someone complains about it, Upwork´s response is basically: "It is what it is, live it with and better luck next time." This is the part that seems to me not only unfair, but also unethical, especially since Upwork already takes a hefty commission from each job that does turn into a contract - so they don´t need to withhold connects that have been wasted due to no fault of the person using them, just to pad a little bit more their profits. I think in the long run it doesn´t even make economic sense for Upwork to maintain such a rigid policy, since many FLs probably think twice before buying more connects when they see how easy it is to lose them to a black hole. 

Community Guru
Nichola L Member Since: Mar 13, 2015
9 of 11

Gergana K wrote:

You are right, Nichola, it is "wheat from the chaff"... sticky fingers!!

(But I guess "separate the weed from the chaff" could work too...if you like that kind of thing, of course Smiley Wink.)

 

My issue with connects is not that they exist - it´s that there are multiple types of situations, which have been described over and over in this forum, where FLs simply waste them on applying to job posts that have been abandoned, that never lead to a hire at all or that are simply deceptive (advertise one thing, but ask for something completely different). In all of these cases and probably a few others that elude me, FLs do not have any recourse of recovering those connects. Whenever someone complains about it, Upwork´s response is basically: "It is what it is, live it with and better luck next time." This is the part that seems to me not only unfair, but also unethical, especially since Upwork already takes a hefty commission from each job that does turn into a contract - so they don´t need to withhold connects that have been wasted due to no fault of the person using them, just to pad a little bit more their profits. I think in the long run it doesn´t even make economic sense for Upwork to maintain such a rigid policy, since many FLs probably think twice before buying more connects when they see how easy it is to lose them to a black hole. 


_________________________

Yes, but it is what it is, until it gets changed.  If the business model works for Upwork this is how it will remain. So, we either accept it or we don't. Connects are returned when Upwork delists a job for violation of its ToS, or if the client is kind enough to actually cancel their offer without hiring. 

 

But I agree  that the system is flawed when it comes to client behaviour. Upwork could do a great deal more in monitoring client offers and client responses.  The problem here though, is that many clients are not often connected to appropriate freelancers, and also many clients are on different sites and send out multiple offers on all of them. This latter cannot be monitored by Upwork - so judgement is very much down to us as canny freelancers. And lastly, there are the scammers that proliferate everywhere not just on Upwork. 

 

People new to freelancing on Upwork (or to any type of freelancing) often do not want to take responsibility for their own businesses and do not have the experience to judge the type of job they are applying for, or to recognize the type of unsatisfactory clients who post promising offers, but who are looking for low-paid drudges. This results in accusing Upwork (or any similar site) of greed or blaming it for failure to protect the FL from scams or wasted connnects. Upwork's rules and regs and help pages are all too often ignored. 

 

While it would not necessarily reduce unsatisfactory clients, an annual subscription plan, IMO, would do a lot to separate the wheat/weed from the chaff!

 

Community Leader
Anna T Member Since: Jan 27, 2017
10 of 11

Will L wrote:

“…the recent changes made in the pricing and packaging of Connects purchases has and may continue to result in user dissatisfaction and negatively impact fill rates.” 


 

This doesn't surprise me at all.

 

Prior to paid connects I easily went through the 60 we were given each month.  I seek short and sweet projects and frankly it took that many connects to weed through the tire kickers.  However, since paid connects started I've managed to make the last 120 last this long-maybe 16 months.  This means there are hundreds less clients that have seen a proposal from me.  Multiply that by probably hundreds of freelancers who feel the same as I do about paid connects and, who knows, it may explain a thing or two.

 

 

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