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Is Upwork Giving Some Freelancers Unfair Advantage?

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Ace Contributor
Steve F Member Since: Feb 9, 2018
1 of 44

I'm a freelancer who decided to hire a freelancer myself for a project, and was very disturbed by how Upwork handled it. I'm wondering if this is standard practice.

 

After posting my ad, I received an email from Upwork with the names of nine freelancers. It started by saying, "We think this is the best freelancer for you," and gave me one name. Below were three other names, and then it said, "Click here to see more names."

 

Now, I've been on Upwork for several months. I've sent out tons of proposals, and usually get no response at all--even for jobs that are right in my sweet spot. I thought that we were all competing on an equal footing for jobs. But, at least in this case, Upwork RIGGED the bidding process by saying one freelancer was the best. Further, in order to see the remaining five names, I had to go through an extra step of clicking. 

 

I have to say that I'm more than a little upset if this is standard procedure. It would certainly explain (at least partly) why almost no one responds to my proposals.  

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Community Guru
Rene K Member Since: Jul 10, 2014
2 of 44

It's their questionable algorithm. Its accuracy is more a case of faith than computer science.

 

 

 

 

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"Where darkness shines like dazzling light"   —William Ashbless
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Ace Contributor
Steve F Member Since: Feb 9, 2018
3 of 44

Thanks for the response. That is just wrong. Why am I paying Upwork money to put in bids, only to have them tell the employer that someone else is better? The decision of who is best should be up to the employer. Why would Upwork do that?? 

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Community Guru
Richard S Member Since: Mar 12, 2019
4 of 44

Steve F wrote:

Thanks for the response. That is just wrong. Why am I paying Upwork money to put in bids, only to have them tell the employer that someone else is better? The decision of who is best should be up to the employer. Why would Upwork do that?? 

 

Could someone from Upwork please confirm (or otherwise) that this is correct?


 

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Community Guru
Nichola L Member Since: Mar 13, 2015
5 of 44

Richard S wrote:

Steve F wrote:

Thanks for the response. That is just wrong. Why am I paying Upwork money to put in bids, only to have them tell the employer that someone else is better? The decision of who is best should be up to the employer. Why would Upwork do that?? 

 

Could someone from Upwork please confirm (or otherwise) that this is correct?


 



Steve, 

 

It cuts both ways. Just recently, I had a notification from an Upwork "talent specialist" (interpret that as you will), who had suggested me to a client and invited me to send a proposal. The skillset had nothing to do with mine. I wonder how many of these unhelpful suggestions that client had. 

 

Some time ago, we were assured, after many heated posts and discussions, that the talent specialists would be receiving full, hands-on training. I believe there have been a few accurate pairings, but I feel these might be due more to lucky numbers than skill. 

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Ace Contributor
Steve F Member Since: Feb 9, 2018
6 of 44

Thanks for that. I'm getting really upset, thinking about all the hours I've spent and dollars paid to Upwork to submit proposals--only to find that Upwork has (apparently) been sabotaging me. If Upwork is in fact (based on who knows what) saying another freelancer is best, that is stupid and wrong. I may be the best for a certain job, but far from the best for others. That should be between the freelancers and the employers.

 

Why would Upwork interfere in an honest bidding process--putting their thumb on the scale in favor of one freelancer over another?

 

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Community Guru
Will L Member Since: Jul 9, 2015
7 of 44

Steve,

 

If what you say is true, I'd chalk it up to Upwork needing to be a service that is largely algorithm-driven in order to try to finally become profitable.

 

Like the JSS, the process you describe gives clients who don't know what they're looking for or are too lazy to really vet potential freelancers an easy way out. I doubt higher end clients (however you want to measure that) rely on Upwork to tell them who to hire, but it might create freelancer engagements and revenue for Upwork on the lower end that might not otherwise occur.

 

I submit about 250 - 300 proposals a year, many of which are the result of invitations from potential clients. The others are projects I find through searches.

 

Upwork keeps me as busy as I want to be, so the system works for me. 

 

Good luck to us all!

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Ace Contributor
Steve F Member Since: Feb 9, 2018
8 of 44

I was interested in your comment...finally become profitable. I'm mystified as to how it couldn't be hugely profitable. They take a whopping 20% of all the transactions PLUS charging us fees to bid. And don't they collect money from those who post jobs too?

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Community Guru
Will L Member Since: Jul 9, 2015
9 of 44

You can find extensive information about Upwork's operations, financial results, challenges, etc. through December 2019 in this long document:

 

https://www.sec.gov/ix?doc=/Archives/edgar/data/1627475/000162747520000006/upwk-20191231.htm

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Community Guru
Douglas Michael M Member Since: May 22, 2015
10 of 44

Will L wrote:

You can find extensive information about Upwork's operations, financial results, challenges, etc. through December 2019 in this long document:

 

https://www.sec.gov/ix?doc=/Archives/edgar/data/1627475/000162747520000006/upwk-20191231.htm


Upwork also maintains an investor relations page where they discuss and extrapolate each quarter's performance in less abstruse terms. The quarterly letter to investors of about a year ago makes for some interesting reading about Upwork's current market (and profitability) strategy.

For the record, and while the trajectories of the two businesses are quite different (not least because one of the businesses is actually a conglomerate of many), Amazon rarely turned a quarterly profit in its first two decades, during which time it became a behemoth in both consumer and investor markets. Forbes published a nice accessible discussion of that phenomenon a couple or so years ago.

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