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Low bids freelancers problem

Good morning everybody.

My name is Florin Safner. I have been working for many years in this platform, formerly O`Desk, Elance and Upwork after the fusion. I'm really happy to be here because for now I consider it the best freelance place. 

My profile is set for the graphic design and specifically maps and artistic cartography design. Things changed after all the supposed Covid mess and like everywhere canged for a lower demand. So, we must take care and advantage of the work opportunities every time when they are posted. However, I see a problem which is affecting both freelancers and the site itself. I'll explain what's happening.

We live in a free world, at least apperentaly, which give us the posssibility to choose what's the best for each one of us. Each person will decide what's the way to earn more and capture the client's attention. However this must fit with what we could call "the work ethics" rules. What I am doing must not hurt ohter people work chances or odds. We must respect each other and play a fair game. Why am I saying this? Because unfortunately this is not happening.

Sometimes good projects bids are offered at only 10-20% of the posted value. A $200 or $300 post is bidded for $30 or $40. Some people desesperation is so big than will be able to work for almost nothing and receive a tip instead of a decent fee. Why ? Because they have not a solid activity and feedback background, maybe they are new in the site or other reasons. Regrettably a good part of our clients are hunting for the lower, cheaper offers ignoring what means quality. Who's losing? All, us and the site as well. Because of this kind of (sorry for the wording) work prostitution we are losing a good work cance and the site is losing money as well because it's 20% charge is not the same if the job payment is $40 instead of $200.

Some day I saw a novice guy offering to make 2 posters in 2 hours for $5!!! It's really crazy but it's true. And it's not alone, a good number of people is doing this. It's what we could call an unfair competition. This is a cancer which must be urgently treated by this site staff. Stop this now. 10 years ago freelancer.com was a good place for work, now it's impossible to have a decent job because most of the bidders are offerenig very low bids, at 20% - 30% of their real value. We cannot accept this and we must fight and inssist for a quick cleanig. We cannot allow that Upwork work place status be sabotaged for these persons.

Have a great day and I wish you all my best regards,


Community Member

Hi Florin, I and many others have seen this issue (and I've not even been on here half a year!). But what I've seen in the discussions are some sage advice and reminders.

  1. Because this is a global platform, those low amounts may actually be decent wages for the freelancer bidding them.
  2. Some freelancers hope that their bid will be seen because of its low price, frequently as compensation for zero-effort boilerplate proposals.
  3. Clients in higher cost-of-living areas who are penny-pinchers are poor clients that you should avoid anyways. (I'm in arbitration with one right now).
  4. Many good clients in higher cost-of-living regions ignore the low-range proposals and focus on the mid-range and above proposals. Partially because the low-range proposals frequently have little effort put in or the bid prices seem race-to-the-bottom desperate. Partially because of concerns about potential language or cultural barriers with even high-quality freelancers.
  5. Some freelancers admit to doing the exact opposite, bidding outrageously high, expecting to get noticed that way. So it goes both ways. Good clients aren't fooled.

Overall, the key point is that Upwork is a global marketplace. So there will be high-quality clients and freelancers from regions other than yours that expect much less than you for the same amount of work, because that is the difference in the cost-of-living. For the freelancers who can afford that, it is a competitive advantage. For the clients who can only afford that, it is a competitive disadvantage.


Perhaps the only marketplace where this isn't an issue (at least, at this scale) is Toptal, because it only markets to wealthy clients who expect to pay a lot, because they expect the best.

Community Member

Hi  Jonathan.

I do not agree. Their living cost is their problem. They have not the right to change this site in a cheap bargain, second hand market. This site deserves a high status and it has to be sheltered. Our ranking, high satndard work could be protected with some simple steps, there are solutions for this and I'll explain how. Maybe the people incharge here could learn this:

1. Some time ago I was working as well in PPH (not now animore because it turned to a junk after keeping the payments for 20 days! for "clearing"; most of the best freelancers went away) and PPH has a very good system for preventing this. If someone post a job for $500 the lowest bid cannot be less than 10%. Means $450. If Upwork really has a good programmers team they could implement this here. We'll all win, us and the site. This apply for the fix price projects only. A good programmer could do this. Agree?

2. Stretch and push up a little more the pre-established cost margins for hourly projects. Minimal cost per hour $10 which make sense if we think that any simple worker is paid even more in any decent country and we are working in a decent place.

Could find still more solutions but at least these 2 suggestions must help if the site authorities will understand and apply these improvements.



That is definitely not going to work, let me tell you why. 

I don't know if you have noticed, but ANYONE can get a profile on Upwork now. Every day you can see posts from people stating that they need a job, what can they do to get a job, how they can do a profile, etc. That means there are no more exams or any kind of filter to join this platform. Also, there's this live boosting thing that has been implemented and how are most likely to use it? New freelancers who don't have a clue and will at least once buy connects. And that is why there has been an increase in scammers, new freelancers are more likely to get scammed too (that and the fact that the platform is doing nothing to get rid of them).

So, we have this free market going on for now, and I guess part of that free market is to allow people to post jobs as cheaply as they want. I guess the only thing we can do is not participate in the boosting thing, and not apply for cheap jobs. Although, I believe most of us are already impacted in one way or another by these changes. 



Miriam, the exam still exists. The answer key has been published and is free.

No, Upwork got rid of the readiness test. 

Wow, I didn't see that!

Community Member



That cannot be done on a global market. Upwork already gives clients the ability to restrict proposals to freelancers within their own country. Even then, cost of living can fluctuate immensely. Here in the US, I was able to comfortably live on $10k/yr (under $5/hr, spread over 2080) while in semi-rural Alabama. Of course, my cost of living is much higher where I presently live in urban Texas, which is still far below the costs of areas like Chicago and LA. If you want your competition to be strictly local, then join Thumbtack. Whether you like it or not, you live in a global market. Even if you restrict your clientele to your local, remember that they still have access to the national and global markets, even if you aren't on them. You can open a corner-store bakery, but the gas station still has cheap muffins, donuts, and sliced bread.


Secondly, clients frequently do not know the cost of the service for which they are asking. Usually, that manifests as a too-small budget, adjusting for their expected cost-of-living. But it can also manifest as a too-high budget. Say that they overshoot by 100%. According to your proposed system (from PPH), they are stuck paying at least 180% of the going market rate! Any client, understanding that risk, will then list minimum budgets for their project as a protection against overpaying. Welcome back to your race to the bottom!


Thirdly, your work deserves to be "protected"? That's what hourly and fixed-price protections are for. This isn't a match-making service! The quality of your work defends itself! If its defense is faltering, then figure out how to improve it or make it competitive. There are plenty of discussions here and elsewhere about how to do that - you just won't find them in the complaints section.


Finally, yeah, more competition is always painful, especially when they can afford to do your work for less than you can. New tech obsoletes old trades. Barriers to entry lower or fall altogether. History is full of this very problem. It's painful. Somehow its always the newcomer's fault - whether they be new gen, immigrant, or market. Frequently, the people blamed (assuming they are even responsible) are just trying to get by themselves. Your complaints read like the glam restaurant filing complaints with the city against the food stall that opened up across the street. Sure, turns out the food stall serves street noodles just as good as your haute cuisine vermicelli, for a fraction of the price. Forcing them to leave or to raise their prices is the act of a cartel, not a free market.




Though am new to this forum,your responses have jolted me from my silence and feel like contributing.Sorry for the interruption.You make alot of economic sense.A good reference for exemplification is the low cost of labour in a country like China.What makes their labor so cheap?The answer lies in more supply than demand and that is natural for any product or service.I like your reasoning!

You're only charging $18 yourself, which is hardly anything from my point of view. I wouldn't be able to live on that, but if that's what you want to charge, how would you like it if I told you that you're charging the wrong rates and ruining the market for people like me?

I'd really like to charge more and that's exactly what I was taling about. Most of the competitors in my area are doing this for less tan $10/hour. It's a large gap between what we should have to receive and what really pay the most part of the clients who are attracted by those who sell them work for nothing.

In fact if I have a $100 income for a day work it's not bad, it's not a fortune either but something more decent.

Community Member

Great.  Try to open a store, fill it with good merchandise. Next doors you'll have some competitors which sell similar items but a 50% of your prices. After a couple of months you be almost broke. Do not try to excuse those who are perverting the free competition to a charity issue. I do not accept this, it's my point of view. I respect yours anyway. Have a great day.

I am not excusing them and I don't like it either, all I'm saying is that they don't care since they make money...

Community Member

Theres always 1 dollar pizza store available nearby, yet some people will never eat that and will prefer a nice italian pizzeria which is many times the price. And you're suggesting that dollar stores should be banned. Actually no, they are serving different kind of customers.

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