Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

Possible client asking for free "trial" work

Community Guru
Phyllis G Member Since: Sep 8, 2016
11 of 26

Even when a project looks perfect--great match with your skills, ample compensation for the work to be performed, schedule that meshes smoothly with your calendar--if the client presses for free work up front, then odds are against an ultimately successful outcome. That client is either a cheapskate or doesn't understand the value of the work he/she is contracting. If the latter, you may be able to educate them and collaborate successfully but in my experience, it's doubtful. 


For me, it took numerous episodes of banging my head gently against the wall to finally internalize the lesson: no free work. Even when I have idle time on my hands and had just as soon do the sample in hopes of landing the gig, I insist on a small test contract. It's more about making sure the client takes me and the work seriously and is prepared to engage as professionals, than it is about scoring the pay for a few hours of work. And, of course, making sure I don't get taken advantage of by a client who farms out the whole project in pieces as "free samples" and winds up getting it done without paying anybody.

Community Guru
Janean L Member Since: Apr 6, 2016
12 of 26

@ Neil A. --


Look at it this way (discouraging though this reality is): the client essentially paid you with the promise of future work. The POSSIBILITY of the "gig" (as you put it) was so good that you put in tremendous time working towards it. 


You must generally be used to a world in which people behave honorably and responsibly, and do not take undue advantage of others. You are also used to a world in which it makes great sense to EXCEL AT A TEST in order to ACHIEVE A DESIRED GOAL. Unfortunately, that is not the world of Upwork and certainly not the world of scammers.


All that the scammer had to do was, in essence, promise to give you a perfect-fit, well-paid job later on, in order to extract from you a great deal of valuable unpaid work right now. He dangled a carrot in front of you, but as you moved toward the impossibly tempting carrot ("a possible gig that will pay all my bills this month and look good on my portfolio"), he kept the bait several paces ahead of your hungry account.  ("[T]hey have concerns about it and ask for some revisions."... need to decide from among others...  need time...) You continued to provide valuable work, but the PAID job was a fake. You were "paid" in promises.


In the immortal words of Popeye's buddy Wimpie: "I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today." I think that in the world of the Popeye comic strips, it was never Tuesday. Unfortunately, likewise in the world of your scammer, Tuesday is never coming.

Community Guru
Kathy T Member Since: Jul 17, 2015
13 of 26

@Neil A wrote:

You start wondering if they're asking for free trial work off every other interviewee, perhpas getting all of you to do all the work for free, but you hold back bdecause you'd like to get the job and you're a trusting sort of person (or a damned needy freelance writer who needs whatever work they can get...)

Now. I want the job, looks good, good pay for it. But I am now seriously irritiated that I've spent four or five hours working for free and they expect me to now work over the weekend on revisions on the off chance they're going to hire me.


I am tempted to report the whole thing to Upwork, but for fear of losing a possible gig that will pay all my bills this month and look good on my portfolio (too many projects in the games market end up never seeing the llight of day...). 


So if I did report it, would that mean the hirer would be shut out of upwork and all links to me and other interviewees? Or that it would be clear that I had reported it? 

 All of the above statements signify utter desperation for a job, and that you will do anything to get it. And that is EXACTLY what scammers look for.  They use promises and trust, (telling freelancers they are from a large company.) and nieve (freelancers who don't know the procedures and what to look out for on this site.)


On this site, you don't pay your bills with promises and free work. This site is FULL of scammers looking for desperate freelancers such as yourself.  Freelancing is a business and that is not the way to run your business.


Your portfolio or any links to samples you may have on your computer, are more then enough to show the STYLE of your work. If a client wants more, then they need to create a small contract for a quick

piece and from there they can determine if that work will fit what they are looking for. If they don't want to do that, then they are certainly NOT a good fit for you.


Instead you wasted your time, 2 days of your time, and gave them exactly what they were looking for. They also probably got the same most likely all from new freelancers. Even now, when you kind of know this was a scam you are very reluctant to report this person ...... just in case you might get the job.  And by having that attitude. you've allowed this client to obtain free work from other freelancers. You've actually rewarded them and demonstrated to them that their scam worked wonderfully.


Not everyone, clients and freelancers are trustworthy, honest, have morals and ethics.  If you want to be hired here, you need:

1. to be offered on contract ON this site, whether for small sample tests or jobs, for regular jobs, and for long consulations.

2. Clients need to have their accounts verified

3 payment must be made on this site for fixed rate jobs by having the client FULLY fund escrow either for the entire job or for each milestone as them come up BEFORE starting work


If you go by the above, you'll be successful. If you go by the attitude you have now, you will not.

Community Guru
John K Member Since: Feb 17, 2015
14 of 26

Neil, you're Top Rated with 100% JSS, a nice portfolio and you're a published author on Amazon to boot. That should suffice to establish your credentials for the vast majority of Upwork clients, so don't spend more than 30 minutes on a potential client unless they're willing to pay you for a test job.

"No good deed goes unpunished." -- Clare Boothe Luce
Community Guru
Virginia F Member Since: Feb 15, 2016
15 of 26

"Then they tell you that your portfolio doesn't contain exactly what they're looking for (which is true) and ask for some trial work to show you can do what they need."


True or not, that's precisely the time I would say, "thanks, don't let the door hit you on your way out". Either that or suggest a small paid test. How they react to that suggestion will tell you all you need to know.

Active Member
Neil A Member Since: Feb 2, 2018
16 of 26

Update on this. Job poster was reported as asking for free work, job was taken down. Now a message has come in - the job has been taken down due to "technical issues". I rub my chin and frown...

But also, the client still claims they will be making a decision about who to hire soon and then posting it as a new job for the chosen candidate.

I'll keep you posted - I think it's a very interesting saga that doesn't fit the normal scope of fakey free work things. 

Community Guru
Preston H Member Since: Nov 24, 2014
17 of 26

re: "But also, the client still claims they will be making a decision about who to hire soon and then posting it as a new job for the chosen candidate."


And maybe the client is a magical leprechaun who will grant you three wishes.


At least you're smart enough not to fall for this.

Community Guru
Kathy T Member Since: Jul 17, 2015
18 of 26

@Preston H wrote:

re: "But also, the client still claims they will be making a decision about who to hire soon and then posting it as a new job for the chosen candidate."


And maybe the client is a magical leprechaun who will grant promise you three wishes. if you give him the wishes first so he can look them over. 


At least you're smart enough not to fall for this. (to be debated)


Active Member
Samson C Member Since: Nov 20, 2017
19 of 26

I experienced the same thing but not here in Upwork. The client posted a job that needs to be done by the team. There are 20 freelancers in a team that would do the phase 1 which is the trial for free. Anyone who passed the trial task will be hired for phase 2 with a payment of $10 per hour. So, we were gathered into a group conversation in Skype and has given different task to do. Then, after everyone has submitted the output per task the client has replied everyone that we could not proceed to phase 2. The sad thing is that, none of those 20 freelancers were hired. Then, the client project was done with free of charge. Here is the message that the client sent to us


"Hello...thanks for your interest in the postion of Online Internet Researcher. We have been swamped with requests (over 131+) for the position so we apologize for the delay yet we are getting back in contact with all interested parties. So here are the details... We are looking to add 5 new members to the team with the pay being approx. $20.00 hour once a team member has been finalized. Payments will be made through Hiring will be done in 3 phases. Phase 1: Training 1-3 days NO PAY Phase 2: Trail hire 3 days at $10.00/hr Phase 3: Final hire at $20.00/hr on project by project basis with projects averaging 10-40 hrs. We are always looking for great people to hire and this should be easy work for the right person. If you would still like to be considered for the position please send a Skype reply to my partner stating why you think you'd be the best person for the position. Look forward to your brilliance!!! "


It sounds good to read a post like this. But let yus beware to client who used free trial as a mean of finishing the task for free!


Just wanted to share this for you to avoid clients like this. Justice to out three-day work was not served.

Ace Contributor
Caroline W Member Since: Oct 26, 2015
20 of 26

After 5 years here, one advice, never do a "free" test, or " sample" 

The serious clients may pay you for a small test (EG $20 for each candidate) and then decide. 

Any client asking for the free "test" usually never hires at your rate, they end up taking a very very cheap freelancer, who barely has a 87% success.