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Replying to freeloaders


I discovered that last year I have been contacted by more freeloaders than before. Like, now I have few persons each month, although before such event happened about once in a few months. May be just my luck, of course.

So, for me it goes like this: after contacting a client or agreeing to invitation the client sends me material, links and a big message about how interesting is the project. Then the person asks me what steps I will take to solve it and does not hire me. It seems suspicious to me. I decided to create a template which I can copy and paste. I want to give a person benefits of the doubt while making clear that I won't do a free work. Something along these lines:

"Yes, your project sounds interesting. However I would like to warn you that my paying clients are my priority, so if somebody hires me then I feel like my responcibility is to give this person my undivided attention.
So please won't be surprise if I stop replying for while. Hope you understand."

Or I can just say "$2,000". Cuts a lot of crap, too, especially when initially it was vaguely formulated assignment for $100 and then it turned out to be a task for a week.

What do you think? How do you detect freeloaders?




Hi Maiia,


I certainly understand and respect your precautionary measures when it comes to choosing the right project/client. You may want to check this help article and this thread for more information on how to stay safe on Upwork. 


~ Arjay

Thanks for your reply!

I read the documents a few year ago.

My questions was a bit different. 

Community Member

I don't really have this issue occurring often (almost never, actually), but if I did get that sort of message I would tell the client that I would be happy to assess and make my recommendations as soon as they set up a contract, and suggest that they set a limited number of the hours for the consultation phase and then we can discuss and decide whether to move forward with implementation.

Thanks, I do this too, sometimes. A little hint: when people disappear after mentioning a contract, they are freeloaders.

Community Member

This is what you get when there is a statistically significant amount of uneducated yet hardworking Freelancers on the platform.


To be frank, I myself could be oblivious to the way business is handled normally:

The part about setting hourly rates for consultations *before* the job gets done is new to me.



I therefore believe, that for many new Freelancers it’s a mystery, where an interview ends and a job begins.



The only thing I can say, is that I had my fears, that the standard question “how would you approach a project like this” could lead to people just giving a solution and/or consulting to the client for free.


I myself have spent like an hour on the UW-phone with a potential client, looking at material and sharing ideas on how to solve the situation.

The result was not getting the job and a promise of another project, with no follow-up after that.



In hindsight, I should have outlined the questions, which will be addressed during the interview/call beforehand.


Plus, I should educate myself on where the job-related talk gets from a client assessing my competences, to me feeding the freeloaders.



If anybody has a link or the name of any educational material on this one – I would be thankful for sharing.

Have faced with this many times. Instead of opening a job "I need a solution" the client promises a job and allegedly to test your experience, he lures this solution for free. Then he will do it himself or hire a cheap non-professional. I'm tired of this and I ask about the contract soon. If I get paid then I can take tests, validate experience, or jump on one leg... All 100% of these clients disappeared immediately after the mention of the contract.

Feedback ability is a must after interview. It will help with this kind of clients.


You can write own educational material for this and share. I saw none. Only experience for own cost. 🙂

I believe that it is a time for Upwork to create a helpful FAQ about  the phenomena with answer templates.   Not only we loose our time instead of earning money, but Upwork does not get possible money as well because these people prey on freelancers and especially on novices.

By the way, there is a way to flag a job ad. It is in a column which starts "Apply now" and if you click on it, then second option is "Client is asking for a free work".

Community Member

I deal with this on a regular basis.  "Potential clients" want to jump on UW phone and "discuss" their legal project, and how I would handle it.  Since invariably it is usually a contract revision or interpretation of a contract section, there's nothing to discuss on a free call.  Hire me, and we will discuss it until the cows come home.  When I first started out, I would let "potential clients" ask a few questions, and shortly the questions would turn into "well how would you re-word this section?" or "does this clause protect me enough?"  

I do allow people to send me their contract so I can take a VERY brief look at it to ensure that it's something I can help with, and to give them a ballpark time estimate.  Questions beyond "Can you help?" "About how long will this take?" And "Do you have experience with contracts like this?" get answered with "I'd be happy to work with you on this, check out the proposal I sent you and let's get started!"

I also generally don't do UW phone calls before being hired.  You're hiring me to revise a contract or give a legal opinion.  You're not hiring me to give a speech or discuss step by step how I will revise this.  I ask the client to give me a written summary of their entire situation in UW messenger so I can refer to it carefully during the project, and ask further questions if need be.  I have found that the vast majority of "potential clients" who want to have a pre-contract UW phone meeting are just trying to get free advice.

I, too, ask them on Upwork interface what they plan to discuss on a phone call, and after their anwser I reply that the information is way too important and I would prefer to have it documented here, on Upwork. Most of them disappear, but some continue our contact.

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