DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to initiate a discussions and also I already consider that not everyone will agree to (all) of my points. Also apologies for making this post long as right now I have quite a lot of idle time
Let me give a brief background. I have been a top rated freelancer, like most of you who would read this, throughout(ever since top rated badge was launched). For majority of my time on upwork, I have worked on long term projects(part time/full time), and some time ago, a long term contract got over and I had to enter the "bidding arena".
Had to do that in a long long time(perhaps years)!
And it was BRUTAL to say the least.
I soon found myself competing with 20+, 50+ freelancers for various job postings. Some of them got to half century figures within 10mins of posting!!
And you know that being top rated is not that difficult. Just a few 5 star reveiws and 1000$ earnings(and a bit of luck to not have a client disappear leaving your contract inactive and open). I was interviewed in a fraction of my proposals, and hired in even few!
Had been thinking whats wrong, until recently a client interviewed me and asked a question
"Hey Rahul are you going to be the one who would be working on the project?"
I just wondered why even he would ask that question because upwork has strong policies in place for impersonation and I have an independent contractor profile. Then he mentioned that out of 4 guys including me he was interviewing (via video call), 2 were the ones who were not the people who would be working on the actual project!!
Maybe they were agencies, or maybe they were impersonating(despite of having a independent contractor profile). I don't know, nor I want an enquiry.
But the fact is that currently with no cap in connects, few(?) people are outsourcing the task of bidding/client communication to others(people who would not be working on the real task). IMO this does not lead to very good experience for clients and communication delays. Plust it leaves the platform open to misuse.
And imagine from the client's perspective how rigorous will it be trying to sort out the best match in tens of "top rated" proposals!
This also might lead to underbidding and overall degradation of platform quality, because competition is too high, and its rigorous for a client to go through each proposal.
I was observing my submitted proposals and found that the fraction of proposals on which someone was hired was very very low(perhaps 5% or so). Again your observation might be different. Would love to share some more insights on that, perhaps later.
So in short, in my view, having no cap on connects has these problems:
1) Favors agencies because they have dedicated people to manage bidding and client communication.
2) Bad experience for the client having to go through so many proposals.
3) Communication gaps/delays because the person who will work won't usually be the person talking(in case of agencies), so it takes more time to get the estimate/timelines.
4) Underbidding and thereby overall decline in average hourly rate people get on upwork.
Frankly, as a software developer, I would like to spend majority of my time writing software and web apps, and not proposals(knowing that in majority of them, nobody would be even hired!).
I respect upwork platform, and its the best one out there. But I am sure there is always scope to improve things. What do you think?
These are all excellent points. I'm not experiencing this problem so much, perhaps because I'm in a different field. The idea of putting a cap on connects, or in effect, on proposals is interesting. Or Jen's idea of making them much more expensive. That would substantially limit the proposals that clients are getting. I think the whole point of putting a price on connects was to decrease the number of spam proposals that clients get. Is there a way for clients to specify if they are accepting proposals from agencies or not? Maybe adding a filter is a better route to allow clients to specify what they want?
Yes clients can specify whether they want agencies or independent contractors. I think majority of them perhaps post it for Individual contractors(and perhaps thats why some people might be impersonating themselves).
I personally do not agree to making connects more expensive because that has further two issues:
1) It would even further tilt the bias in favor of agencies because in general they have much higher budget for things like bidding, marketing etc...
2) If you make it expensive, it would become even more expensive for people from regions like Asia. (1$ is not same for US than in India).
With point 1), things come back to where they are. I feel as long as there are unlimited connects, people can always invest a lot of money buying more connects.
There are and there have been lots of online marketplace for freelancers, and what made upwork/elance stand out was its quality of clients and freelancers. In general the average hourly rate on the platform was much higher as compared to others. Also hiring experience was much better. But of late I get the feeling that uncapped bidding has adversely affected the platform quality.
The concern is not only that competition is getting higher, even bigger concern is that clients are not ending up hiring people.
For the first three months after the change in the connects system I didn't need to make any proposals. In the last few weeks I've started making proposals again, and, after reading here that most jobs cost 4-6 connects, I was surprised to find that most of the jobs I look at cost only 2 connects. In fact my average connects paid per proposal so far is actually LESS than 2, since the only proposal that didn't cost 2 connects cost only 1. (I'm sure that won't remain so for long.)
Maybe this isn't typical, but I suspect that for some freelancers it now makes sense to make a lot more proposals than under the old system. It used to be the case that, after your 30 free proposals in a month, additional proposals would cost $2 each. But now you can make as many proposals as you like for 30c each, if you stick to 2-connect jobs.
That said, I haven't noticed an increase in the number of proposals submitted. Some jobs seem to get about the same number as before. I think jobs with more specific requirements may be getting fewer, though it's hard to tell. My success rate has been higher than before, but that's based on a very small sample (2 jobs out of 6 proposals) so it may just be a blip.
Anyway, capping the number of proposals might be a good idea, but I doubt it would make a big difference, unless the number is capped at a very low level. Personally, as someone who doesn't make many proposals, capping would suit me. But I also wouldn't object to an increase in the cost of proposals.
In the end, what we want doesn't really matter. Upwork is unlikely to take any notice of us.