I get that your opinion will vary if you had prior issues with Upwork that resulted in a loss of income. If that happens, I am sure my opinion will change.
I am new and wasn't on either odesk or elance. I can't speak to whether those were better days or not. I am just looking at Upwork based on my experience so far. I never found the 20 % (or 10 % or 5 %) confusing. It seems clear that the commission is deducted on the freelancer side off the total. And yes, we do need to bid with that in mind, just like we would bid to cover any other expense. Charging a little more may result in losing some clients, but in reality, I can't compete on price here anyway since I cannot afford to work for well below minimum wage. I made the mistake of working for very low rates (on another platform) to get a foot in the door. But I find clients who pay the very low rates do not value the work anyway. I am getting much better clients at a higher rate (though I know I am still cheap compared to the seasoned pros on the market).
I guess I look at it this way... I looked at a few other platforms and am still looking at others. Most take a fee whether it is a commission or a monthly fee. As a newbie, I would rather pay a commission on actual earnings than a monthly fee for a platform that I don't know will benefit me. So, is the 20 % worth it, when I consider time I would otherwise spend cold pitching, sending invoices, reminding clients to pay, etc? Yes, to me it is right now. Is it worth it when I consider the escrow service, so far (though I am sad to learn Upwork doesn't pay out if the client is a fraudster. I wanted escrow to protect me from clients who never intended to pay.).
I have a few concerns about this platform. But on balance what it provides is worth the fee (for me, right now).
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