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chriscarbaugh
Community Member

Upwork has changed for the worse

I have been on Upwork for 7 years now. I've been Top Rated for much of that time and have been quite a success story on the platform with over $250k earned, dozens of 5 star reviews. However the last year or so has been my absolute worst time on Upwork and I blame many of the new features and paid add-ons they've introduced.

 

I know other Upwork veterans are having a similar experience. I also fear for new freelancers trying to get started here with the platform becoming so unfair and not supporting freelances how they used to. Some of my recent issues are explained below. 

 

Unfair Success Score:

 

In 7 years on Upwork I've been Top Rated and highly rated on the platform for the majority of my membership. Obviously every freelancer is going to have some projects that don't work out, clients who don't leave feedback, or a project that takes longer than expected to finish. For me, any major situations that would contribute to lowering my success score have been few and far between over 7 years. Again, most of the time I've been on Upwork I've achieved Top Rated status and held it for long periods. However in the last year something has changed. I am suddenly unable to get my success score even over 90%. I've been in the 80s for months straight, then I jump up to 94% for just 2 weeks, and back down under 90% again. It is way more random, fluctuating, and just inconsistent with previous years on Upwork. Of course Upwork support will never give me a straight answer on this either. But it is clear I've been largely successful on Upwork, yet my JSS is making me look terrible to potential clients for months straight now.

 

Project Bidding and Boosting:

 

My profile used to receive so much consistent traffic and project invites. A profile like mine with a high value and success cases was always being recommended to clients and being given special highlights. Then Upwork introduced the changes to project bidding and boosting. Now my profile gets no views, hardly any of my proposals even get opened, and the boosting system is clearly just out of control. For example, I see a website design and development project with a budget of $2000. It is the perfect job for me with requirements and expectations I can fulfill, so I look to apply. But once I get down to the Boost section, the top 3 boosted proposals have bids over 300 connects. 300 connects for only a $2000 project! I'm seeing this all the time with projects big and small being boosted by proposals with hundreds of connects. It is clearing making Upwork a ton of money, but has destroyed the hiring and project bidding experience that Upwork used to have. Obviously boosting with that many connects is just not sustainable for a freelancer and has created an unfair hiring process on the platform. This makes Upwork on par with the Bark platform which is running the same model. It is terrible.

 

Keeping my strategy up with the times:

 

Obviously with changes on the platform, freelancers must evolve and update their strategies. I assumed having a tough last year or two was associated with my once very successful strategies no longer working. So I've tried everything to get back on top of the Upwork mountain. Profile changes, proposal changes, marketplace service changes, seminars, and even investing big time to boost my proposals too. Still I'm being held down and finding limited success. Even more frustrating, while I've been having such a hard time on Upwork, I've been exploding elsewhere. With other platforms and business ventures my time tested and proven strategies are providing great success. But on Upwork nothing works! It is so frustrating and is forcing me to just see Upwork as a waste of my time and effort. Which is horrible because I truly love Upwork and wish I could continue my success story here. 

 

Final thoughts:

 

I've seen many other freelancers with similar complaints on the forums, but I'm just expressing some of my story here. I am sure I'll get some who relate and agree, and others who think I must be doing something wrong or need to improve. Just because I was successful on Upwork for years doesn't mean anything, I must be doing something wrong or just not staying current right? I'm open to hearing anything and everything but I honestly just feel the platform has changed.

 

In my honest, objective opinion it just seems like Upwork does not support freelancers as much as they used to. They have rolled out these new features to profit the platform more than anything. Plus their internal processes are more confusing, less open to explanation, inconsistent, and similarly not supporting freelancer success.

 

I've very disheartened by my last year on Upwork and can't imagine trying to get started on this platform now with how it is structured. If a veteran of the platform is getting so beat up by the changes, new freelancers just don't stand a chance. I have a hiring account too so I see it on both sides. All this to say, Upwork has definitely changed for the worse!

64 REPLIES 64
spectralua
Community Member

I agree.

Many reliable clients ad freelancers already left platform. Rest will do it soon.

miriam-ocampo
Community Member

Hi, 

I don't think you are doing anything wrong. I think these changes have impacted all of us in a bad way. And yes new freelancers don't stand a chance. 

I have been thinking for months about what I'm going to do. I don't seem to get any new jobs, I have been working only with old customers, so I think this is going to end at some point. I'll probably try and get a new job but not in freelancing anymore. 

That's kind of where I am at now too...

ceb1234
Community Member

 Thanks for taking the time to write that. Ive been on the platform for 10 years and everytning you said is spot on.....Im leaving the platform. 

Really! Is it such a big issue that makes you leave the platform?

Yes! Enjoy your casino

tlsanders
Community Member

Sending job proposals is only a gamble if you have nothing special to offer.

Sending job proposals is only possible if there are decent jobs to send them to...not bottom of barrel scrapers with people bidding $3/hour

6bfcdaf8
Community Member

So every single day someone comes here to tell us how much this platform or life in general stinks. Anybody has a positive outlook? Or knows a way to the better? What's that other platform you're exploding now? Asking for a friend.

Tell your friend there are a lot of companies out there, with many that want you in front of the computer, refreshing your feed (kinda like Upwork) constantly ready to jump on any job. However, there are decent platforms, with restrictions. With most of the decent ones, there are skills tests and category limits, so you may have to wait some time before being allowed inside. While that might feel unfair to some who haven't experienced limits, it makes for a much healthier platform, with better paying clients who have some vetting, and improves freelancers' experiences.

 

Be creative and think outside your usual routes for work.

I need names and i need them now! ๐Ÿ™‚


Alper D wrote:

I need names and i need them now! ๐Ÿ™‚


Hi. I'm Melanie. Hopefully a few more people will chime in with names but I only have that one.

 

Now...as for alternatives to Upwork, they're easy to find. Google freelance platforms and you will get a lot of hits and reviews. 

 

Obviously, social media is another option.

 

TBH, no matter how frustrated anyone gets, I think it's probably in bad form to go on an Upwork-hosted forum to chat about alternatives to Upwork.

 

Just remember that no matter what platform you use, it will still take work. Unless you're in the top percentage in your field nationwide, in which case you're a household name anyway, there really isn't a source to just plug in your creds and a quick portfolio and then sit back and watch the dollars pour in.

 

I mean I 100% sympathize with some of the complaints here but if you haven't even Googled yet then well...come on. Part of the problem here may be lack of taking the bull by the horns, a quality I find freelancers need to have in order to be successful.

 

Good luck and I hope things improve and that you find the ideal situation for you. 

abixbg
Community Member

I think Jeanne hinted it enough. I am in the queue there too btw.

Sorry I won't go into how my business is expanding elsewhere, the point of me noting that is my career continues to blossom and at one time Upwork was part of that story.  Now it isn't and that sucks. I won't go into detail of what I've done to make up for that loss and what platforms I am expanding on. But you should look around if you feel I do about Upwork. 

Alper - I do feel your pain.   I think Upwork had the most wonderful platform.  It forced us to focus on doing a great job for the clients.   We had it "made".   The demand for outsourcing has not been reduced.  Your resume on Upwork will serve you for years to come - as it proves you can provide outstanding services, client communication, etc.   

 

celgins
Community Member

Christopher,

 

Well-written observation. And you're rightโ€”the changes you have experienced over the last year have affected many, if not most freelancers, and new freelancers are clearly having trouble growing on the platform.

 

I'm open to hearing anything and everything but I honestly just feel the platform has changed.

In my honest, objective opinion it just seems like Upwork does not support freelancers as much as they used to.

They have rolled out these new features to profit the platform more than anything.

Plus their internal processes are more confusing, less open to explanation, inconsistent, and similarly not supporting freelancer success.

 

Iโ€™m not insensitive to the pain Upwork freelancers are feeling; I feel it too. But I also understand that Upwork is a business with the same goals most businesses have: make more money than you spend and keep your shareholders, investors, and other stakeholders, happy.

 

To do this, I think Upwork has made changes and taken several actions. Itโ€™s pure speculation on my part, but I believe Upwork has done or is doing the following:

 

    • Tweaking their algorithms to focus on current clients, hoping to increase client-spend.
    • Enacting changes to bidding and boosting to help generate more income for Upwork.
    • Adjusting their algorithms in a way that recommends or forces freelancers spend more, which helps minimize the pain Upwork endures when client-spend decreases.
    • Reducing the technical and administrative burden clients face when posting jobs; when searching for and hiring freelancers; and when encountering any other obstacles on the Upwork platform.
    • Enacting other features that suggest or require freelancers spend more.


Do these things hurt freelancers? Yes... most definitely. But Upwork can afford to lose freelancers; it cannot afford to lose clients. Upwork needs to retain its clientele and bring in new clients and that, in my opinion, is a higher priority than supporting its freelancers. If Upwork lost 2 million freelancers overnight, I'm 99 percent sure they would not be upset about it.

 

Even though freelancers are shelling out tons of money for Connects and generating some income for Upwork, client-spend is still more cherished. The client side isn't perfect either, like you alluded to, but Upwork has every incentive to create a more palatable experience for clients, hoping they spend more money. To make that happen, I think Upwork is willing to face (or completely ignore) some freelancer suffering.

the-right-writer
Community Member

Your comments echo what other experienced freelancers have stated. I find your post of interest, too, because you are a client as well. I've never felt that Upwork management particularly cared about freelancers and their opinions, but it certainly seems it has become more outrageous in the last 18 months+. Every time I see a post asking what freelancers think, I wish there was a way for me to add; This is an attempt to make freelancers believe their opinions matter. They do not, despite the protestations from Upwork.

 

I, too, feel for the new people, and I try to lay out the facts. It is cruel to encourage someone with only a few dollars to spend that on connects for jobs they will never receive. Most freelancers never land a job, yet will spend what little they have on connects, believing the propaganda that anyone can make mountains of money on Upwork. If you don't have marketable skills, experience, time and money, freelancing won't work. Yet, Upwork seems to be advertising to the freelancers much of the time, showing them how you get an Internet connection and the dollars start pouring in.

 

Be creative and diversify. The changes in Upwork's let everyone in and free for all with unlimited connects policy is driving good clients from the platform. The unexpected bonus is that clients are finding many freelancers outside the Upwork platform, often because they could not find a freelancer or didn't want to wade through 50, 100 or 1000s of proposals. It's not necessary to make a decision to leave Upwork. You can spread your influence without giving up your track record on Upwork.

dan1307
Community Member

I feel you! Especially the Project Bidding and Boosting part. Upwork is getting greedy.  I never had been succesful on upwork i guess, however nowadays, connects almost dissapear before reaching half of the month without even boosting. I've seen so many 6 connect jobs with 150$ budget. Not to mention that 50% of the jobs are on <100$ and have a lot of bids with 60$ (photorealistic rendering in the title of course :)) ). I always ask clients in forums when they complain about how bad the freelancer was, what was the budget? Are they really expecting photorealism for 40$?

Is it "greedy" to want to finally have a quarter where they don't lose tens of millions of dollars after several years in business? 


Tiffany S wrote:

Is it "greedy" to want to finally have a quarter where they don't lose tens of millions of dollars after several years in business? 


Nice lie lol
upworkgrossprofit.jpg

25005175
Community Member

I don't know what source that is, but it is in flagrant contradiction to the public SEC financial filings that Upwork is legally required to report every quarter. Read the SEC filings. Those tell the true story.

celgins
Community Member

Those are only gross profits. Considering all other operating expenses, there is a net loss, and has been for a while:

 

Year202220212020
Net Loss (in millions)(89,885)(56,240)(22,867)

 

As a publically traded company, Upwork has been open about its history of net losses. They aim to increase operating expenses in the future, but may not achieve or sustain profitability.

ebb09d34
Community Member

Agree with everything you've written, Christopher.

 

I provide content services for a very niche sector of the tourism industry.  I have over thirty years experience in the field, both hands-on and writing about it.  There are literally a handful of people worldwide who can write with authority on this topic.  Last year I was very pleased with my turnover.

 

Of late, having submitted around 20 proposals (while boosting as much as I could afford at the time on each), I have had exactly one pertinent reply (I'll ignore the clown who asked me to write about something totally out of my wheelhouse and completely irrelevant to either the job posting or the proposal I sent).

While it is well-nigh impossible to say why, it seems that my responses have simply dried up, despite perfect reviews, a very high JSS and a fantastic profile page (if I say so myself).

I am actively exploring other channels of finding work, and have to say I feel disheartened by Upwork's apparent indifference to the very people who put it on the map.  Well, except for their indifference to profiting out of them.

I think you overestimate Upwork's desire to profit from people like you and me--their own representations about the type of clients they are focusing on drawing in suggest that highly skilled niche freelancers have no place here--and that makes sense. They'll make a lot more money with a lot less effort supplying a huge number of mid-level, interchangeable "freelancers" to a small number of companies than one freelancer at a time...even if those freelancers individually charge 10% of what we do.

That is an interesting idea and it does make a lot of sense. Maybe that is the pattern and its a matter of when to jump off the slide to the lowest common denominator. There are sites which market themselves entirely by advocating the quality of their freelancers. Perhaps we will all end up there.

shah_zinat
Community Member

Believe me, being a top-rated freelancer, I can not effort to bid on a proposal now, Day by day many connects are wasted on proposals and the bidding option is also expensive. 

 

Upwork becoming more expensive than earning. I was a full-time freelancer, and now I don't think so, that i will survive with this expensive policy of Upwork.  Really hurting!!!

melaniekhenson
Community Member

I find Boosting just plain dumb and I refuse to play. But I'm established and I have ongoing/repeat clients. So it works out for me. If I were new, I think I'd probably just give up. Boosting feels like attempting (with zero guarantee of success) to "buy" a job, and people are sending dozens now for small jobs. What's the percentage? Figuratively speaking.

 

Now...as an established client I can say that I like Upwork far more than other platforms. I'm staying for as long as my clients want me ๐Ÿ˜ but if I were new? Oh man, I just don't know.

Upwork's latest stat publication regarding Boosting puts the average increase in convert-to-hire at 55%. In a hypothetical 50 proposal situation with all proposals having a 2% chance, that increases the average chance of the Boosted proposals to 3.1%. Of course, that is an average across ALL Boosted proposals, such that poor matches will have less success and good matches will have better success (again, in general).

I'm always SKEPTICAL of any organization that makes sweeping statements like the following:

 

"weโ€™ve found that Boosted Proposals ups your chances of being hired by up to 55%."

 

without supporting data.

 

"We've found".   Based on what exactly?  ๐Ÿ˜€  What about all the clients that are complaining about the feature or simply end up NOT hiring anybody at all because a bunch of 'junk' proposals got 'boosted' to the top of their proposal dashboards, or the clients that have told me they immediately decline any proposal that comes in boosted?  This also doesn't explain the multiple scenarios where I bid with the minimum required connects and got interviews & hires over people that wasted 50+ connects to bid. My question is what scenarios have the selectively included, and excluded, from their 'findings'. ๐Ÿค”

 

How do you come up with a number as specific as 55% without any supporting data?  55% of what? No information on how many proposals were compared, across what time frames, etc.  They could be referring to a small handful of proposals they included in the 'sample'. 11 of 20 proposals is 55% too. ๐Ÿ˜€  They also said "up to" 55%, which can include any numbers between 0 and 55. 

 

I don't pay as much attention to what people say, as to what they don't say.

 

In my experience, when people "find" facts, they usually aren't facts at all. When one party controls all the data/statistics behind the 'findings' and doesn't provide transparency into the underlying data, well, they can pretty much 'find'  and 'cherry pick' any thing they want to and release it as 'fact'. Of course they are going to 'find' that boosting is 'useful', because they would lose profits if they reported anything to the contrary.

I believe them. And if they say that the rise in "price" of small works from 2 to 4 connects will bring 200% profits then I will believe it too. 

The bad thing is that boosting and connects will soon become their main income, if they continue as-is.. 

I think there needs to be a significant decline of clients before connect profits can become their main income.

 

Are we heading that way? ๐Ÿ˜„

 

It might be fun to see a company gets their main income by auctioning little jobs, managed to take profits out of unlimited supplies of needy freelancers. ๐Ÿ˜„

I'm not questioning if boosting increases Upwork's PROFITS.  I'm questioning if it causes people to be "55% more likely to be hired".  When people make statements like that without data to back it up, there's a reason.  They could say they have a bridge to sell us in Brooklyn, too, but that doesn't make it true.  LOL

CJ, Upwork HAS data. They just haven't published it. Which, well, is fair as it IS proprietary information. They've been accumulating data ever since the trial in 2021. What I'm more interested in is what the the results will be of the Placebo Boost trials.


Jonathan L wrote:

What I'm more interested in is what the the results will be of the Placebo Boost trials.


I'm just spitballing here, but I would think that the placebo trials were to determine whether clients are more likely, less likely, or just as likely to hire if their project had the boost feature. And I would venture to say that Upwork must have already concluded that it wasn't doing a significant amount of harm - if any - on the clients' side, or they would have gotten rid of the feature instead of expanding it.

But, of course, there are exactly zero scenarios in which each of 50 freelancers sending a proposal has a 2% chance of getting the job.

Do you have a better hypothetical that can demonstrate the mathematical application as well or better than the one I presented? If so, please share.


Jonathan L wrote:

Do you have a better hypothetical that can demonstrate the mathematical application as well or better than the one I presented? If so, please share.


Your 2% stat would only be valid if all of the proposals are from freelancers who have the exact same skills and experience in the same industries, and obviously that's not true. Here's a hypothetical that's probably closer to the truth. I'd say that at least 1/3 of the people proposing haven't read or understood the project description and are spamming every project that they see; they have a 0% chance of being hired. Another 1/3 might have skills but a lower level of experience than the client is looking for, so they would have a better chance of being hired, especially if their bid is lower than the client's budget. Then let's say that the top 1/3 are very good matches, but there's one person who has a portfolio piece that's exactly what the client has in mind, has just finished 20 nearly identical projects with glowing feedback, and wrote a killer proposal that addressed all of the client's needs. That person probably has a 50/50 chance of being hired - given that many Upwork clients disappear and don't hire at all - not a 2% chance.

 


Jonathan L wrote:

Boosting puts the average increase in convert-to-hire at 55%


I would take that with a grain of salt as well. It's a bit of a chicken and egg scenario. Are boosted proposals more likely to convert because they were boosted? Or is it more likely that candidates who are a good fit are more willing to spend money on connects?

Christine A wrote:
I'd say that at least 1/3 of the people proposing haven't read or understood the project description and are spamming every project that they see; they have a 0% chance of being hired. Another 1/3 might have skills but a lower level of experience than the client is looking for, so they would have a better chance of being hired, especially if their bid is lower than the client's budget. Then let's say that the top 1/3 are very good matches, but there's one person who has a portfolio piece that's exactly what the client has in mind, has just finished 20 nearly identical projects with glowing feedback, and wrote a killer proposal that addressed all of the client's needs. That person probably has a 50/50 chance of being hired - given that many Upwork clients disappear and don't hire at all - not a 2% chance.

Christine, your hypothetical is more realistic. Two things: 1. that 50/50 chance proposal is probably lower because the excellent Upwork algorithm will bury it. 2. It neglected to demonstrate the mathematic principle of what the 55% chance improvement would look like. Let's break it down.

 

  • Assume 52 proposals overall (just to make the math nicer).
  • 1/3 (17) of proposals are spam.
    • 0% organic chance.
    • 1.55 x 0 = 0. Boosting will not improve chance.
  • 1/3 (17) of proposals are inexperienced / lower quality.
    • Let's say that the odds of the Client choosing from this category is 25%.
    • 0.25 / 17 = 0.0147. So each individual proposal in this category has an organic 1.47% chance.
    • 1.55 x 0.0147 = 0.0228. Boosting will elevate the chance to 2.28%.
  • 1/3 (17) of proposals are very good matches.
    • Let's say that the odds of the Client choosing from this category is 55%.
    • 0.55 / 17 = 0.0324. Each individual proposal in this category has an organic 3.24% chance.
    • 1.55 x 0.0324 = 0.0501. Boosting will elevate the chance to 5.01%.
  • 1 proposals is outstanding.
    • Let's say that odds of the Client seeing this one proposal is 25%, because it could be buried or late to the party and the Client already hired or moved on.
    • If seen, let's assume that the Client has a 80% of choosing this proposal.
    • 0.25 x 0.8 = 0.20. This proposal has an organic 20% of being selected.
    • 1.55 x 0.2 = 0.31. The average Boost effect would elevate the chance to 31%.
    • Reality: assuming that the Client does not ignore all Boosted proposals, the aforementioned 80%-if-seen stat reigns, such that Boosting elevates the chance from 20% to 80%.

 

I would take that with a grain of salt as well. It's a bit of a chicken and egg scenario. Are boosted proposals more likely to convert because they were boosted? Or is it more likely that candidates who are a good fit are more willing to spend money on connects?

 

I agree that is an important consideration. The Placebo Boost trial may provide some insight into that. But I think the reality is that proposals are more likely to convert because they were Boosted, because of the importance of being seen. Of course, that is not true in all cases. As testimony throughout the forums shows, some Clients auto-ignore Boosted proposals. And it may be that happens more for some types of jobs than others. There is a lot of nuance here for which Upwork has not supplied the results (but I'm confident that they have them). Ultimately, all we have to work with are our own experiences, the anecdotes of others, and the average 55% stat that Upwork provided - which is notably higher than even the top Boosted slot stat that they provided in Spring 2022, implying that Boosting has become more effect, on average across the marketplace.

kbadeau
Community Member

I have applied for 5 projects this year, 3 organic and 2 boosted. Two of those proposals were viewed, one organic, one boosted. I was only interviewed for the boosted one and was subsequently hired. I used fewer than 10 connects for the boost.

 

I'm still not sure if clients love it or hate it or if it's of any value but I tend to think for first time clients it can have value. I would rather see it as something like a top rated perk though, or even for folks who are new to the platform but letting people just throw 100 connects at a job seems unhelpful for both clients and freelancers.

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