Reply
cancel
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Reply

Upwork rating algorithm punishes hard work, rewards scammers

Community Guru
Petra R Member Since: Aug 3, 2011
11 of 69

@Charles K wrote:

It was a number of months ago, Jennifer, so forgive me if I've forgotten some of the details.

 

But I do distinctly remember being told directly by an Upwork mod that JSS can start to be penalized when a contract is idle for as little as 30 days. That's ludicrous.

 


 It would be ludicrous if it was true, but it is not.

 

Also occasional long term idle contracts with money spent on them previously don't affect the JSS either. Only a significant percentage of those or a sudden pattern of abandoned ones does.

 

See here:

 

How do contracts with no earnings or feedback affect my score?

  • No Earnings – In general, when a contract fails to lead to any earnings your JSS will be negatively impacted.
  • No Feedback – Contracts with no client feedback, including ones you ended or left open and inactive, do not affect your score unless you have excessive contracts with no feedback.

Contract with past earnings, but your client has left no feedback for you

Contracts with a history of earnings but no feedback, whether closed or not, are mostly excluded from your JSS. However, if you have many contracts where no feedback has been given, it can impact your score (a little) negatively because it indicates some of your clients were dissatisfied.

Contract with no earnings AND no feedback from your client

Contracts with no earnings and no feedback, whether closed or not, can significantly lower your JSS because they indicate client dissatisfaction. If you are awarded a contract but no work materializes in the first days or weeks, we suggest talking to the client about the project and why it isn't moving forward. If the contract won't move forward, closing it as soon as possible or asking the client to do so and leave feedback will minimize the negative impact on your score. When client feedback is received, even without earnings, it will be factored into your JSS.

 

 

Community Guru
Charles K Member Since: Mar 6, 2017
12 of 69

"It would be ludicrous if it was true, but it is not."

 

That's what I was told on the phone by Upwork. And I believe it was a supervisor, too.

 

I was told flatly that to avoid impacting my JSS, I should close contracts that are idle more than 30 days.

 

"Also occasional long term idle contracts with money spent on them previously don't affect the JSS either. Only a significant percentage of those or a sudden pattern of abandoned ones does."

 

I do not think those words mean what the person who wrote that website page thinks they mean. In my case, "long term" was a few weeks and "significant percentage" was far less than 20%.

 

That was my experience last summer. Since that time, I adopted a policy of asking clients to close projects immediately if they don't plan to have more work for me within 30 days, and have gone back to nag clients to close projects if they leave them open. And now my JSS is back to 100%.

 

I'm not really interested in religitating a long and pointless argument. From where I sit, the salient facts are as follows:

 

1. Many, many clients check off "90% or higher JSS" in their job listings; this doesn't preclude someone with a sub-90% JSS from getting work, but it does tilt the playing field against them. JSS is important because Upwork tells clients it is important, and it can be lowered by factors having nothing to do with job success.

 

2. Freelancers are penalized for having open contracts even if they have had good experiences with the client and everyone is happy.

 

3. This can happen after a few weeks and even if the number of open projects is much smaller than the number successfully closed in the same time frame.

 

4. Upwork refuses to provide any transparency on how this system works.

 

5. Upwork does not make any effort to make clear to freelancers that their job "success" score can be dinged even for projects where they actually made clients happy, and in fact, they play this issue down as shown in Petra's web page quote.

 

6. The result of all this is unhappy and confused freelancers, wasted CS effort, clients being given incorrect information, clients being asked to waste time closing projects when they have future work, and Upwork looking bad.

 

7. I have yet to hear a single compelling piece of evidence to support any positive value of having this be part of the JSS, much less one that would justify all the negative effects.

 

I have no illusions that Upwork will ever change this policy, but that doesn't mean it actually makes any sense, and I have nothing more to say on the subject.

Community Guru
Jess C Member Since: Feb 18, 2015
13 of 69

Petra R wrote: 

Also occasional long term idle contracts with money spent on them previously don't affect the JSS either. Only a significant percentage of those or a sudden pattern of abandoned ones does.


This isn't exactly how it really works - it's how Upwork says it works.

 

I had one contract idle and the week it hit 90 days inactive, my JSS went down from 100 to 97. I had no other changes. I closed the contract myself the next week, and happily my very busy client took the time to leave me feedback, and on the next calculation I was back up to 100.

 

I also did some research back into my 6-month, 12-month, and 24-month history, to see if something else might have been a factor, and it was not the "anniversary" of anything significant, positive or negative. The only change was that one contract.

 

One idle contract hitting 90 days "stale" does have a negative effect on JSS.

Community Guru
Petra R Member Since: Aug 3, 2011
14 of 69

@Jess C wrote:

Petra R wrote: 

Also occasional long term idle contracts with money spent on them previously don't affect the JSS either. Only a significant percentage of those or a sudden pattern of abandoned ones does.


This isn't exactly how it really works - it's how Upwork says it works.

 

I had one contract idle and the week it hit 90 days inactive, my JSS went down from 100 to 97. I had no other changes. I closed the contract myself the next week, and happily my very busy client took the time to leave me feedback, and on the next calculation I was back up to 100.


One idle contract hitting 90 days "stale" does have a negative effect on JSS.


 It can. But that does not mean it invariably does. When there are only a few contracts in your calculation window, any one contract has the potential to represent "a significant percentage" of the contracts in that calculation window.

 

I've had 2 (at least) long term inactive contracts at any given time and they did not affect my JSS, probably because they represented less than whatever the magic fine line is.

 

I am also quite certain that over the last 2 years the impact of occasional "no feedback" and "idle" contracts has been relaxed, provided money was previously paid.

 

 

 

Active Member
Kelin A Member Since: Jun 6, 2019
15 of 69
 
Ace Contributor
Anton A Member Since: Dec 12, 2017
16 of 69

Charles, thanks for your insights.

 

I suspect Upwork penalizes idle contracts because they only make money when there are hours being billed. Also, a client who's sitting on an open contract is probably less likely to open another one, which is again less money for Upwork.

 

While this does make sense from a business perspective, I think tieing it to JSS is completely unfair and counterproductive, as you say. There are clients whom I REPEATEDLY asked to close the contract that simply ignore me. And who am I to push away people that want to work with me? Someone said that this indicated poor client management. Maybe to some extent, but this is counter-intuitive to a real world, where you do want to have as many open relationships with clients as possible. An open contract means they are open and ready to work with you again rather than going back into the sales mode and work toward initiating a new contract. 

Community Guru
Charles K Member Since: Mar 6, 2017
17 of 69

"I suspect Upwork penalizes idle contracts because they only make money when there are hours being billed. Also, a client who's sitting on an open contract is probably less likely to open another one, which is again less money for Upwork."

 

I don't think there's any ulterior motives at work here. I think it's the usual combination of hubris, institutional inertia, lack of consideration of secondary consequences, and simply not caring that much about freelancers and how they are affected by policy.

 

"Someone said that this indicated poor client management. Maybe to some extent, but this is counter-intuitive to a real world, where you do want to have as many open relationships with clients as possible. An open contract means they are open and ready to work with you again rather than going back into the sales mode and work toward initiating a new contract."

 

It IS a client management issue. Whether it is fair or reasonable to make this part of the freelancer's role is a separate matter -- they have made it so, and thus it is part of your responsibility.

 

I would write something similar to the following:

 

"Hi <name>,

It's been <time> since we last did work on this project. I've enjoyed working with you, but I'd like to ask if we could close this contract now. That will enable us both to leave feedback for each other, making it easier for you to find freelancers and me to find clients in the future. I'd love to work with you again, and you can easily rehire me from my profile. If you're not sure how to do this, just drop me a message here and I'd be happy to walk you through the process.

Sincerely (or whatever),

Anton"

And give it a week. If it's not closed, send a followup message. The usual pleasantries, then:

"I was wondering if you got my message about closing the project? Having open but idle project will cause me to be penalized by Upwork, making it more difficult to get future work. I'm really sorry to bother you with this, and I greatly appreciate your assistance and hope we can work together again in the future."

And give it another week.  If they don't close the contract, close it yourself.

I've never had this fail to work, though sometimes I waited for more time.


If a client hassled me over those polite, simple and reasonable requests, or ignored me after multiple messages, I wouldn't want to work with them again anyway.

Community Guru
Tracye G Member Since: Sep 30, 2008
18 of 69

"And yes, clients can easily rehire. But IME, only a very small number of clients know about this. You are probably more savvy than the average client around here. Even clients that do, again IME, have the general reaction of: "Okay, but why do I need to bother, why can't I just leave this open since we've already had a successful transaction and we work well together?"

 

I have no good answer to that question because there IS no good answer to that question. There's only a bad answer: "Because Upwork wants it that way, even though it makes no sense and is extra work for everyone."


I could not agree more! I can't count how many times I have gotten that question from a client who I have been FORCED to request a close on the project, because of the insidious and clear as mud  way the algorythms are set up. 

 

Upworks and I have lost good clients because of this insane, mindless approach. Like Charles said... 6months maybe a year of no activity might be a metric to consider...but 1-3 months????

It is unprofessional, it is annoying, and it is a waste of everyone's time, but as Charles said, we can beat the dead horse, no matter how legitimate our concerns are upworks just tunes us out, pats us on the head and has copy/paste party, they are not going to change anything. 

Community Guru
Phyllis G Member Since: Sep 8, 2016
19 of 69

"...after all this effort, I am barely above 90%. ..."

 

In that case, can you imagine how hard those FLs must be working who have JSS at or near 100%? Maybe they are not only working hard but also working smart. And no, that is not the same as "gaming" it or manipulating it. It's a system that has some flaws but we are all up against the same challenges. Learn to use the system and play to your strengths or don't, it's up to you. But there is absolutely nothing to be gained by raging against it.

 

As for your friend who paid $2k to the "scammer" -- I would never argue there aren't scummy scammy FLs operating here. But, given the built-in protections for clients throughout the contracting and payment mechanisms, I find it hard to fathom how a client who was paying attention and following through on steps, got cheated out of that much money. 

Community Guru
Jess C Member Since: Feb 18, 2015
20 of 69

@Anton A wrote:

Upwork's job success score is an insane metric that keeps good people off the platform and favors scammers and those who game the system.

 

I bust my ass for two years here editing videos for peanuts, have all positive public reviews, write tons of proposals and take on every reasonable client. However, after all this effort, I am barely above 90%. As far as I can see, I have close to zero chance of being Top Rated or getting Rising Talent.


Dude. You set your rates, and they're too low for what you claim you can do. There are plenty of clients here who are willing to pay for good service - you just have to get better at finding them. This is YOUR business, so you get to call the shots, within the system that you've chosen to work with.

 

Your score looks pretty accurate for what's showing on your profile - a couple of less than perfect reviews, but also a good number of contracts without feedback. You also have two open projects that look like they might be inactive - after 90 days of no payment, that will ding your JSS.

 

91% is pretty great, and if you get better at working within the system, you can achieve a higher score without too much effort. There are a lot of posts in the Community about how to manage contracts to avoid damaging your score, but the number one rule is not to compromise your professionalism for a good rating. Because, again, you set your rates, and you choose your projects. You have a lot more control than you might think.

TOP SOLUTION AUTHORS
TOP KUDOED MEMBERS