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Upwork rating algorithm punishes hard work, rewards scammers

Ace Contributor
Anton A Member Since: Dec 12, 2017
21 of 69

Hi Jess - thanks for your feedback.

 

A while back, I raised my rates from $30 to $35 per hour. This has resulted in easily 50% less RFP coming to me than before. So how would it help to raise my rates even higher?

 

Let's face it, Upwork is not a platform for high-end work. Most of the clients pay $5 to $15 an hour average to freelancers, you can see that in their stats. I have not seen one client yet in my two years here on Upwork that paid more than $25/hr.  If the client is willing to pay more, they don't need to come to Upwork -there's plenty of other resources for high-end, high-quality freelancers. 

 

So how can I raise my rates here and still get work here? I don't see this as very realistic at all. A decent rate for me is $50/hr and I am pretty sure if I set that, I would not see any work for months. I don't know about others here, but I need to put the food on the table, so I can't afford to sit around waiting for one perfect client a year. 

 

Where are these high-paying jobs on Upwork you're talking about? Can you point me to even one listing in my category of work?

Community Guru
Samantha S Member Since: Jun 23, 2016
22 of 69

@Anton A wrote:

 

Let's face it, Upwork is not a platform for high-end work. Most of the clients pay $5 to $15 an hour average to freelancers, you can see that in their stats. I have not seen one client yet in my two years here on Upwork that paid more than $25/hr.  If the client is willing to pay more, they don't need to come to Upwork -there's plenty of other resources for high-end, high-quality freelancers. 

bs on Upwork you're talking about? Can you point me to even one listing in my category of work?

 


What in the world are you talking about? You, yourself have multiple contracts that paid over $25 per hour and at least one that pays your current rate. So how can you say you have never seen one client in two years pay $25 per hour?  

 

I think you raise some valid points but the hyperbole diminishes the credibility of your arguments. 

 

I am a freelancer who has earned over $25 per hour on Upwork and so are you. I am not even at the higher end of the pay scale in my field. There are plenty who earn more than my list rate.  I don't know what clients typically pay in your field. I would expect it would pay better than writing since writing is one of the most saturated fields here.  

 

Raising my rates did not result in a decrease in my invitations. Sometimes I see more and sometimes less, but I think that has to do with the way Upwork rotates freelancers in search discovery. Many of the invitations don't pay attention to listed rates anyway. I wouldn't mind seeing fewer if the invitations I do see are more serious. I do think I am seeing invitations from more serious clients. They are relatively few, but I only need a few.

Ace Contributor
Anton A Member Since: Dec 12, 2017
23 of 69

Thanks for your comments, Samantha.

 

You are right, I misspoke when I said the most I've seen is $25/hr, what I meant to say is $35/hr.

 

Undoubtedly, there are people that are making even more than that successfully as well. I have not found a way to do that yet, but I hope I'll get there one day. 

Community Guru
Tiffany S Member Since: Jan 15, 2016
24 of 69

@Anton A wrote:

 

A while back, I raised my rates from $30 to $35 per hour. This has resulted in easily 50% less RFP coming to me than before. So how would it help to raise my rates even higher?

 

Let's face it, Upwork is not a platform for high-end work. Most of the clients pay $5 to $15 an hour average to freelancers, you can see that in their stats. I have not seen one client yet in my two years here on Upwork that paid more than $25/hr.  If the client is willing to pay more, they don't need to come to Upwork -there's plenty of other resources for high-end, high-quality freelancers. 

 

So how can I raise my rates here and still get work here? I don't see this as very realistic at all. A decent rate for me is $50/hr and I am pretty sure if I set that, I would not see any work for months. I don't know about others here, but I need to put the food on the table, so I can't afford to sit around waiting for one perfect client a year. 

 

Where are these high-paying jobs on Upwork you're talking about? Can you point me to even one listing in my category of work?


 I don't know about your category of work, but every successful freelancer I know on Upwork charges more than you do--many of us triple or more.

 

I'm a writer, and the forums are flooded with writers making your argument: low-end clients, too many writers working for a penny a word, I can't, I can't, how can I, hopeless, blah blah.

 

Meanwhile, many of us are routinely charging $50, $75, $100 or more per hour in the same field.  

 

I'm surprised that you got fewer invitations when you raised your rate and doubt that it was related. Upwork rotates who turns up in search, so there are busy phases and dead phases for invitations. But, even if you did get fewer invitation...so what? This isn't a passive business. Go out and bid on the jobs that are a good fit for you. Do what virtually every successful freelancer here does: bid what you're worth and let the client take it or leave it.

Community Guru
Tiffany S Member Since: Jan 15, 2016
25 of 69

Anton, the bottom line is that 15% of your clients haven't left you feedback and another 15% have left less-than-perfect feedback...one pretty low. So, 70% of your clients have given you great feedback. And, it must have been great--you must have very strong private feedback to have a JSS so high based on such a small percentage of your clients giving you great ratings.

 

More importantly, though, your hyperbole about never being top rated and not getting hired and such is way off base. You must be at or above 90% for a "top rated eligible week," so your recent drop in no way impacts your eligibility for top rated status (which, in any case, is pretty meaningless).

 

You're also dead wrong about clients not considering freelancers with feedback below 90%. There are a great many successful freelancers here with JSS below 90%, or who have dropped into the 80s, and even 70s, and continued to work and worked their way back into the 90s. 

Ace Contributor
Anton A Member Since: Dec 12, 2017
26 of 69

Hi Tiffany - thank you for the reply. 

 

There's a checkbox in search to only show freelancers that have 90% or above success score. Most clients, in my experience, tick that checkbox. People with less than 90% are not seriously considered, in my experience.

 

When my score dropped under 90%, I have seen an immediate and very significant drop in interest for my profile. I used to get a large number of invitations from Upwork talent agents that steered jobs to me. Once my score dropped under 90% I have seen ZERO invites from the talent agents. 

 

In my experience, a score under 90% is pretty much a death sentence here on Upwork.

 

 

 

Ace Contributor
Joseph C Member Since: Jan 1, 2018
27 of 69

I've been a lot happier and more successful since I spent time to clean up my profile, prepared better pitches and attachments to go with the pitches, be selective on what jobs to bid on, and take more time to engage in proposals on jobs where I was much more sure about my fit for the job.

 

In the beginning, I felt burned out trying to compete with the bottom-scraping rates.  And, I've had my JSS down in the 80's, too, from quirks of working with clients that did not give me feedbacks.  (In one case, it was a total oversight of the otherwise very happy client.)   But now, I do well over $100+/hr and even get jobs where I've pulled clients to go above their posted budget.

 

Part of my tactics is to take the occasional "I can prove I'm an expert" jobs where, instead of taking on a big project, do a very small (tiny!) job that still demonstrates your qualifications.  I've had several "15 minute jobs" which (when you factor in the overhead of proposing to clients and the fact that actual hours vs billable differ) were not so great from an income standpoint, but helped me refine and streamline my client engagement process, forced me to streamline my own workflow, and (most importantly) got genuinely positive/happy reviews that contributed to my stats.

 

Do your best to show potential clients that you're going to create value for them for the fees they spend on you.  If that means taking a few smaller projects at a lower effective rate, then so be it - that's an investment to your future success.

Community Guru
Tiffany S Member Since: Jan 15, 2016
28 of 69

@Anton A wrote:

Hi Tiffany - thank you for the reply. 

 

There's a checkbox in search to only show freelancers that have 90% or above success score. Most clients, in my experience, tick that checkbox. People with less than 90% are not seriously considered, in my experience.

 

But what does "in your experience" mean here? How many of the tens of thousands of Upwork clients have you interviewed about their search processes? Where are you gathering data from?

 

Freelancers in the forums routinely report that they have experienced no drop in business when they fall below 90%.

 

 

When my score dropped under 90%, I have seen an immediate and very significant drop in interest for my profile. I used to get a large number of invitations from Upwork talent agents that steered jobs to me. Once my score dropped under 90% I have seen ZERO invites from the talent agents. 

 

Upwork talent agents are a different issue. It makes sense that they'd focus on higher-rated freelancers. But, it doesn't matter at all. you don't need them. Invitations are nice, but this is a bidding platform. Find your own jobs. It only takes 10 minutes a day or so.

 

In my experience, a score under 90% is pretty much a death sentence here on Upwork.

 

Again, your experience is super, super limited. It doesn't match the reported experiences of many successful long-term freelancers.

 

You basically have three choices right now. You can give up on Upwork, you can resign yourself to it being impossible to succeed under the current circumstances, or you can make an effort to seek out work and boost your score. Which path you take is 100% within your control.

 

 


 

Ace Contributor
Anton A Member Since: Dec 12, 2017
29 of 69

Tiffany, thanks for your comments and congratulations on your success here on Upwork. 

 

I hope my experiences are more in line with yours after more time here.  

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

Many of the most active forum regulars here are highly educated professionals with long track records, a lot of clients (many long term) and a large percentage of business obtained via invite. This makes them extremely unrepresentative of the freelancer base as a whole. On top of that, by definition people who are not successful on Upwork do not post here, because they are not here at all. These phenomena are why these discussions always end up where they do.

 

There are a lot of smart people on the forum who know how to succeed here, and their advice is offered for free and is worth listening to. However, we all have blind spots, and it can be very difficult for most people to see where others are coming from, especially when their situations are very different.

 

Personally, off and on over the course of a decade, I've run the gamut, from high-end work for well-paying clients who invited me to their projects, to competing against <$5/hr overseas competition. IMO, the observations about the impact of low JSS are mostly accurate. When I look through my feed, it is rare to see ANY project where the "at least 90%" checkbox is not ticked. I also occasionally check who wins a project when I don't, and can't recall a single instance where I have lost to someone with a JSS below 90%.

 

All of this doesn't mean (and never has meant) that it is "impossible" for people below 90% to get jobs. That's a red herring. It's about probabilities. It's an easy first screen for a client with many applicants: if you have 20 people applying for a project and 18 of them have over 90% JSS and 2 have below, those 2 are going to have a hard time winning the job.

 

"Death sentence" is hyperbole, but that doesn't mean the issue isn't real.

 

I have to wonder how many of the people downplaying the issues with low JSS have actually been in a position to deal with it. Especially in a competitive field, and especially if they do not have skills in high demand or niches where they have many opportunities to apply for projects with less competition.

 

The JSS is a necessary system but one that is flawed. While advising freelancers on how to use the system to their best advantage is helpful and appreciated, I don't think minimizing the impact of the problem is beneficial to the freelancer community as a whole.

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