I have also noticed the same thing.
Since the recent changes, I have experienced a drop in my activities. I'm actually at a standstill while I used to have a steady flow of contracts previously. Same observation on the lack of decent offers. And a bitter feeling to have suddenly become invisible on this platform. The feeling that being a top-rated freelancer is more detrimental than benefitial.
I agree with the idea that something has changed. However, I remain optimistic for the future because I think that Upwork would have no interest in penalizing the "best" freelancers and adopting a counterproductive strategy.
1. I have yet to notice a downturn in quality clients, but I'm in a niche that is usually a bit more generous.
2. With regards to downtimes on oDesk/upWork, I've only ever noticed two periods since I've been here (since November 2013) - mid-July to mid-August and holiday season (mid-December to early January). A part from that, business is usually stable.
I Agree with you William, I have join at ODesk since 2011 and there are period with downtime quality client especially at December-January.
But this time, yeah I have notice quality clients decrease for the last 2 month since oDesk apply connect system. And for the last month I burn many connects and ended only at interview with unreasonable rates.
I'm top rated freelancer and use Freelancer Plus membership, but still hard to get right job (52 of 70 connects with nothing). Currently I only manage few old clients. Honestly I didn't feel any benefit from their new improvement program.
Many new job postings on each categories but low chance to get hired, mostly is just opening job without response, the other with very low rates. Upwork should be thinking about kind of these clients since freelancer burn connects to apply it.
It's a question which is bound to be afloat here for a good while, I think.
My example: I mostly do English-Hungarian translator work (both ways) and had lots of jobs in the last year, enough to even replace my full-time job. However, since his infection crawled in here (or it could be rather called 'autoimmune reaction', as a disease, where the system destroys itself from the inside), I received a total of 0 new jobs in my niche (an only exception was a voice-over job, but that doesn't belong to translation).
86% JS score, 50 completed jobs (mostly fixed-price ones) and 4.84 stars in total.
I suppose, once sophisticated clients see the mess in the system, they pack up and go looking for freelancers elsewhere. Maybe that's what has happened here (and it's certainly not just our imagination - it's been observed by many people by now).
I did want to add that I happened to come across a client that I have worked for on oDesk on another platform. I recognized the listing because it is basically the same wording. He is a good client, who pays well and fast. He isn't posting jobs here, but elsewhere. I think that says something. And no, it doesn't say I didn't do a good job. It is simply I have written for him numerous times and my "voice" is already out there and I don't want to end up plagiarizing myself.
I haven't applied for the job on the other platform...not sure if that is an oDesk/upwork or whatever violation, so if it is, settle down, I didn't apply and haven't worked with him outside this place.
I think it only violates the policy if there is an open contract and you decide to work outside the system's coverage particularly in payments. I think (and to emphasize on think) clients whose contracts have been closed with the freelancer are free to hire or pay you as they wish on any other platform. e.g. client hires you in real life then pays you thru other means than oDesk like paypal or bank transfers or something.
As far as I'm concerned, the policies mostly only cover those with open contracts.
Anyone from the mods care to correct me?