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Why Employers do NOT see your Proposal

Ace Contributor
Vadivelan R Member Since: Aug 28, 2015
1 of 97

You making countless of very good proposals on various projects, but don't get any replies? Then read this post patiently, you will know the reasons.


Sincere thanks to all of my Elance clients who moved to Upwork and  patiently answered to my long list of questions and helped me in various ways to create this issue list.




Issue 1: Algorithm for deciding "the top 10 freelancers to invite" when a client posting the project is a big failure


When a client posting a project, they have an option to invite top 10 freelancers relevant to that project. The algorithm that Upwork uses for this is flawed.


Why this critical:

Personally, I don't mind even if wrong 10 freelancers invited to a project. But the kind of advantage these top 10 freelancers gets after invitation, is a big worry. It is impossible for others to win ( read further issues to understand the seriousness ), if a client decided to invite them.


What Went Wrong - Case study:
Lets say a client post project called "web scraping program in php" and client selected PHP and web-scraping as needed skill sets

Algorithm thinks the below people are best to do this project:
a .NET developer - Top Rated
a newbie freelancer who has done 4 web-scraping project but php is not a skillset he selected, done only 22 hours of work ( 14 jobs total - most projects nothing to do with webscraping )
a php developer who is nothing to do with webscraping
A java, c++ developer, 0 hours worked, 0 feedback
and many more crap invites. Out of 10 invites, 7 suggestions are joke. Lets talk about the three correct ( to some extend ) suggestions.


It seems algorithm thinks this project is about PHP with some importance to web-scraping OR it may thinks php and web-scraping skills needed. It turns out that those 3 correct suggestions are people top rated in PHP projects with very few webscraping projects. What the algorithm don't realize is, PHP is a generic skill and
Web scraping programming using PHP language is the specialization. It is common sense that a programmer who has done 100 projects in webscraping using PHP is most qualified than a programmer who has done 200 generic projects in php ( may be he has done some 10 web scraping project ). There are countless of
freelancers whose profile is open, top-rated, done 100s projects / 1000s of hours in webscraping using PHP, but they are not in TOP 10 invite list.


Opportunity denied to right people and irrelevant freelancers gets the opportunity.
I personally don't have any issue in TOP 10 invites, irrespective to whom is invited.. but read the further issues to understand, how it is impossible for others to get the job if a client decides go for the suggested invites.


Resolution Needed:
1. Fix the algorithm which selects the top 10 ( or top 30 ) invites. Else remove the feature
2. If don't want to / unable to fix this issue.. At-least fix issue: 8


Issue 2: Algorithm for deciding "Recommended" badge in the list of proposals


A client views the list of proposals in their dashboard. The order of proposals being listed to client is determined by Upwork algorithm. It list the invited freelancers & "some other freelancers" at the top positions ( irrespective when they make their proposals ) with a big green badge & a star with text "Recommended" to lure the
client to award projects to them. Lets call this "some other freelancers" as genius.


This genius selection suffer the same problem explained in "Issue 1", but not that worst, mostly relevant freelancers. But definitely they are not the best ones who applied to the job. More qualified / experienced ( hours, no of projects, relevant webscraping projects, feedbacks ) not termed as Recommended but pushed down the order in listing the proposals.


My client said that one of the Recommended guy revealed that he is not doing PHP ( or web based ) projects but applied thinking he can do the scraping as desktop app; his profile don't list php as a skill. but he is
still recommended. He also said many freelancers hidden or at the end of the list with hundreds or some time  thousands of hours, full of required specialized projects with great feedback score.


Upwork force feed certain freelancers to clients to award the projects, that too with flawed algorithm.


Resolution Needed:
1. Fix the algorithm which determine the "recommended" freelancers. Else remove the feature.
2. If you don't want to fix / unable to fix this issue.. atleast fix issue: 8


Issue 3: Upwork sends an email to clients suggesting "They found a great fit for your project"


Out of the recommended freelancers ( aka geniuses ) few are selected and separate emails being sent to clients with the title "XXXXX XXXX is a great fit for your job" . Inside the email, that genius's photo, name, star rating, hours worked, cover letter ( few lines only ), latest review all are being shown.


This approach suffers the same issue as in Issue 2, because the part of peole who emailed are being selected from Recommended freelancers.

Resolution Needed:
1. Fix the recommentation algorithm. Better don't send emails promoting certain freelancers only. 
2. If you don't want to fix / unable to fix this issue.. at-least fix issue: 8


Issue 4: Unfair advantage to Invited freelancers


If a client decides to invite freelancers based on the Upwork's flawed algorithm ( issue no 1 ), they don't need to write cover letter. They can directly private message the client, chat in the message center, can send a message with their skype id / contact details to have a live discussion. Other freelancers can only initiate a
discussion if client decide to respond through a private message ( aka interview )


Resolution Needed:
1. Let them make a proposal ( covering letter, answer all questions, show your understanding of the project, ask right questions, suggest nice ideas, win the client heart, let the client to initiate a message if he/she feel that you worth the recommendation. Not direct access to clients.

2. If you don't want to fix / unable to fix this issue... at-least fix issue: 8



issue 5: When client click on the list of applicants, it take them to list the messaged freelancers instead of listing the proposals


In the client admin panel, there is a listing of jobs they posted. In which there is a link to view the applicants who applied to the job. (link says "xx applicants" ). Upon clicking that link, it "supposed" take to a page where all the applicants are displayed. Instead it takes them to a section called "Messaged Applicants".


Who can message a client directly? oh yes, those upwork suggested TOP XX invited freelancers. So they are the ones listed here ( provided they messaged, they do, it is a easy chance to win a project - direct access ). A-tleast below that list, other freelancers being listed? NO. Below which they list "xx unanswered invites". So where are the normal applicants. Client has to click on another link called "Applicants".. isn't the client already cliked on the "xx applicants" link to come here?


Resolution Needed:
1. Fix issue 4. And if a client clicks on a link called "xx applicants" just take them to a page where applicants (aka proposals ) are being listed. Why you take them to messed -invited - applicants? if you want, provide another link saying "Messaged Applicants" and take them to respective page. Don't hijack the client, let me  them decide what they want.


2. If you don't want to fix / unable to fix this issue... atleast fix issue: 8



issue 6: proposals are hidden from clients


Client post a project -> freelancers make proposals -> client view the list of applicants through their admin area. Now they have to see the proposals
-> Either in the order of First Proposal First
-> Or Latest Proposal First
* But Upwork do neither. They display only one proposal or xx number of proposals ( which proposals? Read issue no.7 ) and the remaining are hidden. Client has to click on "View More" button to see the remaining proposals.


Oh wait, did I say remaining proposals, no, not yet. It will display only the remaining "new proposals" which client haven't seen already. He has to click the "View More" button once again to see the next 5 proposals. If there are 20 proposals made in a project, it needs at-least 4 clicks on "View More" button to see all the proposals.

* To make it more complicated, "View More" button often
-> Loads forever, nothing happens
-> Leads to standard Upwork page load issue ( crikie / kaput? whats the meaning of it? Is it English? )
-> Some time 'View More" button don't display at all
* This is further more complicated because... omg.. please read next issue 7


Resolution Needed:
* Display all the proposals. Don't hide proposals behind "View More" button.
* If you can't fix it ( I know there are huge project - freelancer mismatch, seen lot of even low budget projects attracting 50, 100 proposals, displaying all proposals will aggregate the current site load issue ) or don't want to fix it, atleast fix issue: 8



issue 7: Proposal listing order favor invited or recommended freelancers and other proposal listing order determined by Upwork advanced technology


To further complicate the "proposal listing order" which client sees when you apply for a work.. upwork always show invited / recommended freelancers at the top, and also it applies its advanced technology and algorithms to list in a specific order which thinks more suitable for the job.


This is again flawed, because ( in the example I am explaining from start ), freelancers with 1000s of hours of very relevant projects, great feedback / job success scores too buried under many clicks of "View More" button and it will never see the light of the day. The algorithm is flawed, the proposal listing order doesn't make any sense.


Due to this even new proposals will also never get an opportunity to be displayed at the top. Everything buried under if algorithm don't like you.


Resolution needed:
see issue: 8




issue 8:
Okay, This is not an issue. Kind of fix you have to do, even if you can't fix any one of the above.


Resolution Needed:
"NEVER modify the order in which proposals are being listed to clients. Just show the first made proposal first, or the opposite, no preference to anyone. This is a fundamental right of freelancers in a marketplace"


There are lot of more issues, but I stopped with the issues that directly affect a freelancer's chance to win a project, forget winning, issues that stops the freelancers from presenting the proposals to clients.


Dear Upwork,
If you want, you shall fix issues 1 to 6. If you can't fix for whatever reason, at-least fix that point 8 (point 7 fix is same as 8 ).


* Give recommended badges to certain freelancers, no problem
* Send email to clients suggesting the best fit for the project, no problem
* Select Top XX freelancers to get invited with your flawed algorithm, no problem
* Let your top xx invited freelancers to send direct message to clients, no problem... on a second thought.. oh no, this is a big problem, can't you stop it?
* Display only 5 proposals at a time, no problem ( as site is having page loading issue, can't afford to display all proposals )


But fix the point 8 above. Again, "NEVER modify the order in which proposals are being listed to client. Just show the first made proposal first, or the opposite, no preference to anyone. This is a fundamental right of freelancers in a marketplace"


If you change the order as per your need:

- You deny the opportunity to a client from selecting a possibly most potential freelancer

- You think your clients are dumb and pushing your selections through their throat

- You laugh at the freelancers who analyze the job post, suggest ideas, point out missing information, write extensive, compelling proposals by spending lot of time to each job, at all the odd hours in day & nights...and that only to be buried somewhere, no one read and goes to garbage

- You may say smart clients can filter through the proposals. No, most of the clients are not technical,most don't know whats going on here, they tends to accept your recommended great guys, suggested invite are the best

- You may say client who wants the best freelancers have to cross the algorithm order and read the proposals that buried under. No, this is not humanly possible when there is huge number of proposals being made to each project.

- You forcing the freelancers to getting into a bidding war, to post lowest rates possible and to give copy paste cookie cutter covering letters... because they fed-up that they never get a response ( interview ) from any clients. So they decided to try bid them all and see if they get any reply.

- There are lot of ways to address project-freelancer mismatch, to stop low quality proposals, or stop freelancers from bidding every project they see..etc etc. all these solutions are common sense. You may not believe in we human beings ( but rely on your so called non working algorithms ), but we believe in you. You can
identify those measures and implement.


Lets assume your algorithms are perfect, it decides the best person suitable for a given project in whole Upwork or in the whole world. Still this is not ok, because, who is the most suitable person for a project?


No, not the top-rated person, or the one with most number of reviews. These should only be supplementary. It shouldn't be used to throw away other freelancers' chance of being represented.


The right candidate is the one, who have many relevant past experiences AND who really understand that particular project in question, show his/her understanding through proposal, by analyzing the requirement, suggest ideas, questioning the contradictory in requirements and asks the right questions n the proposals. 


Your clients are not dumb. Let them to choose who is the best, or whom they want to work with. You Upwork is not a commission agent / agency, but a marketplace. Your role is to provide a platform in which they interact and decide whom they want to work with.  If you think otherwise, please announce yourself as an agency, charge 50% fees from freelancers and may directly award the projects to your best freelancers, selected by Advanced Technology.


In its current form, upwork is configured to win the projects only for certain individuals selected by half-baked algorithms, MLs and AIs. If you really care for the people who are the very reason of your existence of Upwork, stop trying to micro manage everything. And... you know what needs to be done. Thanks





Our community member Nichola L made a very good point ( see her original message in second page ):



Upwork is not abiding by its own rules:



Upwork does not introduce Clients to Freelancers and does not help Freelancers secure Engagements. Upwork merely makes the Site Services available to enable Freelancers to do so themselves.





Ace Contributor
Vadivelan R Member Since: Aug 28, 2015
2 of 97

Couple of other things:

1. Clients have two ways to look at the applicants. One inside the client admin panel's applications section and another view project page. In both the places, only hours worked are being shown to clients. Even if you worked 100 projects but 0 hours, it will show only 0 hours worked. This is applicable even in fixed priced projects.


2. In the proposal listing page.. your feedbacks, number of hours worked are not prominently displayed. Its tucked under the right side corner instead of directly showing under the freelancer name / title. 

Active Member
Frenki H Member Since: May 6, 2015
3 of 97

Yeah I agree with you about "Recommended" badge on client side when proposal viewed. This algorithm really funny if there are 100 proposal and only 4 people has that badge then on client side will be viewed only 4 total applicants apply the job where the other hiding on view more link.


This algorithm really big jokes, even you have related skill (and past test with top 10% score) and have related past work history you not always got "Recommended" badge on your proposal.


It's like pursue client/employer only select from recommended badge people where the other hiding on view more tab.


The idea is good to give recommended badge, but the algorithm still not right and only count recommended proposal as the total application of the job is not valid. They must fix this issue.

Community Guru
Olivier P Member Since: May 25, 2015
4 of 97

Maybe the most important post i ever read here . You really point the most worse things done by Upwork and that is why many of my clients say ; " now when i post a job i have a very bad selection of proposals from upwork "

Community Guru
Irene B Member Since: Feb 17, 2015
5 of 97

A really insightful post.

Community Guru
Chris M Member Since: May 6, 2015
6 of 97

Very, Very, Very enlightening.


Point 8 is the crucial one for me for fairness.


I understand that recommendations are useful for the Client who is presented with many many proposals but using the Upwork algorithms should be on an options menu, The DEFAULT should as per point 8 - straightforward un-filtered list of proposals.






Community Guru
Jean S Member Since: Oct 22, 2007
7 of 97

This is truly stunning information and explains why so many of us struggle to get a job here.


Read this and copy it somewhere and then read it again every day...outstanding work.


The algorithm cost the company $1 million dollars and was done without any imput from people who actually have to work with it. The "boys" at Stanford who built it have no idea how freelancing works and that's why the whole thing is useless.


Will Upwork listen?

Community Guru
Evelina H Member Since: Jan 29, 2015
8 of 97

Oh, well, that explains why for the last 13 proposals I sent in the last 10 days I received.... 0 replies Smiley Happy


And I thought something is wrong with me.


This has never happened to me before. And I don't have dissatisfied clients even when there were no algorithms in the system as to who is better than who etc. Clients obviously felt I am the right person for the position and hired me. I have few jobs on my portfolio, but most of them were long-term.


And now what happens? I can't find a decent job and I think it has to do with my hourly rate, and I am forced to offer my skills for lower rate than I've ever worked for. And even that's not working.


I'm preparing my porfolio at another platform. This is super sad for me, as I worked hard for mine here in Upwork. I may not be top rated freelancer, but I've been dedicated to my clients, I've been honest and delivered on time. Don't ask me why I'm not top rated. It's got to do with all these algorithms. *sigh*


Anyway, enough with the ranting. Vadivelan's post is so SO SO important and explained so much of the mystery this website is veiled in. Thank you, Vadivelan!

Ace Contributor
Susan M Member Since: Feb 14, 2016
9 of 97



So I must update my previous post (which is below this).


It seems that there weren't problems with Upwork afterall -- it really boiled down to work being slow, and... operator error (me). After rewriting my profile and adding some much-needed skill keywords, I've been getting profile views, job posting emails, and either invites or declines to the proposals I've submitted!


Upwork (and the customer support) has been great, actually...



To Upwork - I apologize... it wasn't you -- it was me.




Original message:


Wow, I totally agree with you, Evelina!


* I used to get views on my profile, and now within the last two weeks, I'm receiving 0 views.

* I've submitted many proposals, only to have 0 bites -- not even a decline! (and I occasionally check back to the job listing to see if the client has viewed recently or is dormant!


I was beginning to think that there was something wrong with me, too!


Curious as to why Upwork felt it needed the changes it seemingly has implemented -- now it feels as if the platform is broken.


I raved about Upwork, and how much I loved working on its platform... now I feel bad because friends have signed up and no one is getting any work :-( 


In my opinion, Upwork is the easiest platform to navigate and work through. It would be nice if the developers could return it to what it once was (please?!), or fix it.


Thank you, Vadivelan, for pointing out the reasons why we are suffering... lol :-)



Active Member
Nenad Z Member Since: Aug 19, 2015
10 of 97

Thank you Vadivelan!


It looks most of the freelancers (if not all) were not aware of these things. 

These issues concerns me more than any other issue which happened last few months (and there were a lot!). And its because it looks that Upwork doesn't sincerelly care neither about freelancers or contractors - at all. Only sale matters...