Note. This was posted here due to Medium’s support request to take down all images.I never wanted to write something like this, or expose the people involved. However, I feel that’s it necessary for something to get done for my own ends, and also for those thinking of foraying into the world of freelancing and in particular, using Upwork’s platform, to seriously reconsider.
You can read part 2, here.
Now, I’m not going to get into the recent changes in Upwork’s fees to take 20% from freelancers. I’m not going to get into the additional fees they charge, the poor support they offer, the weak quality of jobs they have. I’m not going to talk about the impossibility of competition they offer due to being seriously undercut by those that live in countries with lower costs of living. I’m not going to talk about the stupidity of their algorithm which focuses on getting the most money from a client rather than providing the best service.
No. You see, I actually managed to make money from Upwork, you can see my profile here — (http://www.upwork.com/o/profiles/users/_~01f4aa82c79a722261/)
I was doing quite well, I even made a video demonstrating my skills, specifically for Upwork. It became one of my main income streams and ways to gain leads. You can see my feedback, the projects I’ve worked on, and all of my happy clients. Very, very clearly.
So why are you even writing this?
Let’s take us back exactly 11 days ago, that’s all it took.
@shadalabad Hi Shadi – Sorry to hear this. Please DM with your Upwork username or email address, and some details so we can help. Thanks!
— Upwork Help (@UpworkHelp) October 12, 2016
2 weeks previous to me having to write this, I was invited to interview for a standard Analytics Gig setting up a Saleforce account with GA. Very basic stuff. I tell the client expected hours and quote, then he disappears. This isn’t unusual in itself. About 10 days later I get the standard –
‘Hey, sorry for the delay, I need XYZ done in a very short amount of time, etc… etc…’ . Anyone that’s done freelance knows that this is just how clients can be. Usually followed by a ‘We can also only pay you about half, it’s the arbitrary number we budgeted for, even know we know nothing about the work we’re actually trying to get you to do’.
Please keep in mind that the clients contact me, I’m never reaching out.Of course, I expect nothing less from a ‘Director of Sales’ at a company. But honestly this is just the everyday life of a freelancer, nothing to write home about.
I’m going to fast forward over the next week of little to no contact, where I’m trying to get a basic bullet point spec sheet so that I can accurately come within budget. Even though said client want’s it ‘Turned around ASAP’.
The client eventually gave me login details, alas, still no job. (They have to actually give you the job through Upwork). As a seasoned freelancer, I’m always skeptical and very suspicious. Especially when a client-to-be only has a 3.5 star rating yet has over 40 previous jobs.
After 3 weeks of sporadic talks, the client trying to get me to work without actually giving me the job, and myself getting fed up. I decided to not go through with it.
This is just usually a huge red flag for me and it should be for any freelancers reading this also. In order to get a job done properly, you need solid communication, a client willing to talk to you and sort you out with what you need within at least 48 hours. If they’re constantly bargaining to get your price down, to undervalue the work that needs to be done. If they try and validate a low price with the promise of ‘Long term work’. Get out and move on.
NOTE: The client gave me their login details to Salesforce, this would prove integral later in the story.
These messages really do say it all. Reading back, I can see how what I wrote may be provocative. But you have to remember, he’s essentially been keeping me on the ropes for what is now 17 days. Which for Upwork, is very unusual. I simply wanted to cut if off and move on.
When I get this reply from him (Btw, 12pm my time is 3am his time), I was really quite surprised. I considered my words critically. But ultimately felt that his threat was directly aimed at my livelihood and my reputation. For those that don’t freelance, this is the equivalent of logging a complaint directly to your boss. It’s no joke, just because it’s over the internet from a stranger. This is worth $2000+ a month to me, a large portion of my income.
Finally, I get hit with this.
Then, I receive this –
He tried to also jeopardize some long standing client work of mine by explicitly going after clients he could find on the internet and writing to them about my unprofessional-ism and advising them not work with me. Yes, he went out of his way and took his time at 3am in the morning to try and break all of my working relationships —
(There was a screenshot of him writing to my client. He used the words ‘’fuck face’’ in a very interesting way. My client respectfully asked for this to be taken down and I of course obliged)
As well as said client actually writing ‘Shadi is a cock face’, through said client’s contact form. Seriously, that happened.
You want Upwork Support? Just give up now
In this situation, what would you do? Well, I decided to cover my bases, contact Upwork, they have the chat logs, they have support. So I created a ticket.
No prizes for those who guess how this ended.
The next morning I wake up to find a message banner across the Upwork homepage.
‘You’re suspended… all financial transactions will be blocked …’.
Woah, wow. Yes, he found out that I created a complaint and decided to retaliate.
Yes, that’s right.
Yes, that’s right. He said I hacked into their salesforce account. Now, apart from the obvious limitations of someone that has the most rudimentary knowledge of how HTTP Headers even work. Despite the fact that Salesforce uses 2-factor. Remember, he actually gave me the login details.
‘Holy crap, is that actually happening’, I believe is the polite and SEO friendly way is what I said to myself.
Now, on this beautiful Sunday morning, I wake up to this.
To reiterate what this means, specifically to me. Over $500 of current funds being processed, along with another $750 coming in from a client I’M STILL WORKING WITH, will be blocked. As well as a client that I currently have an hourly with. Note, they haven’t actually stopped me from taking in money from clients, just withdrawing it from their platform. Opening up new jobs and any other actions related to this.
Essentially, the clients I have now can still be charged, Upwork can still take their commissions, but there is figuratively no way for me to withdraw this money. Not to mention I’ve just lost a large part of my potential income.
‘Upwork, are you serious? Wow.’ , perfectly sums up my thoughts.
Advice to Freelancers and moving on
Freelancing is no joke, and it’s not always pretty. I’ve had truly amazing client relationships over the years, I’d say freelancing is 90% fun up until the point where you actually have to ask for your money. A common theme is a client disappearing for weeks on end, they’re on their business trip, they’re in the middle of a sprint. Yes, we’ve all heard it.
If you’re a new freelancer. Don’t be disheartened. My advice to you is this:
Find your community. Whether that be HashtagNomads, Online geniuses or whatever that pertains to your industry. Talk to people, especially if you’re young. Offer your time, in return you may not be getting a bunch of money, but you will be learning valuable skills. Especially the soft skills needed for remote work, as well as a portfolio and references.
If you’re considering Upwork. I would strongly suggest you not to. Not just because of what happened to me. Remember Upwork takes 20% up to $500, then 10% up to $10000. + VAT and processing fees and FX rates.
If you want to charge $100 per hour on Upwork. You can essentially charge something like $78 per hour direct to a client, without Upwork, and get paid the same. It’s not just you saving money, but also the client (Who has an extra 1.35% charged on top, now). That’s huge labor savings of over 20% for a client, and you avoid all of the Upwork bureaucracy. Take your experience and portfolio and join these online communities, there is always plenty of work.
An open letter to Upwork
You’re like the Comcast of Freelancing. Your customer Support seems blind to facts.
Now, one of three things could of resulted in why this happened.
1) I’m a super h3xOr overlord, I hacked into this guys Salesforce and did bad stuff (Of which, I still don’t know what I supposedly actually did).
2)Your Support is truly incompetent. Now I hate that word, but when you’re dealing with people’s livelihoods and the ability to very literally take money from people when you see fit, I find it appropriate.
3)You’re as corrupt at FIFA, and clients with personal links to your team members are able to exercise their will as they see fit.
It’s almost a year since I’ve joined you. I’ve worked on exactly 29 different projects thanks to you. Of those 29 projects, only 1 went to a dispute, which was solved after I paid the $200 fee or whatever it is for the process (See the recurring theme here, by the way?).
After 1 day, you auto-banned my account. After 11 days, your permanently banned it. You’ve blocked all money going out. No explanation from Support, no nothing.
So please tell me, how a freelancer, who has gone to great lengths, such as creating a very embarrassing video (I actually hired a professional video guy to do this), can be banned so easily. How should other freelancers either starting out or in the same position as myself, view this?
After much deliberation, I decided it was worth calling out someone for what they truly are.
(Names now redacted due to legal stuff)
p.s, If you’re looking for a great Analytics guy / Growth person, I know a guy who has a lot of extra capacity now