What: Job site for writers, web and mobile developers, designers, virtual assistants, customer service agents, project managers, sales and marketing professionals, accountants and consultants.

Expected pay: widely variable

Husl $core: $$$

Commissions & Fees: 20% 

Where: National and international

Requirements: depend on the job sought

Review: If you click through the Upwork site, you’re going to see “top” freelancers in a variety of categories apparently earning tremendous wages — from $30 to $150 per hour. But if you look at freelancer reviews on Glassdoor, you see another picture. Freelancers say that Upwork’s employers often offer marginal pay for long hours of work and that workers are reluctant to turn down low-paying jobs for fear of getting poor ratings that then put them at a disadvantage when seeking additional work.

The site itself has a graduated fee scale for freelancers, charging 20% of small jobs and just 5% of the larger ones. That may make economic sense, since the site’s effort is likely to be the same for large and small jobs alike, thus to break even it would have to charge more for finding the small one-off positions. But it is not a popular formula for the freelancers, who feel that those who can afford it least are getting nicked with the highest costs. Some of the most biting criticisms come from those who previously worked for Elance or oDesk, which charged lower fees. These companies evaporated when they were merged into Upwork. Our take: The platform should do more vetting of clients to make sure job listings are legitimate and not exploitive. At this point, freelancers have to critically evaluate client offers on their own. 

Other sites to consider: Belay and Remote.

What their freelancers say: 

“Lots of scams and phishers looking for your personal info. Lots of employers paying below minimum wage and people working for that, just so they get positive reviews and ratings. Also, Upwork takes 20% of your earnings.”

“The clients are often difficult, flakey, and cheap. As a freelancer you have to accept some cheap jobs to get good ratings on your profile to be able to bid on clients paying more money than $20 a logo. The clients are not required to put payment up for a project and get away with asking for spec work and not paying for sketches and ideas. Upwork uses arbitrary practices to bully their freelancers into submission.”

“I worked at Upwork (More than a year). There is a large job pool, but employers gravitate towards the lowest end of pay, like $3/hour because Upwork has allowed this downward spiral in contractor pay. Upwork doesn’t put a minimum on a flat fee job or an hourly rate. Then they have introduced a 20% (freelancer) fee that has a convoluted scale system where you will finally be able to see some income but only after you have very large projects with the same client, which doesn’t happen very often if you’re a writer or designer. Their JSS system is also punitive and wildly illogical. Lower your fees back to 10% across the board. When you take 20% of the first 50 hours, you’re gouging freelancers who mainly do one-off projects. I would also like to see clients required to put an actual dollar value range for what they’re willing to pay. I’ve seen clients advertise for “Expert Level $$$” and still expect to pay $5 an hour.”

Four things I really disliked about Upwork  1-It didn’t require its clients to provide very much info about  them; but it required freelancers to provide lots of information about us.  2-It took out a lot money out of freelancers’ anticipated fees as its commission. Because of that, I had to substantially increase my hourly rate to try to get the income that I wanted.  That meant a lot of persons didn’t want to use/pay me.  3-It has very strict and odd rules about how writers were to work on editorial stuff. 4-About a year ago, it set up a new requirement–freelancers had to submit bank account data. I forget why it suddenly did that. I quit UW immediately after finding out about the requirement. 

“The good thing about Upwork is the variety and volume of freelance opportunities open to all sorts of entrepreneurs. These include writers, designers, IT folks, virtual assistants, etc. But often the clients’ postings offer ridiculously low wages, like “write a 25,000 e-book for $7.00.” On top of that, Upwork recently revamped its pay scale to take a larger chunk out of the freelancer’s pay until they reach a certain income level.”

“I like being able to browse jobs and put in proposals. I often get steady work for excellent pay. Their system pays quickly and on time once you reach $100, which is easy when you have lots of contracts going. I made over $2K with one client last year and never received a tax notification. I am submitting the amount myself as I report all my income, but it’s frustrating to not have the official document.”

“Too many cons to list here, but too much exposure for freelancers, no customer support, very low paying jobs with no tools for working with the system in order to accommodate the client and the job they wish to be done. ADVICE TO FREELANCERS: Join and then go straight to the Community Forums and read them. Check in several times a day because posts are taken down if the UpWork moderators think they are too negative. You will read about all the problems freelancers are having from technical issues to fraudulent job postings.”

“Clients should be vetted just like the freelancers are to ensure they are honest and real jobs to offer. Why you brag about being a global workplace, it feels more like global exploitation.”

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