Why it is High Time to Leave Upwork for Greener Freelance Pastures

27/11/2016 20 comments

Everything needs to start somewhere, including your freelancing career. For many freelancers, that place is a global freelancing platform called Upwork. But if you’re looking to progress as a freelancer, staying here forever is a not a good idea. At some point, you should leave Upwork and find better paying and more challenging projects elsewhere.

I’ve worked on Upwork for around five years, had dozens of clients. I wrote about everything from SEO tips and tricks to how to get a construction permit in Canada, increased my rate tenfold and finally figured it was time to leave Upwork.

And, if you’re looking to take your freelancing or blogging career to the next level, you too should probably finally leave this platform.

Here are a couple of reasons why you should leave Upwork (and other freelancing platforms):

Too Much Low-Bidding Competition Upwork


Okay, so this isn’t anything new and it didn’t bother me when I was charging $5 for 500 words, or even when my rate was $10. I could still compete with countless freelancers that accepted the same work for just a buck or two. I new I could still offer better articles and I made sure to let my potential clients know the type of quality they could expect from my writing. Of course, positive feedback from previous clients, good testing scores and, most importantly, a well-worded cover letter all helped here.

But once you start valuing your work more and start asking for better rates ($15 and above) it is going to get harder for you to land a project on Upwork.

In other words, leave Upwork if you can’t find good-paying projects.

Clients Often Want Cheap Before Excellence

There are two main reasons for it. The first one is that there are plenty of clients who don’t know the difference between a freelancer who bids $1 and the one who bids $20. They believe they are getting a good deal if they hire a guy to work for $3/h but don’t stop and consider what they’re getting (or rather not getting) for that amount.

On the other hand, when they see someone bidding $15, $20 or more just for one blog post, the first reaction is “this guy is overpriced, I can certainly get someone cheaper than that!”. Again, they are not seeing the bigger picture here.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bidded a certain amount, only for the potential employer to try and “negotiate” it to less than half of that. Now, I have no problem adjusting my rate a bit, but only to a point. You should always have a minimum rate below which you don’t accept work. The bottom line is: don’t let clients undervalue your work.

If you value your work and don’t want to be paid a pittance – you should probably leave Upwork and try your luck elsewhere. That said, there are still clients who are willing to pay better freelance rates, but they are more and more few and far between.

Upwork’s New Pricing Model is Terrible to Both Freelancers and Clients

Upwork has to make money of its own. How they do this is by taking a fee from each project you do. I find their policy completely reasonable. What I don’t find reasonable is how big this fee is.

Starting May this year, Upwork has introduced a new pricing model. For the first $500 you bill, Upwork’s fee now rises to 20%. From $500.01 to $10,000, the fee goes down to 10% and for more than $10,000 the fee goes to 5%.

Here’s how Stephane Kasriel, Upwork CEO explained this decision in a comment to Forbes:

This is a change and people are voicing their opinions, but we’re confident that our new pricing model is the right decision for Upwork’s community overall. For years, our business had a flat fee that helped us become the industry leader, but what we need now is a smarter model that drives sustainability, not only for us as a company but for freelancing online.

Kasriel continued:

As the market leader, this is us looking years down the road and establishing a model that serves online freelancing well. I believe that the new pricing will lead to a better equilibrium where we can invest to bring more and higher quality jobs overall. It’s all about growing the size of the pie for freelancers.

That all sounds fine and good and one can’t argue the limits of a one-size-fits-all approach that Upwork was using so far. But are freelancers happy? Absolutely not and many have already decided to leave Upwork because of this move, feeling that the platform is trying to squeeze them for all of their money.

Lots of Bugs and the Site is Often Down for Maintenance

Ever since oDesk and Elance joined forces and formed Upwork, the site has been plagued by various bugs. Granted, the problems are fixed (well, mostly) today, but you’ll still encounter a hitch here and there. The problems mostly include the site being down for several hours, even a whole day, making it difficult for freelancers and clients to communicate. As a result, you might end up being late to deliver your work to no fault of your own.

As such, it is a good idea to have an alternative means of communication with your clients.  Email, Skype or Hangouts can all work well if Upwork goes down. The last thing you want to happen is to miss a deadline just because Upwork was down. The client might or might not accept this as an excuse, but think of the positive reaction he will have if you don’t allow something like this to break your communication and still manage to deliver your work on time. Now, that will speak volumes about your dedication to that project and the client will consider you more highly.

Poor Customer Service (and Slow)

Upwork’s customer service is largely regarded as terrible by freelancers and clients don’t think much better of it either. In fact, countless freelancers have complained online that Upwork has closed their contract without providing any reason for it. This left even their clients confused. One day they are working with someone and are satisfied with the work that person provides.  The next the freelancer’s account has been suspended.

Upwork rarely explains why your perfect 100% score was downgraded to 80%, even with a 5-star feedback. The best you might get is a very generic explanation that “there are many reasons you can get downgraded”. This doesn’t help at all.

Oh, and if you stop being active on the platform (or have already decided to leave Upwork), you’ll also get downgraded. Keep that in mind in case you land a job elsewhere and want to come back. Seeing your profile get dropped for a few months of inactivity is also a reason to leave Upwork. More so if you don’t really plan on returning to it.

Your Freelancing Career will get Stuck if You Stay Around for too Long

Upwork is still a good place for a freelancer to make his first steps. You can earn some money and make contact with clients. But you shouldn’t stay there forever.

You will need to make the next step in your freelancing career.  You won’t be able to do so by staying on Upwork. After all, Upwork is only a middleman between you and the client. A middleman that takes 20% from the freelancer and another 2.75% from the client. For many freelancers, this was as good reason as any to leave Upwork in the last year or two.

Plus, Upwork also has a reputation for being a place where freelancers are woefully underpaid. Many clients stay away from it because they don’t believe they can find skilled freelancers there. That is, of course, depending whom you ask – freelancers or clients. Both have issues with Upwork and it will take a great deal convincing the other side otherwise.

Being an Upwork freelancer isn’t something you should be satisfied with. Make the next step and leave Upwork. Start your own blog, contact clients directly. You’ll soon witness new opportunities, ones you haven’t considered or thought possible before, open up for you.

Do you agree with me or not? Also, be sure to check this in-depth Upwork review before you decide on using it.  Tell me about your experience with the platform in the comments below.