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I tried it when I was laid off for several months about 2 years ago. I put some time into creating a profile as they suggested and then set aside time each day to review job listings and submit proposals. It didn't really pan out. The majority of listings equate to less then minimum wage here in the US. Several are those who want a complete clone of popular web sites, or some fantastic app they dreamed up, but only offer $100 and want it done in one week. Even for those listings that are reasonable, responses to my proposals were few, and those who did were people who seemed to be fishing for "partners" - in other words, they didn't actually have any funding.
There was one opportunity that seemed promising and they offered me the work. Then I read the contract they wanted me to sign. Basically it said any project I have ever worked or will be working on belonged to them, regardless of whether it was contracted with them. There was a place to list all projects that I deemed "prior" work that would have excluded those. I explained to them that this was an unreasonable request. For one reason, there are projects I have worked on that I do not have ownership over and for confidentiality reasons I could not list these. Plus they were only looking for part-time to start, so this would have locked me out of other work. If those were not enough to keep me from signing, there was an actual statement that they "can exploit any and all of my work". I guess they were at least being honest about it.
When I suggested we use the standard UpWork contract instead, their response was "All of our employees sign this." They reassured me that their lawyer insists this is perfectly fine, so I shouldn't worry. Well, I worried.
I tried a couple of other freelance type sites as well, but I never had any luck with any of them either.
Maybe if you are willing to work for very low returns, you might build up a reputation which could then lead to better paying gigs. I think they also have a "premium" membership. That might get you access to better listings. I only tried the free version. If you give it a try, I would be curious if much has changed.
Pretty much my experience with other freelancing sites. Never used this one though. I really wonder if anyone ever accepts those contracts. "Yes, I will sign over my life's work and build an Amazon clone for less than 1/6th of my monthly rent! Sounds great!"
About 10 - 12 years ago 100% of my work was via sites like these. VWork, Rent-a-coder, Guru, PeoplePerHour. Headline rates are indeed very low and not feasible for someone in the UK to make a living on alone. However once you start to build a bit of a reputation, and a rapport with past clients, you get private offers of work, and bonuses, and referrals and that's where it becomes more profitable. Like any change of job, there's an initial learning curve and a "setup" period while you understand requirements, build relationships, work out communications, get the right tools/versions installed and so on. That doesn't work if every job is for a new client and they only pay $10. But when you take on sole support responsibility for an organisation's IT, and they're giving you over 10 hours' work per week, it can be pretty reasonable.
Rent-a-coder (subsequently taken over and rubbish now) was quite good - clients gave reasonable specs and there was opportunity to ask questions and make suggestions before bidding. I eventually worked up to being top-ranked UK coder on that site, at which point I didn't need to search for work, clients were inviting me.
One PeoplePerHour job I did took 2 hours and paid around $100. But the client came back for more (I pointed out how badly written his system was and how he could make a lot more money with some improvements) and after a couple of years I was on a 5-figure monthly retainer (5-figure Sterling) doing between 40 and just 10 hours / week; AND he'd introduced me to three other companies he worked with, who each put large projects my way (with no commission fees involved), AND I was able to "generalise" a system I'd developed for him and re-sold four other licenses. Basically, I retired early because of that $100 PeoplePerHour job.
I'm aware I was very lucky, and most people won't have that experience. However it IS possible. Start small, pick projects you KNOW you can deliver on, and provide exceptional customer service. Choose your customers wisely; a single poor rating can ruin your reputation for a long time. It's getting harder now as many sites don't even allow you to ask questions before bidding, so when a spec says "I have a bug in my website" and there's a $20 max bid, there's not a lot of point bidding. On the plus side, it's a great learning experience - you are exposed to a fantastic range of systems, software, businesses, people and cultures. Most of the time you're seeing perfect examples of how NOT to build things, but it's better to learn from others' mistakes than from your own.
I've no regrets from that period, but I'm not sure I'd want to be starting now...
It isn't always about holding up in court. It is sometimes about whose pockets run dry first. Even if you sue them for legal costs (and win), you still have to pay your legal costs along the way to get to the court decision where you get reimbursed.
I tried several freelance sites years ago when I was laid off in 2009. All of them were scams to get cheap labor.
Even purchasing their premium memberships didn't help. On top of that you had to write lengthy proposal only to never get an answer as to if anyone even reviewed them.
You are probably better off using an email list from a reputable company than doing anything online anymore. With email lists at least you can target your audience without worrying about ridiculous competition in a single site.
Finally, it appeared that many of the high earners were either teams or people who had been doing this for quite some time. In either case, unless you paid for it you could never get at the top of any list and even then you were still placed in competition with such entities...
Sr. Software Engineer
Black Falcon Software, Inc.
I never used UpWork, but a long time (+8 years) ago I did use VWork. There was no requirement to provide ID, just a credit card I believe.
The work was badly paid, because you had people from all over the world (with different living costs) competing. So it was mostly a race to the bottom, until I got a few positive reviews. Afterwards I was able to raise my fees but still nothing even in the same galaxy as a typical contract work for a customer.
Overall I didn't dislike the experience. It was my first time doing contract work, and I learned a lot about how to engage with potential customers. It could be worth it if you want to create a network of potential customers, and continue to work with them after there is a mutual trust and an escrow site like UpWork is no longer necessary.
I can understand the need for verification if they perform services such as escrow. However, they may be in violation of national banking and escrow laws. Briefly, it takes more than setting up a website for this purpose. In many countries, only a local lawyer may provide escrow services, and the money must be deposited in a special escrow account (in a bank).
Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.
-- 6079 Smith W.
My daughter has used it to find transcription work and I've been at a company that used it for finding people to do specific freelance work. It's not a sham in that way, but the work you find on there sometimes is a lot of work for low pay.
Its a legit site and a valuable resource for those looking to hire extra resources. I'm not sure how valuable it is for US based resources b/c of the rates we like to command.
I've used Upwork at my business to find temporary contractors for many years. My experience is that the majority of the technical contractors are from low income engineering countries, such as India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Eastern Europe, Vietnam, Indonesia, and some South American countries.
I have never hired a rate above $40 per hour - I have never needed to. The majority of rates I have hired are $25 and below and I have found great resources for:
- Dot Net
- Book Transcription
- Web Page Development
- Ruby on Rails resources
I use it often for quick prototypes, where I don't want to distract my US based engineering team.
There are lots of agencies contracting on the site which means you have layers of management that often distract from getting the right work out.
But if I were looking for work, Upwork would probably NOT be the place I would go. I couldn't feed my family on the rates I would have to compete against.
Further to my earlier post about having had good results via these sites, I should add that I've also used them as a "buyer" to effectively sub-contract parts of contracts. That's a very cheap way of buying-in very specific skills (e.g. I had a large project with a small TAPI component; never having done any TAPI work, and not planning to again, it made sense to write a tight functional spec and outsource it, for a hundred dollars or so). The problem is these days you get scores of responses from Asian body-shops saying "We can write the codez 4 u" and just ploughing through to find a realistic bid can take some time. When I did find genuine, skilled workers I always added a bonus payment and good review. The best way to find good subcontractors is to find reviews that aren't just a simple five-star, but make reference to actual skills and ideally include a bonus as that really shows someone's worth considering.