oDesk Was Better Than UpWork

UpWork is the worst.
When oDesk merged with eLance to create UpWork late last year, my positive thought was, “Cool! A less stupid name!” but unfortunately, every other aspect of the freelancer website has gone downhill in 2016.

I don’t know what it is, but I have a guess: it’s too available now. oDesk was a little gem that served as an haven for freelancers who might need a spot of extra work. When people asked how I found clients I’d tell them about oDesk, a great site that benefits freelancer and client equally. In addition to reliable job postings, it had an automatic time tracker that guaranteed you your money while it guaranteed that work was being done for the client. Most of my experiences on oDesk had been pretty positive, or at the very least, inoffensive, and I was happy to continue working through there even if it did cost 10% of my hourly.

So why is it now a cesspool of crooks and morons? Why do I resent needing to use it? Why can I no longer find a client who is reliable and not a micromanager? Why is it the worst??
UpWork doesn’t answer these questions in their FAQ, but I’ll take a whack at it.

Too Many Job Postings

Back when I began using oDesk, sifting through 10 pages of job listings would get me into week-old postings, and I’d have to take a break to allow the jobs to build up again. Now, since it seems to be a more mainstream platform, 10 pages of ads will get me into tomorrow. You’d think this sea of jobs would open up new possibilities, but I may have gotten decently drunk one time while playing a drinking game – alone, at my desk – for every time an ad made me cringe. Be it bad grammar, no company info, ridiculous requests, or stuff that has NOTHING to do with social media. To borrow the whitest phrase ever born, I can’t even.

UpWork needs to have some sort of vetting system – maybe a minimum/maximum word limit, or a spell checker machine that scream “are you kidding me?!” when you submit. They should demand that you explain exactly what your company is – with links! With the current “put text here” format that they’ve decided is best, a client just slots in a few words and a monthly budget and we are go. It’s not enough for freelancers to make informed decisions.

Too Many Morons

Typos. Descriptions are too long, too short.  ZERO information about your company.

I’m just going to go off here, because I am sick of your bad job listings. If you expect me to be a flawless and perfect worker (as your 3-page job listing requests), then maybe you should run your job listing through spell-check, or if you won’t, then don’t demand that the applicant speak PERFECT English, because clearly you can’t.

Real job listing:

“Looking for someone to manage all forms of social media. – develop following and like – post engaging content – build a audience”

This is legit, the whole thing. Bad grammar aside – oh, really? You want social media help? I didn’t gather that from your posting titled “Social Media Manager Wanted” and then a listing that vaguely states what a social media manager does. What is your company? What are your goals? God damn am I sick of going on a phone interview and having NO idea what I’m supposed to expect; you wouldn’t show up to a regular job interview with this little information.

What cracks me up are these people who post FULL job listings. You know the one; an intro to the job followed by the section for “Responsibilities” and a section for “Skills” with instructions on how to apply. Clearly this was copy/pasted from LinkedIn and you have no idea how freelancers work. You want 5 years experience in the finance industry? How many former bankers do you think have decided to sit at a desk with a cat on their lap twiddling with Facebook analytics for the same pay as a drive-thru attendant?

My favourite is when these super-long listings go on and on, and yet never tell you about their company. And I don’t just mean the “we are a digital media startup with a dream and a tight pocketbook” description that 50% of the jobs give you – I mean “here’s my website – can you help me?” Just looking at your website gives me WAY more information than a few poorly placed adjectives. Why do only 2% of listings seem to offer their website? Has UpWork banned this? Please please PLEASE – include your website! Rebel against the weird practices of UpWork and GET RESULTS.

Too Much Commission

One of my current clients e-mailed me one day with a message that only clients had received from UpWork at the time – they were changing their billing practices. My client proposed leaving UpWork because they would be billed more for every withdrawal that came out of their account. Not cool, UpWork.

But as I read on, I became enraged. Freelancers would now be docked a 20% finders fee for clients whose collective earnings fall under $500 with that client. Are you kidding?? So in my desperate search for a new client because I need the extra money, 20% of my paycheque is now going to a company who is charging me more for a much worse experience? Aw hell no. I do all the work – 10% was more than a fair finder’s fee!

Now I know what you’ll say – after $500 of work, it’s back down to 10%. Aw, gee, thanks! Good to know it’s just a cash grab for all those hit-and-quit clients.

So there are a couple problems with this: firstly, I’ve hiked up my rates. This is incredibly unfair because the client pays whatever my profile lists, but I only receive 80% of it, so they’re essentially wasting money. But they know this ,so…

Too Many Crooks

The last point has bred another form of client – crooks. The whole point of UpWork was that it created a safe environment in which to work and guarantee payment. But with you guys taking 20% of my commission for – believe me – no good reason, I’m now looking to work offsite, and so are the clients. Freelancers and clients are still listing on UpWork because, well, we have to (good job with that, by the way), only now we’re sacrificing our protection in order to make money.

These are the skeezbags who may decide after a couple weeks of hard work that they “want to take another path” and aren’t required to pay us our hard earned money.

It’s not protecting clients either – most freelancers take a percentage up-front as a down-payment to guarantee clients don’t flit off into the night scoff-free. But a freelancer could easily take this money and then drop the ball – neither party has protection, and it’s all in an effort to not get screwed by UpWork.


Like I said, UpWork is now too available. You’d think this would create a lot of different opportunities, but it doesn’t. It creates a lot of vague job listings for incredibly boring fields that a lot of us freelancers specifically wanted to avoid by working from home.

Accountants. Insurance. Real estate. Finance.

Maybe you think I’m being too picky, but if you’ve seen my work surrounding dry and boring fields, then you know I’m really not cut out to talk about numbers for a living. It just feels like all these 9-5 office types are going “hey, let’s just outsource this to some schlub in Vermont instead of bringing someone in who has some experience with this field” and this, once again, creates a bad client/freelancer dynamic that will only fizzle out. These are very specific fields that you really should have some expertise in before knocking out a 1,000 blog post about 2017’s Hottest Investment Opportunities written by a part-time barista in

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *