Have you heard?
The popular Upwork – a freelancing platform just announced that they are going to charge freelancers to bid for jobs on their website.
Connects are what Upwork gives to a freelancer to bid for jobs. Usually, we get around 60 free connects a month. A job minimally will cost 2 Connects. You’ll need between 1 and 6 Connects, depending on the job, to submit a proposal. Now they are taking away the free connects and charging each Connect for USD$0.15.
This is on top of the 20% commission that they charge us whenever a client pays us through the platform. And a 10% that they charge clients.
So technically, in a monetary sense for every gig of USD$10, freelancer only gets USD$8 but Upwork gets USD$3 (20% + 10%). Not inclusive of the Connects that freelancers will need to pay to bid for jobs that may not become theirs. Not inclusive of the tax the freelancers themselves incurred respectively in their countries.
Freelancers Get Invites for Free
Although freelancers do not have to use their Connects if the client invites them to try out for their jobs, the clients now can only invite up to 3 candidates for free. If they want to invite more candidates, they will have to pay too.
Reasons Behind This
Upwork says they expect freelancers will submit fewer proposals, increasing your likelihood of winning projects and making it easier for clients to identify high-quality talent.
This is true. Currently, freelancers can flood a job that is attractive aka easy work, high pay. It is hard to stand out when you are a needle in a haystack.
But whether charging freelancers to bid, I’m not sure that’s a smart move. There are plenty of ways to limit freelancers from overbidding.
Like lowering the amount of free Connects you give every month or having the platform to flag out any freelancer who bid too many jobs in a single hour or limit the number of times a freelancer can bid in a single day.
Who will get impacted the most?
New freelancers and new clients will have the worst hit.
New freelancers who don’t have a strong presence or a steady job history on Upwork, probably won’t get many invitations by clients. Or even get noticed by clients during their search. So the only way is to bid for jobs.
There are many freelancers from countries that USD0.30 (minimal price to bid for 1 job) can mean a bus ride in Indonesia or a bag of rice (500g) in Bangladesh or a loaf of bread in India and a new freelancer who is probably a student or someone who just been laid off in any country may not be able to afford to pay for a job that doesn’t guarantee that it will be theirs.
And…. they’ll have to keep spending USD$0.30 to bid until they get hired for a gig.
Will clients get impacted too?
Sure, clients will have to factor into their recruitment budget one way or other but many clients that use freelancers are startup companies that barely got their feet wet or be able to balance their books. Or companies who are looking at mass recruiting freelancers.
With only 3 invites per month will not suffice to hire the right candidate so companies will have to dig deeper into their pockets to buy more invites especially now that freelancers will be extra careful where they spend their USD$0.30 on.
That plus the 10% fee they have to pay will turn some clients towards other platforms that are free to hire.
Who has the least impact?
Experienced freelancer like myself. Armed with regular clients who provide more than enough work every month, we don’t really use our Connects anymore unless an interesting job comes along and we happen to have a free period.
What can you do to counter this?
The key thing is personal branding. Get yourself a website, market yourself on social media, mingle and network around the professionals.
Basically, get yourself heard loud and clear by others. If you are going to rely mainly on one single platform to drive your income, you are putting all your eggs in one basket. When the basket breaks (like in this case of Upwork), you will be searching for other platforms in panic.
Have different outlets to land a gig
I have plenty of clients contact me directly over here, LinkedIn and Facebook. I am active on Upwork, Fiverr and freelancer.com.
Always ensure that you don’t rely on one source of income and have plenty of security blanket to cushion your fall. That way, you can choose to walk away whenever you can.
Retain a steady stream of clients
Instead of looking at how much a client is willing to pay for your time and effort, look at the potential work that the client can give you.
I prefer to work with clients that I am familiar with for the long haul, rather than to hit and run with big ones that will pay more. As long as the client can promise consistent work, I am open to lower my rate to suit their budget needs.
This will save me a lot of time and headache hunting down new clients each time a project ends. Plus I feel secure knowing that I can achieve a set target of income every month. Anything extra is a bonus!
Maybe it’s the push that Upwork needs to differentiate themselves from lower end freelancing platforms and try to emerge as a classier version so as to attract companies with bigger names and even deeper pockets, rather than relying on startups that can only pay USD$5 per hour. If successful, freelancers can rejoice in getting higher paid jobs with branded companies to put into their resumes.
There are plenty of freelancers creating a ruckus on Upwork’s forum and on social media. Perhaps there is hope that Upwork may revert their decision before implementation or when they tried, test and fail. It remains to be seen what will happen. Whether those freelancers who say they will quit the platform, will really quit or they are just keyboard warriors.
Do you use Upwork? Please share your thoughts on the above post.
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