How Upwork Turned Freelancers Against Each Other

That’s an actual article on Hacker Noon. You might think this kind of thing gets my jimmies rustled. Au contraire! I love it. It might be the most glorious summation of crap ideas about Upwork, ever assembled.

Here’s a few of my favorites…

“There’s no such thing as ‘competition’ in freelancing. Can we agree on that? Every freelancer is unique. Every freelancer plays his or her own game. You set your own price that makes you happy and you bid. You DON’T compete!”

Nope. We can’t agree. That’s like saying the 100-meter dash isn’t a competition, because every runner has different genetics, training, diet, etc. What makes it a competition is only one person wins and gets the gold medal.

Same with freelancing.

100 people can bid.

They can all be unique, special little snowflakes.

But, only one person gets hired.

So, like it or not… you’re competing.

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Here’s another:

“I used to be a Rising Talent on Upwork. Then, I spent quite some time working as the Top Rated freelancer. My freelance luck turned around. Eventually, I became a desperate spammer. Do you hate me, feel sorry for me or you just couldn’t care less? Do you think it’s not going to happen to you? Are you freelance fail-proof? Do you think that both you and your beloved Upwork are better off without me and others like me — spammers?”

If I had a nickel for every time I heard this story.

“My freelance luck turned around.”

That’s code for, “I screwed up on a project and got a bad rating”. And, of course, it’s NEVER their fault. And, they expect Upwork to just brush it off and continue to give them work, anyway. Ain’t gonna happen.

You know why?

Because, Upwork (and freelancing) is a competition!

There are 1000s of other freelancers who can do what you do. So, if you screw up, yeah… it’s gonna hurt you. And, it’s not me. It’s not other freelancers. It’s clients. THEY are the ones who notice and care. Which is why Upwork cares.

This is one of the reasons why I constantly beat the drum of taking time to research and think about what services you’re going to offer. A lot of freelancers go in desperate and just take any work they can get.

And, inevitably, get in over their head.

Mess up on a project.

And, have trouble getting future work.

Stop. Breathe. Take a minute and develop a service offering (how to do that HERE) that people want, yes… but that’s well-defined, finite and something you can easily deliver on. So, you never get in over your head. And, you never have “bad luck”.


“I’m not saying that Upwork would have changed its mind about the connects, if we had all stood together against it, but at least, we would have made their management think twice about this decision.”

No, they wouldn’t have.

Upwork got tons of backlash when it started charging for connects. They did it, anyway. Why? Because of the clients. Think about it. Anyone whose every been on Upwork knows how most projects go.

You get a few reasonable bids.

But, most projects would get hit with 20+ copy and pasted proposals with 5-buq bids. It’s one of the biggest things we freelancers complained about. WELL, think about it from the client’s perspective.

You submit a project with a budget of 500 or 1,000 and 90% of the proposals you get look like junk. Copy and pasted. A budget way under what you know the project should cost. What does that make Upwork look like to you?

Are you likely to submit more projects there?

Upwork HAD to do something.

And, most of the freelancers who are still on the platform say it’s gotten dramatically better. So no… they wouldn’t have changed their mind about charging for connects, nor should they have.

Now look…

I know some of you reading this right now are probably thinking, “What a [email protected]#!” But, I push back hard against these ideas, not because I have some special love for Upwork, but because, if you buy into them, they’ll hurt you.

They’ll cause you to fail on Upwork.

Or, never try it in the first place.

When, it’s the single greatest opportunity to get clients there is.

Hundreds of new projects posted each day. Right there for you to go bid on and potentially get hired… right now. To ignore it is foolish. To not spend some time figuring out how it works is misguided (more on that HERE).

But, let me extend and olive branch.

You’re frustrated. That I get. My first few months on Upwork were the same. Lots of bidding on jobs, writing proposals, etc… zero hires. And, I reacted the same way. I was angry, confused and wanted to blame Upwork.

So, I get that part.

But, what I did instead was research. And, in doing so, I came across a series of blog posts that broke down, in detail, how Upwork’s matching algorithm works. The two big ranking factors they look at and how they evaluate them.

It changed everything for me.

Suddenly, I was crystal clear what I was doing wrong.

I changed by profile, what jobs I bid on, how I bid… everything.

And, within a couple days, I landed my first project: 2,191.78. And another… 1736.86, 1897.50, 3205.23… and on and on. Nothing changed with me. I didn’t suddenly get “luckier”. My portfolio didn’t change.

I wasn’t suddenly more skilled.

It was ALL about how I presented myself.

What I wrote on my profile, what I wrote in proposals.

Things you can change immediately.

In any case, Upwork has since deleted those posts. They’d never give away that kind of detail, now. But, I’ve taken what I learned that day and the years since and put it into my Freelancing on Upwork course. Exactly how the algorithm works AND how to build your profile and bid on jobs in order to continue rank higher in searches and suggested freelancer lists.

So, you can not only start getting hired…

But, methodically grow your profile to get more and more work.

Of course, it’s not magic. It takes work. It takes researching and thinking and figuring out the best way to position yourself on Upwork. But, if you spend that little bit of time, it can pay big dividends.

Anyway, you can enroll in the course on Udemy here:



P.S. Or, if you prefer Skillshare, you can learn how to get FREE access to all my courses, including this one, here:

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John Morris


I’m a 15-year veteran of freelance web development. I’ve worked with bestselling authors and average Joe’s next door. These days, I focus on helping other freelancers build their freelance business and their lifestyles.

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