Today began with a promising email. My freelance profile on Elance had been viewed by a software company based in California and I’d been invited to pitch for a large AdWords management project.
After requesting review access to their AdWords account and their Analytics, I could immediately see glaring issues that had been preventing the various campaigns from achieving profitability via AdWords. What a mess! But I knew I could easily add value with even the barest of account tweaks, so I prepared a mini audit and made my case via email.
Next, I headed over to the UpWork Community Forum to check things out. A couple of readers following this blog had alerted me to some threads in the forum indicating a growing sense of discontent amongst UpWork freelancers. Seems I’m not the only one disillusioned by the lack of power contractors have on sites like Elance and UpWork.
One of the common complaints is about the UpWork performance algorithm that measures the effectiveness of freelancers based on the quantity of jobs they complete rather than the quality of their work. The system seems to reward the sweat-shop teams and low-ballers who consistently under-bid for projects, while the average contractor is left with no choice but to drop their rates to ridiculous levels to try and compete.
Clients are encouraged to view a contractor’s success rate and skills test scores as a measure of effectiveness, but the ultimate kudos is for a contractor is to achieve something called *Top Rated* status.
To earn and maintain Top Rated status, you must have:
- A Job Success score of at least 90%
- 12-month earnings of at least $1,000
- An account in good standing with no recent account holds
- A 100% complete profile with photo
- Up to date availability (if unavailable now, set a date estimate)
- At least 30 days of work history on Upwork
Sounds reasonable, until you realize that the algorithm for Job Success is mostly tied to bulk project completion and feedback that can be easily manipulated by less than reputable clients. In their FAQs, UpWork respond to this potential as follows:
“Your client’s record is taken into consideration when weighing their interactions in your score. We know that not every contract will end perfectly, and your Job Success score won’t be ruined by just one or two negative contract outcomes. However, to be successful in the marketplace, it’s important to do your best on each contract and to work to satisfy your clients. Showing improvement over time will allow you to overcome almost any negative incident.”
On the plus side, UpWork seems to be listening to freelancer concerns about weaknesses of the algorithm. A recent addition to the Job Success explanatory page is this one:
“We also try to account for instances when negative outcomes are due to factors outside of your control. Therefore, contracts without activity due to a poor client interaction are not counted against your score. A client that repeatedly receives poor feedback from freelancers will be flagged, and their inputs omitted from your score.”
I found that a little more encouraging. But with a personal Job Success score of zero until I start my first project, I still have a long way to go before I can share an informed opinion about whether UpWork is a viable option to find freelance work.
Previous posts in this series: