Upwork to Charge Users to Bid on Jobs: How Can This Impact Freelancers?


Most of the freelancers I know started their freelancing journey through Upwork. Some of them—including myself—even got their first projects through the ancient oDesk. Indeed, Upwork has become one of the top go-to platforms for both aspiring and veteran freelancers looking for remote work.

While a good training ground for freelancers, Upwork isn’t perfect. True enough, it gives its users a taste of what freelancing is like, from creating a convincing profile to finding clients and applying for remote jobs.

It also gives them a taste of another reality: that getting hired for good-paying freelance work can be a challenge, and that there are employers and clients out there who’d do anything to save on labor costs.

And I’m not alone in thinking this. Check out what digital nomad Marie Austin (Dream in Autumn) says about Upwork and why she quit using it:



Despite its imperfections, Upwork remains to be a huge name in the outsourcing industry. After all, there are tons of opportunities in the platform and once you’ve gotten around the tricks in applying and bidding for worthy jobs, you might just hit the jackpot and find good clients.

But what if you’re required to pay to be able to bid on jobs? Would you still forgive Upwork’s imperfections?



The Upwork Status Quo: What Charges Freelancers Need to Shoulder in the Present

Currently, Upwork charges freelancers what they call a sliding fee based on how long they have been working with and billing a particular client. Here’s the charging scheme:

  • 20% for the first $500 billed with a specific client

  • 10% for the next billings up to $10,000

  • 5% for the next billings exceeding $10,000

How does this work? For example, if you got a fixed price job at $1,000, you will be charged 20% on the first $500 and 10% on the other half. That’s a whopping $150 that will go to service charges alone!

Meanwhile, getting money from Upwork straight to your bank account currently costs $0.99 per withdrawal plus the forex and incoming fees deducted by the bank. Transferring funds from Upwork to PayPal, on the other hand, doesn’t incur any charges.

Using Connects to send job proposals is currently free as well. In the current model, every Upwork user is given 60 free Connects tokens monthly, under the Freelancer Basic plan. Jobs require up to 2 Connects, with some not requiring any.



The Future: Additional Charges Coming Upwork Users’ Way

Personally, I understand Upwork for implementing charges, since they’re running a business and they also have employees to pay. I can’t deny that the sliding fees are pretty steep, though.

Earlier this month, Upwork announced upcoming changes to Connects. They are revamping the feature’s structure, with the most noticeable change being that using it is no longer free.

Each Connects token will now cost $0.15. No more free Connects will be given to job seekers monthly, but proposals sent as a response to invites from clients will remain free.

Also, job proposals initiated by the freelancers will no longer cost 0-2 Connects. They will now require 1 to 6 Connects. Upwork will calculate the number of Connects needed per job, based on its projected value.

Freelancers can buy Connects in bundles of 10, 20, 40, 60 and 80.


Change Rollout

This change will be rolled out to existing users beginning May, while new users might begin to see the change by the end of April.

By the way, new freelancers get a one-time allotment of 20 free Connects, while Rising Talent freelancers get 30. Top-Rated freelancers and agencies will be given 60 Connects. With these free Connects, Upwork hopes to help users transition into the new system better.



The Reason Behind the Change

Upwork claims that through this move, they’re helping freelancers get jobs that really suit their skill sets. Basically, what Upwork is trying to point out is that by charging freelancers a small amount to apply for jobs, they will be more selective and only send proposals to jobs that match their skills and experience.

This will also save employers from having to filter through tons of applications per project and hopefully, the applications they will receive will now mostly be from workers who have relevant and related experience and skills.



The Natural Reaction From the Freelancing Community

I say “natural” because of course, who would want to be charged just to send applications to jobs?

Sure, the maximum amount that a freelancer will spend in a job application is less than a dollar, but let’s not forget that they’re already being charged for each contract. No matter how you look at it, this means added expense.

And for freelancers who are just starting to establish their freelancing careers and are yet to land themselves good paying jobs, it’s unlikely that they’ll have much leeway in their budget to pay for job applications.

And for those who are already experiencing and realizing the downsides of finding and getting work in Upwork, this new policy may just make it easier for them to decide to quit.

Talking from experience, I stopped using Odesk in 2012 because I found it a challenge to get decent-paying and consistent work. It usually took a lot of time to send applications, only to end up not hearing back from any of the employers.

And definitely, this new policy won’t make me consider ever going back.


What Are the Alternatives?

Fortunately, there are quite a number of good Upwork alternatives where any freelancer can sign up and apply to jobs for free. You can also join Facebook groups and communities where you can connect with fellow freelancers and discover opportunities.

By the way, you should also take the time to create a stunning LinkedIn profile to make it attractive to potential clients and employers.

How about you? Would you still continue using Upwork despite this additional fees on top of the charges per contract? Or would you still bother to try using it? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below!


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