Whichever way you look at Upwork, it’s either a boon for freelancers wanting quick access to work or it’s a pit of scammers and freeloaders. I won’t knock it; Upwork (and its precursors Elance and Odesk) are the reason I was able to make a career as a freelance content writer at all with no previous experience. That’s not to say it’s all unicorns and rainbows, but freelancers do need to keep their wits about them.
Over the last four years, I’ve come to understand that there are some jobs you should never apply for or accept. Through personal experience and warnings on the Upwork Community, here’s my list.
Those That Ask to Use Your Personal Selling Account
Ask yourself one question: why are they not using their own eBay/Amazon/Etsy accounts? The likely answer is that they were banned from those platforms. The reasons are many and varied, but it’s likely they were selling unauthorised replicas and cheap knock-offs. Another possible reason is that they keep not delivering the stock because it never existed. Who do you think will get the blame when things go pear shaped? Who is likely to lose their account? Who is likely never to be able to buy or sell on that platform again? That’s right, you. Don’t do it – ever.
Those that Require You Sign Up for an Unfamiliar Service
Familiar services include Freedcamp, Slack and other collaborative workrooms are perfectly fine even if you have never used them before. The problem is when they have designed a custom system on their own server for which you need to sign up. Unless they have a history of good and long-term feedback, I wouldn’t bother. It’s perfectly possible they have a custom system for allocating work to a large number of freelancers, but what’s more likely is that they are data mining for email addresses and passwords. If you sign up, they will attempt to hack your personal accounts – social media, online shopping etc.
Clients with Unverified Payment System
I’ve stated it repeatedly, but you should never under any circumstances accept an invitation from a job with an unverified payment system and no work history. A bigger red flag here is where they demonstrate familiarity with how Upwork functions. If their account has been open a few days and they seem to know how the system works, they may be a fast learner and read all of the T&Cs. The most likely answer is that they have had an account in the past and they’ve been banned for whatever reason. They know they can get around it and they will try. These people are scammers. Good clients have a single account in good standing.
Clients with Poor Freelancer Feedback
The next worse thing to unverified & no work history is a client with a history of poor feedback. Before you apply for any job or accept any invitation to interview, take a look at the job score rating. Anything above 4.5 is a green flag but set your minimum rating to 4.0 and you won’t go far wrong. Lower than this, then you should make it a duty to investigate. Click through to their Upwork profile and read the comments. Bad clients regularly cancel contracts for no reason. They are also poor communicators or consistently fail to deliver promised work. Some will not give guidance on work and complain about quality. These high-maintenance and flaky clients don’t deserve your time.
Negative / Complaining Job Descriptions
WE EXPECT 100% PERFECT ENGLISH!!!!!!! YOU WON’T GET PAID IF WE FIND EVEN A SLIGHT FLAW!!!!!!!!!!!!! Also, file this group under “high maintenance client”. If the client is more concerned with denigrating the character of their previous freelancer(s) and laying down the law in the job description, they’re likely to provide you with a lot of stress. Demanding, pushy and negative clients are no good to work with. These fault-finders will tell you how to do your job and look for any excuse not to pay you. I’ve never had this, but I once worked with a guy in the Far East who was at his wit’s end with such a client. He subcontracted the work to me after coming to breaking point. I recommended he put in a complaint against his client and that I would support him, but I never heard back.