I've been doing freelance work for quite some time now. It was never my main source of income, and with the many plates I had spinning at the time, it was never my priority. But I managed to get some clients and do some rather fun and exciting projects for them, and from all accounts, they were happy with my work. I never really went out of my way to get work, I just asked around every now and then, or if the topic came up in conversation about someone starting a business or something along those lines.
A year after quitting my job to spend more time with my kids, and recover from the burnout I found myself in, I decided to give freelancing another try, only this time, I was going to give it my full attention. I registered with UpWork, and spent almost all day, everyday looking for potential clients. After applying for as many jobs as I could, I received a few replies, and even managed to get a few interviews. I was feeling quite smug about the situation, I must admit. But that smugness soon turned to disappointment.
As it happens, one of UpWork's rules states that any connections made through UpWork must be carried out through their service - in other words, if you offer a contract on UpWork, you pay through UpWork - this way the user knows they are going to get paid, and UpWork get to keep their cut. It's a reasonable rule that I have no trouble adhering to. But it would seem not many people like this rule. Several connections opted to switch communication channels to email or telephone, which does make things easier, but when they started saying about paying directly, and not through UpWork, alarm bells began to ring. I wouldn't want to risk my reputation by going against a contract I agreed to when I signed up with the service, just to make 100% of what the client was willing to pay. Then there's the worst case scenario, that they don't pay up. Who would I have to fight my corner to get the money what is owed? Certainly not UpWork, as it wasn't handled through them. The conversation came to an abrupt close afterwards.
There were some other unsavoury potential clients who instead of asking to see my portfolio, or a sample of my work, flat out asked if I could simply give them the code for a project I had worked on for 3 years while I was in full-time employment. At first I thought it was a test to see if I was trustworthy, but when the potential client became aggressive with his messages, I soon realised it was not a test, and this individual was willing to commit corporate espionage and theft of intellectual property in order to achieve his goal. Afterwards the user either blocked me or deleted their account, so I was unable to report this user to UpWork to make them aware of the situation.
While many people have had great success with services like UpWork, I personally have yet to carry out any work, though not through lack of trying.
This post isn't meant to be a rant about my experiences with the service, more of a cautionary tale for anyone considering using the platform. While I'm sure I'll find some great clients and create some incredible products through UpWork, I would advise anyone seeking to start their freelancing journey to trust your gut, and stick to the rules - not just of the UpWork platform, but other contractual obligations from previous/current employers and/or clients.