Saturday, September 11, 2021

A Dog's Eye: Freelancer v Upwork Part 2

As I write this, things have been quiet on both platforms. I haven't got a new client on Freelancer for months, nor done any work for existing clients since a disagreement over what I considered to be unreasonable demands. When my client asked me to have another attempt at rewriting a document, I said no and that was our last communication.

I know you have to start somewhere but how long was I prepared to work for the equivalent of around $10 an hour? Many of the clients on Freelancer offer even less money and are running, in my mind, what amounts to writer sweatshops. It becomes increasingly hard to get motivated to work for half a cent a word when you have other clients paying you four times as much.

As I said, my last communication with a client on Freelancer ended badly, but most of the communication with clients on that platform was bad, period. I've lost count of how many times a chat was opened as a result of my job proposal being excepted, only to end with either a sudden and inexplicable refusal to continue the chat, or a request to continue the discussion off site (which is against Freelancer rules). I've never had such problems on Upwork. The instant messaging on Freelancer is like Messenger or Hangout. Upwork is similar. Both provide notifications and allow attachments. The only real problem with either is a human one: the universal problem of poor communication. I could give examples, but this post is about the platforms, not the clients.

Both Freelancer and Upwork take commissions. Upwork takes 20% for your first $500 of earnings which is steep, really steep, but if you're any good, you should be able to quickly move, as I have, into the next bracket which goes up to $10,000. Upwork takes 10%. It's still a lot but I take comfort from the fact that most transactions are in US dollars. so I always get more when it converts to AUD. Once you go over $10,000, Upwork's commission drops to 5% which to me is about right, given Upwork does not do any work. They simply provide a platform for work to take place. They're a business and the have to make money, but 20% or even 10% is gouging in my opinion.

Freelancer is worse. They charge a flat rate of 11% irrespective of the size of the job or how much you've earned from Freelancer clients. For both hourly charge projects and fixed prize projects, it's 11%. And it gets worse. Large fixed price projects are divided into milestones. Freelancer takes a cut of 11% for every payment made to the freelancer. So a project with three milestones will see you paying the 11% three times. Again, I make the point that I'm not begrudging the charging of commissions. Freelancer is a business, and businesses are first and foremost about making money. They all advertise how much they are about helping people, but they are profit making businesses.

Upwork uses a bond system whereby clients have to fund work before freelancers begin work. The system is easy to follow. A client funds a milestone, the freelancer begins work then submits the deliverable at which time the client releases the payment. If the client is not happy with the work and decides to cancel the contract, they request a refund of their bond. It's a good, secure system with which I have had no trouble. Freelancer has no such system nor is there much security. it's more a trust based set up. I've had trouble with this. A client did not pay me after I submitted work. They also stopped communicating with me. This leads me directly to the last thing I want to discuss: dispute resolution.

When I lodged a dispute with Freelancer about the client not paying me. they basically said they couldn't help and they didn't. After much to-ing and fro-ing, they said it was my fault for trusting the client. I've had lots of other dealings with Freelancer support, including reporting bogus jobs, but they are not supportive. This could be a snake oil post. The help desk does respond to complaints but they don't do anything. They say they'll look in to it, but either they don't or they come back with some denial about the problem existing. Apart from the fact there is hardly any genuine work on Freelancer, they overcharge freelancers, and most of the clients run sweatshops for non-native speakers of English, the lack of support from Freelancer support is the main reason I'm leaving. I have no faith in the platform.

I've had one minor issue on Upwork whereby a client broke off contact after paying me but didn't leave a review for me. Upwork said they couldn't do anything. Fair enough. If  a person is uncommunicative, what would I expect Upwork to do? Go and knock on their door?

Overall, with a lower fee structure, a safer payment system, an easier to use website, better quality clients and more work, I feel much more confident and happy using Upwork.

I wonder what Fiverr is like.

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