Is Upwork Safe For Freelancers or Those Who Hire Freelancers?
I am someone who used to love using the UpWork platform, doing so without second thoughts, feeling safe as both a freelancer and a hiring talent.
I personally have had a few experiences with the platform that have shaken my previously unshakeable confidence in the platform’s safety, security and customer support, as well as some unfortunate experiences had by others, which I will document below.
Is UpWork Safe For Freelancers?
A freelancer who I worked with on a website transfer project, and a complicated image hosting transfer project who went above and beyond, and was great to work with, had his account terminated by UpWork without cause or notice.
In addition to terminating his account, UpWork closed it without releasing the money still in the account, effectively stealing the money from the freelancer without probable cause or reason.
As a freelancer, I would personally not want to be in the situation to lose my money or reviews if UpWork decides on a whim to close my account and not tell me the reason why.
This was a freelancer with a 3 year old account with a 97% success rating. Someone who depended on UpWork for a living, and provided consistent top-results to everyone he worked with as evidenced by his dozens of 5 star reviews, 100% success ratings and top performance in every category.
After shutting down his account, support repeatedly asked him for identity verification, which he provided multiple times, and then UpWork blocked him indefinitely without reason or justification.
This is unsafe not only for freelancers, but for clients as well in my opinion. For example, what if I wanted to know why a freelancer I had worked with was suspended? If the freelancer violated terms of service that are clearly laid out in public view on the UpWork website, shouldn’t a violation be public knowledge as well, since the only thing the violater did was violate clear rules already laid out on the website?
It is unsafe for UpWork not to reveal TOS violation specifics to those hiring on UpWork as it makes it a suspicious, finger-pointing environment to be in, unsafe for those freelancing on the platform who could be cut loose without justification at any time, and for those hiring on the platform who do not know the boundaries of UpWork TOS or their own protection rights within the platform.
Here is the conversation I had with support regarding the freelancer’s termination. *Name has been changed for privacy purposes:
I would like to hire a freelancer I had worked with in the past on Upwork, Tim.
He has gone above and beyond doing top-notch work for me in the past, thinking of a creative way of transferring files from one of my websites to another that I don’t think many other freelancers would even have the ability or work ethic to do.
He has provided exemplary work for me in the past and I trust his work, which is why I messaged him yesterday asking for help placing ad code on one of my sites.
He replied saying his account has been banned because upwork noticed “irregular activity”. He has already complied with sending the requested Upwork documents several times.
Is it possible to reactivate his account so I can hire him for this job? He is one of the best freelancers I have worked with and I would like to hire him again. Let me know if and when this is possible.
Thank you for contacting Upwork Support. I’m glad to hear you had a good working relationship with Tim.
I understand you wanted to continue working with him. Unfortunately, it has already been decided that Upwork can no longer support the participation of the freelancer on this platform due to violation of our Terms of Service.
I may not be able to provide further details, however be assured that we do this as part of our efforts to ensure our site continues to be a secure place for Freelancers and Clients to connect and collaborate. I’m truly sorry for the inconvenience.
I understand the importance of resolving your issues and getting an answer to your inquiries. Please let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.
What violation was it? It is important to protect your customers by being upfront and clear by keeping them informed about both
A) Your clear Terms of Service Guidelines and
B) What freelancers have done to violate these terms
I understand that you would like to know more information as to why we have deactivated your Freelancer’s account.
We are sorry for this situation, however we cannot share too many specifics about our detection methods and future strategies.
We review freelancer’s accounts in accordance with our Terms of Service.
Unfortunately, due to security and confidentiality purposes we cannot provide
specifics on the outcome of these reviews.
Please let me know if you have any further questions.
UpWork was extremely evasive when I asked for specifics, that should be simple enough. A violation of TOS is something that should be shared with UpWork hirers and freelancers alike, so freelancers know what to avoid doing, and so hirers know they are safe and protected within the platform.
Personally, I am not sure I would feel comfortable working on UpWork as a freelancer after having this experience with the platform.
Is UpWork Safe For Those Who Hire Freelancers?
Two years ago I wanted to build an Instagram app, which I did end up finding a wonderful freelancer on UpWork for this year, but the first time I tried two years ago, I was tricked by a scamming freelancer and forced to still complete payment by UpWork and the UpWork support team.
My UpWork Scam Story
I hired a freelancer on the UpWork platform 2 years ago to build an Instagram app for me. I chose the super cheap filter option, hired an “agency” with no reviews and no worked hours and talked to the person over the phone. He seemed knowledgeable, but for some reason after and during the call I had a bad feeling in my gut. I knew on some level before it happened that it would.
We divided the project into 3 portions with three payment sections, and the first section was to create the design for the app’s screen. I didn’t even want that to be a section, as I had told him I did not care what the app looked like, only how it functioned. So, after he sent the design, I very reluctantly sent the first 1/3 payment which was $400.
He took the payment and never responded to any of my messages and never continued working on the project. I knew I had been scammed pretty quickly after that even though it had been my underlying fear all along. I emailed UpWork support and they would not refund the money. They deactivated the spammer’s account, however it would be simple for him or any other spammer online to open a new separate account at any time point.
In our contract, I had written, if the services were not completed, then I would get a full refund!! Upwork ignored this when I requested a refund.
I even tried doing a chargeback using my Bank of America credit card to get the money refunded, since none of the services ordered were provided, one of the conditions you are eligible to get a chargeback on. Bank of America was very helpful and tried to do the chargeback, but UpWork sent a suing threatening legal document, and Bank of America had to rescind the chargeback, so even though the freelancer scammed me, UpWork and the scammer kept the money, even though UpWork also knew it was a scam and saw that I had a refund clause in the initial contract.
I think UpWork is a place you have to be very careful on, and make sure you make small payments in chunks after work is satisfactorily completed. If you do that as someone hiring, then you may be safe.
I have also found better success when I filter for the most expensive freelancers, and choose ones with 97%+ success ratings and thousands of hours worked. Then you can feel safe in the fact these freelancers have done good work in the past, and would also not want their perfect reputation on the platform tarnished, since that is what brings them business month after month.
In conclusion, UpWork may be safe for those hiring, as long as the hirer is very careful and hands out payment after work completion. I am not sure it is safe for freelancers themselves, as I would not want to be worried about my account being shut down without notice, cause or reason and without payment of funds within the account.