There are so many positives to freelancing from sites like Upwork (full disclosure, this is where I freelance from). You can earn some money on the side to earn an income. If you’re really lucky, like I have been a few times, you can find clients that will pay you as much as a part-time job. The plus side is that you don’t have to worry about daycare. They market to this group of people. The ones that need extra money to help make ends meet. Some sites, including soon Upwork, charge for the services of finding a job. Though I may consider ending this relationship, should they also take a cut of my earnings in addition to helping me find work. Because that’s double dipping and I’m not sure that I’m okay with this.
The main reason why this is a problem is because you’re essentially paying someone to not do anything but process payments. You’re paying someone for work, only so that the clients can not pay you without any repercussions. There are no payment protections for freelancers, unless you get the coveted hourly paying job. In those cases, you can sometimes get protections so long as you are logging the hours and not putting them in manually. These are sites that are meant to benefit the organization that connects the freelancers and their clients. These are meant to benefit the clients. They are the ones who get to literally pay pennies for work, while expecting $15 an hour worth of work. You can’t have it both ways. Or you can, because who’s going to stop you? This is a system that isn’t a level playing field where both parties gain a benefit.
For instance, I have a client that pays about $2 per 500 words. It’s ghostwriting so not only do I get paid only $2 per 500 words, I also don’t get credit for the work to build up a portfolio to show my experience. I get emails sometimes at 7 or 8 at night, expecting the work to be done that day. Sometimes I have to write 4000 words in only a few hours because that’s when I have to go to bed. Or I don’t get full instructions or any instruction then I have to rewrite something that if they had offered instructions, I would have given them exactly what they wanted. Best part of this gig? Sometimes I go 3 or 4 months without getting paid. And there’s nothing I can do about it. Because there are more clients like that than not.
That isn’t to say my entire experience on this site is terrible. I have found some amazing clients on this site, one of whom I still work with and is easily one of the best clients ever. Another one paid very well and was also very generous, but they didn’t need freelancers anymore. But the bad experiences make me hesitant to find more clients, despite the fact that it would be extremely helpful if I could find something great again. The main point is that there aren’t enough protections for freelancers when they do get stuck in terrible contracts. If they just leave, they get a bad review that hurts their rankings. Considering I’m a Top Tier freelancer, that would hurt my amazing rating on the site. But that doesn’t help the fact that sometimes clients just don’t feel like paying so they don’t. Which is insane when you think about it. Because you know that some clients are getting paid $15-$20 an article, paying you only $1-$2 per article, while they earn the “big money”. It’s essentially a pyramid scam that you think will work out for you.
With the high amount of the workforce that is currently freelancing, you would think that something would change. But there is no regulation, likely because it would be a logistical nightmare to try. Instead, I get to make myself feel better about the ugly side of this industry that could have so much promise for people like me who need to be at home with their kids. Those who may not have any marketable skills outside of the arts, also like me. Freelancing sites need to do better about protecting their freelancers and making sure that they get the money that they earned, without feeling defeated.