What To Do When Freelancing Platforms Are Terrible

By Jamie McSloy / July 28, 2017
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Apparently, Upwork is A Train Wreck… Here’s What To Do About It

Recently, every time I’ve looked away from my screen and looked back again, there’s been fifty new threads on every website about how Upwork is terrible.

Apparently, they’re banning people left, right and centre. They’re upping their prices, making it impossible to get work and being rubbish in every conceivable way.

It’s tough to say without personal experience how much of this is people getting banned for spamming versus legitimate criticism, but as the saying goes, there’s no smoke without fire.

Upwork is currently the biggest freelancing platform on the net though, so let’s talk about how you can stay afloat even should this mammoth site go to hell tomorrow.

First though… here’s some angry grandpa exposition on why you can’t rely on other people’s platforms.

Here’s A Harsh Truth About The Gig Economy

Firstly, you need to understand that all freelance websites, be it UpWork, Freelancer, Fiverr or whoever comes along next, are not in business to help you.

Depending on whether you’ve had success, got burned or somewhere in between, you’ll take that sentence in a slightly different way. Suffice to say, it’s not a negative or positive thing particularly. These companies want to increase their bottom line and not yours. If you increase their bottom line, you probably won’t get suspended. Maybe. If you don’t increase their bottom line, you’re toast.

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In the UK recently, there’ve been murmurings about regulating the “gig economy.” They want companies like Uber and by extension presumably all sorts of sites that enable people to freelance to treat their contractors as employees.

Whether you think that’s noble or not… it’s a joke. Uber aren’t ever going to pay your pension and Upwork aren’t ever going to give you sick pay.

They’ll just cut you off and replace you with another figurative drone until they can replace you with an actual drone. (Automation apocalypse, people.)

There are no exceptions to this. Amazon allegedly treat their workers like drones on zero-hours contracts and Bezos just made news for being the world’s richest man. If you think some shady freelancing outfit based out of the Cayman Islands or Singapore is going to give you a fair hearing, then you’re out of luck.

Luckily, at Jamie McSloy’s site… we’re not about meekly taking the sad facts of life. If you’ve been banned by one of these sites or otherwise, it’s time to take back control of your freelance business.

Here’s What To Do About It

Upwork (or whoever else) are not your boss.

I made the mistake once of treating a freelance website like it was my employer. Big mistake. You rely on one place for your income and before you know it, you get suspended because someone else is using dodgy credit card details or a VPN or something (never did find out) and the $2000+ you’ve earned is suddenly not yours and you’re talking to some third-world customer support who is literally copy-pasting the same “We’re sorry but we’ve noticed some strange activity” message that’s on the site’s FAQ.

If that’s not what you want your life to be about (and trust me it’s not) then follow my advice.

Each Site Is A Marketing Platform And Lead Generation Outfit. Nothing More.

They are not your boss. They are not your friend. Even if you have nothing but positive reviews and you’ve served hundreds of clients, the minute some dick complains about you (because – shock horror they have to pay) or you’re more trouble than you’re worth, you’re gone.

Don’t give any particular time and attention and don’t work too hard to build that company’s brand. They aren’t doing the same for you.

Follow All Of The Rules… Except One.

Don’t get yourself banned by any minor infraction or whatever. It’s not worth it when you figure a basic profile on some of these sites can grant you hundreds of dollars. Follow the rules.

Except one.

That one rule is that most of these platforms say, “Never ever do any business without our specific oversight because we own your soul.”

Forget that rule. Lead generation, remember. As soon as you can, offer a service which is a super-bargain but sneakily requires you to work directly on their website or something which totally innocently requires you to work outside the parameters of the freelance site.

Spend Most Of Your Efforts Not On Freelance Sites, But In Your Own Funnels

Reminder: They’re not your friend.

Your own lead generation is where you should focus 90% of your effort. If you’re not getting many clients from a freelance platform, then that’s an incentive to spend less time on it, not more.

There’ll Always Be New Platforms

When I started, Elance and oDesk existed and Upwork hadn’t happened yet. Fiverr was actually pretty decent in comparison to today. Happily, nobody took 20%+. Still, there’s no use n crying over spilt milk.

The landscape changes quickly.

If Upwork collapses in on itself, which if the horror stories are to be believed, it will, then it’ll be replaced by something new and better. Platforms will turn up, disappear, and there’ll be new avenues to market your work.

Keep your eyes open, try stuff that nobody else is trying and maintain control of your success.

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