However, the required changes referenced features and files which weren't in the project and made absolutely no sense.
Even worse, the project they sent me was the "Photomania" project from Stanford's CS193p class: http://web.stanford.edu/class/cs193p/cgi-bin/drupal/node/289
But the copyright information (Copyright by Stanford University) has been ripped off from all the files and replaced with "Copyright (c) 2015 Upwork". No reference to stanford CS or anything like that, just copy and paste.
Which is very wrong in my book.
I wrote them a message and after some fruitless exchanges with 4 or 5 different support people, I've decided to just let it go.
The incompetence of the interview assignment, coupled with robotic support answers quickly convinced me not to waste any more time with this bunch.
It seems it is part of their business model to allow clients in developed countries to find people in developing countries (all with weak legal systems and corruption) to commit illegal acts (both violations of public and private law). Just look at how many jobs involve rewriting, scraping, penetration testing (really a guise for hacking others sites) modifying existing copyrighted content to circumvent laws.
Upwork as middleman profits -- and takes a blind eye to all this corruption - since cross border police investigations are so difficult to manage when dealing with corrupt countries.
In my case, I had my competitors procuring hackers off Upwork to take down my site. We found out because one person who was contacted on Upwork to bring my site down actually contacted me via my site and provided screenshots and other evidence. There was literally a job posted requesting contractors to take my site down.
We raised this with Upwork. They did nothing.
Guess what they said?
Their customer support asked if I had proof that my site had been hacked by the specific person who posted the job on Upwork and that if had suffered financial loss as a result of the hacking! It wasn't merely enough for their client to procure contractors on the platform to commit an illegal act. They wanted proof that I suffered financial loss!!
However, I can say that we are considering a civil suit against them. It would be interesting to see how this impacts their brand.
Note: Please forgive the messy and unstructured writing. I've been writing it while walking the streets of Central London shopping for X-mas gifts.
It's like it's just now the norm for these things to happen.
If you'd like to, i'd be happy to post your story in an edit below mine. I know this isn't the first time it's happened.
If you want to contact me, it's shad @ the domain in my twitter bio.
Strange, I know. I don't get it either.
Apologies for the capitals, ladies and gentlemen. Please can I remind all of you to be Civil.
I've just received an email from the man himself, suggesting that I'm getting people to give his FB page 1* reviews and to spam his email. He's threatened (implied) legal action directly against me.
Publicly let me say, for the record (Hopefully it doesn't get wiped), that I do not encourage any of the aforementioned behavior, nor do I condone it.
He's currently posting on reddit and generally acting like a massive douche over email to me, still. After all of this. So the above was quite hard for me to write, but remember there may well be a lot of people working at said company, that have families and lives beyond this.
So please refrain yourselves.
Appreciate all of the support and input, from everyone.
Building a personal network is way easier to find contract work and you'll make more money in the end while creating real relationships that will help you foster your career.
I'm sorry this happened to you, and I'm super glad you revealed this persons name publicly. Good form.
It's amazing, isn't it? These are people who require outside expertise (they're hiring you after all) and yet do everything they can to make you feel small and worthless. It's utterly backwards.
I wonder how many of these abusive people are "idea" guys?
Regardless, utterly embarrassing on the part of Upwork. Glad they're being called out. I hope the internet has its way with them.
As someone who has worked on oDesk and made good money. You also need to do client filtering.
1. Check their total expense
2. Number of people hired, on hire
3. How much are they paying them
4. Feedback given
All this information is available.
Backwards? That's a bizarre word to use to describe behavior that is NEVER appropriate.
Are you implying that the freelancers should be making the employers feel small and worthless?
> I wonder how many of these abusive people are "idea" guys?
Honestly, I have no idea what you mean by "idea guys" and the implied correlation to "abusive people"?
From reading your comment, it sounds like you missed the point completely. This is not a freelancer vs. employer or developer vs. idea guy situation, this is a simple case of narcissist vs. victim.
The situation can be reversed and be just as abusive and horrible.
An outside expert doing everything they can to make an "idea guy" feel small and worthless!
The point is not whether the employer has the right to push around the freelancer, or the respect you think an employer should have when needing outside expertise.
The point is everyone is a human being that deserves to be treated with respect. It is too easy to not consider the other person when working through a platform like Upwork or on the internet at large...This is a cautionary tale about the importance of remembering that there is a human being on the other side of the screen!
He's saying employers should show freelancers respect.
Edit: Just to be clear, I am drawing my assumption from the second part of his post that tries to correlate "idea guys" to "abusive people", almost as if he equates idea guys that try to hire developers as somehow "less than" him.
I used "idea guys" in quotes because I'm referencing a specific type of person who you may not be familiar with, but I'm sure many other people here are, especially in the freelancing world. If you read the post, you can spot the cliche.
Having an idea, no matter how good it is (and believe me when I say I'm not one of those "ideas are worthless" guys) only gets you so far. At some point you need talented, skilled people to help execute on it. And it's far easier for the execution guys to crib an idea than it is for the idea guy to copy the execution skills.
Basically, the "idea guys" like to place themselves at the top of the pyramid, and think everyone else owes them something.
...as opposed to jerks who overvalue their contribution, thinking everyone else owes them something for just coming up with the idea.
In general, I think the bias flows both ways. Some developers think ideas are worthless and that idea guys/business and marketing folks contribution is somehow worth significantly less than a developers contribution. Other "idea guys" think their idea gives them the keys to the kingdom.
You really need both to succeed.
In reality, there are lots of ways for both sides to make significant contributions to bringing ideas to life, outside of writing the actual code or ideation.
It takes a village...
I think we were both coming from opposite perspectives, but share similar views. I was "lashing out" against the guys who undervalue business guy contributions, and you were against the guys who undervalue the developers contribution...
I just heard on a podcast that, "Every Mark Needs their Sheryl"
Almost all freelancers respect their clients, and bend over backwards to please them, even if they don't get the same respect back. A client that understands and respects their freelancers is rare.
Had his comment not stuck in that tell, I would agree with you. But he certainly seems to be implying something more malicious than you noticed.
Nowadays, if I'm contacted by a law firm for work, I look into their reputation very carefully. In my experience, corporate law firms--regardless of size--aren't a big deal compared to some of the high volume personal injury/immigration/divorce/etc. firms. And yes, I realize I'm doing a lot of generalizing here.
In my country, if they'd interfered with existing business relationships causing expected revenues to be lost, they'd made potentially libellous statements that caused a major source of expected future revenues to permanently block access, there was ample written evidence that they did these things deliberately and that actual losses were and would continue to result, and there was ample evidence that the victim had previously been well-regarded and able to command a certain rate for their services, I wouldn't want to be their position, law firm or not. Situations like this are exactly why defamation cases can result in such huge damages being awarded.
The real problem is that there is no efficient system to weed out the crooks. There are no efficient pressure against them. Psychopats are king.
For what little it might be worth, not all legal systems are quite that bad.
The ironic thing is that my experience was nearly 20 years ago. While so much has changed in the last 20 years (in Internet time, that's like 400 years, and I have more RAM in my phone than the Unix server supporting 40 users on serial terminals), some things haven't, especially where humans and the legal profession are concerned.
I don't intend to paint all attorneys with the same brush--I now have good relationships with several attorneys that I use for businesses; I still would seriously question any job working for a legal firm.
This. Totally. Several times, at 3/3 platforms where I've been working (for over two years now). Surprisingly (not), they (the clients) can do this and get away with it any time, but I (the freelancer) can't.
So what is your role in Upwork?
Let me tell you what I have realised...
Do you pay to use Upwork? Not directly (you're not the one fueling the whole thing).
Are you paid to use Upwork? No, because the money you get is a counterpart for the work you perform.
So... What is the your role in Upwork? Well, you're the product being sold.
In any case you will always lose. You are not putting money into Upwork, but the client is. And the customer is always right.
Plus, they have recently raised their cut, like a lot.
This is because the Host is the product, while i am their Customer. and Apparently, the Customer is always right.
Really, Upwork will block you only if you have provably scammed your client, or engaged in criminal activity like hacking - they obviously don't want to get into legal fights so they have zero tolerance policy against that, or if they have good reasons to suspect that you drive your clients off the platform, which is also explainable (and after recent reduction of commissions, that is also very stupid to do).
Re: reduction of commissions: obviously you don't try to circumvent Upwork with a new client, because you don't trust him yet and need payment protection which Upwork provides. When you know the client though, you are already past the $10K point earnings with him and your commission lowers to 5%. You don't want to get into trouble and risk losing your primary sales channel over 5%. 'Increasing their cut, like a lot' is a NONSENSE. 20% applies to first $500 only, so it is max $50 increase of commission per client. Is that such a significant figure? That also drew out a lot of spammers. If my sales funnel got widened by 10% (and it definitely did), i'd happily shell out $50 for that. It is optimal if client acquisition cost is over $500 - and in programming, if you can scalably attract clients for $500 a pop you are going to get really rich, quickly. I'd happily pay $1000 a pop to get clients like my average client, if you can get me a couple of those per week.
I thought of and actually suggested Upwork to remove any free contacts per month, so project bid is always paid (even if cheap). For the same reason: it will drive off spammers and simplify sales, and improve client image of the platform (being a customer myself a little, it gets frustrating how much spam you get)
I guess you need to choose your clients carefully, whether you are working remotely or in person, always watch out for red flags and get out of the deal as soon as you see them.
Except he never chose this client. He exchanged a few emails with a potential client, saw a red flag, and then decided not to work with him.
He did exactly what you suggest, and now cannot accept any work through Upwork, has lost all existing work, and will not be paid for already completed work. All from declining one client.
The moment he accepted the username/password he engaged in a transaction - upwork rules or not.
He "should" have had the price and work agreed before accepting anything, and if they sent it unsolicited his immediate reply should have been "you need agree before I touch this".
The client eventually gave me login details, alas, still no job.
After 3 weeks of sporadic talks, the client trying to get me to work without actually giving me the job.
->The client was incredibly unprofessional (but not unprofessional enough to be named and shamed I see), but if you are taking login details without a job assignment you are asking for trouble.
1) it may have been unsolicited (you mentioned this), and
2) humans tend to be very "fuzzy". Maybe he should have towed the line, and now he's learned his lesson about why you always cover yourself.
But 99/100 times the human being on the other side just wants to get you the information you need and is just too trusting. We've all had those clients, and it's up to us to be trustworthy and not be the one who teaches that client what can happen if you don't protect yourself 
 Obviously what I mean by this is that you shouldn't be fucking over your client, educating them is another matter.
in this case, a hundred or so $ to work up a spec, deliver that to the client along with an estimate of the time that should be involved. They can either give it to you, someone else, or abandon it.
This is part of the problem for freelancers who do live in the US/UK. They're expected to work for less than they could charge in person because they're competing internationally with people who live in areas with much lower cost of living..
In addition, as the article mentions, a big problem is the amount of dishonesty. The fact that someone could have their livelihood shut down overnight by one abusive client is ridiculous.
Once you are out there and have your website/blog, anyone can hassle you really, but I agree that Upwork may make it easier.
As for the other point, aren't we in a global economy? When you bring the freelance business to an online marketplace you are competing with the world, there's no way around it. I mean, I buy things from China on ebay because it's cheaper than buying them in a store. I also buy clothes from Zara, H&M, Primark, etc. that are made in Bangladesh by a family earning $1 a day. Remote contracting of people in cheaper countries is inevitable.
I meet clients in-person and focus on quality and consistency. Yeah sure you can save a few thousand by having someone do it on a site like this, but you'll lose many more times that much the first time a deploy gets botched, the site goes down, they can't help you get what you need as opposed to what you asked for, etc.
I stopped trying to beat on price long ago, wasn't worth it, just meant I had to put out lower quality code and slap stuff together sloppily to compete and I didn't like doing that.
...and keep your fingers crossed that the client doesn't leave a negative review for you - or that s/he doesn't do worse, as it happened in the case of the OP.
The NY/SV are expensive, as-in the most expensive places in the world. People there can only be paid the money they are paid because they are in a crazy place. It's understandable that remote work worldwide doesn't match up with that.
Anywhere else is cheaper, the range goes from half to 10x cheaper. So, what country are you from? what's your rate?
The point being. If upwork can only pay enough for the bottom 20% income bracket in the world. It is indeed terribly inappropriate for most of HN readers.
Seems like they deserve it
On the blog post, my 2c (not as a criticism, but as an opinion with 20/20 hindsight).
1. Shadi should have moved away from the client cleanly and quicker. When he heard that they are not going to pay at his rate / "not even our CEO makes that" and as he already had strong indication that it is not working out it would be better to apologize and move on (use "sorry, my rate is fixed" as a perfectly good excuse).
2. Give more time to upwork to investigate. They obviously value clients more than developers, so first reaction is to go with the client in a dispute. Escalating to the people who do not have to follow a standard script can take weeks. By posting "upwork sucks" too early he burned the bridges and made any real investigation highly unlikely.
Anyway, this shows poor crisis and damage control management.
Screenshots every 10 minutes? You mean... screenshots of MY SCREEN every 10 minutes? That was what made me close their website and totally forget it until I've seen this submission on HN today.
We've had times we had hires billing full work weeks but seemed not to be getting much done. But how do you know if it really ought to take 10 hours or 40 hours to complete a task? I've done enough research, writing, and coding myself to know sometimes the thing you think will take 10 minutes ends up taking 2 days instead.
In these cases, we can look at the screenshots, and usually rest easier seeing yes, he's working, every screenshot (just about) is on the assignment.
Sometimes we will check the screenshots and notice the guy just opens his computer up, opens a document up, and then leaves it there for an hour or more with no work. Maybe he scrolls midway down the page at the half hour mark. So then we confirm he's milking the clock and can boot him for someone who isn't going to suck us dry for nothing.
And in a few cases, we've checked screenshots, only to see that almost none of his time is spent on our project. In one case we discovered a freelancer was billing us for time he spent surfing a website called "Boob Forest" and googling instructions on how to hack the CD player in an old Honda.
Generally we will allow freelancers we've worked with for a while to use manual time. We know what their productivity is like and we established enough trust earlier that we don't need to monitor them as closely. But it's pretty important from the client's perspective to make sure you're not getting screwed with this new hire you know nothing about. And especially if it's a new task you don't have a good metric for what the productivity / turnaround time should be like.
It'd be nice if there was a reliable way to know up front who the bad apples are and who are the totally trustworthy folks, but no matter how good your hiring instincts are you'll still get it wrong some of the time. Screenshots, while perhaps an annoyance for the freelancer, are a significant downside reducer for the employer.
How does taking screenshots let you know that the person is thinking?
Okay, yeah, the guy who was looking at "Boob Forest" wasn't working, but just because you don't see a constant stream of keystrokes appearing on-screen doesn't mean a programmer isn't working.
Edit: this famous story comes to mind.
Even if you do a lot of work on paper you're going to look stuff up online or in the code base, which is visible on screen.
That doesn't mean that this tool can't be abused in both directions, but it seems like an unfair critique of the GP post.
OP said something about "not seeing anything on the screen for an hour or more". Not multiple hours. I would almost guarantee that Atkinson thought about the Quickdraw problem for more than an hour before coming up with his insight. I know he wasn't "looking it up online" because, you know, that didn't exist in 1982.
If I'm thinking about something really hard while working at home, I go in my bedroom and close my eyes. That looks just like I'm sleeping, but, you know, I'm hard at work. Sometimes I take a shower.
I think the attitude that "typing" = "programming" has much to do with the popularity of languages like Java that encourage the production of reams of code with very low semantic content.
That's a fairly strong assumption and your subthread here would've gone a lot better if you'd started it by asking whether your assumption is correct or not.
He is quite clearly incapable of making an accurate estimate of the amount of time, planning, and preparation involved, or he wouldn't need to spy on the programmer to assure himself that the programmer was "working". He'd know just from the number of billed hours.
In this case, this programmer did good work for a few weeks that we had no issue with. Then his work largely wrapped, and he announced he would continue to monitor our server for errors. He also continued to bill 40 hours a week for several weeks, which surprised me, but at first I thought (as a non-technical guy) perhaps that was necessary.
After a few weeks of him billing 40 hours a week yet not saying anything to us, I began to get suspicious. When I checked his screenshots, I discovered only one or two screenshots per entire week were actually spent on anything related to our server.
As a test, I decided to see how long it would take me to do the same monitoring he was supposedly doing. It took me about 5 minutes to log into the server and run the command the first time I did it, and perhaps 15 seconds to scan the results that came back. We only needed to do this a couple times a week.
It may be he was a totally honest guy who was just extremely, extremely slow. Far slower than a non-technical guy like me, despite his experience (and he was experienced). But it looked a whole lot like a guy who'd completed his project milking the clock to keep getting paid full-time until such time as the employer figured out what he was doing, to me.
The next programmer we brought on simply fixed the error we were monitoring for so we didn't have to monitor it anymore.
I'm obviously a lot savvier about hiring programmers and developers than I was back then (this was one of our first technical hires). The point of sharing the story was to shed some light on what the value to employers is of having this technology. Without the damning screenshots, this guy may have milked the clock a lot longer, and we likely would've been a lot more sour on hiring devs in the future. You may not care if any one individual employer gets burned, but multiply that by tens of thousands who are now less willing to pay good rates for developers, more suspicious of those they do bring on, and keep their devs on shorter leashes, and there's something to be said for employee's side too of monitoring enabling employers to get the bad apples out fast and make sure the good ones have free rein to be fruitful.
I've logged hundreds of hours on Upwork as a remote worker and while every screenshot and all the keystrokes logged, etc, were relevant to the job it does completely prevent you from (for example) checking your normal inbox in case that gets screenshotted and you don't want your client to see that.
Okay maybe you don't want your time being used by the worker to check their email, or respond to a Facebook comment or pop onto Ycombinator for 5 minutes every hour but I just found it made me feel untrusted completely.
Working for well established clients that trust one another is the way to go, I personally use Toptal: https://www.toptal.com/#employ-only-on-the-ball-software-fre... and it can employ tracking if the client desires it for hourly jobs, but it's fully optional in part and full time jobs.
Though with Toptal you have a rigorous process for the freelancers to actually get into the system which no doubt solves much of the need for the additional screencaps as proof of work.
On the first project we got a pretty good front-end-dev. I will say that I've learned a lot about project management in the process. On the second project we got a very skilled front-end-dev. We're still working with him daily.
It's not exactly cheap. At $70/hour I think it's fair. Don't know how the devs feel about Toptal or how much they charge but, from my point of view it's not all bad in the freelance market.
I always allow manual time, but restrict the hours to 5 or 10 per week. If the hire does not meet my expectations, I move on and accept the lost money as a learning experience.
I don't give a negative review, I know that I won't rehire, but I don't think I know the person well enough to tell the world they are bad.
There are some great people on upwork. The best advice is to be really nice to your hires and if possible, have interesting work for them to do. Nobody wants to freelance for a jerk.
I'd hope I'm one of them (albeit my profile's disabled to use another site now).
Coming from the other perspective it's really difficult to actually wade through the hundreds of "gotcha" clients that are just horrendous to work for, if you even get to the stage where you're working for them!
Screenshots seems like a privacy issue unless the worker can disable them for checking email or whatever as long as that time wouldn't be billable, but it seems like Upwork could have some better ways of tracking productivity.
If i'm employed in an office and working at my work pc, not only is the machine often administrated by the company i am doing work for, and thus may have additional software in there, even if it's as simple as a VNC server. It is also on their premises and the screen plainly visible to cameras or other employees that may be around. In the case of open plan offices or offices separated with glass walls, usually straight across the entire office. When i'm in the office i'm supposed to be working, and the machine is supposed to be used for work purposes. Not for entertainment or other personal things.
Similarly, when i am billing hours in the upwork client, i am supposed to be working, not playing around. So the machine does not have private things running on it at the time i am working. The things on screen are work-related and ok to be seen by my clients.
In my view, using my past work experiences as a guide line, same as in the office, if there are things in the screen that i would not want the client to see (or my coworkers/bosses in the office to see) it means that i am doing something wrong and not separating work/private properly.
Mind, if it does happen, it is easy to delete the screenshot even before it is sent on the wire, though that forfeits 10 minutes of billing, which as explained above, is to me exactly as it should be, since i was doing private things on client time.
So i don't see it as an undue burden. It just ensures that i am actually doing what the agreement between the two of us says i should be doing.
And this has a vital advantage to me:
The client can simply look and quickly see that i was working actively on his work, and i don't need to field questions like "This is taking a long time, are you slacking off?", which i then have to answer with "this particular bit is hard and complicated, just trust me on this".
1) The notion that one is "doing something wrong" by not being able or willing to enforce a strict separation between work and one's private life seems almost sociopathic. When one sells one's labour his mind and emotions are - like it or not - part of the sale. It's simply the human condition. To absolutely abrogate all of one's interests, in the service of a "boss", requires an austerity of mind that perhaps Mithaldu and some others can perform without difficulty, but which for many is impossible.
2) One could (well, I probably couldn't) make the case that the degree of exploitation that characterises all relations between "boss" and employee is sufficient to permit the importation of at least some safety valve - some kind of relaxation, be it 10 mins personal email, facebook, whatever - in compensation. Indeed if you want to take the employer's POV, it's surely a good thing.
I don't think I've been particularly accurate here but it's a fuzzy approximation of the beginnings of a response!
Note that upwork isn't running a continuous stream, but only taking screenshots every 10 minutes.
On a more serious note: No, i am not. Only in my work life.
But, I lived in these conditions the past. One day I said to myself, I don't want this anymore, and quit.
What is preventing you to change your life for the better? :)
So i guess the only thing keeping me from making things even better than they already are is finding technical clients with Perl work that pay on the level of ~100$/h.
I had problems with non-technical clients as well. What helped me was calling them 2-5 times a week, depending on how insecure they feel.
It was horrible to me, too :D
I just noticed that people were more douchy on chat/email than on phone, so I started to call them when they started to rage online, haha.
I don't know one engineer who actually does this. The company doesn't own you. They can't dictate your life, thinking anything else is wrong. You own the labour, ergo you own the company, if their business process can't fit itself in your life, they can fuck right off.
Then again, workers here also enjoy a lot more protections than in other countries, so maybe it's the lack of feeling at odds with the company so much.
Really? This is the first time i've ever heard that. In fact just recently minimum wages have been raised here and many shops complained bitterly.
+ German workers have a lot more protections from actual surveillance compared to many other countries (video surveillance, E-Mail and Internet monitoring, ...).
The actual implementation still depends on the company and the job, as probably everywhere. People that have to be there certain hours to be reachable by customers etc have different attitudes than people who can do their job and leave once they are done for the day, some people mind disruptions more, some people don't care or feel under-paid, ...
You replace the private key with a new one that hasn't been compromised.
> Are you willing to forfeit 10 minutes of time to keep your SSH or whatever else uncompromised?
Too late, it already is.
> Or are you going to trust Upwork and your client to not somehow leak it, even accidentally?
See above. You've already leaked it, it is now compromised and needs replacing. It sucks, but if you adopt a different approach, you're risking a lot of trouble down the road. Private keys are private. The moment you leak it, accidentally or otherwise, it's no longer private and should be replaced.
It seems like dealing with checking for sensitive onscreen information every 10 minutes could be kind of flow-destroying.
Well, remember where this attitude took Germany in the previous century....
(tongue in cheek)
The difference here is of course that in the DDR you weren't asked if it's ok to listen in on you. ;)
>The difference here is of course that in the DDR you weren't asked if it's ok to listen in on you. ;)
Yes, but if enough big companies get away with this, then having a choice of "not using Upwork if you don't like it" wont matter much, because you'll be missing where most of the clients are.
In other words, you could still take the principled stance, but it will cost you.
Yes, you can game it even so, but it would be at least inconvenient for you.
Besides, if you do keep the stuff you don't want your client to see on another machine, then there's no reason to worry about being "spied" on. :)
It's been years since I've been an employee on any sites like that, but I still think the system is pretty bad. Just start with small projects and then scale up for high performing freelancers and don't offer repeat work to low performers.
Each snapshot is accompanied by a note of what you're working on as well (if you make one). If you're dealing with a client who'd question that, AND not accept/understand explanations, then you'd be dealing with many more problems from them as well, particularly without a work diary.
A screenshot taken every 10 minutes in no way proves you aren't slacking off. Your assertion that it protects you like this is specious.
It doesn't mean that IF i get the question, i can say "just look at the log".
It means that i have gotten questions like that and similar before (think "keep a regular logbook of what you're working on") in other jobs; and have never gotten anything like that on Upwork.
You might argue my clients are simply different, and it's possible, but i think i simply don't get things like that because they feel comfortable enough with my work and are mollified by the logs if they have worries.
What a crazy idea.
I moved from Freelancer to Upwork and my initial thoughts were that the freelancers (and thus clients) on Upwork were better because of the tracking software that basically guaranteed your worker was doing what was necessary.
But in hindsight the clients are basically just as bad and the tracking software just makes remote workers feel spied on and untrusted.
I've moved on now and have repeat clients as well as Toptal where there's mutual trust involved. (Toptal: https://www.toptal.com/#employ-only-on-the-ball-software-fre...)
I had my bad experience with their application process as a developer.
I also have the other perspective as I have hired some devs from their and they do great work!
If you're not happy with the rate at which I'm getting things done, you don't need screenshots of my desktop, feel free to hire someone else and let me know how that goes.
If the freelancer has more than one client and they are "multi-tasking" by working on multiple projects and have apps like email, chat screens , web pages open etc and forget to shut them dowm before the automatic screenshot is taken, information will "leak" between one client and another.
Before starting to log time for an hourly contract, I close all browser tabs esp. HN and Facebook, close MS Outlook, set “DND” Skype status, close unneeded applications, etc.
That reduce distractions and helps me focus on the software I’m building.
Literally no button or link anywhere within the profile settings that I can see obviously leads to closing my account.
More interesting, is the behaviour of Upwork. With such a clear trail of abusive behaviour from the said "Client", Upwork still decides to terminate the guy's account. If you use Upwork, you are a sharecropper. And the landlords are capricious and have no loyalty to the replaceable tenants.
I think your way of doing things is far better and something I've actually been working.
Appreciate the comment buddy, have a good Sunday
1 hr ago
Shadi, I work at Upwork and your post about your experience makes us feel terrible. We’ve reopened your case and are investigating it much more thoroughly. We hope to have a response to you quickly — if you have any questions or want to provide more details, please email me at rpearson(at)upwork.com. We care very much about our freelancer community and want to make this right.
16 mins ago
Rich, it shouldn’t take a post like this for you (Upwork) to give someone special treatment. I know there are thousands of others like me that rely on your platform (most, far more than myself, for much larger %’s of their income). In some cases this can very literally mean the difference between putting food on the table and not.
They may not be able to spread the message like I, or speak English in such a manner. They may not be able to drum up enough attention, so they go unnoticed. It’s no skin of Upwork’s back, until it turns into a PR mess. Hence why you’re commenting.
Let’s cut the shit, Rich. I’ve got 2 tickets open and have been messaging everyday for the last 11 days. Nothing, nada. Just, ‘We’ve banned you and you can’t know why’. (For those reading this, yes, they do say you cannot know why.So as to not to let on to why they ban you).
I’ve tweeted at you, nothing.
Now, I have roughly 75% of a months worth of Upwork money stuck on there. If I were someone else, or someone without other income streams, what would I do? What could I possibly tell my incumbent clients? Shit, what am I even going to tell my incumbent clients? you’ve just left me without a months worth of wages and a big ‘fuck you, there’s nothing you can do.’
So, I do not want any special treatment. I will not contact you via email. This is an integral problem with Upwork itself and I will highlight it as much as I possibly can, even if that means losing the money and my reputation on there that I’ve been building up over the last year.
And please Rich, I’m a bloody marketer for Christ’s sake. Don’t come at me with that standard company mumbo jumbo ‘it makes us feel terrible’. You’re just being patronising.
I run a site that helps ex-offenders find jobs, resources, etc.. and it is always frustrating to see companies that take advantage of a vulnerable group. Not to dismiss the OP and the evidence against them is pretty overwhelming, but there are always two-sides to every story. I have removed the link and references to them and their parent firm as a resource from our site. While we aren't a huge player in the industry, we are growing fast simply because we provide personal help if we can and try to treat everyone fair. I refuse to risk that reputation on a potential bad apple. It's easier just to remove them now, and if down the road this comes out as a simple misunderstanding or whatever, I am happy to add them back. But for now, to me at least, it is better to be safe than sorry and not risk my users paying some greedy company to be treated poorly.
Apparently he's the director of a company called "Background Wipe"
Months with nothing and then a couple of good reviews. Like: Oh! We haven't given ourself 5stars in a while, lets add some.
The problem that Upwork doesn't realize is that without an active and happy freelancing demographic, clients will go elsewhere. Historically, Upwork has made it a priority of catering to the client. This is evident given their JSS. For those of you who are not familiar with JSS, it is a score that companies / clients use to hire freelancers. Now, one would assume the score is based on past work with clients. This is not all the score accounts for. Timeliness is responding to invites, the number of long-term clients you maintain, the number of clients you hassle (yes, Upwork actively goes out and tells it's freelancers to hassle their clients to leave them feedback - the responsibility falls on the freelancer and only the freelancer), etc.
Thus, when clients don't leave feedback (for whatever reason), you are dinged. Upwork won't tell you by how much exactly so let me give you an example.
12 months ago, my score was 92% (Top Rated). A client hired me. We went over the terms of the contract (# of revisions, not working on the weekends, etc.). 2 weeks into the project, the client started to deviate from the terms of the contract. I let them know and they began to get pissy. This happens all the time as Upwork has created a platform where the clients hold all of the power, and they know this.
A week later the contract wrapped up, and I managed to make the client happy as they left me a 4.7/5 on my profile and a positive review. Clients are able to leave private feedback the freelancer can never see. When the JSS score updated (every two weeks I believe-mind you, I had not worked any other jobs since that job) my score went from 92% to 71%! A 21% drop.
Suffice to say, for the past 12 months, dozens and dozens of clients later (most with positive reviews); I am now only sitting in the low 80's for my JSS.
In conclusion, Upwork is the worst example of an online marketplace for freelancers who have a backbone and are not afraid to tell a client how it is. After all, we are hired for our expertise and when a client proceeds to tell us how to do our job, it poisons the freelancing community.
edit: spelling errors.
They wrote us immediately after we reviewed them to tell us their score had gone down from our review and we must have done something wrong.
I asked them to send back to us; nothing in there I could see to fix. I asked them to escalate to UpWork; UpWork support gave a non-answer. So I escalated it myself.
The reply I got from UpWork was essentially this: we're happy to see your concern for your freelancer. You gave your freelancer a 5-star review, you marked the job successful, it's a perfect review. The way UpWork gauges freelancer scores is on a rolling #-of-month period. Past a certain number of months, older reviews stop counting toward a freelancer's score and only reviews within that #-of-month period count. So a declining rating is most likely due to older good reviews aging out of the scoring.
So this could be another possibility, if you have better older reviews dropping off the chart and a few more recent reviews that weren't as good, and now are weighing more heavily without the better older ones to offset them.
"$100 an hour is more than our CEO makes so I'm not sure we can budget $1500 for this".
Don't bill hourly! I know this sounds like a very silly example (it's not even logically coherent) but reasoning like this gets deployed all the time, even with sophisticated clients. People have anchoring price points for hourly rates that they don't have for other billing structures. Fixing this to make more money is literally as simple as "switch to daily billing".
$1500 at $100 an hour sounds expensive if you're comparing to the CEO's salary. But $1500 for a piece of sales lead infrastructure that has to be built but can't be off the shelf bought. That sounds reasonable.
That's fine, if you're sophisticated. Certainly I think fixed-price bids are smarter than hourly billing. In a fixed-price bid, you get to describe the business impact of what you're doing, which can be huge even if the task is relatively simple, and then put a dollar figure next to that impact. Almost any number you come up with is going to at least sound sane in that context. It's the more favorable setting in which to present the comparison of value and price.
What I like better though is the hybrid approach. I still remember someone on HN saying that this was the first original approach they had heard to pricing consulting work --- which blew my mind, since it was simply the way I was taught by my partners to bid projects, and presumably the way they were taught as well.
The approach is this:
Come up with a fixed price for the work you want to do, and simultaneously an estimate of the number of days you believe that work will take. You can divide the former by the latter to arrive at a daily rate. In your bid, focus on the total price of the engagement, but "show your work" in terms of the number of billable days and your day rate. Include a clause stating that overages will be billed at that daily rate as well.
To most clients, this is the moral equivalent of a fixed-price bid, and they'll treat it like one. But it de-risks the project for you.
As you do more projects, you'll get a better sense of what your real daily rate is (it's higher than you think it is now). You can tune your bids so that you keep a fixed daily rate but still value-price your engagements. By the time you're routinely employing this kind of finesse, you'll have enough traction to easily figure these kinds of things out for yourself.
On the flipside, stating daily billing is not much different than hourly since the client will just divide by 8 (usually). I stated my daily rate after hearing it from you and Patrick and Brennan Dunn, and one client just said - ok so your rate is "$xxx" per hour?"
My point is that daily billing is an improvement over hourly, and with your approach of an overall fixed price and also daily that's a great approach, but the client still knows a daily rate is essentially hourly. A better approach is retainer pricing if not a fixed one-time project!
That meant a 33% reduction at that time from their prices, which is nice to in case of a project overrun, and of course is a kind of a warrant for the client that the company will do its best that the project is on time and that the estimate is accurate.
I still use the same idea/format when rarely doing estimates for potential clients, but I'm not sure how well it works with freelancers. Whether they can figure out a '0 profit' reduced price for themselves. (Maybe that could be calculated based on the 'if I work 8 hours per day, without any holidays/sick leave/spending time on new project' assumption.) The point is that it should be convincingly low for the client, but not extra cheap.
Or did I miss something? (Or maybe there are a lot of people, who will not state a rate for the out-of-scope work and then they'll get into trouble when trying to ask money for that?)
> Don't bill hourly!
Also, it's not $100 per hour, it's likely $100 per two hours or more. It's
not like a freelancer has constant work inflow at 40 hours per week.
When I first got started freelancing, I used eLance (which is now UpWork). I had a similar experience with a client, they suspended my account for 2+ months, and I won the dispute at the end. If I didn't have my own clients outside of eLance, I would have been screwed and not even able to pay my rent. After that, I stopped using the service and haven't looked back 4 years later.
I have a friend who actually does know someone on the executive leadership team at UpWork, I just emailed him with your article - hopefully something positive can come of that. I really hate it when all around bad human beings go around and try to make people's lives harder.
Most of the market is always in the bottom, whatever the market is. Upwork/elance/whatever just make it stand out.
Most of the work is low paying shit by shit clients who have no clue what they are doing. (Nothing special. It's the same with physical companies to physically work at :D).
As a decent freelancer who wanna do decent work for a decent client, you've gotta filter aggressively.
"Thank you for using Upwork.
At this time we are unable to close your account. Please call our concierge team at 1-866-676-3375, select option 3, and we will help you close your account.
Please note: For security purposes, you will not be able to change your username, or open a new account with the same email address.
If you need help, please contact Support Services."
I was able to remove the other user (under Settings - Permissions) and, subsequently, close the whole account.
Unlike Upwork our service has a quality guarantee, so clients aren't forced to manage freelancers, and deal with low quality work. It's kind of like a product manager and freelancer combo, and overall it's much easier for the client.
If you're unhappy with Upwork, please give us a shot. You can see our site at https://codegophers.com, or start a task by writing in at:
> Anything from $100 to $1000 is fair game. If the project is too big, we won't accept it.
I know many people who use Upwork for long-term hourly billed projects that last months if not years.
I really like the idea. Do you code simple iOS apps in Swift?
I hope this gets some traction through HN to bring it to the attention of the right people.
I am currently looking for a Freelancing platform and also looked at upwork. Thanks for that, will avoid them!
My advice, get a blog. Write about your experience within industry. My best example would be a man called Simo Ahava, whom writes about GTM and GA. Join Slack groups and communities and just network.
I highly doubt he knows the CEO and even if he did, would said CEO actually act on such an inconsequential thing. I mean, imagine the PR meltdown from such an act.
Anyway, time for some tea and a chillout. Have a good Sunday :)
I have had absolutely no success with Upwork at all and had been reaching the point of walking away from it and what should I see but this post.
I want, actually desperately need, to be working outside my day job. I'm out of my element. I realized I had to start a blog and have done so and am writing a series of articles relevant to my knowledge and experience.
Aside from that, how might you recommend I make contacts to have long term work with good clients? Your comment is the first I've ever seen about "join Slack groups" - where would I go to get started doing that?
A million thanks if you bother to read this, a million more if you reply :)
Even if you have a perfect five stars reputation for two years, all it takes is one upset jerk and you are done at Upwork. Eventually you will step on someones having a bad day if you stay there enough.
After you make a good reputation in those market places you can command a higher fee - perhaps they want you out at this point so they can get work for other skilled professionals that are undercharging in order to build reputation.
When I started my consulting company, I decided I will not rely on this Upwork - Freelancer.com shit!
I use various aggregator services -
1.) StackOverFlow Jobs
2.) No Mad Jobs
3.) PDX Startups
4.) Slack Groups
5.) Domino Slack
6.) Meet, demonstrate your services
Everyone can teach WipeRecord service a lesson - I will be giving them 1 Rating on Facebook, Yelp and all other places with a write-up.
Because it's not a totally anonymous place, the groups seemed to have much less douchebags.
They keep inviting me to jobs that have no relationship to my declared skill-set.
They keep inviting me to apply to jobs for clients who have no intention of actually hiring.
They invite me to apply to work for them, and then fail to show up at the agreed upon interview time, several times
Whenever I reach out to support about an issue, they invariably, without fail, make the issue worse.
I'm seriously thinking of just deleting my account so I can focus my efforts on local freelancing
Yes, it really is one of those things which you say to yourself 'Oh, it'll never happen to me', then actually it does. I'm the 3rd person I personally know of that's had this happen to them. So I think it's more prolific than it seems.
Hope you're having a good Sunday Erklik
Sure it works great for building contacts when you are not really visible yet. After you land a few gigs and have work, references and talent to show for, you should really abandon it asap. Better even, not start with it because the gamified nature will lure you in to do more gigs.
Exactly. The point of freelancing is working for yourself, not as a vassal of a third party. That is why etymology is important, even when the initial meaning of a word has changed. A "freelance platform" or "marketplace" only makes sense for you as a freelancer if you own it (i.e. your self hosted site, portfolio or blog, etc.)
Also I think they shot themselves in the foot with the big price hike. Previously freelancers and I would just keep using their platform throughout working relationships. Now we use it like a dating app, meet a freelancer, work a project or two to build trust, and then leave the platform to handle payments on our own.
just for your info to avoid possible bad things
> Click Accounts menu, choose Settings, then Contact Info
You may have to add a missing security question before it shows the form with the "delete my account" link.
Of the three platforms above, I've found PPH to be the best in terms of overall mix/quality of clients as well as the platform's fairness (such as it may be) towards me (the freelancer).
After over two years of doing this almost full time, here is my takeaway:
The platforms have no love lost for the freelancers. Their first and foremost loyalty is (almost exclusively) reserved for the buyers, even to the point of being downright unreasonable in terms of favoring the buyers.
While I've been fortunate enough not to end up with the terminal outcome (yet), I have come close a few times and every time that happens, it is such an emotionally upsetting and disappointing experience that I feel I could write a whole book about it, but then lose the inclination after a while.
Such then, is the state of affairs and I guess there's little anyone (well at least I, at any rate) can do about it.
Interestingly there's very few reasons for closing you can select from the closure page. You can't even choose an 'other' category to write in the reason.
1. People that try to hire freelancers don't have the decency of considering that freelances have to pay: fees, taxes and other markups (transfer fees for eg).
2. The usual you quote me X but my budget is X/2 tops, and the failure to realize that an Z for hour = x, or i can give you z/2 and double the number of hours and still get X.
When an experienced developer in his field gives you a 15 hour quote, it doesn't mean that it's an easy job that can be done by anybody in that time frame, since if that's the case you would have done it yourself already.
- Snag a freelancer without providing spec up front.
- Once some desperate freelancer signs on, flood the freelancer with tons of work.
- If the freelancer tries to back out, threaten that you will file complaint with Upwork. Since freelancer was desperate enough to sign on, the client probably assumes the freelancer will be desperate enough to suck it and finish the work.
- Repeat. Hence 40 previous jobs.
I think some call this 'client' a shrewd businessman.
We need more people like Peter Thiel. With these many years of work, there must be a few dozen lawsuits that could be funded to take these shitheads down.
For example, for WordPress development, Codeable.com is really good - they take care of both clients and developers
For writing, TextBroker or CopyWriterToday might pay more to writers with a better quality control and escrow system.
Designers - if you can get contracted out by Lightboard or others, you'll do much better
Does anybody else find it odd that this mans real name is: Shadi Al'lababidi
However, his UpWork profile is: Shadi Paterson
I've seen this done quite a bit when companies (especially the American kind) ship their support overseas, but are either too embarrassed to let their workers use their real names OR justify such actions by saying: "Some Americans will find it difficult to say your name" (or in other implicit scenarios, because your name is Muslim-sounding - or X-sounding - will associate you with terrorism/other-ism).
Imagine the world we live in, where in order to do a job (or get work), you have to literally change your REAL name to appease to the demographic.
Whether Shadi did this of his own accord or was instructed to by UpWork to 'passively appeal' to the hiring-clients, it is quite a shocker to see it YET AGAIN.
I'm actually English born n' bred. I have Arab roots on my fathers side. My Full name is Shadi Al'lababidi Paterson
I act on my own terms. I just found that when interacting with certain clients (Basically, Americans), my Muslim sounding name definitely reduced my opportunities.
Like, it was truly noticeable.
To be fair, this is the same for East Asians as they seem to value 'White names' more.
I'd like to see Upwork do pornhub like stats on all demographics. Including skin colour and gender. I think as a global society we'd be very surprised to see what a 'True free market' produces.
Behavior like this, from this dude Kevin, well that is normal on marketplaces like this. If you are experienced, you should always steer clear when you see people talk random stuff.
Is it possible to have a community like this without the BS? How to stop it?
I'm sure elance had issues. But I noticed a marked uptick in problems when the upwork migration became. The Elance interface was old school, but very functional.
Upwork was confusing. The migration was a mess and made me a freelancer by default, as I had also had a minor freelance profile on elance that I had never used. Took weeks to resolve.
The desktop app....actually, I don't remember the issue, but it led to me leaving the platform entirely. I think messages took ages to load.
I will eventually look for new freelancers, and I'll need to figure out a replacement when I do. It sounds like Upwork is not a great place to be for a freelancer now – and that means the quality ones will be elsewhere.
As a client, I want freelancers to be able to make money, and to denounce bad clients. By catering excessively to clients, Upwork is going to select for toxic clients.
Perhaps their line of thought goes like: Freelancers would always outnumber those offering work. Even if some walk away or are forced out, it doesn't matter as long as we manage to keep those offering work on board.
And I was about to try out some freelance work just to get some income going.
Best of luck. You got a raw deal on that one.
With upwork, not only are freelancers raw material, they are so plentiful that waste is free for upwork.
If you go public you actually open yourself up to get sued. Also cheaters and bullies will see that you didn't sue and therefore see you as an easy mark. Normal schoolyard logics apply, just that as a grownup you don't hit them in the face but sue.
(I'm not a lawyer)
Not sure if you have posted on data tau but it might be worth posting there too @shadi....
I have come to realize that there is a fundamental problem with the marketplace itself. I don't think it matches clients to freelancers properly.
I did two exercises. I posted a few positions as a 'buyer', and I got a lot of spam (i.e. non-personalized, crap postings to my position/gig/job that was obvious they never read it). I got more than I expected, which makes it difficult to weed through and find a freelancer I want to work with. Granted, I didn't want the typical "low-ball" freelancer. I was looking for a freelancer that knew what they were doing. Alas, I was unsatisfied with the results and ended up not finding what I was looking for.
I also responded to gigs as a Ruby developer. What's remarkable is that it is literally very, very difficult to get any work, much less the type of work I would like (high-value work with a handful of clients, potentially doing on-going work).
I first started off with a relatively high-ish hourly rate for UpWork ($80/hr for someone with 8 years of Ruby & Rails experience and 15+ years of web development experience overall). Because I had no 'history' with the platform, that didn't work. I filled out my portfolio, and responded to each job in a very custom way detailing the specifics of how I would tackle each job I was submitting a proposal to. This took much longer than just spamming, and was more mentally taxing, but I figured I could make up for my non-Upwork-track history by putting more into my proposal. No dice.
I then dropped my rates (down to as low as $40/hr) just to test, still no dice. I didn't even get responses.
Then, I assumed that maybe my proposals weren't robust enough or maybe I wasn't communicating my capabilities in my portfolio properly enough, aka I was being hit with a 'portfolio tax'.
So to get over this, I decided to actually bid on fixed budget tasks that were very specific in what they want and overlapped with specific stuff I have done in the past -- specifically "B2B Lead Discovery" or "Website Scraping" for something.
I recently have been playing around with scraping websites for different types of leads, particularly B2B, and so this suited me perfectly.
I then started applying to some of these with not just the specifics of what I have done, how I would tackle their specific task, but I would even send them sample results for similar leads to what they were asking for. So say someone was looking for wedding planners from each state (an actual job posting) where they would need the $CompanyName, $Website, $Email, $PhoneNumber, $Address. I replied telling them I have experience doing exactly this....in fact, I recently did this exact thing for accountants, so I replied explaining what I have done and how I can help them and I sent them a CSV file with a list of sample accountants, along with a picture of my script producing those results.
In one case, I crawled the specific website they wanted crawled and showed them pictures of the script doing that and then I gave them a suggestion based on what they were looking for and what I found. There was a disconnect between what they wanted, and what could be technically scraped from the website (they wanted email addresses for all users on MySpace to be exact). So I informed them that unless MySpace has an API that gives out this information, and unless you are looking for email addresses that people post within comments on the music throughout the site, this is a waste of time and I provided proof from my script.
Suffice-it-to-say, I did a lot of work on each proposal. I did about 7 - 10 of these specific proposals for scrapers, and about 15 - 20 other specific but not as specific proposals. I also didn't change the price they asked. So if they said their budget was $10, I replied with all of the above with a $10 budget. This is crazy, I know...but I did it just to experiment.
The results? Not even 1 reply. Not even 1. You can see screenshots here .
Yes, my portfolio on Upwork could be weak (although I doubt it because I think it looks pretty robust), and my profile could be a deterrent (because the language I use is a mismatch to what these clients are looking for) and my rates could be high relative to the rest of the marketplace, but the real issue is just an overall non-response from ANY of the 20+ proposals I submitted over the period of a week.
Something feels fundamentally broken with that, especially when considering my experience with the other-side of this experience.
I believe that there is some middle ground between the "elitist" Toptal and "broken" UpWork. So, I would like to try an experiment.
Do you have any high value ($30K+ -- note this is a floor, just to weed out inappropriate clients) development projects that you would like done? Either generic projects where no tech stack is specified or Ruby and Rails jobs for starters. I won't specify the types of projects, but something where you would prefer a "high-quality" developer help you see it to fruition rather than the cheapest developer you can find. Perhaps you have tried other developer services/gig boards and are unhappy with the process.
Do you want a product manager to help drive the entire process for you, from beginning to end?
If this sounds interesting to you, please send me an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If I can find a pattern for how to find these types of projects consistently, I would love to work with other developers to fill these needs. Until then though, let the experimentation begin!
 - http://imgur.com/a/MjHYk
* It's clear Upwork support screwed this case up. But one should keep in mind that resolving disputes between two people who both complain the other is a criminal (as in this case) is a really hard problem. The US justice system often gets it wrong (something egregiously). While it sucks when it happens, I think one should expect platforms like Upwork to screw up sometimes too.
* Dealing with people trying to cheat is a fact of life in any business. I've heard horror stories in the freelancing world of clients deciding not to pay a freelancer for months or work, freelancers pretending to do work, etc. Often, the wronged party is unable to get the dispute resolved satisfactorily, especially if the two parties are in different countries. Any marketplace the size of Upwork (https://www.upwork.com/about/ says $1B in jobs annually) will have a large absolute number of both bad clients and bad freelancers (there are certainly tons of bad bosses and bad employees in America, lots of bad taxi drivers, etc.). At least with a platform like Upwork or Uber, there's a reputation system where bad actors get bad reviews and eventually stop getting matched with other people. I'm willing to bet that this employer is a jerk to the people he hires not on Upwork, too.
* This particular client's behavior is extremely bad in several ways. But at least the client had bad reviews on the platform. Do business with bad people at your peril! They will figure out how to screw you.
* I had thought the "screenshots every 10 minutes" feature of Upwork was just an annoying invasion of privacy, until I had a freelancer report 50 hours of work fraudulently (i.e. he didn't post any work starting ~50 hours before I stopped paying him), make a bunch of increasingly unrealistic excuses that he would post his work soon once he got back from a vacation or whatever, and eventually disappear. After investigating, Upwork banned the freelancer, but their terms of service don't allow them to recover money already paid since we weren't using the screenshots feature. While I was upset and frustrated by it, I've also seen employees in the US stop working and hope to get a month or two of free pay before they get fired, and it's basically the exact same thing. Given the larger picture of Upwork having 3M jobs/year, mostly for relatively small amounts of money, there are probably a lot of disputes, and I think you should expect to have a significant fraction of disputes decided in a way where at least one of the parties leaves the dispute upset because the decision was wrong (the US civil justice system certainly has that property!). And keep in mind: a 5-20% fee on projects with a <$1000 average size doesn't pay for a lot of manual dispute resolution. Things like screenshots of emails can be forged; who knows what other fabricated evidence the client gave to Upwork support to help their side of the case. The screenshot mechanism is Upwork's current best solution for making dispute resolution efficient, and I think it does help: I haven't had fraud issues with those freelancers who are using it (and Upwork's ToS do allow recovering money from people whose screenshots show they weren't working). They address the privacy issues somewhat in that the freelancer can delete any screenshots they like before sharing with the client. They just don't get paid for those 10 minute windows.
OK, that's my little essay on the Upwork experience. Upwork isn't perfect, but no large marketplace is. Keeping bad actors out of a marketplace is a really really hard problem, and I don't think it's possible for them to eliminate bad behavior. Still, I hope they kick that client off the platform and take this incident as a wake up call to invest more in improving their dispute resolution processes.