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What I Learned About Upwork from a Bumbling Scammer (mtlynch.io)
14 points by mtlynch 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 8 comments

I always only place Upwork projects on a result, not hourly base. Exceptions are consulting projects.

Just curious on why you are using the hourly rate system on an outcome specific project?

Thanks for reading!

Hourly vs. fixed is always a hard decision for me. I feel like there are perverse incentives with both.

For a fixed-cost project, I feel like it incentivizes the freelancer to finish the project as soon as possible, so quality becomes a cost for them. And there's a weird imbalance of power because I, as the client, can keep demanding tweaks/polish past the point where it's reasonable (the client and freelancer likely have a different view of how many tweaks are "reasonable").

The other issue is that not all reports are equal. If I assign the freelancer to write a report that answers the question "Is Propel keto?" They can just look that up and write it in about five minutes. But there are harder questions like, "Is coffee keto?" There are many different types of coffee, so it's difficult to write a single report that covers them all succinctly. Or, "Is erythritol keto?" With any sweeteners, there's often some debate about whether they're keto-friendly, so it requires more work to summarize the debate.

I didn't want to get into a situation where the freelancer is annoyed to get a "hard" report because they only earn the same as an "easy" report. And I didn't want to negotiate each report separately.

Hourly contracts solve those problems, but it brings others. The biggest issue is that it obscures costs. I can't predict in advance how much I'll end up paying for the work. And earning by the hour can incentivize the freelancer to drag their feet to pad the bill. I haven't ever experienced that in practice though.

Overall, I feel like hourly contracts align incentives better between the freelancer and the client. I'll typically do fixed-cost contracts if I only have a few defined tasks I want (e.g., "I'll pay you $250 to add this feature to my site").

Excellent post! Just to get a sense of what percentage of upwork freelancers are scammers, roughly how many freelancers have you hired through UpWork?

Thanks for reading!

I've hired 55 freelancers through Upwork since 2013.

Keep in mind though that the hires aren't a random sample because I screened who I hired. It's likely that some people who applied for previous jobs were running some kind of similar scam but their profile or cover letter wasn't good enough to get an offer from me.

How about registering a domain upwrkscammers.com and create a database to highlight fraudulent profiles, F#uck upwork and their ridiculous rules.

Edit - send the link to your post to the CEO of upwork.

Author here. Happy to answer any questions about this post and to hear what you think.

In my experience with Upwork, I have always hired two candidates for a simple job that would be an indicator of ability to do the actual job I am looking for. This has been the only real way for me to get to quality people who can deliver what is needed and as you noted, rate is not necessarily an indicator. Are there any other tricks / tips you would recommend?

Hiring for small, narrowly scoped jobs is my biggest tip.

For content writing specifically, I find that I can screen people pretty well before I hire them by asking for writing samples. I haven't been able to do that with programmers because I find it harder to judge ability based on a source file or even repo I know nothing about. But if a writer sends me an article that they think represents their ability well, that tells me most of what I need to know.

Other things I look for in hiring:

* Can they communicate well in writing? If I'm outsourcing something, the best possible outcome is that I find someone who I can just delegate tasks to and they deliver. If they're asking questions that are unclear or that indicate that they haven't read the instructions, those types of miscommunications will likely continue if I hire them. * Did they take a genuine interest in my project or are they just shotgunning out the same application to everyone? Some of my favorite hires are people that spent 30-90 minutes on their application, writing a cover letter saying what interests them specifically about my project. It's not a perfect predictor of success, but it's usually a very good sign.

As the client, I try to specify the job up front as clearly. Good freelancers don't want to work with clients with only a vague sense of what I want. I do it in a public Google doc. Any time the freelancer deviates from what I had in mind, I revise the spec to clarify the point of confusion. That way, the freelancer and I both can see it, and if I drop one person and hire someone else, I don't have to re-explain everything.

I also wrote a couple blog posts about what I've learned about hiring cartoonists and editors:

* https://mtlynch.io/editor/ * https://mtlynch.io/how-to-hire-a-cartoonist/

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