> It’s easy to bill your time using the Upwork desktop app. ...
> When you have logging turned on, the app takes random screen captures six times per hour—once per 10-minute billing segment. Anything visible on your screen will display in your Work Diary, but you have the option, in Settings, to choose whether the screen captures your entire desktop or only the active screen.
Are people aware UpWork encourages monitoring freelancers like this? I would never work for a platform that promotes this or want to subject someone to being monitored like this.
Can you really not ask the client questions before submitting a proposal either?
Is all this just taking advantage of freelancers who don't know how to market themselves, or am I missing something?
For all the freelance projects I've found myself, some detailed discussion was required beforehand to check what the client really needs, and I aim for terms that don't lead to being micromanaged (like fixed price projects based on results not time) so I can't see the appeal.
I never got even one legit lead. Not one.
I did, however, get quite a few scammers. One was quite scary. It was a local person, with a crazy project proposal, that kept trying to get me to meet them in person, in remote locations.
I nuked my Upwork account, months ago. Even though I hadn’t been on it for months, I would still get occasional scammer contacts. Most were pretty transparent. They didn’t make much effort to hide what they were about. Basically 419 approach.
Cofounders has been similar, but scammers try to get me to contact them outside of the system, and Cofounders has been quite responsive to my reports. I have kept my Cofounders account, as I have received legit contacts (none of which have panned out, but that’s the nature of the beast).
I did try TopTal, a couple of years ago, but that didn’t work out. I won’t get into it, but I don’t think we’re a particularly good “fit.”
Just a few days ago, I had to report a scammer on LinkedIn that had declared themselves to be one of my employees. It took LI three days to do anything, and they never acknowledged my increasingly frantic reports.
Like so many of these types of outfits, they provide no way to establish a way to actually contact people. You just have these one-way, opaque “Report” buttons, with no acks.
Scammers are very clever. I expect them to game this quite quickly.
It’s bad times. I pine for the “good ol’ days,” when there was some Honor to be found, but there’s no putting the candy back in that piñata.
(Which is indeed an issue with CA's contractor laws, but in no way requires them to ghost you or you to use their payroll service.)
After the fact, I asked around for friends that had tried it as freelancers, and they all had similar stories to mine.
It seems that Upwork is really a platform for offshore work. Some of these folks are undoubtedly good, but it's probably a crapshoot, which, to be fair, is also the case for local talent. With cheap offshore work, you can try out a couple of outfits, and not lose your shirt, if things go South. I will say that the people who told me it was good, had quite positive experiences (as clients), and they had all settled on offshore talent.
I started noticing missed opportunities. As a buyer, you only see the first few sentences of a proposal unless you hit the See More option. Most freelancers weren't maximizing this space. NOBODY used video. There was minimal personalization. And so on.
So I would make a personalized video for every pitch and reference it in the first sentence. Short, nothing with production or anything like that. Mostly I wanted the buyers to get a vibe for me. I'd do light research on the buyer and look at his/her feedback and reviews for other freelancers they've worked with, then I used that language to demonstrate that I had the same characteristics and skills they value the most.
This all increased my interest and close rate tremendously. I also learned which gigs to never bid on, which is a little art and a little science. You can tell by how the project descriptions are written which ones to avoid.
What makes you avoid a project?
It's like you need to start to create some fake accounts, or friends to signup, give you projects - worth a lot or not, or hidden, but with a great testimonial left. Then you'll increase in the rankings, get more attention from legitimate people, etc.
Freelancers on Upwork are mostly always listed as available, even if they aren't - the trick being you're listed for $x-xx higher than your previous rate - so you're getting a revenue increase if you take new jobs.
Personally I'd be too honest to trick people like that, but people who are open to dishonest or bad actions on the platform seem to do well.
Yeah...not for me. Personal Honor and Integrity are a big deal for me.
It's funny. I'm open and extremely honest. Scammers see that as "gullible," but I've been swimming with some of the world's nastiest sharks for 40 years. It's actually kind of difficult to scam me.
I've just learned that I don't need to use nukes to enforce my boundaries. Even scammers react well to simple respect, and it's quite possible to discourage them without being a prick.
I've also learned that it's not a good idea to antagonize crooks. They can often be a bit vindictive.
This makes me think of the proverb, "You can't cheat an honest man". It sounds strange on the surface, but I think there's something to the idea that if one is too honest to be tempted into dishonesty by avarice that most scams fall apart.
* referring to software development. Other tasks are an order of magnitude easier to hire for.
If you really want to freelance or have a startup, you have to be able to differentiate these people from legit opportunities. That can be extremely difficult; someone that seems like a scammer could be ready to pay a great rate or invest in your company; someone else that sounds legit could be wasting your time.
I think the scary one may have been legit (in their own world), but they were clearly unhinged, and I didn't want to have anything to do with that.
Since the approach is often pretty much equal to a 419 approach, I suspect that there would be a point where you give them some sensitive financial information, or pay "licensing fees," or something. Maybe they would send you one of those wonderful "more than the agreed-upon amount" third-party checks.
> Maybe they would send you one of those wonderful "more than the agreed-upon amount" third-party checks
Then, won't they lose money?
Or the checks would be invalid, worthless?
That's the scam.
What does this mean?
As a freelancer, you can simply refuse the monitoring feature. I would never accept a project where the client wanted screen shots. I use Google Docs so my activity is tracked there pretty accurately as it is, but I think most freelancers aren't taking the monitored projects.
I'm not sure what you're asking about the 'client questions', but you are able to ask questions before accepting an offer or even making an offer. I have had clients make me an offer before any dialogue took place, but that's rather rare, and I always clarify my work process with clients before accepting offers.
Upwork is not my primary source of income - I have a private resume writing business that I run - but I use Upwork because it's brought me quite a bit of business without having to do any marketing (at the cost of 20% of my earnings). I'm happy to give them 20% based on the volume of business that comes my way there.
I primarily have used fixed price projects as well, but mainly because time tracking in Upwork is a bit cumbersome. You need to track in 10 minute increments, and my workflow often finds me in documents multiple times per day, but for short periods of time. That's not conducive to time tracking, so I try to set fixed price agreements.
I've been pleased with my experience on Upwork, but I know part of that is because I've had the benefit of being one of the higher ranked writers there for a few years and I have a larger stream of income from other sources, so I have the luxury of turning down quite a bit of work there if it doesn't meet my preferred criteria.
Upwork tends to perform really well for these sorts of one off tasks. Hiring good technically talent is really hard.
Why would someone getting an awesome resume care how long it takes you to write though? Wouldn't some actually want to pay you more if you did it faster at the same quality?
And the way they've set it up is if you use the Dekstop app you get paid even if there is a dispute, but if you don't, you might not get paid.
So again, it's not like I wanted it this way, but it's that or potentially be out of work or loose money in a dispute.
The feedback is what you work for, what you tolerate the poor payment for unrealistic work in return. Without it, you can't grow on these platforms and the people bidding for cheap labour know this and use it to their advantage. Platforms like Upwork all but encourage exploitation through fear, the lowest common denominator always wins.
And I definitely don't mean this as a critique towards you. (If I want to be honest, I've first tried freelancing/remoting after 3 months of FT work, which wasn't even really coding.)
But quite a lot of these engagements end in poor quality results or simply fail. I've talked to a lot of people, non-tech clients, for whom it didn't work out. And obviously the reason is that they have no idea how to manage such a project, how to pick a good candidate (both wrt to technical skills AND management/self-management/product management skills). I.e. they don't know what they need.
Now a bit more experienced developers will more often (though far from always!) at least have an idea how to work with a client, how to push back on stupid requests, how to actually manage the project AND the client. Because sometimes clients will come up with or slowly navigate themselves towards modes of operations that actually make a good outcome a lot less likely. And the end result is that they spend too much to get too little and the freelancer works too much to get too little.
One symptom is wanting to monitor the desktop of the developer. That shows that whoever thinks they can resolve a dispute this way have no idea about software development, they can't judge and understand whether they are getting adequate value for their money, so they resort to something that they understand (standing behind the shoulder of the person they pay). But which unfortunately doesn't work. And how it makes things worse: e.g. they scare away the more experienced guys.
A similar fallacy is being anal about deadlines and fixed costs. Again, a surefire way to shoot yourself in the foot.
I switched from product manager to developer through a masters, and started freelancing because while I received interest for FT positions from very good companies in my country, they only offered me junior positions (and naturally I cannot blame them), in a country with low wages. I ended up clearing over 2x the salary of a junior in my first year freelancing (so more or less the salary of a decent senior), working with two very large non-tech companies and one pre-seed startup.
However, I agree with your comment.
For starters, my situation is fairly exceptional; I have proven sales and product/project management skills. I'd feel comfortable walking into a room with C-level executives, pitching to them, and then delivering on those promises (while navigating fairly well the inevitable small failings such as missed deadlines, etc.)
But above all I wouldn't recommend this route to anyone who has even a remote possibility of getting an FT job because learning everything on your own is a gruesome process. It's possible, but it takes huge amounts of discipline and deliberate practice: you need to force yourself to read more code and books to discover patterns and acquire skills which would otherwise come naturally by just being present 9-to-5. Also bear in mind there's no outside pressure to write that unit test or refactor that smelly code - it's all on you. And of course you have no one to talk to - you have to endure a permanent and extreme loneliness in your doubts, only mitigated by making dev friends in real life and posting regularly on SO (and don't count too much on the latter!).
It's had positive things for me too. It allowed me to work all across the stack, from product management, design, front-end to back-end, and I am starting to position myself (locally, at least) as a product engineer that gets shit done, and to a high standard of quality. I also get to choose my own stack and technologies at all times (which also builds particular skills in research, etc.), and no corporate politics or whatever get in the way of you suddenly shifting your focus to a different discipline, which is what I hated most when I had a career.
Nevertheless, I'd say if I didn't factor the 2x wage (which is probably not realistic for a lot of starting devs), the cons would clearly outweigh the pros, and I would repeat your advice to most people.
As an engineer, I feel most of the value I bring is not actually writing code but managing the whole process and consulting the client on what to do and how to do. (So product and project management, sometimes with discussing the business side, agile/lean coaching. I.e. explaining that we don't want to build all features that sound cool, don't want to build every feature to its best version for a start, etc.)
Though I'm not sure if I could make a living trying to sell this on its own (as opposed to doing it as a full stack engineer and tech lead).
I've worked as a freelance PM once, right after finishing my SEng masters actually, and the experience wasn't great - the choice of tech and the team in that particular project were terrible, the customers were really clueless and it was a fight against the elements.
There are also not that many freelance PM jobs, at least where I live. There is a massive market for companies who want to build stuff - and in most cases they want everything handled end-to-end, so being able to do everything responds greatly to this demand.
The projects I've coded have turned out great thus far. In particular I have built an internal product for a global leader in its industry and it's really taking off.
> I feel most of the value I bring is not actually writing code but managing the whole process and consulting the client on what to do and how to do
I feel the same. In fact I may need to outsource the coding on a couple of my projects very soon... Still the SEng experience would be invaluable in this regard as I can act as both PM and engineering manager. And I will keep coding the projects I'm interested in - I'm not sure if I'd like to turn into an agency for the foreseeable future, but rather look forward to improving my coding skills for at least another 3 or 4 years.
1) The employer has paid for all necessary hardware
2) If anything goes through third-party services, I can work on the tracked environment in a way that doesn't expose my personal information in any way (e.g. I shouldn't be required to open my e-mail inbox or any other online accound not strictly tied to my employment there)
3) The employer accepts the time wasted on any friction with moving information back and forth (and/or sees to minimize need for that)
If it means running a VM, up any workstation with 16GB RAM.
The only case I would accept something like this is if I was working at eg the NSA, a really high value target for state actors. Then I would get why nobody can be trusted.
As opposed to, say, controling employees bathroom breaks as is routine in retail and industrial jobs in some places. Or prohibiting/preventing unionisation.
Its a way to verify your trust, otherwise it just blind trust.
"Oh hey honey, mind if I look at your phone? Oh it's not that I don't trust you, I just need to verify my trust."
I agree that if you are a salaried employee this type of tracking software makes no sense.
There is an old Italian story - I'm sure it's common in other places - about a TV repairman that goes to fix a TV at someone's house. He looks at the TV and tells the owner: "It's going to be 100$ to fix it". The owner agrees. The repairman walks up to the TV, hits it with his fist and the TV starts working again. The owner complains: "What? A 100 bucks to hit the TV with your fist?" and the handyman: "Yeah, because I knew where to hit it!".
The idea is, say that you are a 10X performer: you have two options in front of you. Option one: you charge 1200$ for ten hours of work - this will make clients happy, even if you are only working an hour. Option two: you charge 1200$ for an hour of work: none is going to hire you because there are people that are only charging 120$ an hour.
The funny thing is: even if the math always ends up the same - 1200$ - people will almost always choose the 120$ an hour because in their heads they are getting the best deal.
Back to the topic at hand: if I say that a job is 10 hours at 120$ per hour I don't want to be monitored because trust doesn't enter into it. It's a simple matter of what's the worth of the job. If you don't think the job is worth 1200$ no amount of monitoring will fix it; if you think the job is worth 1200$ then if I do it in two minutes or 10 hours should not be an issue.
The Speed-Cost-Quality triangle is lost in translation the moment the invoice hits the printer.
* Edit 1 - Fixed some spelling.
The solution is to find clients that are prepared to pay for quality + reliable results and to avoid discussing work in terms of hourly rates then?
Upwork sounds like it encourages hourly projects for clients that want the cheapest price. As a freelancer, your goal shouldn't be to win over every client.
These people are often very frustrating to work with.
Cheap tech/software is making it appear everywhere. It’s just going to get more pervasive in the future. I already feel like the wealthy are watching us everywhere.
I would like to see most electronic monitoring made illegal.
I think we need to set up laws over employer monitoring, even having cameras at work for any reason, even for loss prevention. If they decide they need to bring us in—so be it. If an employer doesn’t think you pull your weight, they can fire.
All public, police electronic, license plate scanners, including ankle brackets, and alcohol monitors should be illegal. Yes—even alcohol monitors. Go back to “If he passed the field sobriety test” let him go. In certain rare situations, a blood test could be obtained. In my county, Marin County, I’m pretty convinced most DUI’s are marginal, and give our officers something to do? (Yes—I see you cops on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard salivating for something to put on your shift reports, especially after 10 pm. Don’t bother driving through Marin County after 10 pm, especially if your drive an old car, or had a glass of wine at dinner. Sorry—I walk at night, and have been seeing way to many traffic stops. I know one know my neighborhood, but I bet they are seeing the same in their neighborhoods.)
I would like to see all cameras in public settings removed. I would even put back the Toll Takers.
All this cheap tech, and surveillance will just get worse in the future.
We got by for decades without it?
We seemed to have a better society back then for the most part? Worried about security, hire a Security Guard? Worried about ethics/morality of your hires, maybe show up in church, or set an example for your employees?
The only form of surveillance I was excited about was Police Cams, but most are easily disabled by the officer. The only worth while video seems like it from a passerby who has a phone?
I don’t want to get into a big debate, but feel like we are at a point where the we are all being watched/photographed way too much.
To all the nervous nellies out there, whom believe surveillance makes society safer/better; everyone has a nice camera at their fingertips.
What does this even mean? Does it mean no logging of anything you do online?
If you go to a website, it creates an HTTP log. The administrators of those sites usually review HTTP logs for valid, not-scary, security related issues.
If I have see a spike in error codes, then there might be an availability issue on my website. I can also look for indicators of SQL injection attacks and other malfeasance. These are all valid reasons to review logs you, the person visiting my website, generate.
What about CCTV cameras? Can I not put one in my business? You're entering my business.
> "All public, police electronic, license plate scanners, including ankle brackets, and alcohol monitors should be illegal."
This is silly. If we ban things like radar guns, police are just going to fall back to the less-accurate eyeball test. Ankle bracelets and alcohol monitors are ways to keep people out of jail. You're not typically forced to wear one unless it's a condition of your probation or parole. Don't like them? Stay in jail.
In most European countries intrusive monitoring is illegal. For example, you are not allowed to snoop on your employees email unless there's a very good reason for that (suspected fraud, stealing information, etc).
Even more intrusive tools are outright illegal.
> What about CCTV cameras? Can I not put one in my business?
You can. What you can't do is use them to snoop on your employees indiscriminately and you better have a clear retention policy for the footage and make sure that it's deleted after a specified period.
e: small clarification
I lack the factual basis here to judge the wishes/demands put forward?
What would be the consequence of banning all such measures? Are there any studies, comparisons, etc. here?
> We seemed to have a better society back then for the most part?
Now here the question is, how do you define that? At least in Germany, the statistics say that society has become less criminal and much safer. So what is a "better society" in your definition?
What you want to prevent or make illegal is the usage of electronic monitoring that is harmful, not electronic monitoring itself.
When client don't want to pay, they have 2 ways:
1) just don't put the money to the bound card account, or don't pay the bill;
2) try to say that the freelancer wasn't working.
In both cases, screenshots are the protection for a freelancer. In the first case, Upwork just pays you their own money. In the second case, you have huge evidence that will help you in the dispute.
About micro-management: in 99.9% of cases clients don’t check the screenshots. I saw how it works from both sides. Also, in 8 years I had 1 client who turned off the option of tracking time manually (you don’t get payment protection for manually tracked time, so you only do this when you trust your client).
In comparison to never-ending hell in the fixed-price contracts, per-hour payment is the most comfortable way to work.
Thanks to Upwork I got to work with US clients and save enough money to migrate back home to the US with my wife and children.
By using their time tracker I was guaranteed to get paid for work, they take the doubt out of the equation. Track time and you will get paid. It was 100% a worthy trade-off for me. The results speak for themselves.
Now today I have no idea what the platform is like. I haven't worked there for in quite some time.
I tried it in ~2013 and again recently and it's a shit-show. There's no quality control on the demand side so you waste hours sifting through crap like unreasonably low rates or unclear/nonsense requirements, then spend ages writing a proposal just to be outbid by some Indian sweatshop because the rating system has been gamed to death and there's nothing to weed out low-quality suppliers.
Maybe it's good enough if you want to compete with third-world, bottom of the barrel developers and can afford to live on that, but otherwise you'd make more money on average just working at your local fast food joint.
At first sight the problem seems to be poor quality engineers/skills. The true issue is that its race-to-the-bottom pricing strategy (one that gets hand-wavily justified by intrusive surveillance / screen recording) attracts the worst of the worst employers who do not understand SDLC and requirements.
personal anecdote: few years ago I joined a failing company which was massively behind and which did everything wrong you could possible do wrong, but where I knew its founders and investors and believed I could turn things around. We used upwork because the boss was convinced it was cost effective ("8 engineers for the price of 3" the boss liked to say) and so all our engineers came from various low-cost countries via upwork. The same engineers were also completely lost since nobody managed requirements for them. And so the product (an MVP) which was promised to be ready 2 years ago was still unfinished (with no completion date in sight).
These "contractors" had no agency or motivation to get things done. They were all not skilled for what was expected. It was the fault of the management not upwork, but still I ended up canceling every single contractor from upwork except 1.
I expect any external contractor to think critically of requirements they are given and raise flags if something is off. Upwork doesn't deliver this. They give you people who are stuck between a rock and a hard place and who can't afford to ruffle feathers. Both because they need the money but also because the management themselves doesn't think they're capable (e.g. "how could they be taken serious if their work only costs $25/hrs" - "of course they're not important and we can easily replace them at any time").
Upwork attracts people who don't understand the pricing of their skills. From over 100 people I was forced to engage with on that platform not a single one undwerstood what requirements and deadlines are. Unless you fully specify what exactly is to be done (and also how) you will never get what you asked for. The real issue however isn't the engineers but Upwork itself who attracts this type of client base.
Since that experience I fared well to not only give prospective engineers a pass that say they use the platform a lot but also any clients who use upwork in any shape or form.
In my experience, cheapskate employers are almost always pathologically cheap, so there is no amount of convincing or rationalization that will change their minds.
It is. The good ones get better jobs elsewhere. Those who can't start competing in the race for the bottom.
> I expect any external contractor to think critically of requirements they are given and raise flags if something is off.
That's what a professional engineer would do. Costs way more than 25$/hour.
It is, sadly. Same with e.g. Toptal, they charge clients $100 for my work and pay me $50-$60, which is still higher than any clients I can find myself.
It is frustrating to know they are capturing such a big fraction of my worth to the client just because they talk to the right people and I don't, but it's what it is.
So ~2x for work performed doesn't seem that outside industry norms, assuming the platform is delivering value and not just matchmaking.
I check it one a week for ~10min to see hours logged per day and quick random to check its not loads of time wasting.
It feels intrusive but there is little difference than people walking past someone in an open plan office + they can turn it off anytime they want to do personal.
For me I see this as really useful for managing Jr remotes. And personally would have no issue running it if I was working remote. I think the pain points would be more about how management use it, and in its worse its little different from having a micro manager in a on-site office experience.
What is the value of micromanagement?
Just set expected result and output and when this should be met by.
It doesn't matter how the person has achieved it.
Isn't that a smarter approach?
See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ROWE and https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/autonomy-mastery-pur...
It doesn't work well in our enviroment. The guys we use this for tend to do a real mixed bag of tasks from a day of small fixes to days on a job. Its not realistic time wise for me to go through their days jobs lists and see all that's done in a day and if it seems right volume wise.
> Are they bad at the job then maybe try another person.
That's what this does. In 10min a week I can see if someone is putting hours and turning over work in a reasonable way.
> It isn’t anybody’s business how I use my time as long as the work gets done.
Absolutely - peeps are free to turn this on and off. I'm looking at the total work, how they break up the day is irrelevant. In that way they are very flexible. Its not like this runs when they are not working.
> This reminds me I had a boss who was nosy and micromanaging. I followed his orders and became a lot less productive. It’s like this, you want control?
I think your putting a bunch of your experience in here that isn't fair. Our enviroment is very hands off and from my end I try to follow what a mentor told me "Tell people what you want, not what to do". You may have another experience but I find this tool helps us achieve independent work while offering that coverage from people that are looking to do less than reasonable.
That’s not so simple with time and materials billing. If somethings taking too long to deliver or is being delivered to a low standard, it could easily be explained by having to deal with unplanned problems (which could also be entirely the clients fault), or it could just as easily be a contractor being slow and/or useless. I’ve worked as a contractor for quite a long time, and the number of complete dead weight contractors I run into is astonishing, and so is the number of projects that go way over budget due to poor planning from the clients. The metric you propose to track doesn’t do such a good job of telling the difference between these two things. This approach doesn’t do a terribly great job of that either, but delivering your work under the conditions chosen by your client is pretty much how it always is for contractors/consultants/freelancers. If they take things too far they won’t be able to attract the high quality contractors in any case.
> in its worse its little different from having a micro manager in a on-site office experience
That itself is a pretty horrible thing, and I'm glad I don't have to work for people like you.
I hope the "silver lining" of everyone having to WFH due to COVID is that companies realise how little contribution middle managers make to getting work done and hence the bottom line. They are just dead weight, get rid of them and share the spoils between workers and senior managers, it's a win-win.
So, you give a difficult problem to your employee, he gets stressed it is difficult, but now he needs to pretend to be busy to satisfy boss, he is even more stressed as he does not have time to think about solving the problem, but he needs to think about being busy... I can see people spiraling into mental health problems.
I just remembered, at the beginning of my career, one of my coworkers got a request from a client: we need something, we need it urgently, so make it and make it interesting by tomorrow noon.
You're making up some horrible scenario that holds not basis of reality to support your view. I cant see that ever happening in the enviroment we are in. Maybe elsewhere but this tool is going to have both sides.
No doubt some people would be real arsehole managers with these type of tools. I also dont doubt these same managers would be like that in a physical office where they try to overwatch and micro mange there.
In our scenario the 2 main things its given us is 1) a massive time saving to management and 2) ability to leave freelancers/jr employees alone to do their thing.
Experience may differ with users :)
With time tracking, the freelancer earns less if they find shortcuts and you'd probably rather the work was finished sooner rather than later so the incentives are all mixed up.
Many people are taking this like its some micromanagement its my job to watch them but its literally the opposite. I can quickly check in for 5/10min every week or so and see that things are working. The alternative would be hours of reviewing tasks and output. And this quick check saves me a bucket of time + I leave them alone to do their thing if all seems good.
I do get why people dont like it. I was quite hesitant to bring it in originally but I've found it a really useful tool for the way and employee structure of how our business works.
This will only catch the most ridiculous abuse that will be visible from results as well and harm everybody else.
And, if it's not visible in the results... why do you care?
Might catch out somebody who deals with a couple of interruptions though...
You optimise for time wasted rather than value created.
It IS intrusive!
Right, cause they're both intrusive. You're essentially saying: it's an intrusive system but I don't mind it being intrusive. You also show that you have the possibility to deny working with a party; great. But the point is protecting people who don't like such privacy invasion and who, at the same time, do not have the luxury to deny a contract.
While systems like this can be used intrusively, they’re certainly not a violation of privacy on any level. The work you do for your clients isn’t a private matter. It’s theirs. They’re paying you to do it for them...
Because, on Upwork, the client can decide whether or not the freelancer is allowed to put in hours manually. What I am trying to say is: it's an option that you don't have to use.
I cannot work on upwork as I ponder problems before I solve them; I can have quite large amounts of time without keystrokes or my laptop might be asleep. I would refuse it anyway if it was required though.
Took me about 2/3 of a day but only about an hour of programming the rest was spent thinking and sketching out the problem and test cases on paper.
Program ran first time and ran with 100% uptime for the duration
For what you describe, hourly billing will not work anyway. Some kind of fixed type of payment, or perhaps retainer + hourly billing for actual typing/research would be more appropriate. I think, both can be setup on Upwork (as two separate projects)
Also it seems ridicolously easy to game, just buy a seperate upwork computer and when you go afk, just leave the right program open.
But in the end is not about true surveillance, it's about liability in case of disputes between client and freelancer. Source: I work as freelancer on Upwork for 13 years now, only hourly projects and always with their desktop app turned on.
Can you explain why you think this?
Courses/books on freelancing I've looked at generally strongly advise getting away from hourly, so it's interesting how both extremes of this advice exist.
My hypothesis is a lot of freelancers get burned on their first projects because there's a learning curving in controlling scope creep, charging enough, identify client red flags, not haven't enough potential clients to be picky etc. and react by switching to hourly only.
But yeah, this 'screen monitoring' definitely doesn't work for me, so I would never agree to it; in that case fixed price is simpler.
I just can't stand getting into scenarios where you start considering eating hours from your timesheet so the client doesn't get annoyed e.g. because you didn't feel you were being 100% productive for whatever reason, you got sidetracked by a hard to explain/justify bug, you went for a walk to think about a problem, you're going over budget, you think because you had to learn something new you shouldn't charge for the time, because part of a meeting included some casual chat. It's a lot of stress to the client too having to keep track of unpredictable costs.
There's such a different feeling to working where you're not having to keep an eye on the clock having thoughts like "that's 30 minutes up already, I better find a solution to this soon or my timesheet will look bad".
Fixed price lets you just get on with things and focus on actually being efficient instead of worrying about how efficient you're looking.
I see fixed price being more of a tool in design projects, where the goal might be concrete but the path to get there is open, or the client wants a basket of options.
Where as doing an n-party integration between multiple inflight projects at a fixed price would be poor idea, UNLESS, UNLESS the fixed price is some high multiple of the P99 and some low multiple of the P99.9bar
In the first case, the value is in the answer, not the difficulty in which it was arrived at. In the second case, the actual work is what is needed and being paid for.
But at a high enough level, all contracts are fixed price.
A combination usually, with benefits to the client too:
- Client + contractor aren't both wasting time with micromanagement that could be put into adding business value instead.
- Contractor is incentivised to work smarter, finish tasks quicker and keep the business goal in mind.
- Client can budget because they know the final price.
- Contractor is happier and less stressed because they're not being micromanaged.
These are all flipped with hourly.
Fixed price will be horrible for the contractor if they're not charging enough and controlling scope creep though, but with hourly the client is taking the business risk instead.
As I have aged, I am less likely to do fixed price work unless it has a lot more headroom.
But if we talk about software only, then estimating is hard, creating a strong and stable enough specification (that can be used for estimation) is hard, you have to sell it to the client - most clients are not willing to pay for it, for they don't understand that it would be needed in order to come up with a fixed cost. Even if they do understand the need and acknowledge the effort, they might say that if you create the spec and they don't like the final quote then the spec may not be valuable for them, because the next freelancer/company may not find it useful. (And it has some merit, though there are a lot of freelancers and companies who are willing to work and quote based on an existing detailed specification.)
And if you do the estimation (and create the quote) without quoting for the specification work then you'll put in a lot of uncompensated hours which you'll have to make up for with the paying clients, so you'll be more expensive. Especially if you find a client who shops around for quotes, plays the "lets do a spec" game (for which they don't pay), and then go with the specification (or even just the improved understanding) to the next few companies where they can provide a detailed spec so those companies can quote lower.
Oh, well and the client will compare the price tags (obviously and rightly so), so they will more likely to be choosing the offer that has the larger estimation error (as long as it's an underestimation, of course). And you can say that competition takes care of this (whoever is constantly underestimating, that constant underestimation will actually be their real price), but the above points still hold. It's just not worth it. Definitely not worth it if you don't have the client paying for the specification/planning that's needed for the quote.
If another quote is very cheap, the client will probably question if that's going to reflect the quality of the work.
There's also risk that the developer they take the requirements + design doesn't really understand what they're getting into and can't execute.
I don't think there's any easy answers, but generally you want to work on attracting clients that are more interested in high quality work over the cheapest price where shopping around like this isn't a good use of their time. Chatting about rough budgets first and making sure the client is going to profit from the work helps too.
It's great when you get to charge for the planning phase though because you're not feeling rushed into committing to a quote with too many unknowns that might not really solve their problem. If you explain why it's risky to quote with so little information, some clients will listen and aren't going to go with someone asking nothing and offering a cheap price.
> There's also risk that the developer they take the requirements + design doesn't really understand what they're getting into and can't execute.
Yes, and I've mentioned that. But what matters is if the client is aware of it or not.
Yes, you always want to aim for quality clients, still with all this planning and estimation, even with the best intentions I think that a lot of time gets wasted on lost bids.
> It's great when you get to charge for the planning phase though
Now that I think back, I had exactly one project like this, more than a decade ago. I've created the requirement specification based on client interviews, they paid for it then sent it to a few competing companies and all of us made a proposal. We didn't win it in the end, but at least that was a pretty fair and transparent process. (The company was owned by Deutsche Telekom, so it wasn't exactly an accident.)
I've seen that recommendation to 'get away from hourly' a lot too (I don't freelance) but I think that means (certainly doesn't have to mean) get away from charging for time entirely. Many professions (e.g. architects, solicitors, accountants, tax advisors) charge for time. I think the suggestion is usually to move from hourly to daily/weekly, some larger unit of time that's a more appropriate block for building software, allowing that 'thinking time' where you sort of did something else ('afk') but were working, since it's just part of the day.
Longer architecture or implementation work were hourly.
I’ll give you a hint: think how a client can abuse this.
This is horrible. Also easily defeated if you have a second computer with which to do non-work stuff or just run the Upwork app inside a VM. As a client of the freelancer, I'd be far more interested in the quality of the final deliverable than making sure they didn't goof off while producing it.
Yeah, if you take a job on Upwork, you'll never be able to do work with that freelancer off-site ever.
It seems they actually enforce this too, I've read of many that's been either banned on suspicion.
Why? That happens often a lot. There is not too much that can be done against it I think. I like the ease of hiring people and not having to do paperwork, so I see little reason, but I do know companies which do it a lot and have not been banned.
I think monitoring is a poor form of feedback, organizations where this would be necessary are effectively non-conscious entities.
Think an AI that manages the gig-employees the keep the vent tubes on the Windy's DeepFriedExtrude units clean. It just needs to track cleaner consumed per increment and movement in front of the kiosks.
There are products especially for europe that do monitoring like this.
The specific article in question is:
* "If any kind of monitoring system is put in place, it needs to be proportionate to the objective and introduced in accordance with Directive 90/270 on visual display units;"
It is legal but there is a big "if" in there.
in the context of an employment contract/relationship,
And even if, worst case is a small fine for the employer. Unfortunately.
Even those that have US branches with detailed monitoring there don't dare to run anything similar here. Once you get used to be treated like a human being its hard and irrational to accept anything less.
And unfortunately, these large fines are rare, hard to enforce by employees. The really extreme US stuff is not used, that's true.
I'm talking about illegal activity here not the legal which is, as already stated, sometimes allowed.
Where there is more trust between client and contractor, the later might just enter their hours manually.
You can work for a fixed price and you won't be tracked.
Yup. Well, I am anyway.
I signed up and they wanted that installing. I've not been back haha.
If the work is done.. you pay me, that's the deal we have. I'm not installing spyware for some weirdo to watch me work.
I discarded UpWork precisely because of this.
Heck, I've often found that taking a break to read HN or make a cup of coffee or even watch a YT video results in me figuring out what's causing a bug in some code. Apparently my subconscious is great at debugging.
The converse is true too. I've worked with people who actively code for 8 hours and yet have produced very little usable code at the end of the day. They needed 8 hours to do what a better developer could do in a couple of hours.
You can't judge the quality of a developer's work by looking at how much time they spend in their IDE.
Yes you can ask questions, both in the job form and in the chat before hiring someone.
What started as a 10% commission was upped to 20%, and they tried to do various tricks on both clients and freelancers to a point that I stopped doing freelance work altogether.
It was a great platform, and I don't think a 10% clear cut wasn't enough for them for an organic growth.
Another thing I loathe is LinkedIn. I'm sure many people find their next job through LinkedIn, but it baffles me why LinkedIn would even exist today, being an social network, communication platform, a portfolio, and all of them in a very awkward position, and not being very good at any of them. Now they want to be a freelancer market place too?
I’m the one that spends time filtering through their cluttered job list, I’m the one trying to convince people to hire me, I’m the one doing the work, they process the payments and they still milk me massively. Eventually I deleted my account and went working just on Toptal.
There I have no idea how much they earn from my work but at least I get dozens of offers every time I become available.
I think Upwork just has to deal with too many disputes on low budget jobs and because of that their processes alienate high earning devs.
There doesn't seem to be a race to the bottom on Arc.dev with regards to rates. There's a vetting process, but not as difficult as TopTal imo.
You can get an idea on the rates of freelancers on Arc by reading the following: https://arc.dev/remote-developer-salary
I do like them a lot though and have gotten clients through them (and codementor; though that last one is, too, getting polluted with very-low-level coders just randomly accepting jobs they do not have the skills for; having used it as a client recently, I've been less impressed)
On the other hand Fiverr takes always 20%, regardless of how long the relation between freelancer and client is. That's why Fiverr is 10 times smaller than Upwork.
A few years ago I've co-founded a platform for remote psych counselling and I remember my partner was pushing for a 30% commission. I told him that's how you motivate your users to try to get around you and not keep paying in the long run.
They messaging software is not very useful, and time tracking feature is hostile for many.
A more comparable feature would be for the client to pay a fixed fee to post, and allow them to work outside upwork.
Because without Upwork weekly charges clients might “forget” and “postpone” and “delay” payments. 5% is ok to know that money will be paid by the schedule.
Otherwise, Upwork is just great, to the point that i wouldn't even talk to a client coming from outside of it just because all of them turned out to be little but spam.
I’ve learned (the hard way) about being very, very clear with deliverables and expectations. Based on the average response I get on Upwork, it would seem the median buyer is much more susceptible to contractors blowing smoke. So one has to be careful.
But overall, as several hundred thousand dollars client over the years, it’s been a godsend.
Maybe not low-end, but that's still probably the lower end of mid-end.
Those type of people arent going to be on a site like upwork, but they make a hell of a lot more than $100/hr.
Only in very rich countries $100/hr could be considered "normal" or not high-end.
For example, when was the last time you saw an airline undercut their competitors' first-class ticket price? How many sports-car manufactures get in price wars with their competition?
If your services are supply-constrained and there is a string market, you can charge whatever you want (to an extent, at least many times your cost of living), your cost of living doesn't matter when setting your prices in that situation. Your value is what the market dictates, not how much it costs you to buy a loaf of bread.
From a buyers perspective, Upwork feels more solid than Fiverr. In terms of freelancers and system functionality.
One thing that is annoying on both platforms is that they send you an invoice after every gig. The first one that will offer to send you one combined invoice per month will win my trust in a big way.
In my opinion, the weakness of both, Upwork and Fiverr is that they focus too much on the demand side. It is really hard to find real experts. For example developers, who are writing clean code and refactor their stuff before they deliver. You usually get something that works but is a bunch of chaos under the hood. I think it is telling, that Fiverr's affiliate program only pays when you bring them buyers. They should find a way to pay for talent as well.
Speaking of affiliate programs: I think it is a mistake on Upwork's side to not have an affiliate program at all. Look at the biggest market place in the world: Amazon. Search for any product name on Google and you basically get a search results page full of links to pages that promote Amazon. Affiliates bring in qualified visitors so much cheaper then advertisements.
If you want that you probably shouldn't be outsourcing to freelancers in general. People aren't going to make clean code if they know they are never going to see it again and arent being paid for how clean it is.
Of course, a clueless non-technical client, esp. if they are inexperienced on top of this, will not care and thus my hire someone who works like you suggest. A bit more sophisticated client will find someone who's experienced in managing and hiring developers, a tech lead, and help them pick and sometimes giude/check-in on their freelancer. Though very few people actually do this.
To be fair, a lot of full-time developers in big companies also do not get paid for how clean the code is, because no one cares.
I'd probably lean more towards personal character deciding this than just looking at people behaving only and always as incentives tell them to in any situation. Some people take pride in their code and some don't.
To say that "of course this freelance code is garbage, they're paid peanuts" is naive, because it implies that:
a) Well paid engineers always write beautiful code, and the more they get paid the more beautiful it becomes, which obviously isn't true.
b) Badly paid engineers don't care about code quality if they don't get paid for it, which isn't true because open source is a thing.
Reducing everything to economical incentives is, in my opinion, not very useful.
When you do open source, you are the one who has to live with the results. Forever. I think open source proves the point you're arguing against.
Besides, the argument is not that they are paid peanuts, just that they are being paid for other things. The incentives are not lined up for freelancers to give high investment up front to reduce long term maintenance costs. That doesnt mean every freelancer writes crap code, just that on average its not a system that selects for easily maintainable code.
You realize freelancers often have ongoing relationships with their clients, right? As well as relying heavily on recommendations and referrals. Why would I risk putting shitty work out there?
On Fiverr, the identity of the seller is completely concealed from the buyer. Usually the seller does not even tell you their full name, let alone send you an invoice.
This is actually a big plus of Fiverr. You only get invoices from one company in Israel (Fiverr) instead of invoices from all around the world.
It just sucks that they send you an invoice after every gig. They should have an option to send you one each month. Payment could still be after each gig. Just the invoices should be combined.
None the less, graphic designers lost this corner of the market and were out leveraged and forced to work in an environment that wants to treat good logo design as a commodity. Personally, I see the logo contract work example as a cautionary tale of how to not let businesses push software into the same world. Any profession driven by a lot of underlying passion (software development falls here) is vulnerable to such exploitation leveraging the passion aspect. The gaming industry is a great example of this. Highly complex, highly technical, yet there are many slaving hours away in burnout conditions at rates below what their skills could obtain but their passion holds them in place.
Fortunately I think most developers worth their salt are intelligent enough to recognize this sort of exploitation and simply shift away from these situations and realize the costs they've paid not to undermine other developers in the process. I'm not sure if that will maintain forever though. There will always be demand for talented and experienced developers but the market may be able to do 80% of what they can achieve at a fraction of the cost and simply push the remaining 20% cost as a lack of quality onto the consumer--it wouldn't be the first time.
We currently have a system that not only enables exploitation of people but celebrates it. If you can get someone to do something for you for nothing, you're rewarded and regarded as brilliant.
Exploitation (essentially optimization) is fine when it's applied to a mechanical technique or process to gain efficiency (general technological growth), but not so fine when it's exploiting people and their lives to reach these growths. We seem to have lost the technological growth rate options that satisfy the appetites of the most greed driven (where US capitalism has historically been fantastic and deserves celebration,
back when labor rights were strong and the industrial revolution was steaming ahead with no end in sight for technological growth) and moved on to exploiting people to eek out these never-ending appetites for growth (where US capitalism, I believe, has more recently begun to fail).
Yes, they only attract marginalised developers. Any "good" developer will be working full time in a well paid job. In the unlikely event that they want to choose to be a contractor, they probably have the capacity to set up their own gigs.
The whole business model of Upwork and Fiverr is predicated on some sort of unhealthy combination of wishful thinking, technical illiteracy, neo-liberalism and mild racism.
For this sort of thing to work in a satisfactory way, we have to look at the other, more established professions- law, medicine, accountancy, architecture, etc. For a guarantee of quality and supply of well-qualified software engineers, they have to be organised as a profession with guilds, partnerships and some sort of gatekeeping.
I suppose I could think “I don’t like people from country X, so I won’t offer any work to someone from there”, but if I thought that way, it seems my preferences are easier to enforce in other contexts than in these gig platforms.
There's no way driving for Uber can ever meet that criteria. Fiverr, on the other hand, often meets that definition.
The US federal rules are more subjective, but more generally about "control". Not as stark a difference as the AB5 example, but it does feel like Fiverr workers have more control over things like "picking their tools", "exactly how to do the work", etc.
That hasn't really been my experience doing software development as an employee. They mandate lots of things like methodology (scrum, scaled agile, etc), tools like their standard IDE, coding standards, style guides, mandatory use of JIRA or similar, SCM standards, which languages are allowed, and so on. I'm aware some places might be highly flexible, but I assume that's less common.
It's not, though. It's one aspect of behavioral control. For US Federal purposes, for example:
"Type of instructions given, such as when and where to work, what tools to use"
"Degree of instruction, more detailed instructions may indicate that the worker is an employee"
"Training a worker on how to do the job"
An IDE could come up in all three of those. And the law isn't black-and-white...it's the cumulative pile of these things that drives a ruling. So an IDE is absolutely material as one of many mandated tools, processes, or training subjects.
Substitution - I understand that you cannot subcontract the work without the client knowledge and approval. That means the service is most likely personal. Even if the client agrees etc. and the subcontractor is only allowed to be from the Upwork pool (e.g. the client could hire them directly) then that also doesn't count as substitution.
Control and direction - if the client is directing the worker from the outset and on an ongoing basis and if the worker needs to comply with any standards adopted by client's organisation e.g. the language, coding standards, APIs, then that counts as employment. Especially if the worker does not have final say about how the work is delivered.
Control and direction - if you ask the worker to attend meetings or work on a certain schedule e.g. to align with the organisation or even if they are allowed to have flexible hours - then that's no different from employment.
Basically you can only get around this if the work is done to a certain deadline and you have no meetings after the work commenced.
Provision of equipment - things like a laptop and most software are excluded from consideration in my country. So if you need to buy a laptop for work, it doesn't count.
Financial Risk - basically it will only count as freelancing if you risk severe penalties for missing deadlines. Having to work on a project after hours fixing bugs or making amendments does not count as financial risk. The same as having to buy equipment or software just for that project unless the value is substantial.
Business on own account - this one is not so important - but basically you need to have a registered company, office, accountant, stationery, website, working with multiple clients (but employees can do multiple jobs too, so there is not much bearing)
Business on own account - if project takes majority of your time, so that you cannot work on other projects at the same time, then that also suggests employment.
Essentially for work to count as freelance it should look like this: you negotiate what needs to be done, rough specification is being made, you agree to milestones and possible penalties and then you only talk to client when a milestone is reached. The most granular way of payment is per milestone - e.g. hourly billing is employment most of the time.
There are exemptions, for example if you work for a private person or a small company.
Here is more comprehensive guidance with case studies. IR35 has been tightened so that from April pretty much any work will be considered as employment.
Do you know the rational behind this one? Obviously when you hire a solo freelancer you want to work with that particular freelancer. Why would this single clause being false mark you as being an employee?
I heard that as long as your contract includes something about how you could be replaced by someone equally skilled, you can work around this? The client can still terminate the contract if they didn't like the replacement.
There is a new chart of how the ranking of these sites have shifted over time: https://public.tableau.com/profile/andrew.chase#!/vizhome/th...
Practically, it doesn't work. We're going to go back to hiring full-time engineers again.
* It takes months for an engineer to be properly ramped up on a new codebase and even longer for business domain expertise. Until then they might actually be negatively productive due to onboarding questions other devs must answer.
* Enforcing any coding standards is difficult so you get a lot of technical debt over time.
edit: Also, a good engineer on a well functioning team will push back on bad or inefficient feature requirements. If you're just getting paid by feature and feel no ownership of the product then you have little incentive to do that.
People tend to produce better work, on a faster timeline, when the respect of their teammates is on the line.
Also, with any given team and codebase, team members will tend to carve out unofficial roles that best fit their abilities. This of course increases the net productivity of the team.
The future is gonna be filled with disinterested one time contractors and employers who fraudulently refuse bounty payout.
The new developer career: Work yourself to exhaustion in "open" source to get noticed. If you succeed, welcome to the underpaid gig economy at LinkedIn.
As a bonus, get tracked all the time by GitHub, VSCode, vcpkg, LinkedIn and the new Microsoft in general.
No job security harder to get a mortage.
I guess the word comes from music gigs. Looking at smaller bands I would say that is not making stable income.
I guess it could mean easier to find jobs for self employeed but that the compensation might get lower.
started with all the bootcamps, learn to code stuff, plus gameification of hiring process, covid-remote work and an increase in automation and ml tech i can see it as a plausible future
Firstly, let’s talk definitions:
> A white collar worker is a person who performs professional, desk, managerial, or administrative work.
> A blue-collar worker is a working class person who performs manual labor.
But I know what you’re trying to say - that we’ll suddenly find ourselves as the contemptible lower class of workers. Just FYI though: many manual laborers make quite a bit of money and are unionized. Many make over 100k which is good living outside of the bay.
But as to why you’re wrong: There’s still an enormous demand for devs - far more than the supply. The minute that changes, people will stop going to bootcamps and pursue other fields. And even bootcamps don’t help much: someone has to then take on that junior for a few years to make them useful, and nobody wants to do that. Not just anybody can be a dev. I used to tell people learn to code, but the truth is the average person could never handle even the simplest dev tasks. Even people with CS degrees seem to struggle for their first year (some struggle for their entire careers).
ML isn’t quite snake oil, but it’s sold like it. It does some things well but it’s falling short and in need of a breakthrough.
Not to mention our work is very important to these companies. Small mistakes can kill the company. Good work can make 100x+ our cost. And the better devs are several times more valuable than the mediocre ones. If developers were under real threat of being commodified, you’d see unionization happen so fast. There’s a reason companies move from outsourcing to insourcing - if the cheaper devs were working out, it wouldn’t make any sense.
As someone hiring devs, the push is always towards higher pay. Even with competitive salaries, it's hard to find good senior devs. That tells me that our pay isn't competitive enough (or our recruiters suck, but probably both), which is just going to push our salaries higher.