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LinkedIn is building a gig marketplace (aimgroup.com)
389 points by ArtTimeInvestor 51 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 332 comments


> 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 signed up for Upwork, a couple of years ago. I knew a few people that had used the platform to hire freelancers, and they raved about it.

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.

In case anyone's forgotten, there was also that story where Upwork cut off a freelancer with no explanation, and falsely told the client they had to upgrade, on the pretense that Upwork had to comply with the California law about contractor status.

(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.)


Scams aside, were you using Upwork as a freelancer or client? The experience is very different depending on which side you are on. It’s a client market currently as there a glut of freelancers for your picking right now. Lots of competition.

As a freelancer. All the rave reviews were from clients.

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.

It's been years since I was on Upwork (started w/ Elance) and I felt similar frustrations. Then I signed up as a buyer, posted a job similar to the ones I was seeking, and analyzed the patterns of freelancer pitches and how the system was structured.

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.

Video messages work exceptionally well. I use it for my sales outreach as well.

> You can tell by how the project descriptions are written which ones to avoid.

What makes you avoid a project?

The same thing that would make me pass over a resume/cover letter for a job I'm hiring for: vagueness. The more specific and transparent a posting is, the more confidence I have in the buyer knowing what they need and who they need to achieve that goal. You get a lot of amateurs/first-timers on these sites, and that's often a recipe for misaligned expectations.

Hey, that's great advice!


You need to learn to game the system like the most popular freelancers and agencies seem to learn to do; you're not getting kicked off the platform as a freelancer/agency even if you engage in blackmail/extortion for 5 star ratings - even when there's proof - as I have experienced.

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.

> 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.

>Scammers see that as "gullible," but I've been swimming with some of the world's nastiest sharks for 40 years.

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.

If you are hiring, you have to have tasks of staggered difficulty and pay by the hour. Risks still include a skilled worker being swapped out later. If you have a project with a multi-week timeline, the final product delivered at once, you are setting yourself up to get fucked.

* referring to software development. Other tasks are an order of magnitude easier to hire for.

Can you say more about what these scammers want? Do they want you to work for them for free?

Some want a freelancer account that is registered in US or Western Europe. I guess it’s easier to get a high-paying client if you have a local face behind your proposal.

I get hit with these constantly because I'm a US based Toptal freelancer. "Hey, if you take the meetings and let us use your account, we'll do all the work and give you 20%!".

So basically some folks just told you how you can be the CEO of InfoClone? How big are these deals, how skilled are the folks and how many people do they have?

If they have to resort to this tactic it’s usually not a good sign. Skilled workers will get the contracts without the shenanigans.

I have no idea. I usually tell them I'll consider it if I get to keep 80% instead of 20% and then they disappear heh

That’s what I’ve heard. They may lead you on to keep you on the hook in case they need you without even getting work from you. This isn’t really a scam; it’s just about them wasting your time. And there are so many suckers that they can be picky about who they do this to.

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.

Yes, for some, but I never followed up enough to find out more.

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.

Silly question, but if they:

> 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?

> Or the checks would be invalid, worthless?

That's the scam.


Thanks thanks

> 419 approach

What does this mean?

I can't speak for all freelancers, but I do think you're missing some things. I've completed 1000+ projects on Upwork with a 95%+ success rate over the past few years (mostly resume writing and executive bios).

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.

You are doing a tasks that is very easy to evaluate from a success/fail standpoint.

Upwork tends to perform really well for these sorts of one off tasks. Hiring good technically talent is really hard.

tbf, hiring good technical talent is generally very hard and pretty time-consuming. You won't find great talent by just looking at 1-2 proposals and speaking to 1-2 people, just as you wouldn't find good talent by just interviewing 1-2 people. It's a time-consuming process

Fascinating commentary, especially because I've often wondered what it takes to break in to the resume/executive bio writing world. I'm fairly well aware of best practices, but I don't have any experience.

My main advantage as a writer is 20 years of recruiting experience, mostly for east coast US startups. Being a good resume writer (and maybe any good writer?) is really about knowing your audience. And when you've written a lot of resumes it becomes a bit easier. The voice is tricky for some people.

> I have a private resume writing business that I run ... I primarily have used fixed price projects as well, but mainly because time tracking in Upwork is a bit cumbersome.

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?

My hourly rate is $100, which is not the highest, but there are experienced writers for far less. In part because of the cumbersome billing process, my hourly projects are often less expensive. A few minutes here and a few minutes there adds up.

Why not charge a fixed price though? Simple billing, no time spend on time tracking + predictable price to the client.

Most of my work is fixed price. Probably 90%+.

Well, when you first start out, it's not like you always have that many choices. I started working with clients on Upwork because I couldn't get any full time programming jobs at a company, but I could get contracts on Upwork.

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.

Precisely this. When I first started out, it was freelancer.com which eventually went down the path of molecular type tracking. It's invasive and people don't want to pay you what you're worth, but you do it for the experience and to build up a feedback profile to bolster your credibility.

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.

Sounds better, when possible, to just avoid platforms like that

This is interesting. I usually advise beginners NOT to start freelancing before they get some experience with a full time job at a company (preferably a non-remote/on-site position). If the market starts to push people into the other direction, that will, I think, further decrease the chances of any client getting their project finished.

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 usually advise beginners NOT to start freelancing

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.

Well, then you had a fair share of what you need as a freelancer, for sure. Out of curiosity: why did you make the switch? Is it worth it, as opposed to working as a solo/freelancer PM?

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 made the switch because I started coding and studying CS in my free time and realized that I loved it, and that taking a detour was not so risky since software engineering would be a good complement to the skills I already had (it essentially meant "closing the loop" of the dev cycle).

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.

A FT job is a great jump start into freelancing and consulting. You get so much context for free, and frankly anyone at a FT job that has a consultant mindset will have way more opportunities.

I work full-time and get monitored like this. Ever hear of Hubstaff? It's an unfortunate reality for some remote workers and I don't agree with it but it happens. There can be an inherent distrust from employers when they're unable to see you physically working. It's more of an assurance thing, but I've gotten used to working exclusively in VM's.

This is complete insanity to me. So now you're not only selling your knowledge and your time, but you're also selling your complete undivided attention with likely no changes to your paycheck. How do you employ someone and give them access to your company's systems but not give them the absolute minimum amount of trust? It makes no sense.

While I think it's stupid and would never dream of going in that direction with my staff (the most talented would probably bolt fast), in principle I see nothing wrong with it as long as:

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.

I don't feel any of that solves my main issue: that I would not want to work for someone who does not trust me. That does not seem like a good environment where I can be productive and work on things which benefit my employer. The privacy issues is not the only issue.

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.

Oh, absolutely. I wouldn't want to work like that either. Just saying I see it as a bad decision, not ethically or morally wrong.

As opposed to, say, controling employees bathroom breaks as is routine in retail and industrial jobs in some places. Or prohibiting/preventing unionisation.

The use of monitoring doesn't mean they don't trust you.

Its a way to verify your trust, otherwise it just blind trust.

Let's not sugarcoat it. If you need to verify trust then it's not 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."


That is called blind trust.

I think there is a step between actively monitoring and blind trust, where you build trust through a relationship.

It's not a question of trust, it's a question of time tracking for hourly employees.

I agree that if you are a salaried employee this type of tracking software makes no sense.

In my head when I tell a client that a project/job is X hours it means that that is the market value in hours for that project.

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.

> 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 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.

Many times this option is the best option, but it's not the best available option. This is because of a lack of trust. People are worried they are going to be ripped off, so at least want some proof that a given number of hours that seems reasonable was expended and then they check that a reasonable rate was charged per hour, and it makes them feel more confident.

These people are often very frustrating to work with.

Name company please

Glassdoor should add a field for whether the company uses software like that.

Where do you work?

There are probably lots of companies like this. Fortunately there are also lots of other companies who trust their coworkers!

We need to put a stop to all electronic surveillance.

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.

> "I would like to see most electronic monitoring made illegal."

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.

> What does this even mean?

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

You say a lot of "I would like" and "We must" - without providing any evidence of what this would entail - positively or negatively.

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?

electronic monitoring is just a tools, it can be use for good or bad, it would be sucks if that made illegal, I would certainly oppose it.

What you want to prevent or make illegal is the usage of electronic monitoring that is harmful, not electronic monitoring itself.

I work 8 years on Upwork and I only work with this feature. Initially, I was hostile to it, but later one “accident” helped me to realize the whole purpose of this feature: disputes.

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.

What's next, brainwave scanners that only pay you for hours that has atleast 20% gamma wavelength.

And I thought Snow Crash was far-fetched...

If there's a way to reduce costs, it will be done. This is why we have laws to protect baseline rights because they would otherwise be whittled away to nothing.

I knew somebody working on an employee brain wave startup once, except it was to monitor (and help with) stress. My readings would probably be pretty high just from having to wear the thing

Dammit Jim, we could have sold that to a SPAC after we got the boards designed on UpWork.

As someone who worked on Upwork for a long time and literally owe them my career, it was great and I would do it again in a heartbeat. A long time ago I made a living on that platform exclusively.

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.

Presumably you went in early when the platform was still decent.

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.

That was not my experience working up until 2016. My rates at their lowest was $45/hr. Double or more towards the end.

Since I learned what upwork was the hard way, I not only stay away from it but also reject any other consultant who says that this is usually the platform they source their projects from.

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.

Cool story, and sadly not unusual. I wonder if you (or anyone) ever managed to convince "boss" that the poor quality was due to these deficiencies, and that maybe cost was not the most important thing to optimize for.

> I wonder if you (or anyone) ever managed to convince "boss" that the poor quality was due to these deficiencies, and that maybe cost was not the most important thing to optimize for.

In my experience, cheapskate employers are almost always pathologically cheap, so there is no amount of convincing or rationalization that will change their minds.

that's also my experience. when they're so far gone there is no amount of logic walking them back to reason. in my particular example the mistakes didn't make them act more rationally/logically and the money they lost was always blamed on the engineers (or other managers) who then got replaced (more employee turnover making the situation ever more desperate). They continued to throw money at upwork (reasoning it with "we need to hire more people so we can get the MVP finally finished"). What they never understood was that they were throwing good money after bad for 3 years (they spent USD 2MM and still had no MVP).

> At first sight the problem seems to be poor quality engineers/skills.

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.

> Is all this just taking advantage of freelancers who don't know how to market themselves, or am I missing something?

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.

Standard consulting billable hourly to salary is about 3x. But that's accounting for <100% utilization as well.

So ~2x for work performed doesn't seem that outside industry norms, assuming the platform is delivering value and not just matchmaking.

I use a client like this for new freelancers/employees that are working full time or larger jobs. It is intrusive but 100% is needed for some people or they take the piss. I'm too busy to follow their workload and sit there estimating times of jobs match hours.

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.

How about assessing their work and thats that. Did they finish the tasks on time? Great, no need to snoop on them. Are they bad at the job then maybe try another person. I personally work in spurts and when im active I run through the work very fast then I need lighter tasks to put the work in the back of my head. Im still working on it even if looks like in not. It isn’t anybody’s business how I use my time as long as the work gets done. 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’ll give you 0 creativity back, no initiative and passion. I work on task and give 0 thoughts about it when done. Well, Im a lot older and would simply not accept to work like this and luckily i don’t need to.

Totally agree.

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...

> How about assessing their work and that's that

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.

> How about assessing their work and thats that.

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.

It seems like you're trying to shield yourself from "complete dead weight contractors" which should be easy enough to spot. Certainly don't need a dystopian monitoring system to pluck up their monitors every 10 minutes, and have months of research on trailing data to come to the conclusion that a contractor is dead weight.

I am myself a contractor so I’m not trying to shield myself from anything. They are however not simple to spot at all. I mean, I can spot them quite easily (at least I think I can). But I tend to work for people who hire me because they lack the skills that I have (or at least the skills I convince them I have). Their ability to evaluate the quality of my work, or reason about the problems I report to have with their systems, is close to non-existent. If I did terrible work it could take them quite a long time to notice, and then they’d just get themselves stuck trying to figure out if it was my terrible work, or the terrible work of a different contractor, or the terrible work of some of their employees, or simply the consequence of some other terrible work somebody else did 20 years ago. All of whom have a rather clear incentive to point the finger at each other. But don’t worry, whenever projects like that fail to deliver their planned value, there’s always some middle manager near by to say that the problem “should have been easy” to avoid.

If the client does not have the competence to spot bad work, how are screenshots gonna help?

This. I am not sure I as an engineer could tell the difference with screenshots. How could someone without programming experience do so?

They can give an indication that work is at least being done, or perhaps the pace at which it’s being done. Which as I said isn’t a great metric either. But it does to some extent help with something which is legitimately a problem for a lot of businesses who end up being taken for a ride by unscrupulous contractors.

> little difference than people walking past someone in an open plan office

> 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.

Yes, it sounds like someone is being paid as a "micro-manager" to check whether others are working. It is very dismissive towards the other employees, and it is very troubling to pay someone at a management level to do such work. Someone whose job only consists in checking over the shoulders of the people doing the actual work should be paid less, not more, than them.

Yes, it sounds like someone is being paid as a "micro-manager" to check whether others are working. It is very dismissive towards the other employees, and it is very troubling to pay someone at a management level to do such work. Someone whose job only consists in checking over the shoulders of the people doing the actual work should be paid less, not more, than them

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.

This is one more example of terrible management. Mistrust, too much control and micromanagement are totalitarian ways of push management that do not work with thinking and creative working force. Unless what you do is already known pattern coding and repetitive work, which does not include the left or right side of the brain, the above approach may work. Maybe in movies, you can put a gun to a hacker's head and say you have 1 minute to crack this, but in reality, that does not work. Solving problems takes time, and art-wise, to get inspiration, it takes even more time. "Slacking" time is necessary to produce a good solution...

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.

> 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 spiralling into mental health problems.

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 :)

There isn't a way you could track results instead of the time they're sitting in front of the computer? That way you don't waste time micromanaging and the freelancer is rewarded for working smarter rather than longer.

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.

Not really. We do a really wide range of jobs and its too time consuming to dive into the detail of peoples work.

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.

What if I sketch out a solution to a complex problem for most of the day and then execute it in an hour?

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?

I think the way you work, even if you produce stellar results, in some cases will actually be a worse fit than a lower-quality solution that takes longer but involves some kind of draconian control mechanism, because it's also about feeling in control, not just results. These draconian control solutions mostly work as a very crude way to care for the mental health of employers, managers etc., with disproportionate negative impact on the employed; but giving up control is always risky, and feeling risk isn't fun, and dealing with that in a healthy way is something lots of people who get into such positions have never had a chance to properly learn, or even realize it's a problem at all. But such people often do have power and leeway to put in such controls unilaterally, and the further up you go on the food chain, the easier it becomes to isolate oneself from the consequences of such thinking, and doing things differently on the lower levels may require those further up to at least tolerate such an approach; but if they're deeply insecure themselves, wouldn't they perceive such a stance as weak or soft? Won't that hurt my chances for advancement? Will it look like I didn't do my due dilligence if I actually do get screwed with? There are lots of orgs that work like that.

It won't even catch the most ridiculous abuse. If I want to spend eight billable hours reading Hacker News I'll do it on a different computer, and just make sure my "work" machine periodically scrolls, switches file or opens up a new dialog.

Might catch out somebody who deals with a couple of interruptions though...

exactly this. I usually go for a walk and start making a mental model of what I have to do, what order, etc. By the time I'm actually in front of my laptop I already have a clear image and what,when,where and how and just need to write it all down.

The underlying problem here isn't people taking the piss but a system optimised for people taking the piss.

You optimise for time wasted rather than value created.

> It feels intrusive

It IS intrusive!

Do you understand that typing the code and staring at IDE is just a small % of work? To think what and how to solve something you don't even need a computer. People who spend hours in the IDE do this mostly because of lack of experience. You interpret quality work as taking the piss...

For most of my contract work I use virtual desktops that are entirely controlled by my clients. I presume that they’re typically able to monitor everything I do in any way they choose. I’ve never had a problem with this, and I don’t see any practical difference between that system and this one. If a client ever started trying to excessively micromanage me I think I’d just not take another contract with them. I can’t remember ever getting any unreasonable questions about billing though.

> and I don’t see any practical difference between that system and this one

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.

Contractors have an entirely different set of things they can reasonably expect from a client, opposed to what employees can expect from employers. It’s a different kind of relationship all together. You’re not an employee, and your relationship with your clients is exclusively about delivering a service for payment. A contractor will typically benefit from building a network of clients who highly trust their work, but relationships with new clients don’t start out that way, and you can’t expect a client to invest any effort into your relationship beyond what’s required to deliver the contracted work.

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...

It also depends on how the client wants to steer a freelancer. I had one freelancer charging less than I was expecting. So I asked him why and he said, that the monitoring makes his machine unstable so he wouldn't log all the time he worked on the project. I told him to log the hours manually. And the problem was solved.

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.

How do they record your thinking time, do they take a brain snapshot?! As writing new code represents 30% of all time...

Not on these platforms; keystrokes and screenshots. It's a horrible thing, but on the flip side, of course many people who hire get screwed by people doing nothing but charging a lot for it.

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.

That's the point I was asked in late 1999 to sort out a show stopper problem at one of the exbibits at the millennium dome.

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

Desktop logging is mostly used for hourly projects. I think it is possible (or used to be) to use logging for fixed projects as well, but there is little value here.

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)

I totally agree with your arguments, I would rather live in a fucking shed in the forest than to sell out my privacy like that.

Also it seems ridicolously easy to game, just buy a seperate upwork computer and when you go afk, just leave the right program open.

Upwork is even easier to game it than that. use a virtual machine, do the "work" there and minimize it while you play games or whatnot.

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.

Precisely why I only negotiated fixed price projects.

And as a freelancer, I will never take fixed-price contracts. Find someone else for this hell.

> And as a freelancer, I will never take fixed-price contracts. Find someone else for this hell.

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.

Hourly works really well if you do the admin in enough detail. Try to agree, on paper, about number of hours per period as you can. And that then actually makes it into 'sprints' of fixed price. I used to send over an email at least weekly with; 'X is going to take me at least 35 hours, are you ok with that?'. Of course X has to be small enough to not overshoot by a massive amount of hours and also you cannot trigger the 'at least' too often. Outside that, it works well, as there is a trace of agreed-upon hours, which helped me a lot when going over 'fulltime'. If the client asked me why 'I charged too much', I simply showed them the emails they agreed to, tallying up to 90 hours instead of 40 I would charge under the contract.

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'm not completely against hourly and what you describe sounds decent as long as the client has a realistic budget and is reasonable about estimates. It's hard to do fixed price when there's a lot of unknowns or there's an unpredictable workload for example. I see people mention day and week rates as well, but this forces you to work in minimum increments which is less flexible.

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.

Both strategies are useful. I would be interested to hear what the audience and author were in your statement about "getting away from hourly". Was that in recommendation adding business value and not being hourly labor or something else?

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.

> Was that in recommendation adding business value and not being hourly labor or something else?

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.

What you are describing is a healthy client relationship. The pricing model has certain affordances, but fixed price doesn't make everything better.

As I have aged, I am less likely to do fixed price work unless it has a lot more headroom.

I guess we're talking about software development. Because it depends a lot on the kind of the job (or maybe I'm just ignorant and someone else's job seems simpler ;) ).

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.

On the other side, if you ask a lot of good questions and give a quote that's within budget, the client is going to be suspicious of another quote where similar insightful questions weren't asked first.

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.

Yes, good questions are important in order to convince a client (whether the project is hourly or fixed 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.)

Not GP but presumably because of scope creep, disagreement about what the original extent was to be that was paid for all in one.

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.

I’m out of that game but for me it depended on the work. I mostly did security assessments, which were extremely simple to time box and were much easier to sell as fixed bid.

Longer architecture or implementation work were hourly.

Recommend getting away from hourly, or recommend going for fixed-price only?

The general recommendation to earn more and not be micromanaged is to go fixed or value priced. Hourly puts a hard cap on your maximum earnings because there's only so many hours in the day and you'll earn less for finishing faster (e.g when reusing code or expertise from previous projects).

My first project was 16 years ago. I’ve switched to freelance 8 years ago. So your assumption that I’m just a crying kid who can not manage his time is offensive.

I’ll give you a hint: think how a client can abuse this.

I made a ton of money from fixed price contracts. Estimated at $100/HR average real hourly was $150/HR. You can't be constantly up against unknowns and you have to have a predictable cadence. If you stay focussed and can reuse deliverables it really helps. I did digital marketing so lots of landing pages and integration with crm and email marketing.

FWIW, I have been hiring freelancers on UpWork for some years and I never looked at those work diaries even once. I only check the output of each person.

>the app takes random screen captures six times per hour—once per 10-minute billing segment

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.

Used to be optional, so the client could require this or not.

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.

> Yeah, if you take a job on Upwork, you'll never be able to do work with that freelancer off-site ever.

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.

Not so. My biggest long-term client started with me on Upwork. We did three projects and then moved away to dealing directly. Upwork may have tightened its T&Cs since then, so that a kind of 'Eye of Sauron' clause applies, though I'm not sure it would stand a legal wrangle.

Some friends work on upwork like this 4 hours a day while being monitored as you said. The pay is very good and don't care too much about this monitoring now which they might have in the beginning. It's tiring but it works.

I am a private person, I don't really like working in public. But in the end I really wonder how much of it matters. I think most people look like they are doing next to nothing and are mostly ineffective as well.

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.

As far as I know, monitoring like this is illegal everywhere in Europe


There are products especially for europe that do monitoring like this.

The remote work law in the European Union is here https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/FR/TXT/?uri=LEGISSUM...

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.

Also, it makes a lot of difference whether you are an employee or a subcontractor. These laws protect the employees. It's actually explicitly specified in this document as well:

   in the context of an employment contract/relationship,

A lot of stuff is more or less illegal. Especially in employment, as long as nobody sues, nobody cares. And which freelancer would sue? Or which employee, as far as that's concerned?

And even if, worst case is a small fine for the employer. Unfortunately.

You are wrong here. In Europe, the fines after such a behavior for bigger companies could be easily in millions, even tens of millions of euros. That's why I am not aware of a single big company here doing it.

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.

Sometimes even big ones are doing these things, not explicitly surveillance so. Also true, smaller companies are more likely to be sketchy.

And unfortunately, these large fines are rare, hard to enforce by employees. The really extreme US stuff is not used, that's true.

Indeed the UK ruling that Uber is breaking the law and theirdrivers are workers, were 5 years (!) In the making. Thats a long time to make a profit, go fo IPO, etc.

IANAL but isn't a breach of privacy a criminal law thing and all the other stuff civil? In that case it is also a thing for agencies to check up on or to prosecute even if there is no real harm.

I'm talking about illegal activity here not the legal which is, as already stated, sometimes allowed.

It's legal, regulated and sometimes required if you are accessing production servers, with software like securelink. It's just considered as part of the audit trail.

UpWork primarily connects laborers in underdeveloped regions to people having at least some spare capital in other regions (mostly developed regions). Each of these groups sees an exploitable value in the other. "Clients" see people willing to work practically for free (relatively speaking), and freelancers/agencies in these regions are quite happy turning in marginal work for 1/10th (or less) the wage a person in a developed country might charge.

I live in a third world country and regularly hire contractors for USA through Upwork. It saves me a lot of time and I don't have to compete with other employers.

Most of the time you can opt out of the monitoring, but if you use that monitoring feature Upwork offers payment protection. Say that I clock in 20 hours and the client refuses to pay the invoice, I still get paid by Upwork (some caveats exist of course).

Where there is more trust between client and contractor, the later might just enter their hours manually.

That's for when you are working on an hourly basis. I don't know what's wrong with that. That's only to safeguard clients from get billing for hours the freelancer didn't work.

You can work for a fixed price and you won't be tracked.

Imagine proving content services. The competition is so fierce, you have no choice. Especially if you live somewhere outside Southeast Asia. Someone from Philippines can work for 7$/hr, and you can’t.

I’ve used and have found great engineers on UpWork. None have used that tracking tool. It’s all been manually reported time. I’ve also interviewed and have encouraged questions before moving on.

> Are people aware

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.

Agreed, if a company trusts me little enough to want to constantly monitor me like that, they trust me little enough that they shouldn't hire me in the first place.

> Is all this just taking advantage of freelancers who don't know how to market themselves, or am I missing something?

I discarded UpWork precisely because of this.

If you don't do this as a quality worker, you're basically subsidizing for those that on purpose try to do lower quality work.

That assumes that the quality of your work is tied to the amount of time you're actively using your computer. Time making notes in a notepad, or thinking while you walk around, or having a work-based conversation with someone, or mapping something out on a whiteboard adds to the quality of an application.

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.

Isnt the tool more looking at what the dev is doing rather than timing?

If you do this as any kind of worker you're basically enabling a hellish dystopian panopticon future.

This would be highly illegal in greensand... Wonder if they even offer service here?

First time using Upwork last week and I was shocked to see these screenshots from the freelancer. Not only problematic for the freelancer but also a huge potential GDPR issue for me. Luckily the project did not include personal data but if it had I would have to inform all my customers and the local DPA about a data leakage. Having a freelancer work on PII is one thing, it would have been solved with a contract, but for the data to be stored on Upwork servers is something else.

Yes you can ask questions, both in the job form and in the chat before hiring someone.

I used to be a freelancer, finding work mainly on Upwork, and I loathe them now.

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?

Yeah, what I dislike about Upwork is that after they take thousands of dollars from me for their service, they still want me to pay for applying for new work.

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.

I work through Arc.dev [0] and I like them. From what I understand Arc asks no commission, so I am not sure how they actually make money. You set your own rates and that's what clients pay. Perhaps clients pay a one-time fee upon finding a suitable contractor?

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


[0]: https://arc.dev

Arc takes ~15-30%, they just take it from the client's side instead of the freelancer; but your rate isn't the one the client is paying.

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)

They take 20% for up to $500. Then between $500 and $10K they take 10%. Anything above $10k is then charged as 5% only. And this applies to same client spanning multiple contracts. That means once you get paid $10k, regardless of current or future project(s) from same client they only take 5%. Upwork encourages long term relations between freelancers and clients.

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.

This always struck me as really unfair. If you're taking projects that bring you <$500, you probably really need that money and 20% is a large chunk of it.

The platform overhead is much higher for those jobs I suspect due to disputes, fraud, etc, etc.

It's interesting, ~20% now seems to be the norm. (Not just for developer platforms.) 10% is pretty reasonable. I also used to work for a few years through upwork, sill when it was elance. I kind of remember that the rate was around 10%, maybe higher for smaller projects. Again, pretty reasonable.

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 just wanted to weed out small time freelancers. The fee is 5% for >$10K customer-freelancer relationship... My average fee is about 7-8%, or about 10% including what the customer pays.

Yes. But that's what market places are for, to reach out new customers. If you have a relationship with a client for more than 10K, why continue to pay 5% on top of payment fees?

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.

> why continue to pay 5% on top of payment fees?

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.

It's not just that. If you made a million or two on Upwork, it makes you stand out making further deals easier. These 5% are money well invested, not just spent.

Messaging part is indeed absurdly awful. Here i agree with you.

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.

Sounds like we are/have been in the same boat. Are you working full time now? If so, was the pivot motivated by your dissatisfaction with the client acquisition process?

How specifically, do the commission fees work on a per contract basis?

I'm a bit hazy on details. Their commission is per-client. If the total payment between the client and freelancer is less than $500, the commission is 20%. It gets lower to 15% and 10% when you earn more. But it never teaches zero, and that is in addition to payment fees. You pay a fixed fee for withdrawals, or the bank withdrawals offer 3-5% low rates compared to market currency buying rates.

I’ve been on Upwork as a buyer for years. It’s tremendous for getting great talent on a short term basis. Top rate I’ve paid I think is some close to or just over $100/hour, so it’s definitely not just for low-end stuff.

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.

> $100/hour, so it’s definitely not just for low-end stuff.

Maybe not low-end, but that's still probably the lower end of mid-end.

On a global marketplace? $100/hour is a ridiculously good rate for a large % of workers. Maybe not in SF or Tech Hubs but for a graphics designer in India, or Eastern Europe?

High-end, by definition, is not a large percentage of workers. High end is the workers on the high end of the compensation scale.

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.

They are the high end in the global market.

Only in very rich countries $100/hr could be considered "normal" or not high-end.

You are conflating price and quality. If there are two top level people equally good one will undercut the other. And if one lives in Bangalore and the other in SF the first will undercut massively. SF living expenses are an exception on a global market place.

High end goods and services are not races to the bottom.

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.

You get what you pay for.

Take the very same individual and place them in India or US, or even in a high or low CoL area in the US and they would charge differently; but their work is still the same. So you're not really getting what you paid for, you're paying for many externalities.

I’ve encountered offshore devs that are actually quite good... they are by far the exception, but they also charge much more than the run of the mill folks that you’re likely to encounter.

Come again, $100/hour is the "lower end of mid-end"? The median wage is around $25 in the USA, the minimum wage averages around $10...

That’s an apple to oranges comparison. You should be comparing it to the median freelance hourly rate for each respective industry.

We're talking about compensation for a specific type of work whose market value is above $100/hour.

It will be interesting to see a third public company building a work marketplace. Upwork and Fiverr are already a godsend when you build a startup. But they still leave a lot to be desired.

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.

> For example developers, who are writing clean code and refactor their stuff before they deliver

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.

That's a bold statement. I personally do care. I do contracting work and care about the code I write. And companies I work with seem to appreciate.

Nah. Besides professional intrinsic motivations (some people just can't convince themselves to produce shit) it also matters what the client wants and requires.

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.

Fast - cheap - quality, pick two. That rule always apply.

> arent being paid for how clean it is

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.

The difference is if you are an employee you are more likely to need to make changes to your own messy code so there is an incentive to keep it clean

All I'm saying is that I don't think it's as simple as "you either have incentive or you don't", because if it was, then developers writing bad code that they themselves had to go back to wouldn't exist, but they clearly do. I'm one of them and I talk to a lot of them daily.

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.

> 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.

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.

Or you keep trying to get time for refactoring and cleanups, but instead the product team keeps pushing for urgent new features and the project manager keeps questioning why development is getting slower and the defect rate is getting higher.

> 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.

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?

None of the platforms will ever send you a single invoice for a group of contractors for legal reasons. Each contractor needs to invoice you directly due to US employment law. Other arrangements are possible if you pay an agency instead of an individual, but upwork isn’t and agency, they are a marketplace.

This does not hold true for Fiverr.

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.

this doesn't make sense. THe freelancer is not invoicing you directly; the payment contract is explicitly 2-sided. There's no reason they could not send you a single line-item invoice other than they want to extract their cut but not be viewed as the middleman.

Being a commodity sucks. If you are an expert you have better options than putting yourself for sale as commodity.

yeah it is business model problem because those mystical 10x programmers are not commodities and Fiverr and Upwork are tuned for commodity business like logo design etc.

If you've ever tried logo design, I'd argue it's not really a commodity either. I've attempted it multiple times and it's non-trivial to create a good quality logo for a business. A lot of experience and creativity come to play in those tiny little ubiquitous graphics, not just the technical execution skill (anyone here can probably slop together a vector graphic logo in a pinch).

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.

I'd say that shifting away from these situations is fine, but it's a crappy way of dealing with exploitation. Quote RMS: "All in all, I think it is a mistake to defend people's rights with one hand tied behind our backs, using nothing except the individual option to say no to a deal. We should use democracy to organize and together impose limits on what the rich can do to the rest of us. That's what democracy was invented for!"

Agree with RMS on this point, but I think that battle is nearly lost. Opting out ("cancel culture") seems to be the only powerful choice left for your average citizen in the shambles of democracy we have left. It could just be the orchestration problem that a large population can't self organize well enough to create a healthy democracy whereas a smaller ruling class is at a scale it can orchestrate and holds the upper hand.

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).

> the weakness of both, Upwork and Fiverr is that they focus too much on the demand side.

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.

Neo-liberalism I’ll give you, but I’m having a hard time finding the mild racism. As a buyer in fiverr, I know the country the contractor is in and I think that’s it. It’s been a few months since I bought a logo there.

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.

Not sure what your parent meant, but I know plenty of companies who hire on Upwork and Fiverr a lot and immediately filter out people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh because of prior experience with (extremely) bad quality.

I agree this could be a space to watch. With global trends there is definitely demand for quality freelancers that are cheaper than my local network. Linkedin is very well positioned to serve both sides of this market.

Do you know why those companies like Fiverr didn't get the same treatment as Uber? In the end it is a pretty much the same business model.

If you mean the California law, I think the big difference is that under AB5, workers can only be independent contractors if the work they do is "outside the usual course of a company's business".

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.

In the UK this type of work would get caught by IR35, which I understand would be similar to AB5. As an employee you can also pick your own tools or figure out how to do the work by yourself - these are not determining factors at least here where I live. What tips it over the IR35 is having to log your hours and work to the specification given by the "client". This is no different than normal employment except you and the "client" don't pay the right tax and you don't get any employment rights. Probably nobody has seriously took a bite into it, but after Uber precedent this may change.

"As an employee you can also pick your own tools or figure out how to do the work by yourself"

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.

If I was commissioning a project I would require it to be implemented using this and that technology and adhere to industry standards and so on. There is not much flexibility, and what IDE you are using are immaterial when it comes to whether you are employed or not.

"what IDE you are using are immaterial when it comes to whether you are employed or not."

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.

In my country for example Upwork would fail for these reasons:

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.


> Substitution - I understand that you cannot subcontract the work without the client knowledge and approval. That means the service is most likely personal.

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?

It's just how they defined it - essentially personal service == employment. They understand that if you really run a business then your client hires your company to create a product for them and it is up to the company who and how makes it, otherwise your company in their eyes is just a vehicle to avoid tax. What is most bizarre is that then you become an employee only for tax purposes - that is you are not necessarily gaining any employment rights, but in practice a freelancer has to be an employee of an agency, so you retain employment rights in exchange for severe pay cut. From April true freelancing will be very difficult because of that. For example if you are signed up to an agency, you are required to look for new contracts when you have a downtime and you may be required to accept contracts if agency finds one. My own opinion is that such agencies corrupted the bodies responsible for these law changes - agencies will be getting % for essentially doing nothing and freelancers won't be able to use profits to fund their own projects (not in the way it used to be - it has become much more expensive).

This includes solo freelancers though? So I've always seen the advice that to earn more, you can't be seen as a replaceable commodity and you need to attract clients that want to work with you in particular. This ruins that?

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 are actually quite a few of these sites: https://github.com/engineerapart/TheRemoteFreelancer

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...

In the future your boss will assign work by auctioning JIRA tickets off to the team with a price ceiling set by freelancers on the LinkedIn marketplace. Payment will be through a bounty system. Salary is such an outdated payment structure

You may be joking, but this is already how my team has been operating for the past 6 months. Theoretically it sounds great, because you can scale up or down your engineering needs just like you scale anything on the cloud. Have 100 Github issues to fix this week? Scale up to 20 freelance devs for a week and get it done.

Practically, it doesn't work. We're going to go back to hiring full-time engineers again.

Why doesn't it work? Genuinely curious!

I'd guess because:

* 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.

I'd add to that, team dynamics can't be discounted. Feeling part of a team is good for morale, and in turn productivity.

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.

You'd run into Brooks's law pretty quickly, that is, "adding manpower to a late software project makes it later", since you have to spend a bunch of the current engineers' time to get the new people up to speed. Especially for one issue, which maybe doesn't require a lot of domain knowledge, but being neck deep you sometimes can't estimate that properly.


I can't tell if this is a joke or not. Sounds like an easy way to develop horrible documentation-free, semi-functional systems.

The future is gonna be filled with disinterested one time contractors and employers who fraudulently refuse bounty payout.

That's a great incentive structure to build unmaintainable systems.

Oh god. I really hope this is not the case or I would stop working in this profession

That sounds awful.


I've been thinking about this, only using Etherium contracts.

So, Microsoft tracks developer "productivity" and submissiveness via GitHub and now drives down salaries via LinkedIn.

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.

I'm not familiar with Microsofts practices, how are they driving down salaries via LinkedIn?

I immediately thought the same thing. In my experience LinkedIn gives employees more options and drives salary up.

Gig economy = no job security.

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.

5-10 years a lot of development work will be considered blue-collar work

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

I see this take a lot. It couldn’t be more wrong.

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.

Good points. I think we are slowly becoming commodified or at least there will be greater stratification between different types of developer with much higher salaries on one and and much lower on the other.

Who's on the low end? Even junior positions are paying close to 100k in some areas, with juniors in the bay making more than that. There are some true-entry level positions and areas (midwest, less urban) that pay less. Academia as well. But if you're talking about overseas devs, even they are charging more these days (40+/hour) for any sort of quality work. You don't want anybody touching your app (or having access to your code) if they don't have a high level of skill and professional accountability. Outsourced teams are often used for MVPs or prototyping - but then these companies call on devs like me when they get serious about their product. If teams of poorly paid devs could compete with highly paid devs, they would already be doing so - outsourcing of development started decades ago and the trend has reversed. You get a much better product with someone who has an intimate understanding of your business and your application, so "gig economy" type of work is generally limited to wordpress-style sites for your local pizza shop.

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.

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