For those of you looking to establish or grow your freelance careers, there are definitely a ton of online job boards to choose from.
With twelve million registered freelancers, five million registered clients and three million jobs posted annually, worth a total of $1 billion USD as of 2017, Upwork is the world's largest freelancer marketplace and a great source of clients in my business.
In this week's video, I take you through the nuts and bolts of playing by the rules, and not getting banned on the platform - because let's face it, ensuring continued access to such a wide network of connections that can potentially turn into future clients just makes sense.
Let's talk Upwork!
Whether you are a freelance writer, a virtual assistant, a web developer, or a project manager, being able to use Upwork is an excellent way to streamline your leads. However, I have heard of a number of people lately being banned on Upwork, and I want to talk about the importance of following the site's rules and regulations so that you don’t get banned.
Now, why does this matter to begin with? Upwork is controversial in the freelance community, but I don’t believe you should purposely cut yourself off from the website, in case there is a great lead there or a great opportunity, or things get slow in your freelance business and you need to drum up some new clients.
Stick to Upwork's Payment Rules
One of the worst things you can do on Upwork is not follow their payment protection rules. This means that you meet a client over Upwork, you send a message in the Upwork room between you and that client and say, "Hey, contact me over email" or "Can you pay me via PayPal?" This is against Upwork's terms of service. If you are doing this and Upwork catches you, they are probably going to ban you from the site. It's a big no-no.
Make sure you read through all of the information about being a member on Upwork; it’s really important that you understand what you can and cannot do. If you get kicked off of Upwork, you lose a huge pipeline of potential leads – and that's forever. This is why I never recommend purposely shutting yourself off from that source of leads. You may need it sometime in the future, and it’s not worth taking the risk with some client who may or may not have hired you anyway to try to take them off the platform.
Now, Upwork does have rules about when you can take your clients off the platform. It's usually after you have worked with them for a number of years. Remember there is also that sliding scale for the fees in place. One of the big reasons that people choose to try to take a client off the platform is because they think, "Well, I am going to have to pay 20% in fees". The 20% only applies to the first $500 that you make with a client. Beyond that, it drops to 10%, and then if you have a really big project, it drops to 5% as well – but they have got to be spending thousands of dollars to make that work. But is trying to take the client off the Upwork platform worth it for you to avoid having to pay that 20% fee to Upwork? If they close your account and ban you forever, it won’t be worth it. I encourage you to think carefully before you engage in that kind of behavior.
Be Civil When Trying to Solve Disputes
Another thing that can get you banned from Upwork is treating a client maliciously or doing something else that's against the terms of service with regard to your client interactions. This happened to me when I was a client on the Upwork platform. I hired somebody to do a writing project, and they didn’t meet the deadline. I gave them four opportunities to fix the situation because I didn’t want to leave them bad feedback; I was a freelancer on Upwork, I understand how important feedback is. This person was brand new to the site; they didn’t realize that the way they treated me would ultimately lead to them to getting banned. This person cursed me out, tried to blame everything on me, and ended up getting kicked off the site forever and unable to bid on jobs at any time because they chose to use curse words and personally threaten me.
You might get frustrated with a client on Upwork, but the website does have dispute resolution services and I encourage you to always keep it professional, no matter what. Again, it’s not worth getting banned from the site.
You might even have your Upwork account closed or seriously impacted if you consistently deliver low quality projects or if a client files a dispute or a complaint against you. That's another reason to be professional and always make sure you have the instructions that you need before starting a new job. These tools can be indispensable when it comes time to getting great reviews on Upwork and keeping your account open.
Make sure you read through those terms of service for the site. It's never worth engaging in behavior that could potentially get you banned from the site. I recently had someone email me and inspire this video and post because they said they had no idea why they’d been banned, and when I went to take a look at what used to be their profile, I found dozens of negative feedback comments of one or two stars. At some point, their account could have just been closed because they interacted with the client negatively, for example, but it certainly is going to be difficult for you to land business if you have poor feedback on your profile to begin with. Always strive for five-star feedback. It makes a huge difference in getting future clients.