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Do You Like New Pricing or Higher Fees? Upwork is Changing Again and What WE Can Do About It

I’m one of many freelancers who has achieved Top-Rated status in Upwork (formerly known as oDesk) through passion and hard work. I love Upwork so much so that I’ve worked there exclusively for many years until now. But things have continued to change for the worse and it’s become harder to stay silent about our deteriorating plight as workers.

If you’re an Upwork freelancer, you surely received an email from Upwork. But most of you likely haven’t read its contents. In a nutshell, Upwork is going to grab more money from us freelancers — and now even its clients — with a new pricing structure.


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Another Upwork Policy Change: New Pricing (Higher Service Fee and New Client Fee)

First, there was the oDesk-Elance merger. As soon as this was pronounced, I like many others knew there’d be an impending tsunami of changes coming our way.

We then saw the change in website layout and design. Then the Connects feature (a much-limited job application quota: once this is consumed, workers have to pay in order to apply for more jobs — even with no guarantee of getting hired).

Then the introduction of monthly membership fees. Did I miss any change? I’m so disappointed that I don’t want to remember all of the implemented changes.

And then this: a hot-off-the-press new pricing structure. Starting June, according to the blog, Upwork will be implementing a “sliding service fee structure” for workers (20% on the first $500 billing, 10% on $500.01 to $10,000, and 5% on billings of $10,000 upwards) and a new client fee of 2.75% for each payment. This is a huge blow to workers because many projects are small, one-time projects that costs much less than $500. Meanwhile, an eligible client can opt out of the new client fee but still has to pay a $25 flat monthly fee, which means there’s no escape for clients too, big or small.

Upwork says the new pricing structure is meant to help freelancers earn more and so the company can “continue investing in the fast and secure payment processing you’ve come to count on”. This follows a similar thing that’s happened in Amazon MTurk, where the fee has been increased exorbitantly, affecting Mturk workers (or Turkers) and clients (requesters).

I have read all the Upwork forum posts related to this pricing change and, unsurprisingly, 99% are disappointed by this announcement (that forum thread had six pages when I wrote this; it was trimmed down to two pages when I publish this). Another forum thread revealed the same sentiment.

Every policy change (mentioned above) announced by Upwork has met vehement opposition but got implemented anyway. Would it be different this time around? When will Upwork prioritize its workers and community before its private investors or management?

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Ask and You Shall Receive? The Road to 100,000 Freelancers

I know that my sentiment is shared by thousands, if not millions, of freelancers around the world (doesn’t matter which online jobs platform you work on). If Upwork would implement this new pricing, how about we take this matter into our own hands? Let’s create an alternative to Upwork — a community-centric jobs platform through crowdfunding!

There are roughly 10 million freelancers in Upwork (one estimate says it’s 14 million). And there are thousands or millions more in other freelancing platforms. Is it possible to gather at least 10,000 or 100,000 freelancers to form a community of supporters that will help crowdfund a new and fair online jobs platform? I think so. 100,000 is just 1% of 10 million.

Why 100,000 freelancers? Because we want many people to contribute in crowdfunding a better alternative to Upwork, with as little donation as possible. Are all 100,000 freelancers willing to donate as little as $10 to $100 to crowdfund a platform that respects workers and the entire community? I really think this is possible! Clients who believe in this cause should donate too! If successful, the crowdfund will pay for the creation of the platform (the people who will build and maintain it).

“In order to succeed, we must first believe that we can” — Michael Korda

My Aspiration

My aspiration is a no-brainer: it involves everything that Upwork and many other platforms are not implementing. My aspiration is to help create an online jobs platform — an Upwork alternative — that:

  • respects the community (clients and especially workers)
  • offers fair pricing (not exorbitant fees)
  • promotes and rewards good performance and high-quality work
  • consults and listens to the entire community of workers and clients before making site-wide changes (community first, NOT profit first)
  • finds ways to help increase the earnings of workers and clients, not of the company itself (as opposed to finding ways to grab more money from the community)
  • helps improve millions of lives (not make them suffer more as the years go by)

Who doesn’t want a platform like that? Do you want a platform like that?

Let’s keep this dream alive. 100,000 freelancers is achievable! We can convene here (by posting comments below) and on these channels (join and discuss in the Slack group). Once there is strong support, we can set up the crowdfunding at an appropriate time.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” — Lao Tzu

But let us not kid ourselves: without big, private and corporate investors, creating an Upwork alternative is an extremely ambitious and unprecedented endeavor. It may take time to realize this aspiration. But with all your help, a fair and respectful platform is within our reach. The decision and outcome are in your hands, and I hope you would join this cause. Freelancers and clients: stand up and let your voices be heard!


Whether you are a client, offline worker, or online freelancer (in Upwork, Amazon Mturk, or others), PLEASE comment and click “Recommend” or the green heart below so more people would see this. Show your support and share this article with your friends and families and in social media if you believe in our cause!

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The author of this article believes in fairness and collaboration, and that you do too.