Upwork Is Broken in 2024, Part II

Upwork Is Broken in 2024, Part II

Upwork is Broken
Upwork is Broken

This is a second part of the post about major issues of the most popular freelancing platfrom.


If something goes wrong, a client can open a dispute on Upwork, but they can also go to their bank and claim a chargeback.

A chargeback is a procedure for disputing a credit card payment that a person disagrees with. It is usually sought in disagreements between buyers and sellers of goods or providers of services.

Upwork states that chargebacks violate the terms of use, and clients who initiate them will be blocked. However, the bank will refund the client's money, and Upwork will recover this amount from you for fixed-price contracts or when time is added manually.

To protect yourself, the platform suggests the following:

You may wonder why freelancers on Upwork would want this protection. Here's a simple example: let's say you were working on a fixed-price contract worth $10,000, divided into several milestones. If something goes wrong and the client successfully initiates a chargeback, you will have to return the funds to Upwork, even if you completed your work honestly.

Spying on freelancers

A good way to secure payment is to use Upwork's time tracker. The time spent on work and recorded through the tracker falls under Upwork's payment protection and will be paid regardless. However, if someone deems the work inefficient, your hours may be deducted, resulting in a smaller payment.

No need to go far for an example. Suppose you're a programmer and, while writing an application, wanted to ponder some complex algorithms. While you're thinking, the mouse doesn't move, and no keys are pressed. Upwork perceives this as inefficient work. Accordingly, this time does not fall under the payment guarantee. Or if you're a designer and wanted to sketch something on paper, you'll be working that time for free.

As for the tracker itself, upon installation, you'll need to allow access to everything possible — screen recording, tracking cursor movements, any clicks, and keyboard presses. Some clients enjoy using the feature that records not just the screen but also takes a snapshot with the webcam!

Another curious example: a screenshot is taken at random every 10 minutes. You could be working for several hours, and at some point, Spotify or a personal messenger that you opened for 10 seconds gets captured. It's up to you to decide whether to leave this or delete it, depending on how the client feels about it. Naturally, this doesn't fall under the payment guarantee, even though you've honestly worked 10 minutes minus that 10 seconds.


Everything is great! You have completed the project and received an excellent review from the client, which is always a pleasure. When it comes to reviews, clients evaluate six criteria: Skills, Availability, Communication, Quality, Deadlines, and Cooperation. However, whether there is a risk of not receiving 5 stars in any of these criteria depends on the client (and the freelancer, of course).

The feedback mechanism on Upwork is extremely important as it directly affects the freelancer's rating. It is not solely based on the stars from reviews. The Job Success Score, which is calculated based on feedback from clients and other factors, also plays a significant role in determining a freelancer's ability to secure new work.

In essence, freelancers are somewhat vulnerable because a negative review can have a significant impact on their career. Some clients are aware of this and may even try to manipulate freelancers by threatening to leave a bad review. If you are just starting your freelance career on Upwork, it is important to keep this in mind.


According to Upwork terms, both clients and freelancers are required to use the platform's messenger for all communication from the initial greeting. The rationale behind this rule is to "protect" everyone from potential risks in the world. Upwork emphasizes that it is primarily about security and care, rather than trying to control freelancers and prevent commission bypass.

For many years, Upwork has been striving to prevent any direct communication between freelancers and clients outside of the platform. Exchanging personal information before signing a contract is strictly prohibited. If a call is necessary, it should be conducted through the official messenger. However, some clients disregard these rules and send Google Meet links or Skype nicknames, which violates the platform's policies.

Recently, Upwork conducted a survey among its users regarding a potential new feature - a virtual workspace. It appears that Upwork aims to have control over the entire work process to ensure that no revenue bypasses their platform.


Upwork has become a modern-day echo of the distant conquistadors. Instead of swords, they wield terms of use and commission systems as they conquer the world of freelancing in search of their "treasures". Similar to their 16th-century predecessors who promised mountains of gold and prosperity, Upwork promises freelancers freedom, flexibility, and security. However, the price of this "freedom" may sometimes appear too high due to the fees and restrictions imposed on users.

Is it possible for freelancers to find work and collaborate with clients safely without relying on such platforms? This is a question that we will need to address in the near future.