Why I auto-opt out of fixed-price jobs on Upwork
WFFH: For top-rated freelancers, I don’t see the appeal in fixed-rate jobs
Writer’s note: This post was originally published on Medium’s “We Need to Talk” on October 5, 2022. (“Work Fluently From Home,” or WFFH, is a series within “Window Shopping” geared toward entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, gig workers and startups.)
As a full-time freelancer for the past four years, I’m still surprised by how long I’ve been on Upwork. Since the days before the merge of oDesk and Elance, I’ve been toying with the idea of working remotely on an exclusive basis. When I quit my last corporate job and did the math, I was delighted to find out that I could make the same salary (if not more) and haven’t looked back ever since. I went from a part-timer in 2014 to Upwork paying my mortgage by 2018.
I think I’ve worked with clients from six of seven continents (Asia is missing from my list although I worked regularly with an Asian client who lived in Australia), and I enjoy the diversity of the jobs. But one of the hardest lessons I had to learn quickly was to be very wary of fixed-rate jobs.
Fixed-rate jobs slow down top-rated freelancers
For freelancers with a score above 90%, COVID-19 had one positive result: Upwork changed the payment turnaround. While hourly jobs used to be a 10-day turnaround before payment was released, in May of 2020, Upwork cut that in half and removed the extra five-day security hold. For the past two years, all of my hourly job earnings are released to me on Thursdays. This creates a much easier way to plan and schedule bill payments.
Fixed-rate jobs, on the other hand, are highly dependent on how long it takes the client to review each assignment. In the past, I’ve had two fixed-rate clients who confirmed the work was done and then disappeared. Unresponsive clients have up to 14 days to respond before payment is automatically released. And that doesn’t include the extra time it takes for the payment to get to your bank account. One of those two clients claimed she “forgot” and “didn’t know I sent messages asking for it,” but she sure did check in to make sure it was done and collect the assignment. That was the first and last time we worked together again.
Let’s say a fixed-rate writer charges $0.30 per word. That same 2,000-word assignment would be $600 for them while I only made $200.
Are fixed-rate clients scammers?
I can say with absolute certainty that not all fixed-rate Upwork clients are scammers. I am both an Upwork client and an Upwork freelancer. Ironically, the team of writers I hired for one particular project all prefer fixed-rate pay. It was wild to me to read the persistence in fixed-rate jobs, but I sorta get it. (I’ll explain later.)