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How to Avoid Upwork Scams as a Freelancer

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Avoiding Upwork Scams and Working for Valuable client is the hope for all freelancers.

Upwork is similar to Freelancer.com and Fiverr.com, one of the largest and famous freelancing websites which can help you earn money online from home.

Most newbies go for those popular marketplaces to get started.

Upwork has over 12 million registered sellers and 5 million clients. 3 million jobs are posted each year, which is worth total of 1 billion USD.

So… The question here is,

All those 5 million registered clients and 3 million jobs from Upwork are legit?

Unfortunately, answer is no.

Upwork scams are real. Occasional scammer tries their tricks on Upwork and other freelancing websites.

And… each time you cannot expect Upwork and Freelancer.com to help you figure out which is fake client.

You need to find it by yourself. Because, no one want to waste time with scammer.

I have organized all the Upwork scams which I have met go through my freelancing experience.

Whether you’re an operation of one or run a company with a few employees

Read these 7 different Upwork Scams or cheating techniques that clients usually use to cheat when doing online freelancing work and you can protect yourself from these clients.

Note: These tips not only suitable for Upwork website, but also any other freelancing websites. As most scammers will do their same tricks wherever they get a chance. They will simply waste your time and get the work for free.

1. Client Didn’t Create a Milestone for You Job.

This is most time happen for freelance newbie and less experience freelancer who was eager for Upwork job.

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DO NOT decline those clients immediately.

Employers may have those reasons why they cannot create milestones before you start work

  1. Client don’t trust your skillset
  2. Client said some account problem or bank issues, I will create milestone tomorrow or later
  3. Middlemen client, who need your work to show to their own client

For each reason, I am going to analyze and tell you how to check them if they are freelance scam and how to protect you.

Reason 01: Client Don’t Trust Your Skillset

If you don’t have a sample work that matches to client brief or project, client might hesitate to create a milestone.

So, client might request you to do a sample to prove your ability.

Or in some cases, client might not request you to do any sample work and will not award you this project as client might be looking for freelancer who have similar experience or exactly same experience for the project.

As a freelancer you might ask “What if client just want to take free work from me?”

Yes, it has chance to happen.

But… If you are a newbie without any reviews or maybe with fewer reviews in Upwork and other freelancing websites, also if you don’t have relevant sample work to prove your ability to the client.

Why would clients need to award the job to you and create milestones?

Buyers also don’t want to waste their time to pick a wrong freelancer.

So, here is the deal.

If you don’t have a similar sample, you can do one simple sample that might require less hours if not minutes to get it done.

Add a water marker in your sample work before send it to your client.

Make sure to explain the client, you are willing to go extra miles to do a sample as you are interested in this project, this will get client attention and may help you to stand out of act on your favor.

Even in the end, you didn’t get this project, you can add it in your portfolio.

Reason 02: Client Said Some Accounting Problem or Bank Issues, I Will Create Milestone Tomorrow or Later

Client explains that he/she has some credit card connecting issue or similar situation with freelancing platform and requested you to start the work. Usually, the client will take a day or two to get it resolved.

If client ask you to start the work, you can adjust the time according to that and start the work.

Note: Make sure, you do only very minimal work for those 1 – 2 days. It can be few hours (1-2 hours per day) of work, because It is difficult to know whether client is trying really to get it solved or if it is a trap.

After that if client replied back and get it solved that would be good.

If there is no response from the client after 1-2days, contact the client and ask him what is going on. If client ask for more additional days, in this case, you need to be careful and pause the project.

Politely say to the client that you have already invested 2 days and cannot continue to work without milestone. After client sorted the issue, you can continue.

Reason 03: Middlemen Client, Who Need Your Work to Show the Work to Their Own Client

This type of client will not create milestone as they are not sure whether they can get the project or not.

They are like a middlemen or agency who would use your work to please their own client, to get approval for the project. If their client refuses to make payment, middlemen client will drop it.

Tips: From my freelancing experience, most of the freelancers hate or reject to work for middlemen or agencies, but the truth is around 70% of the clients in Upwork and other freelance websites are middlemen. There are some high paying clients as well.

You need to know how to handle these clients and protect yourself.

After you show some relevant samples to them, if happen below two things, you must to pay attention.

  1. Client ask you to remove water marker from you work, and promise you that once they get the project, they will give it to you.
  2. Request you to show the samples are closer to their requirement

How to deal it?

  • Don’t remove the water marker from your sample work as they want the free sample work from you.
  • Request the client to make a payment as this will be a custom work and unique design.

Remember: Before you start the work, ensure the client has created a milestone for your project. This is very very important to protect you and make sure you will get the payment after the work is completed.

2. I Will Pay You Outside Freelancing Website, so That You Don’t Need to Pay Commission to the Website and Can save Money

This is most common in freelancing websites.

First understand one thing: Any conversation and payment done outside freelancing website cannot be monitored by Freelancer support team. So, you will be on your own.

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Through my experience, some clients really want to save some commission fees, also there are clients who might easily cheat you by taking you outside freelancing website.

For us, as a seller in freelancing platform, it is really difficult and not worth to work outside freelancing website to save some commission and have a lot of trouble hours.

So, here is deal.

Usually, I will handle this client with a deal call Splitting commission deal.

Convince the client to do business inside freelancing website and also you can agree upon to split freelancing commission 50% with client, this way client can also save money as you are sharing 50% of commission with client.

Also, explain it is safer for client to work inside freelancing website as freelancing customer support can help both client and freelancer and it is safer way.

Point out that freelancing website forbids any business outside freelancing website and they recommend working inside freelancing website. It applies to all if not most freelancing website.

Though you explained this and if still client force you to do business outside freelancing website, be careful as this client might have some intention to cheat you.

3. During the Project, Client Changed Their Mind.

During the project time, there is a possibility that client will change their mind and usually it will bring us to a situation, should we continue the work or stop?

 During the project, Client changed their mind
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It will also cause lot of headaches and trust me I have been there.

If the client has changed initial scope of the project, re-write the requirement.

As the client will think of it as an easier change and might forget it during the project completion time.

Or the client can easily forget about this change as the client cannot remember it and may not understand the technical way or workload required.

Tips: So, make sure to remind the client how much extra work is needed for this new task, though client might think it is easier and also create a new milestone for this task and extend the time line based on the new task requirement.

Don’t be lazy and try to add in with existing work, later it will become a huge problem. So, it is always better to create it as a separate milestone.

If you think, the work is super easy and can be done in few minutes and you don’t want to charge extra, that should be fine.

But, point it to the client stating that you can do this extra work for no cost, but make sure to add extra time depending upon the work load for the project.

This extra time frame is super important as some time client will forget this extra work load or will assume easier change and will compare it with the initial time frame and will blame you in the end.

It will also help in terms of dispute. Make sure client release the milestone payment for that work after completion and only then, go to the next milestone work. Ensure that next milestone is always funded before starting the task.

4.  Wasting Your Time Clients

Usually client will provide you with clear and organized details of the project and you can spend more time to read it. Make sure you completely understood the requirement and jump in to questions if required.

I usually, jot it down in points-based question, so easier for the client to respond. I use a term called mirror approach.

Meaning, you should be the reflection of your client’s professional approach and behavior. There are time-wasters on both sides among the clients and freelancer.

If the client doesn’t have a clear document or requirement, they will come and spill few requirements here and there in a non-organized way.

I have come across these clients, they just plainly waste your valuable time.

Clients NO.1: Don’t Know What They Want

This type of client doesn’t know what they want, they keep discussing in circles as they are not clear with their requirement. They keep texting back and forth without any clear goal or idea.

Client NO.2 : Keep Asking You to Lower Your Price

Client will keep on asking you to lower your price or simply put words like, I found another seller offering lower price and offering you a long-time cooperation promise.

Asking for price reduction can be normal, but they need to have a specific reason, if there is no valid reason and keep insisting on your price and demanding to reduce, they are not serious and just time wasters.

Client NO. 3: Free Information Seekers

I’ve found some clients who are eager to get more free information from me due to my industry knowledge and after few messages, it will turn in to a free information seeking center.

I have wasted many times with this type of clients.

I don’t mind sharing my knowledge, but the client must respect my time and need to pay for it as consultation hours.

If the client doesn’t want to pay for consultation hours, it is not worth to give free information.

How to protect yourself from this situation?

Keep your conversation simple and straight forward, offer them Free 30 minutes consultation, so you can discuss with them what exactly they are up to and after the 30 minutes of consultation, they need to pay you on hourly rate for your consultation.

This way, if they are really serious about the project, they will pay you for the consultation hours or talk about this project details to you directly.

6. Client Payment System Has a Problem, Reversal Payment or Client Account Closed

I have come across this situation where during the milestones or after the project completion, the payment has a problem and client account will be closed. Payment will be reversed back to client.

Though client leave a 5 Star review with good feedbacks, still after that, you can see the payment has been reversed and your work will be gone.

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If the client PayPal account or credit card has security issue, Freelancing website (include Fiverr, Freelancer.com and Upwork) will terminate the link and will reverse the payment.

So, in the end even if you delivered the work, money will be reversed.

This sometimes happens in an accident and you can contact the client to fix the issue, they can resolve it.

In some cases, the dodgy client purposefully does it, to reverse the payment.

Best solution is to discuss the situation inside freelancing website with the client, make sure you deliver satisfactory service and if client don’t want to take any action, you need to follow up with freelancing website through the ticket system and/or the chat interface.

Tips: It is also better to work with clients that have some reviews in their profile, this will work to certain degree. But, always remember even clients that have reviews can do this payment reversal.

If this happens, you can also cancel the project and claim a refund of your project fees through customer support.

7. Client is Not Release the Payment

Though you followed above steps and you think it is going to be a smooth completion. Still during this stage, client might cheat you.

During this completion stage, if the client asks you to send the work, so client can check and release the payment.

What if the client received your work and never released your final milestone payment?

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it is very normal in freelancing portals.

If you have confidence with your final part of the work (NOTE: Double check the work and make sure everything is perfect) you can ask the client to release the payment and then send the work, so they can check it.

Usually, I do this way. Some clients understand about this and will release the payment.

But… Some clients might not be comfortable and might not have the same trust, in this case, send more images and videos for the client to check the work, add watermark in your work.

If you are doing application or other technical work, you can share the screen to show your client. So, client can get better look at the work before releasing the funds.

Now It’s Your Turn

I really hope you enjoyed my complete guide of how client can cheat when doing work in freelancing websites.

Based on my experience in freelancing websites, though there are quite a few real Upwork Scams out there, many sellers assume they are cheated is because of simple miscommunication.

These small issues are behind most failed projects than any scams, it does exist across most freelancing platforms, either bigger or smaller platform. As a freelancer, learn to be cautious and protect yourself.

out there, many sellers assume they are cheated is because of simple miscommunication.

These small issues are behind most failed projects than any scams, it does exist across most freelancing platforms, either bigger or smaller platform. As a freelancer, learn to be cautious and protect yourself.

Based on the thorough my experience in freelancing website, one thing I noticed was that even though there are quite a few real scammers out there, many freelancer (seller) are feeling cheated because of simple miscommunication.

These small issues are behind more failed projects than any scam, and they exist across all platforms, big or small. So, as a freelancer t, you must deal with caution and learn to protect yourselves.

Now I’d like to hear from you:

Which way you got cheated? Have you come across this before?

Did you find any other solution that works better for above cheating client’s issues?

Or, you have experienced other cheating methods that have not listed above?

Either way, let me know by leaving a comment below right now.

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