Why is Upwork suspending accounts and placing temporary holds for “irregular activity”? Does Upwork just want to get rid of freelancers?

You have to try to understand the business of Upwork to try to understand what they are trying to do.

Open Upwork.com.

In the first fold itself you can see their intent:

The main theme is about “Hire freelancers. Make things happen.”

They are openly stating that upwork is for clients/businesses who are looking for freelancers to get their work done.

Enrolling freelancers is their secondary priority.

Also on their main page, no other country name is mentioned except the USA.

I am browsing upwork from India and I am being promoted about top skills in US and Freelancers from Top Cities in the US.

Clearly this website is for the US market and focused around promotion of freelancers around the USA.

Even in the footer, they have mentioned a selected few countries to browse by:

2/3rds of the world’s population is in Asia and no country from Asia gets a mention.

Clearly upwork does not find value in selling to customers to these countries. Probably there is not enough money flow from Asia.

Upwork may have started to capture the whole global freelancing market. But like most businesses, they are focusing on where the money is.

Which I don’t think is a bad move. They are a profit-making company, recently had an IPO. They are looking to expand and conquer the market.

Their major drawback is their initial business market. They started as an open marketplace.

The disadvantage is, they cannot control who can place bids.

In such situation managing quality of freelancers is extremely difficult. Why?

The lowest hanging fruit is accessible to everyone. If all fruits are bent and made to be low hanging, then everybody will reach out.

Clients who wanted to invest money are backing off looking at the uncontrolled bidding.

Then upwork started giving “Top Rated Freelancer” tags to those who cleared some criteria.

This worked for a while but soon people figured out how to fill that criterion.

In developing countries where labour is cheap, aggregators are playing the role of mediators. They are bagging projects, getting work done through hired people and increase their reputation in upwork.

There could be infinite ways through which the aggregators or mediators are building businesses through this.

But overall, the quality of freelancers is not increasing.

A while back you might have heard that a lot of clients are complaining about unprofessional freelancers from South Asian countries. Lack of communication, missing deadlines, payment issues and lack of quality in work and similar such complaints.

Upwork hence discouraged new signups for quite a while. I have known personal cases where people were told that new signups in certain skills were not allowed as upwork has a surplus.

Upwork, which focusses mostly on the US market needed to tighten up both their ends of the business. They need a good pool of clients and freelancers.

Which is possible through a managed marketplace, something like Toptal.

Upwork is trying different things now.

Upwork Enterprise is an effort in the direction of the managed marketplace. Here they can closely work with Clients/Enterprises and freelancers/remote workforce which they have more close control of.

Upwork has partnered with Microsoft to build a freelancer toolkit to help Enterprises build Freelance Teams at Scale.

In brief, Upwork is interested in its own business and is trying to improve its standards by weeding out the weak links.

It decided to take some strong measures like preventing new signups and suspending accounts of seemingly inactive or suspicious accounts.

Freelancers who have faced the unreasonable end of this bargain are helpless. But you have to understand that Upwork does not care. In all probability, some internal algorithm may have suspended those accounts. Upwork may be happy giving projects to their Top Rated Freelancers as long as their clients are happy.

I can understand your anguish if you are a freelancer and have been suspended by Upwork for some flimsy reason.

But you have to understand that it is their business. We have the least say about how they should run their business. They are doing what best works for them.

My suggestion is, do not depend on one platform for all your earnings, as the old business saying goes: “Do not put all your eggs in one basket”

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