Don’t Make the Mistake I Made on UpWork

I realise that by writing this blog post I’m drawing attention to a brand that I’d prefer not to advertise at the moment. But I just have to get my feelings off my chest because I’ve honestly been so bleak for the past few weeks about this issue. There are also lots of worthy, talented South Africans out there who may benefit from the site, who I want to help shelter from making the same mistakes I did. So I thought I’d just share my story and how bleak I am that I no longer have access to UpWork. Who knows, maybe a miracle will happen 🙁

In the Beginning There was Upwork

As many of you know, my husband (pretty much) lost his job last year when the clubbing industry collapsed in Cape Town. I’ve been the sole breadwinner for our new family (we recently got married) and it’s been tough. But, I have a great day job and we’re newly weds so the hard times have been OK as we’re still madly in love and full of optimism. Because of this blog, I’m also given a lot of opportunities but, as we all know, “cash is king”. So I decided to start freelancing this year to develop my skills further and earn some extra monies. I know that the more you do, the more you learn, the faster you grow, the better you are – well that’s my belief anyway.

Upwork to the Rescue

So I joined Upwork; an internationally renowned freelancer platform and LOVED the ease of use. I had 1 client who I helped on a small basis and got him some really nice results. I was pleased, so I took on another client. This client was very nice, but took AGES to get anything done! She had hired me for a 2 hour job, loved it and asked me to do more. So I spent some time trying to setup the tech, created a proposal for her and I logged all the extra time – in Upwork – but she never paid it.

Not knowing what to do, I sent her a sheet with all the logged time on it, hoping that she would approve it and we could move on. I felt that trust was important and being from a third world country, I was skeptical of working and working and working and not being compensated for my time. So I asked AGAIN about the hours to which she replied, ”

So I did!

Immediately after sending the invoice I didn’t feel good about it as I’d have preferred her to just approve the hours within Upwork. But I figured she probably had to request more budget from her boss and just wanted a doc to prove there was outstanding work. But I wasn’t sure (as I’d never freelanced before) so I reached out to Upwork to ask if they had any freelancer support.

BIG MISTAKE! The platform that I had trusted with my personal information and faith had turned on me and I received the following reply:

Under the Upwork T’s & C’s I had broken a rule called Circumvention, a word I had never heard of before and I was banned from the site. EVEN THOUGH I HAD OUTED MYSELF! WHY?!

So I wrote back to them and said, “No! There’s been a big mistake! Help!” And this was their reply:

What Next?

Upwork’s T’s & C’s say: 

THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT I DID! I IMMEDIATELY MAILED asking for support and notifying them of what had happened. I even wrote to the client to tell them what had happened and they wanted to help me and apologised for the miscommunication! THE CLIENT TOOK OWNERSHIP!

What Now?

I know this is such a loser thing to say, but I’m honestly SO HEARTBROKEN over this! I know that seems lame, but it’s true. When you know you’re a good person and you make an honest mistake and you get punished for it, IT’S TOUGH!

What About the Client?

This brings me to Upwork’s ethics. They’re obviously eliminating people who they don’t feel they can trust with money – yet the client doesn’t get kicked off the site! Yes, it means that they can continue to compromise the integrity of the site, but the freelancers can’t! I REALLY feel like that’s capitalism at it’s best, YOH!

Where To From Here?

Nowhere really.

After suspension, you can keep using the website on existing clients, but can’t take up new work. So it’s ok for them to continue profiting off you even though you’re SUCH a bad person, a liability. And the fact that the CLIENT is so unjust. It really feels like the little guy is getting screwed.

UPDATE: Even though my existing client is very happy with my work, I feel like if I can’t use the site properly then I should close it. So I informed my client and tried to close it – AND NOW IT WON’T CLOSE!!! ARG! I’m just trapped in Upwork limbo!

In Closing…

A part of me feels like this blog post is totally and utterly pointless. But, as I said, this has really made me TRULY sad. I think it’s because I know I’m a good person, a decent person, a hardworking person, a person of integrity and I’m struggling to accept this mixup. How can I be punished for being honest? I guess what they say is true – life isn’t fair 🙁

I know I shouldn’t care, but I do. My honour cares. My integrity cares. I’ve honestly been so down about this because I just pride myself on my work. I believe hard work gives you purpose in this world and knowing that it’s been taking from me has REALLY hurt me. I know this was a rookie error, but I just don’t believe that I deserve the response I’ve received.

I guess somewhere deep in my heart I feel like if I share my story then it will help someone or by some miracle it will even help me. There’s still good left in the world somewhere right?

Anyway, thanks for reading and good luck if you decide to use Upwork. It’s a really great site and if you take pride in your work like I do, I believe you can really help others out there.

Have a happy day.
Meg x





  • Audry says:

    Thank you for this post. It serves as a necessary warning to people who’re considering joining this site, like me. I’ll definitely be sharing this. It might save someone the heartache.

    • You’ve very welcome Audry.
      It’s SUCH a pity as Upwork really is a well constructed site, however, they are too wealthy and don’t
      need to care about the little guy (us). Literally broke my heart but I’m at a large agency now in
      Cape Town enjoying a fantastic job and portfolio of clients with my own Facebook consultant so
      I’ve continued to enjoy my work without Upwork.
      Also – missed opportunity on their part! South Africans are amazing at digital (often better than our American
      counterparts dare I say) so they could be harboring our business, but alas, they do not.
      Good luck if you join the site, as mentioned, it is well built but their freelance customer service could DRASTICALLY improve.

      • Nokuthenjwa says:

        Hi Meg. Sorry to hear about your Upwork story. Really helped me coz I need a side hustle. More admin type work though that I can do maybe at night and on weekends. What agency are you using? How have you been able to find your side hustle? Would appreciate your help. Thank you

        • Hi Nokuthenjwa,
          Thanks for visiting.
          Look, Upwork is a great platform as long as you don’t make any human mistakes lol
          They recently launched “officially” in South Africa so perhaps their customer services have improved?
          If you’re really stuck for work then I would suggest you take all your chances.
          Join and see what happens from it.
          Having said that, I’m not sure if they have admin type roles so perhaps People Per Hour or Freelancer may be better for you?
          I have a full time job now and don’t freelance at all, so I can’t offer any other suggestions really.
          Sorry about that and good luck 🙂

  • RAZ says:

    Hi Girl!

    I’ve been using upwork for a year now and they don’t mess around with there T&Cs. I personally think that it is a great site for us in SA, especially when jobs are so scarce.

    I have a question for all you fellow upworkers though. I can’t get a straight answer anywhere online and thought maybe someone on your blog would be able to answer it for me.

    How do taxes work if you’re a freelancer, who gets a job every now and then from different clients? I’m so confused about this matter. Do i pay tax to SARS or how does it work?

    Can anyone advise me?

    • Hi Raz,
      So glad it’s worked out for you. After I recommended the site to a number of professionals, they had trouble getting accepted.
      So well done for making the grade! It’s a great site – apart from their super shite customer service & unethical expulsion of talent.
      In terms of tax – as soon as you withdraw the money into your SA bank account, then you need to save 25% for SARS as you’re a freelancer.
      You can then offset your expenses that you pay to run your business (like internet, etc.) which will drop that tax input.
      I recommend having a consultation with a bookkeeper so they can inform you further (I’m not a professional bookkeeper).
      Good luck and let me know what service it is that you offer on Upwork 🙂

  • Md. Zahidul Islam says:

    So sad to know about this. By the way, what are you doing right now? I mean, how do you manage your new client?

  • Dylan Apollis says:

    WOW, I was just about to create my profile and everything. Do you have any alternative sites to Upwork?

    • Look, it’s a great site in terms of job listings. It’s just an absolute b**ch if you make any wrong moves.
      Which is hard to avoid when you’re new at freelancing!
      But Freelancer and People Per Hour seem to be popular. Or Fiver.
      Personally, none of the infrastructure on those sites compare to Upwork, in my opinion.
      But, hey, beggars can’t be choosers! Good luck 🙂

  • Ania says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I was considering joining Upwork but now I will think about it more carefully. I’m sorry about what happened to you- very unfair.

    • Hi Ania,
      Thanks so stopping by.
      What’s so sad is that I met with a friend last weekend who had just joined.
      I told her of my experience so that she didn’t make the same mistake.

      The very next week she got kicked off because they said she was dormant!
      She was RIGHT in the middle of an interview with an Irish client and now she will just appear to have disappeared!
      Their behaviour makes us look inappropriate and unprofessional which also isn’t cool.

      So yeah…not sure if you want to give it a go. I don’t want to hold you back from earning potential, but be warned.
      They are merciless – AND they remove your complaints from Facebook! So their profile seems peachy, mean while nuh-uh!

      Good luck 🙂

  • Lauen says:

    UpWork is the worst! I’ve almost completely moved away from the platform and have started getting clients through sites like ProBlogger or cold emailing.

    I’ve also had so many clients find me on UpWork and then want me to invoice via PayPal. Which I prefer and if clients also feel that way, I’m sure the site is being a bitch to them as well.

    I’d highly recommend checking out Jordan has TONS of useful information on how to land high paying clients without getting into bed with icky content mills 🙂

    • It’s so sad that they’re so wealthy that they can afford to not hang onto quality freelancers!
      I’d understand if they had a warning system, but the eliminate good people isn’t great.
      I like their site architecture and it’s super easy to use, just so sad that they’ve made it so difficult.

      Thanks for the heads up Lauren, I’ll take a look at your suggestion asap 🙂

  • Hey Meg. Not sure why I stumbled across this post but I did and it really resonated with me because I’ve had a similar incident happen with YouTube. My account was terminated through no fault of my own… no notification either! I am also a totally upstanding citizen who prides myself on my integrity and honesty and take such offence that they feel my YouTube account was spam!!! What?? I can only think someone hacked my account and uploaded content without my knowledge while I was traveling. I did appeal their decision but their computer bot reply email just basically said to piss off and there is no where to go from here… It’s SOOOOOO disheartening. I’ve lost all 50 of my videos plus shares, views etc and I have no way of accessing my account to see what went wrong. And there is no REAL PERSON to speak to. (I’ve heard of similar frustrations with the likes of trying to reach Dropbox/ Xbox/ Facebook) Something needs to change when it comes to these huge brands in terms of their customer service. It really is horrible to not be able to explain yourself to a real person and get an empathetic response…. Anyway. Rant over! Sorry I can’t help you, just empathise which is something I suppose!!

    • So sorry my friend 🙁 I really thought you’d had that resolved. If I ever get any contacts for YouTube, I will be sure to let you know. Maybe they’re not replying because they know they made a mistake and can’t reinstall it!

  • GC says:

    Please keep this link up so I can punt it far and wide. Shameless dogs, I’m shocked at their PR.

    • Thanks for the vote of confidence GC.
      It still makes me so bleak to think about it, but there’s nothing I can do.
      An appeals centre would be really good especially for people like me (skilled, but nieve).
      Good luck with your freelancing 🙂

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