5 Personalities to Avoid & 7 Crucial Tips When You Hire on Upwork

Five Personalities to Avoid When You Hire on Upwork (formerly oDesk)

Need to hire on Upwork (formerly oDesk)? It isn’t easy.  In a “traditional” work environment,  you can conduct face-to-face interviews and assess job applicants against some criteria. But, when you hire on Upwork (formerly oDesk) or other similar virtual environments, it’s more complex. You don’t have the benefit of shaking people’s hands, making eye contact and picking up on non-verbal cues that reveal their suitability for the job.

It simply isn’t the same.

So, how do you make an informed staffing decision when hiring virtual employees on Upwork (formerly oDesk)?

Unfortunately, there isn’t any rule of thumb when it comes to hiring remote workers. But, there are certain personalities you should avoid anytime when you hire on Upwork (formerly oDesk).

Consider these as warning signs. If a freelancer displays any of these signs, take your money and run.

The Disappearing Act

This one start offs on a good note. You hire them and they start working on your project. Then suddenly and without warning, they stop answering your emails and messages.

This is one of the most difficult personalities to spot before it’s too late. Everything seems to be moving along smoothly. You have probably spent a good amount of time training the contractor or messaging them to let them know how you want our project done. After a while they go silent, fail to bill you, fail to upload any work and totally ignore you.

Unfortunately, there are many freelancers who regard sites like Upwork (formerly oDesk) as a side hustle – somewhere they go when they are low on cash. Other things in their life take priority and as soon as they earn a few bucks they disappear leaving you with an incomplete project.

It’s hard to avoid such contractors but if a contractor disappears on you then comes back after some time with a sob story about some unexpected life event, you might want to ditch them at the earliest opportunity. In today’s connected world, there is absolutely no excuse for anyone failing to communicate unless they are dead or dying. A single-line email is sufficient to let your employer know what’s happening.

Also, when you hire on Upwork (formerly oDesk), check the work history thoroughly. Avoid people with little or no experience on Upwork (formerly oDesk) despite how good their resume looks or how fair their rates are.

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The Fake

Getting work on sites like Upwork (formerly oDesk) isn’t easy for new contractors. It takes a lot of time and hard work to build up good reviews and work history. So some freelancers take short cuts. They fake resumes and lie about having worked for big firms.

Upwork (formerly oDesk) profiles are also hawked in online black markets. There are crooks out there who specialize in creating accounts, get them nice looking fake reviews using multiple buyer accounts and then sell them to freelancers who don’t want to take the time to build a genuine profile.

You can tell your freelancer is fake if the work submitted isn’t of the same quality as promised in the bid or as displayed in the profile and portfolio. For example, assume you hire a writer with excellent samples in their portfolio only for them to turn in work that reads like it was written by a six-year-old.

You can safely assume you were duped. Demand your money back or start a dispute process to get a refund of any funds in escrow.

Another variation of the fake is someone whose time tracking screen shots on Upwork (formerly oDesk) all appear to be the same, yet the freelancer has maxed out on the allowed billable hours and the job isn’t complete.

The Time Waster

This type is always asking questions and seeking clarification but never really gets down to work. They will flood your inbox with endless questions, clarifications, and argument.

Most of these types are techies.  In extreme cases, they will assume they know what your project needs better than you do. And, they may even belittle you or insult you subtly by sending you a list of technical questions which you have to answer before the project can proceed.

These types can cause a lot of damage within a very short period of time. If a freelancer is still sending a barrage of questions after 72 hours and no work is being done, cancel the project and demand a refund. You are better off hiring another worker.

The Desperate

Desperate people are ready and willing to work for peanuts. Let’s be honest, you get what you pay for. If a freelancer offers to do what looks like a considerable amount of work for a rate that no one can live on anywhere in the world, you better be careful. It is best to pay a decent wage and be assured of quality.

If you ask some freelancers why they are charging so low, they will tell you that life is very cheap in their country so they can afford to charge low rates. While this may be partly true, (it is a fact that there are wage differences across boundaries) some rates are simply too low regardless of where in the world you live. Take, for example, someone offering to code a website for $5 or write a 500-word article for $3 …really?

Don’t hire a desperado.

If you do, then lower your expectations.

The Fraud

The fraud is a total crook. Sites like Upwork (formerly oDesk) are constantly on the lookout for illegal activity being perpetrated on their platform. Unfortunately, they don’t always weed out thugs in time. The biggest problem affects writing and coding jobs. When you hire writers on Upwork (formerly oDesk), you have to be careful you don’t receive plagiarized content.

Always check the work using a plagiarism checking service to make sure you haven’t been sent content that was ripped off another website.

Also, when you hire web developers, be alive to the fact that they may use a template they got off The Pirate Bay.

The same goes for any images used on your website. The developer must have the legal right to use them. Demand to be shown where images were sourced and confirm that they are royalty free or creative commons images.

Using intellectual property without permission can land you in serious legal trouble.

Hire on Upwork (formerly oDesk) – Can you Hack It?

Sounds tough, huh? You are probably wondering how on earth you would be able to spot these five personality types before its too late.

It’s true, it isn’t easy. You have to be really keen and have a sixth sense for spotting a raw deal a mile away. Although keep in mind that you can always rely on Hubstaff for accurate time-tracking and remote employee management.

7 Crucial Points to Remember Before You Hire on Upwork

With the flexibility and various skill sets that working with a remote team can bring to your project, websites like Upwork (formerly oDesk) are quickly becoming a go-to resource for many startups, entrepreneurs and businesses. However, before you jump in and start hiring your remote team, there are a few things you need to know about how to hire on Upwork (formerly oDesk) to improve your hiring process:

1) Make sure you write a solid job description
The more detailed your description, the more accurate of a match you’ll attract. Beware, if you get too detailed, you may end up excluding too many people and not having enough to choose from. Try to keep a happy medium where your description will insure those who apply understand the extent of what you’re looking for without scaring off quality candidates.

2) Weed out those who are applying to every job
Sometimes Upwork’s (formerly oDesk) abundance of resources can work against you. You’re highly likely to get people who will send out a blanket application to multiple jobs (many of which they are not qualified for) which you will then have to spend time and resources sorting through and weeding them out. One way to make this process easier is to add a line in your job description that will help you tell who is serious about the job and who is not. One example, tell all applicants to put a specific phrase at the top of their application and then you can easily dismiss those who do not have the phrase.

3) You get what you pay for
Upwork (formerly oDesk) has many options to fit your budget, but as tempting as it is to go with the lowest possible bidder, remember that you really do get what you pay for. Those who are bidding super low most likely do not posses the skills that are required and you may end up having to have the work redone. When looking to hire off Upwork (formerly oDesk), remember the quote from Red Adair, “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur.”

4) Don’t be afraid to interview
If you’re doing a project that needs more explanation or requires a certain skill, don’t be afraid to interview your potential candidate. This can be as simple as a few message exchanges on Upwork (formerly oDesk), email or via instant message. You can even take it a step further and do an interview via Skype, but don’t be offended if someone doesn’t want to meet face-to-face or give you their personal phone number. Without a previous relationship with you, they may not feel comfortable giving out such personal information right away. Don’t use this against them, but you should at least try to have a conversation via Upwork (formerly oDesk) before the project to ask any questions (or have them ask you questions) to help you verify you’ve selected the right person for the job.

5) Check out their references
Upwork (formerly oDesk) (and other freelance sites) come with reviews where freelancers are rated by those who they’ve worked for before. Be sure to read through their references to give yourself a better idea of what type of a worker this person is and if they’d be a good fit for your project. Keep in mind that these reviews are a two way street so freelancers will be able to rate what you’re like to work for, which may help or hinder you in the future.

6) Know what is important to your project
Make sure you have a list of priorities for your project beyond specific requirements for the work. Think about things like how important their English skills are, how and when they’re available to work, what previous clients have said about them, etc. These are all available on their Upwork (formerly oDesk) profile and though they are not project-specific, they should be taken into account when selecting the right candidate.

7) Trust your gut
In the end, you need to trust your gut. If someone gives you an uneasy feeling or wants you to change terms of your project that you’re uncomfortable with, trust yourself and keep looking for that perfect candidate!

Finding resources for your next project is right at your fingertips with resources like Upwork (formerly oDesk). However, you have to be willing to put in the work to find the right candidate, but sometimes it’s necessary to have others help vet and find the perfect fit for your project. For this type of work, Hubstaff offers staffing solutions to take the guesswork out of finding the right person for your project.

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  • Hi Dillon,

    We’re sorry that you feel that way. Do you have any ideas on how this article could have been more helpful for you?

  • in Love of Making Things

    Hi Dave,
    Some points are very accurate some may not be so much, I beg to differ that you cannot meet face to face, with skype and dozen other video chat platforms, its not an excuse anymore.

    I checked upwork as freelancer and now its my main job, and you are right about people disappearing, I even add Reliability as my USP along with others. Now allow me to shed some light on possible other causes, I observed:
    1. Client hired the lowest bid and now the freelancer thinks its too low to work for,
    2. Both parties failed to communicate properly and now they have this unrealistic deadline, freelancer will disappear

    You are also one sided with “The Time Waster” . A large number of jobs say “I want to make it professional” or “do your magic” isnt something very accurate and clear, for a good job one has to have a clear understanding, its its too much for emails , perhaps plan a meeting or voice chat and get that confusion out of window.

    As you said, you get what you pay for.

    Good communication is the key to sort out most problems.

    • Dann Albright

      In my experience, you’re absolutely right: good communication is crucial. On both sides. And going with the cheapest bid can definitely cause some of the problems mentioned in this article. Whether Skype counts as face-to-face is up for debate, though. 🙂 I would imagine that some people like to actually be in the same room with the freelancers they’re considering hiring. (which I understand, but I definitely prefer email). Now if we can only get everyone to communicate effectively . . .

  • Dave

    I’m sorry but this article seems one-sided and more like propaganda for Hubstaff than anything else – I’ve been on the other side as the business for 8 years and now am the developer. 1) how is a new dev supposed to get a rating or rep if you suggest avoiding the new person? Just because I’m new to development doesn’t mean I’m new to ethical business practices 2) How is Hubstaff any better at vetting new developers? As a FREELANCER (not an employee or someone down on their luck) I am not interested in working through someone else or for someone else as I know what I’m doing.

    • Dann Albright

      It’s always going to be risky for businesses to hire people with little or no experience. There are quite a few ways you can get experience in a field without going through a freelance marketplace; personal projects, working with friends, creating a strong portfolio, and so on. Successfully starting a freelance business isn’t easy—you have to be able to prove to a potential client that you’re going to be worth the cost. And with so many businesses out there that pay next to nothing, it’s especially important, as you’ll need to seek out clients who are willing to pay you a fair wage, too. It’s a tenuous balance. It’s not the business’s responsibility to help new freelancers get ratings (and trust me, I know how hard all of that is, having been a freelancer for the past several years, and having gone through this entire process myself). Unfortunately, just because you have experience with ethical business practice doesn’t mean you’re a good developer. You have to show a company that you can do the job and that you’re worth the investment.

  • Whining_Artist

    I have use Upwork, Odesk, Elance, and Freelancer. Of course, the first three are amalgamated now. When I first started using these services it was pretty straight-forward. Then fraudsters came on. I caught most of them, but even now I still get duped by the disappearing act type. The fraudsters are easier to spot – lots of $100 jobs, similar comments, ridiculous excuse for websites not working, work not being in their name or something similar.

    I want to share a recent story of an attempted fraud. We need to hire a Canadian for a back-end developer. One candidate asked me to go to Skype then explained that he couldn’t speak, because he was deaf. (So why did we need to go to Skype?) Then he said we could video call, but not until the next week, and then only for about a minute because he had to borrow a camera. (You’re applying for a job whjich pays $50/hour and you can’t afford a $30 webcam?) The guy should apply for a job at SNL.

    Having said all this, we need to bear in mind that sites like Upwork and, now Hubstaff, offer fantanstic opportunities for freelancers and clients alike. Bear in mind that many projects only need one person. Clients, find the best. Freelancers, be the best. Treat each other like gold. That’s how this industry will thrive and we can succeed together.

  • Whining_Artist

    I have mostly been a client on Upwork, though a freelancer for one job and applied on many. From my perspective as a very experienced employer, I look at no only other jobs, but more importantly, what you say about yourself, your profile, and your test scores. I also look at how long it took you to test. If you can’t find a job, create some stuff and put it on your profile. If your a web developer, make a website, if your a writer, write an article and post it. This will give us an idea of the quality of your work.

  • mind zone

    Hey Kasokian, So finally have you got the work or not? I am also a newbie on upwork. Thanks

  • Danny_HubStaff

    Hey Anne,

    Thanks for your comment! We’re planning on releasing a directory very soon that will allow you to create a profile offering your writing services and hopefully pick up new clients. If you’d like I can let you know as soon as it’s ready?

    • Anne Murigi

      Hey Danny, Thank you and yes please, let me know when its ready. Thanks again.

  • We’ve released our talent marketplace for freelancers and agencies. Would love for you to check it out and start a profile – https://talent.hubstaff.com/signup?utm_source=blog

    • Whining_Artist

      That’s a great site. Love the idea. If it were me, I’d also offer to PM projects for a % (obviously you need staff to do this.) In my estimation, this is the biggest problem with software/Web App builds of any size – lots of people know what they want, but not how to manage it.

      You might want to look at a couple of cosmetic changes to the sliders on the left. Don’t think people are permitted to work at age 10 in any country. Speaking of countries, I’m pretty sure ‘Canada” is one. As such, your “Countries” search should be updated to include this vast nation directly north of you.

  • Marc Xavier

    Is upwork formally odesk?

    • Anouk

      Ha ha! Good one!!

  • Iva

    For us on the other side, the person to avoid: the one who treats you like you’re disposable, livestock or whatever.

  • Shenaal Nonis

    To all clients reading this article, do take some time to read my comment and that of Lana too for she makes some very valid points. I am offering you an insight into a freelancers opinion and if you are a legitimate client seeking to hire freelancers, then it would do you good to understand both sides of the story for you only stand to gain more knowledge.
    The Disappearing Act – “Also, when you hire on Upwork (formerly oDesk), check the work history thoroughly. Avoid people with little or no experience on Upwork (formerly oDesk) despite how good their resume looks or how fair their rates are.” Who are we, dear clients? We are people too and not all of us started freelancing years ago when the competition was very little, allowing us to amass a wealth of reviews and work history. We may have real life experience (I for instance have a law diploma and I am one semester shy of completing my UK law bachelors degree), however when it comes to upwork and other freelancing sites, we are but infants. Our decades of life experience amounts to nothing when we have to start afresh with a begging bowl at menial rates waiting for someone to consider our proposal when our “good resume” and “fair rates” seem to work against us! How do we build up a work history when you tell clients to avoid giving us the chance to do so? There are plenty of time wasters out there, but upwork has created steps to ensure that you get what you pay for. If your budget is small and you post a $ entry level freelancer required over a $$ or $$$ expert level requirement then you quite naturally have a budget you wish to stick by. To quote Lana “if a person’s budget is only $200, you as the expert need to be able to propose a solution that fits their problem AND budget.” So when we take a clients $30 budget into consideration and know that the other 10-50 proposals they are receiving would have competitive rates from $5 to $80 from the top rated ‘big dog’ freelancers with a rich work history, what choice do we newbies have? If our profile is polished and you could see that we spent days crafting it for our clients only to have someone tell you to ignore us if we don’t have a work history, all that does is kill the passion we had when we skilled/newbie freelancers first signed up for work. If you know there are plenty of fake accounts with fake reviews probably obtained via the black-market, then you could be rest assured that my profile ( https://www.upwork.com/freelancers/~01c0ee0a275bff909d ) which I spent time on doing as many tests as I could to prove my proficiency and with just 2 jobs as of this date as my work history, may be something Dave asked you to look past, but would not be one purchased off the black-market with fake reviews, etc. We are real people behind these profiles, with real lives, real problems and we all want to work for money. The quality of these people could be determined by you clients by reading our proposals and understanding the standard of English, for example, we offer; if you have doubts on whether we are genuinely typing the proposal, then why not message us and check our response? Let me put it quite simply dear clients: “Low online experience does not amount to low real-life experience” You also have the chance to meet enthusiastic new people who are excited to work online and offer their heart and soul to you and your projects unlike the big dogs to whom your $150 budget job is pocket change or “just another thing to add to their ever growing work history”. I for example wrote an ebook for $5 as my first job and I helped test a new website by writing 50 test reviews from multiple different email addresses for a two week $15 budget job which I bid $25 on and completed in 2 days and received a heartfelt review you could read on my profile. We offer good work at low rates because we are literally hung out to dry when some people *cough cough* advise you clients (sometimes our only source of income when we have student loans to pay and no time to commute to work when it makes more sense doing it at home and being able to study and get our rest during university) to avoid people like us, trying to earn for a living, and discriminating us for just appearing a few years too late so the big dog pro’s could take 99% of the jobs for mere pocket change simply because they built up their massive work history before they faced any competition.
    I have a couple of things to add to potential clients reading this article. Keep in mind that what Dave says is slightly biased against other freelancing sites as the punchline is to get you to check out his own freelancing site. I’m not putting him down, I myself visited hubstaff after reading this article and it looks like a very decent site with good features. If I were a client and I had a lot of money to invest in an important job, i’d consider hubstaff simply for the security it offers clients. However to use what he implied to make my own point, hubstaff may have a well polished user interface and offer quality work for good rates, but upwork (formerly oDesk), freelancer.com, etc have been there all along and are therefore ‘obviously’ the better choice by default. See what I did there? Hubstaff may be the next big thing, but you wouldn’t know unless you gave it a try; so go ahead and try out hubstaff, and while doing so in the meantime, try out us newbies on sites like upwork. Old isn’t always better right?

    • Whining_Artist

      I understand your frustration. Working on any site, free or not, you’ll need to take some crap jobs first, then start sales on some larger ones. Focus on pleasing customers. Keep everything on the customers needs, including what you bring to the table. Avoid run-on diatribes like the one above. Are you a writer? Please, be concise.

      • Diego Funari

        I need to disagree. I started working in upwork without any experience, virtually zero, and I didn’t need to do crap jobs first, my first 2 clients allowed me to make a living with the income since the beginning, with ongoing projects. If you think and act like everyone else, you will end up with the same results. My tip: If you assume and believe that your value is ‘x’, people will agree with you. It’s much harder to earn crap projects than to earn high end projects, because everyone is doing the same things, “working on crap first “. Instead of competing with the $5/h crowds, take a step further. AS A FREELANCER YOU ARE A BUSINESS OWNER, NOT AN EMPLOYEE.

        • Dann Albright

          That’s great that you were able to make a living on your first projects! It took me quite a while to get up to a decent wage. Did you have previous experience from before freelancing?

  • jmar42

    I hired [redacted] from Upwork and he was the “Time Waster”. This guy dragged it on and on. The simplest things turned into me having to clarify for a 1 year old. Upwork even gave him an escrow without my permission. I definitely won’t ever use Upwork again. Upwork is not the same as Elancer or RentACoder even though they merged. I had an account since RentACoder, which is since 2006 or so. I guess they don’t care about long standing employers.

    Keep in mind at Upwork, anything that goes into escrow you will not have any control of. Once it’s in, its gone according to Upwork and my dealings.

  • I appreciate the time you took to put this together. We are very new to Upwork, and thus are doing the best we can to be cautious and tread lightly. We are well aware of the scammers out there, and will hopefully have enough dialog in the beginning (pre-hire) to help us make a smart decision for the right person. Thank you! -Joe

  • Lana

    I am a freelancer who started out on sites like ODesk… And while I’ve no doubt there are some definite frauds out there, (Hell, I used to compete with them – people bidding a tenth of a reasonable rate and then throwing to together some plagiarized POS) but I felt a couple of your points may have been jumping the gun a little bit.

    Asking for a budget isn’t some sign of a creative trying to milk you for all you’re worth, it’s important – if a person’s budget is only $200, you as the expert need to be able to propose a solution that fits their problem AND budget. Also, asking a lot of questions is not a time waster – it is invaluable to good communication and will ultimately result in getting an end result that better fits the needs of the client. Regarding another point you made, there’s a good chance the freelancer probably DOES know what you need better than you do – that’s why you hired an expert instead of just doing it yourself. You shouldn’t take that as belittling – you should take it as them just trying to do their job and give you the best possible outcome to meet your project goals. Asking a lot of specific questions along the way in order to best determine your needs is extremely important to beginning of any successful project.

    A successful working relationship is like any relationship – you need open communication and a mutual respect with one another. There are certainly scammers out there – a few of your warning signs I definitely do agree with… But some of your points don’t sound like scammers so much – they sound like a freelancer trying to do their job.

    Also, sometimes shit gets lost in the Spam folder. It happens.
    You figure out what happened a day later, then you apologize and move past it.

  • Dylan Robertson

    Thank you very much for this superb blog post. I heave dealt with several of these types over the years on Elance. The key is to think of your team the way a coach thinks of a sports team. NOT as a family. A business is not a family, it’s a business. Actually, I am just in the process of terminating a project with one of the types you describe above and will be sending you my requirements for that project soon via your staffing page contact form! Feels much better being able to see things via HubStaff.

    • Dave

      This is not deeply insightful. Do a better job at building relationships and focus on past behavior and proof of skill and traits when interviewing. Of course a business is not a family, people don’t apply to be in your family.