nebojsa.todorovic

A freelance veteran with a 1K+ projects portfolio loves and writes about everything that’s freelance

Two Years an Upwork Slave: How to Own Freelancers and Sue Those You Can’t Own

So, my story goes, one day I decided that enough is enough and it’s about time for me to part ways with Upwork. Once my beloved platform has rubbed me the wrong way more than once. I was free to opt in. So, I’m free to opt out. Right? You are free to join and you are free to say goodbye. This is what freelancing is supposed to be all about — freedom. Right again? Well, it turns out that there’s a catch — an Upwork legal catch.

The Legal Catch 22 — Section 7 of Upwork’s Terms

I honestly thought it would be as simple as that. It didn’t take too much time to create an account on Upwork. It would take even less to terminate one. Oh boy, I was in for a nasty legal surprise. It all started with one message I stumble upon an official Upwork’s Facebook page. It turned out I wasn’t the only one who wanted to leave.
Screenshot Upwork Facebook
Is Upwork for real? I had to check out this Section 7 with my own eyes.
Screenshot Upwork Terms
There it was in all of its beauty. I had to read it twice. What if I don’t want to wait for two years? I want to leave now. If my clients want to follow me that’s their decision. What’s that got to do with me?
Screenshot Upwork Terms
So, I’m free to leave, but without my clients and contracts. In an ideal freelance world, my client or clients can be generous and offer to pay this opt-out-fee. But, this isn’t going to be a gift, but rather an investment or better to say a loan. After my clients pay this money to Upwork, I will have to compensate them, this way or another. With my work, of course. Upwork made it sure that I have a great working relationship with my clients in the future.
And, that’s not all my dear freelance folks.
Screenshot Upwork Terms
Now, Upwork wants my clients to rat on me if I’m even to think out loud about leaving. As I said, I wasn’t the only one thinking about the great escape. I shared my findings and concerns with some of my freelance buddies. What do you know, it turns out that Upwork isn’t just being hard on its freelancers and clients, but the competitors, as well.

If You Can’t Beat Them — Sue Them

One of my freelance friends wanted a fresh start. He thought he would be out of long Upwork legal arm’s reach on some other platform. So, he started working on a relatively new freelance website goLance. He shared his shocking discovery that Upwork hit his new online working place with all of its legal and financial might. Even David vs Goliath comparison isn’t a match for this awkward situation.
I dig deeper with my research. Even the smallest potential competitors are treated as a serious threat to Upwork’s dominance. What could be a reason for a lawsuit between two companies competing in the same industry? You don’t have to have a legal degree to know that the most common accusation is that you’re “stealing” someone’s clients.
It’s understandable that you want to protect your business. However, it’s a completely different thing to defend your clients as if they’re your property. So, from an Upwork’s point of view, both goLance and I were the “legit” legal targets because their clients wanted to work with us.
If a client follows me wherever I go, is it my fault? If a client wants to work on goLance or some other platform instead of Upwork, are we going to have an “open legal season” in each individual case?

“F” in Freelance Stands for Freedom, NOT Fear

I can’t afford to go through legal trouble with Upwork both financially and emotionally. What I can do is to write an article about and move on to some other freelance platform. I’m a helpless believer in Good Karma. This hegemonic Upwork’s behavior won’t go unpunished. Upwork went public because it needed money despite the fact this may sound a bit strange to you. Yes, the biggest platform for freelancers in the world is in a desperate need of cash. What does that tell you?
The price of Upwork’s shares just hit the record low since its NASDAQ debut. Karma is a bitch, ain’t that right Upwork?

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