Upwork is once again changing its terms of service, and this one has freelancers in a tizzy!
In a new, supposedly preventive measure against scam and fraud, the popular freelance marketplace will bar all pre-contract freelancer-client communications beyond Upwork.
That means no more Skype or Zoom (or even email) before you start a contract!
“We have found that when users communicate outside of Upwork there is an increased risk in fraud, scam, circumvention, and other behaviors that harm our community,” Upwork said on Tuesday, May 26th.
What Will Change?
The freelance titan has announced that starting June 26th, 2020, all pre-contract communication will strictly be limited to its online platform.
Upwork declared that neither clients nor freelancers will be allowed to share any form of contact information before they start an Upwork contract.
As per the new guidelines, freelancers and clients can no longer request or share personal information such as phone numbers, email and physical addresses, links to external contact forms, applicant management systems, and similar application forms, as well as any information that would enable contact through social media, external websites, platforms, and/or applications.
Before these new restrictions, Upwork’s terms of service limited contact information sharing to profiles and job postings.
From June 26th onward, the platform’s integrated Message Center will be the only means through which clients and freelancers can communicate.
With that in mind, Upwork said that it has recently improved its internal communication system. The company has upgraded its call and video systems to increase their consistency, uptime, and overall quality of service.
Moreover, Upwork has enhanced the user experience “to provide more straightforward access to this service and flexibility in viewing.” The company stressed that all calls made through Upwork Messages are not recorded.
By taking full control of the communication aspect on its massive platform, Upwork hopes to improve its users’ experience and safety, and decrease fraudulent attempts and “breaches of trust.”
A Few Exceptions
According to Upwork’s updated terms, “clients who utilize Upwork Business and Enterprise solutions are permitted to request and share contact information, as well as to conduct interviews or pre-contract communications, outside of Upwork.”
Although this was the only exception included in the initial announcement, other exemptions soon followed in an update, after the Upwork community expressed concern over some pressing points:
- Many users pointed out that for some contracts, signing a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) is a crucial prerequisite that often involves the sharing of personal information. As a result, Upwork decided to exempt such necessary legal documents from the aforementioned communication restrictions.
- In case Upwork users need to share large files necessary for the work after contract-signing, it is permissible to use cloud platforms – or any other preferred communication method – that require an email address to access. On that note, if file sharing is required before starting the contract, “this is acceptable through cloud/FTP programs that can be accessed without the sharing of contact information” Upwork explained.
- Regarding the pre-contract sharing of external portfolios from which contact information cannot be removed, Upwork said it will allow it on the condition that the freelancer asks the client not to contact them outside of Upwork’s platform.
Despite Upwork’s claims that these changes benefit freelancers and clients, it seems that the community largely disagrees.
Upon the announcement, many longstanding Upwork members expressed discontent with Upwork’s communication systems. Furthermore, freelancers and clients alike shared concern that this will create major problems and service disruptions within their business.
In response to the huge influx of negative comments, Upwork added a Frequently Asked Questions page to clarify some of the more pressing concerns regarding the upcoming update.