I felt uncomfortable sharing this until recently.
Upwork was one of the main sources of income for me personally and my agency, so after getting the accounts back I was afraid of being suspended again.
I am no longer worried to be misunderstood, as my story is intended to be (a) truthful to the bones (b) helpful for everyone, including Upwork itself.
In 2019 my team decided to go all-in on Upwork.
We knew it was not going to be a walk in the park, but we never expected that our journey would end so quickly.
After 2 months of work, my agency's profile with all of the freelancers were permanently suspended on Upwork after we just got some initial traction.
We planned a long term collaboration with Upwork both as an agency and as a client, having invested hundreds of hours in creating strategies, preparing the team, and polishing the profiles.
But at the end, we were left banned with no explanations from the support team and around $20,000 in losses not counting for lost opportunity and reputation damage.
But this is not how the story ends...
Here is what I did to unblock the account.
Being indifferently dismissed by the Upwork support, my butt was lit on fire to say the least 🔥
Contacting support was just a waste of time, so I chose a strategy to popularize the issue and damage Upwork's online reputation in hope to get attention from bigger players at the company.
I knew Upwork was a public company, and any negative sentiment in social media would indirectly impact their market position.
The problem was to find the right medium to amplify my concerns.
I didn't have much followers back then. My Facebook, Twitter and Instagram had maybe around 400 followers combined.
So I had to find a ways of making this go viral without an existing audience.
1. Email support
Probably the least effective strategy in my attempts to restore the account.
We sent a couple thoughtful letters, explaining and providing arguments for what we thought could have caused a suspension, only to receive back more thoughtless canned responses.
Soon, Upwork removed the badges from the accounts and I could no longer contact support. Yet, I believe that my persistence was something that contributed to the eventual win.
2. Write to community forum
Since I was suspended, community forum was unavailable to me (freedom of speech that is).
So I asked my friend to share the story, which received another reply full of apathy.
3. Talk to Upwork employees
The idea was to find the current employees and try to bring their awareness to the issue through a personal dialogue.
I went to LinkedIn to try connecting with as many people from Upwork as possible.
Unfortunately, this turned out to be impossible because people set their place of work as Upwork, Inc. even though they are just freelancers on the platform.
Consequently, Upwork has thousands of employees on LinkedIn, which makes finding the actual ones quite hard.
So unless there was a way to connect personally with somebody from Upwork, I would not attempt it the second time.
4. Post to Reddit
Upwork has a sub-reddit. Even though it is said to be unofficial, I knew some official Upwork people might hang around.
Once again, my goal was to expose the issue to as much people as possible.
So I wrote a rather click-baity title trying to resonate with the freelancers who were treated similarly unfair.
The post did not go viral, but it received plenty upvotes and around 40 comments.
I was ready for some haters to show up, but most of the people were supportive and showed empathy.
I also manipulated the upvotes with the help of my friends and colleagues, to be completely honest.
5. Go to Court
6. Post to Quora
I asked my friend to post a question: "Is Upwork a good platform to grow a digital agency?".
And there I poured out all of the hatred that accumulated in the previous couple of weeks.
The story came out as a quite emotional read, full of personal details and screaming injustice.
I made sure to set my credential to resonate with the actual post.
Read the Quora answer →
My account was just created, so I did not have any followers or previous answers.
Quora turned out to be the best vehicle for my public revenge, since it allowed to directly invite people to "answer" the question.
At the time you could invite infinite number of people to participate, so I invited everybody.
I literally invited everyone I could find associated with Upwork or freelance, or digital agency business, including Upwork's CEO at the time and other C-level execs.
Of course, I was not expecting their answers, I just wanted to expose my answer as much as possible.
That was when shit hit the fan 💨💩
First, the story received a quite large number of views, averaging 200 per day and growing.
The crowd resonated with the issue, people commented sharing their own stories of being suspended for no obvious reason without explanations.
I started receiving lots of upvotes and shares, but it wasn't going viral.
People stared writing their own answers, so I was afraid that my answer will end up buried down the list.
But everything changed when the question became part of the email digest sent out to more than 110,000 people.
The views skyrocketed to 1k daily, upvotes and shares exploded.
Finally, my pain was resonating with many others and the shit storm was going into Upwork's direction.
I felt good about myself.
As of the date of this writing, Quora answer had 22K views, 183 upvotes, 20 shares, 6 comments.
And then I won
All of a sudden, Sandy from Upwork Trust & Safety Team emailed me with some good news:
The accounts were fully restored.
I never got to find out what was the reason of the suspension, but I believe it had something to do with logging into multiple accounts from the same computer.
Upwork is dominating the freelance marketplace. They have the power to dictate their own rules of the game: who get's to be part of the raising Gig Economy, and who doesn't.
But indiscriminately mistreating their own users can backfire badly. Audience have the tools to magnify their concerns.
Don't ever be afraid to speak up for the truth and justice, even when it's an individual against a massive corporation.
There are thousands of talented freelancers being suspended for no reason. They are getting cut off from the major source of income. For some regions, Upwork could be the only online exposure they can afford to make money in the internet.
A good dialogue is the one thing that Upwork needs to build with their freelancers.
What Happened Next
Being restored, I was treated like a king.
All of a sudden, replies from support became thoughtful and polite.
I got assigned an agent from the Executive Escalations Team, who was extremely helpful in getting the profile badges back, starting the BYOC program, restoring the contracts.
She was like a knight in the shining armor, supporting my way back to the platform.
But I experienced premium support long after this...
When having issues with Jira integration, or trying to get access to the Upwork API, I felt like the quality of service was influenced by the account history.
That was when I realized that my Upwork game was real.
I couldn't just dismiss the opportunity to turn this into a success story.
18 months and $280,000 later Upwork is my best friend.
Upwork has became my Operational System for work.
I hire on Upwork, and I sell on Upwork. Most of the times, I do both within a single business model.
In 2019, I had to shut down Auxility's main office in Kyiv and lay off all employees. Those were hard times with no liquidity to invest into finding new business.
But thanks to Upwork, my company survived and grew from a cluster of freelancers into a team of 50+ remote workers.
I hired more than 100 talented engineers for my projects through Upwork.
Thanks to $UPWK, I made nearly 4X in its stock value from May 2020 to January 2021.
By mastering my Upwork game, I now also have side income from consulting about the platform.
I started Scalifier🚀 to help companies grow and scale using Upwork and world's biggest work marketplaces.
Focusing on Upwork made me realize that it is how the world's work marketplace is going to look like in the future.
No more random CV PDFs, reference checks, limitless interviews, job boards, offices, vacations, sick days, bad hires, excess liabilities.
Companies should have unlimited access to world's best talent on-demand, while providers should have independence and freedom to work with anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Thanks to Upwork, I discovered my purpose to contribute to this new transparent, borderless, independent work economy.
@vadymhimself ———————————— Data Scientist, serial entrepreneur writing about the future of work, freelance and borderless business🧑💻