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Why I never used UpWork to find contract work as a software developer

I am a developer and one of the co-founders of Archimydes. I helped design Archimydes after having countless similar experiences to the one recounted here on UpWork as well as on platforms like UpWork when looking for freelance work in the past.

So why did I never use UpWork? Or more accurately, why did I never win a bid that I submitted of UpWork? Well let’s start with an actual contract post from UpWork.

“We are looking for someone to design a website that sells the design services site where a customer goes online uploads pictures and fills out a survey for the room that they are looking to have designed. We are also looking for the ability to funnel traffic from the social media sites through an Amazon store front for the sales of furniture and other home decor”

Fixed Price: $1,000

Location: Only Freelancers from the US may Apply

Skill Level: Intermediate (looking for a mix of experience and value)

This is a fairly typical example of a project description that customers post on UpWork. At first glance it might seem like a legitimate requirement, but the moment we delve deeper it falls apart.

Let’s start with the very first line of the request “we are looking for someone to design a website….”. The first question that comes to mind is this – who is this “someone”?. Is this someone a designer? Is this someone a developer? Is this someone a unicorn designer-developer that can magically make a site appear? This statement also misses out on any UX requirements. Will they be happy with a basic bootstrap theme? Does the site need a complete custom look and feel? Do they already have low or high fidelity mockups?

Let’s look a bit further,

“….that sells the design services site where the customer goes online uploads pictures and fill out a survey for the room that they are looking to have designed.”

From this I can gather that site is for a design services company of sorts. The site will involve a customer uploading a picture of the room that they would like designed, and will require the customer to fill a survey form, which will ask the customer some details on the room that they would like designed. These are all reasonable assumptions, but given the vagueness of the language I might be completely wrong. More importantly though, if I am right, there are several open questions that need to be clarified:

Image Upload Related Questions:

What happens to the uploaded image? Where is it stored? Is it displayed on the site somewhere or is simply uploaded and stored away on an S3 bucket?

Do we need a system to generate thumbnails of the images uploaded?

Do we need to validate the images using some sort of image recognition? Can anyone upload anything? If these images are viewable publicly then what does the moderation process involve?

Survey Form Related Questions:

Is it a single survey form or are there different types of survey forms involved? For example, the survey form for a bathroom or a kitchen may be vastly different from a bedroom or porch.

Are we simply providing the customer with a list of values that are selected from a drop-down? If so, what are the values/fields that go in as part of the survey form? How big is it?

Will the user be able to save the partly completed survey and come back later to fill it?

Are the images attached in certain sections and referred to from the survey?

Other Questions:

Is there a whole admin section missing?

What happens to the survey data collected? Who is its intended audience and how do they access this data? Is the survey simply converted into an email that is sent to site administrators?

Are there any next steps involved from the perspective of the user that completed the survey? Is a thank you message displayed to the user and a copy of the survey submitted emailed to them?

What is the expected peak load in terms of users on the website ?

Now comes the vaguest and final part of an already very poorly defined request:

“We are also looking for the ability to funnel traffic from the social media sites through an Amazon storefront for the sales of furniture and other home decor.”

What does this even mean? It seems like a completely different set of unrelated requirements added as an afterthought.

Now let’s look at some of the metadata associated with the request – this is where things get even more interesting. The fixed price bid on this project is $1,000 and it has to be from an on-shore US-based,…

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