There are several ways of responding to clients who ask you for free work, but if they are on Upwork specifically, there’s only really one way to deal with the situation.


Asking for free work is against the Upwork terms of service

If the client asks for free work, Upwork doesn’t stand to benefit and neither do you. They are essentially connecting people without taking any cut of their own. Your interests and Upwork’s interests are definitely aligned in this situation.

So if you’re talking to a client on Upwork and they tell you that they’re considering you over several other freelancers and that they’d really like to see you do an unpaid test article, respond simply by saying,

“I’m sorry. Free work is against the Upwork terms of service and I can’t risk my reputation or membership on the platform. If you want to do a trial or test project, my rate for that is x dollars. Let me know if you’d like to go ahead and set it up here in Upwork so we can get started.”

Handling the situation this way solves so many problems because it takes the pressure off of you and it puts it back on the client to say:

  1. You’re actually the one violating Upwork terms of service and you could be kicked off the platform for doing it, and

  2. Here are my terms, if you want to work together and do the test project.

People don’t like hearing that they’re doing something that’s against the terms of service so there’s a really good chance they’re going to either write back and just cancel the whole job altogether because they were hoping for free work, or they’re going to be reasonable and pay you to do a sample article, test design etc.

If they’re the type of people who are just trying to get free work out of unsuspecting freelancers, you’re saving yourself a ton of time by cutting those opportunities off early. And if they continue to put pressure on you, you can then contact Upwork and tell them that you have a potential client who’s trying to violate the rules and get you to do free work without setting up a contract.


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