How to Recover from a Bad Job Success Score on Upwork

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Hi, I'm Chris and I'm super glad you're here. 7 years ago I taught my self-web design and freelancing. Now, I do my best to teach others what I've learned so they don't have to struggle as much as I did.

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I have a confession to make.

I haven’t always had a great Job Success Score on Upwork.

In fact, there was a season when my Job Success Score got all the way down to 78%.

In Upwork world, that’s the equivalent of a huge sign that says, “Worst Freelancer Ever. Do Not Hire.”

But, despite that, I was able to recover my reputation and climb back up to a 100% job success score. It’s gone up and down from time to time. But, it’s stayed in the 90th percentile for years now.

How Upwork Determines Your Job Success Score

Let’s talk about how Upwork actually determines a freelancers Job Success Score before we get too far into it.

Your Job Success Score comes down to the feedback you get from clients after a project is finished. BUT, it’s not as simple as getting a bunch of 5 star ratings from clients.

There are two sides to the feedback score:

  1. The public feedback AND
  2. The private feedback

So, the client might give you good public feedback BUT only decent private feedback and that will skew your score.

Upwork keeps the fine details of how they calculate their Job Success Score a little bit vague. And, for good reason.

They’re trying to keep freelancers from “gaming” the system and figuring out a work around to getting a good score other than just being a good freelancer.

In other words, they’re honestly trying to make sure the better freelancers have a better Job Success Score.

So, all they give us is a general equation and a few factors that they tell us are considered important in how your success score is determined.

First, the equation:

You take all the good outcomes from your projects (Good Client Feedback). Then subtract the bad outcomes (Bad Client Feedback), and divide that by the total amount of all the projects you’ve had.

Like I said, super vague.

But, the point is your goal is to have as little bad outcomes (bad feedback) per project if any at all.

Factors That Have More or Less Weight in Your Job Success Score

To make things even more confusing, there are certain things that hold “more weight” to your overall score.

For instance, it’s considered “weightier” to your score if you’ve worked with the same client over and over again for a long time. Because, after all, if a client keeps coming back, that’s a good sign that you’re a good freelancer.

Another thing that is considered more heavily are projects that have a higher dollar amount. So, the feedback you get from a $5,000 project is more important than the feedback you get from a $100 project.

The thought on that is that a client is more likely to truly evaluate your work closely if there’s more at stake for them.

Another thing that’s considered is the client’s overall rating. If a particular client has gotten a lot of bad feedback from a lot of freelancers then their negative feedback to you won’t have as much weight on your score.

So, even though the Upwork Job Success Score is a bit mysterious you can still have a general idea of what’s important to them AND therefore the types of projects you should work to win.

How I Got a Bad Job Success Score on Upwork

Now that all the details are covered, let’s talk about how I got a bad Job Success Score on Upwork.

I’ve had plenty of very happy customers that gave me great ratings and hired me more than once.

BUT, there was 1 client. He wasn’t happy. That’s probably an understatement.

He was my 3rd client on Upwork.

It was the first time I had 2 clients at the same time. I was trying to get work done quickly. And, in the process, I made some mistakes.

One of those mistakes deleted some of the work he did before he hired me.

One morning, without warning, the contract had been closed and a refund was requested.

I tried to work it out with the client but he had made his decision.


When my score dropped I had to make a decision.

Was I going to buckle and give up OR was I going to keep trying?

To be honest, it was a pretty low point in my freelancing career. I didn’t know what to do and no projects were coming in.

But, I had no choice. I had to keep going. My kids were depending on me to provide for them.

And, there was probably some Misterek family stubbornness involved.

So, I made a game plan and I slowly crawled my way out.

I learned so many valuable lessons along the way that I still use to this day.

It wasn’t fun to go through that speed bump of a season BUT I am grateful to have gone through it and come out the other side.

Here are a few ways to recover from a bad Job Success Score on Upwork.

1. Stay Calm

The worst thing to do is to freak out.

When you freak out you make really bad decisions.

It’s actually proven that your IQ drops 10 – 15 points whenever you’re scared.

So, all the scary movies that we are yelling at people to not go into the room where the killer is obviously waiting…it’s legit! You’d do the exact same thing if you were in that circumstance.

It always helps to pause and try to gain some perspective.

You’re not going to starve because of your low Job Success Score.

Your family’s not going to leave you and you won’t be featured on the news as a bad person.

None of that’s going to happen!

Think about it. It’s a made-up system that some people made up.

It doesn’t consider the nuances of a bad client the way it should. It doesn’t ask you what’s going on in your life at the time.

To be fair, I think Upwork has done a pretty good job with their system. But, any automated system has its flaws.

So, don’t take it personally and don’t allow it to cause your world to crumble.


When you operate out of fear you start taking jobs that you shouldn’t.

Then you get bad feedback from those. And, then your Job Success Score goes down again. And the cycle continues!

This is exactly what happened to me.

I freaked out at an 80% job success score. I took a job that I shouldn’t have and got another bad rating. So, my score went down even further.

Don’t allow the vicious poor Job Success Score cycle to overwhelm you.

Take a beat. Breath and let’s think strategically about your next steps.

2. Take Jobs that Are Quick Wins

After a tough project, it’s easy to be hesitant about working with clients.

In Texas, we call that being gun shy.

For those that didn’t grow up learning how to fire a rifle, let me explain. When you shoot a gun, especially powerful ones, they kick back and can hurt your shoulder.

If you’re not careful, you’ll anticipate the kick from the gun and that will throw your aim off.

Dealing with a tough client OR getting bad feedback can leave you “gun shy” from working or going for other projects.

Unfortunately, most of the jobs I take are big projects that last at least 1 month at a time.

That’s great for freelancing income. But, it can be tough when your confidence is lacking and you need quick affirmation and a boost in the ole self-esteem.

So, when my Job Success Score plummeted I decided to look for really small jobs that I knew I could knock out of the park within a few days.

This took some work.

I had fine-tuned my job search by this point in time. I’d gotten it down to a science.

But, short, easy jobs didn’t fall into my normal rhythm. So, I had to learn some new techniques.

The criteria were simple enough. The jobs needed to be:

  1. Short
  2. Simple
  3. Have easy-going clients

That last one was probably the biggest.

I tried to feel out how anal a client was from their previous jobs and from interviews with them.

If the clients seemed friendly and seemed to know EXACTLY what they were looking for I was in.

If the clients were all business and wishy-washy about their, wants it was a clear sign that I needed to run for the hills.

What this won’t do is turn your Job Success Score around quicker. Upwork has changed its calculations to give more weight to projects that play out over a longer period of time.

BUT, what it will do is help you feel better about yourself as a freelancer AND make you less fearful about working with clients.

One of the toughest things about a bad Job Success Score is that it takes the wind out of your sails so to speak.

Confidence as a freelancer is one of the most important qualities to have.

I’d argue that it’s more important than the skill you’re hired for.

And, when that gets compromised it’s tough to muster it up again. These quick wins will help remove that self-doubt.

3. Reevaluate Your Process

Here’s some tough love. But, trust me, it’s good for you.

If you’re getting bad feedback from clients it might be time to take a look inward and see if there are things you’re doing that need to change.

Have you done the Meyer’s Brigg’s personality test?

I have. I’m an ENFP.

The F in that little string of letters stands for Feeler.

Feelers internalize things. They FEEL like a critique is an attack on them as a person.

So, when I get feedback I have to make sure I don’t take it personally.

The opposite of a Feeler is a Thinker.

A Thinker takes feedback like an objective judge would take the facts of a case. They are able to externalize comments made toward them or others.

Both traits have their place.

But, when I need to make adjustments as a freelancer I have to work to put my Thinker hat on and try to externalize the criticism I get so that I can grow and move forward.

I try to think of myself as a third party.

For fun, let’s call me Bob…not Chris.

Should Bob communicate with my clients better throughout the process?

Maybe Bob’s taking on more than he can handle and he just needs to slow down or hire someone to help him?

I’ll answer the questions for Bob and then apply them to myself.

When you get into a season of negative client feedback look at it as an opportunity to grow NOT as an attack on your value in life.

If you’re not making mistakes in life that means you’re not growing. You’ve settled for a level of living that isn’t challenging.

So, dont be afraid to ask tough questions and make some changes.

If you can’t do it ask someone you trust to look into what you’ve been doing and give you feedback.

The key here is it has to be someone that isn’t going to tell you what they think you need to hear.

Don’t go to the friend that always bad-mouthed someone that broke up with you. Go to the friend that tells you what you don’t want to hear even if it pisses you off.

They’re the ones that can help you see clearly.

4. Don’t Say Yes to a Contract So Quickly

When your Upwork, Job Success Score is doing poorly it’s really easy to feel like you have to say yes to anything that comes along.

But, that’s the very thing that could actually keep you from climb out of a bad Job Success Score.

Some clients are impossible to please.

You don’t ever want to say yes to them no matter what situation you’re in. Trust me.

At first, you might be thinking, “I need whatever project comes along no matter how tough it might be.”

But, not long after you get started you’ll start thinking, “Nothing is worth the amount of trouble this client is putting me through.”

So, slow down for a second and take a breath. Just because your Job Success Score is bad doesn’t mean you’ve lost your value as a freelancer.

Make sure that you are thinking clearly about who you’re saying yes to.

If that’s too difficult, then have someone be a client accountability partner.

This is someone you can bring all the details of the project to and help you see clearly.

Cynicism is a virus that quickly spreads. I see it so often with freelancers.

And, it starts with the belief that you’re the victim OR that someone or something else is in control of the outcomes of your projects.

5. Use Your Upwork Tools

Thankfully, there have been some things that Upwork has introduced that help freelancers who get bad feedback from clients.

First, you can ask the client to reconsider the feedback they gave you.

Sometimes, a client might be quick to give worse feedback because they had a really bad day. That might seem silly. BUT, they did a study on judge rulings and found that judges were harsher the further away they were from lunch time.

In other words, if a judge is hungry you might get a harsher sentencing.

The same could be true for your Upwork clients.

So, if you get bad feedback, it doesn’t hurt to reach out to the client and ask to chat about it.

When you do that, don’t go in defensive. Go at it humbly.

Tell them you work very hard to do a good job but it looks like you might have missed the mark. Then ask what you could have done to improve.

After they’ve communicated their perspective you might have a chance to help them understand your perspective.

BUT again, be very careful here.

Let them know what you understood to be the goal of the project and the things you put in place to make it a success.

After that’s finished they might be willing to change their score. So, it might be reasonable to ask, “After all of that would you consider changing your Upwork feedback for the project? I understand if you don’t BUT good feedback really goes a long way for my future as a freelancer on Upwork. Again, it’s totally up to you.”

Then you can enable the client to change their feedback on the project. They have 14 days to make the changes.

6. Keep Going

When all else fails…just keep going.

Most freelancers bow out at this point. And, I get it.

It’s tough, discouraging and pretty demoralizing.

But, here’s the thing, if you quit here you never get a chance to prove to the people that gave you a negative rating they were wrong.

In other words, you’re proving they were right.

One of my favorite sayings that I remind myself of often is:

“You win if you don’t quit.”

I’m not in any way saying keep doing things the same way you were doing them that got you to a bad Upwork, Job Success Score. If you’re thinking that go back and read points 1 through 4.

I AM saying keep making adjustments. Keep working hard. DON’T STOP.

Don’t become one of those jaded web designers that say things like, “Upwork is nothing but a race to the bottom and no one can make real money there.”

Instead be the person that says, “My bad Job Success Score on Upwork really helped me to grow and learn a lot of things as a freelancer.”

That’s the person that can turn their bad Upwork, Job Success Score around and see real results start coming in.

I know because I was once someone that had a REALLY bad score AND I’m thankful for everything it taught me.

Your More In Control of Your Upwork Job Success Score Than You Think

You can’t control the outcomes of most things. That’s just a part of the reality we live in.

But, you can control how YOU respond to things. AND, you certainly have the ability to INFLUENCE the outcomes.

You can do things like communicate clearly at the very beginning of a project, look for red flags before the client signs the contract, or make sure your project process is well organized.

But, all of this comes with time and typically after you’ve made a lot of mistakes.

So, don’t fear the mistakes to the point that you don’t even try.

You will not meet a freelancer that hasn’t had some kind of bad experience with a client. If you do, they likely haven’t been freelancing for long.

But, put these things into practice after you get bad feedback on Upwork and eventually, like me, you’ll see your Job Success Score turn around.

Manequin lying on the ground


Hi, I'm Chris and I'm super glad you're here. 7 years ago I taught my self-web design and freelancing. Now, I do my best to teach others what I've learned so they don't have to struggle as much as I did.

Every week, I write an article and release a podcast episode. Sign up if you want to get notified when that happens.



  1. Katie says:

    As an INFP caught between a rock and a hard place, this article hit home. These are good tips for those of us who take critique sometimes too close to heart.

    • Chris Misterek says:

      Glad this article resonated with you! And, sorry you’re in a tough spot. Keep going, Katie! You’ll come out of the other side.

  2. David says:

    Thanks for this article, and the others. Your suggestions comes at the right time.

    After some time freelancing on upwork I found a job and I abandoned… bad desicion… Now I’m trying to revive it but with another set of skills, so my previous work doesn’t count to much… just for the good reviews.

    At the moment my job i to get a job.

    Thanks again!

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