I bid for a project on upwork.com The invitation is for a test project. The test project includes my having to have an AWS account, mysql, ansible, etc, etc.

My question is: Is this much investment in a test project worth it for me when my client base is just about none existent? Looking for clients is hard enough but finding things like this that sound like a lot of wasted time makes me doubt myself. Also, the test project needs to be put on github; is this a total waste of time?


"Test projects" are never acceptable to me.

If you hire a contractor to refurbish your kitchen... do you expect him to do a "test project" by refurbishing your bathroom first?

If you want a mechanic to tune up your car.... do you expect him/her to complete a "test project" by rotating your tires first?

In my world there is no such thing as a "test project". I get paid for work I do. If a client wants to pay me to complete something, then hire me to complete additional projects, that's fine. But I do not work for free. It makes no difference that the client calls something a "test project" it is still work on my part. The same amount of work if the project were called a "Ren & Stimpy Project" or a "GobbdyGook Project". The amount of effort and time on my part is the same.

The label the client puts on the project means nothing. The reality is, by using "test" they are trying to manipulate into working for free or at a reduced rate because they hope you assume they have more work for you. But who knows if there will ever be anything more for you to do. And by using "test" they can get the work done for free/cheap... and just claim they didn't like it and have nothing more for you. Essentially, "test" is a red flag for a client that will not pay you.

Good clients never ask for "test" projects, ever.

Don't work for free. It's just a way of others to take advantage of you. Your portfolio and work history should be enough to show a prospective client what you are capable of doing.

"Test project" = do something free for us

  • assuming 'test project' does not mean testing as in quality assurance... – user3244085 Oct 12 '16 at 6:35
  • Well I think wording would be different if the task was actually testing something. :) Such as "product testing" or "troubleshooting" or, as you state "quality assurance" -- It most probably wouldn't be labeled "test project" for a project involving testing :) – Scott Oct 12 '16 at 16:38

It's always difficult when starting out - and some clients choose to take advantage of that.

Sadly, it is a red flag when a prospective client very quickly signals that more work could/will be forthcoming after a initial 'trial'. I actually never worked again for the two (paying) clients who claimed to have lots of future work.

On the other hand, you need to build up a portfolio. If you do not have a semi-commercial at-home-project of your own - and the client's proposed technology stack is exactly what you want to work with - you could go for it.

However, you should ensure that you can walk away from the project if/when the client starts to extort work from you - as they very likely will. When your time costs them zero, they will very probably make endless change requests. Any good client relationship needs to be somewhat symmetrical - and working for free is about as asymmetric as things can get.


Scott nailed it. I do not do "test projects" and you shouldn't either. Work is work and it takes just as long to work for free as it does for pay. If you are just starting out consider sub-contracting by aligning with a firm that allows you to work on a 1099 as opposed to w-2. You get wxposure, experience and will build your network that will start thinking of you when they have jobs....

  • The reason for my question in the first place was a lack of client base. Networking has not done for me what it has for others. I feel that I do have to do free work in order to get any attention at all. But, as I now know, test projects are like a black hole, and I'm an oscar meyer weiner. – user6035379 Oct 17 '16 at 18:20

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