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Upwork freelance jobs website review

Easily employ remote workers or get freelance jobs on Upwork

Updated

Fact checked

Upwork was formed in 2015 when two of the largest freelancer marketplaces, Odesk and Elance, merged. The most recent figures suggest the site has 375,000 actively employed freelancers. Upwork allows businesses to connect with freelancers, while it also automates billing for the remote workers.

Upwork features for hirers

There's a large variety of freelancers on Upwork.

You'll be able to advertise roles for:

  • Engineers
  • Administration workers
  • Writers and content creators
  • Editors and proofreaders
  • Tutors
  • Web designers
  • Mobile app developers
  • Software engineers
  • Accountants
  • Consultants
  • Legal services
  • Data analysts and scientists
  • Procurement and sourcing
  • Sales and marketers
  • Customer service representatives
  • IT and networking admins
  • Architects
  • Translators
  • 3D modellers
  • CGI, VFX and special effects artists
  • Graphic designers
  • Video editors
  • Animators
  • Photographers and videographers
  • Voice-over and actors

That's just a small selection of the freelancers on the site. Any work that can be done online, you can get done on Upwork.

It's free to post a job on the site and it allows you to quickly hire someone to get started on your brief. You'll begin receiving proposals quickly – on average, Upwork says it takes just 23 hours to hire someone perfect for the role. You'll begin receiving submissions within minutes of going live with your project. You can view each freelancer's portfolio and check out their verified skills, as well as view their job success score and reviews from previous clients.

Interviewing potential hires is done through Upwork's simple and easy-to-use website or free desktop app. In the app there are file sharing, instant messaging and video calling features. You are also able to break up larger projects into smaller payment milestones. Upwork lets you choose whether to pay per hour (where a freelancer uses Upwork's time tracker to measure their productivity) or per project, with you authorising each payment.

If you hate paperwork and invoicing, don't worry, as Upwork handles all that too.

Job postings on Upwork can be short-term and one-off gigs or longer-term and regular contracts.

Hiring a freelancer on Upwork

Hiring a freelancer through Upwork is straightforward. All you need to do is hit the green "post a job" button.

You'll need to sign up, which is free, though there are membership options that unlock useful benefits (see below). This takes less than five minutes.

Then you hit "post a job". You'll need to do the following:

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  • Select job type. Is it a short or part-time role (lasting less than three months or requiring fewer than 30 hours per week) or a longer-term role (over three months and more than 30 hours weekly)?
  • Enter a job title. Make it descriptive and to the point.
  • Add a job description. You have up to 5,000 characters to describe the role, what the final goal or deliverable is, what you're looking for in a freelancer, any other requirements and you may mention the budget if you like.
  • Add extra details. Upwork asks if this is a one-off project, an ongoing one or a complex undertaking requiring more than one freelancer or even an agency. Here you can add optional (but recommended) screening questions, to see if freelancers have properly read and understood your listing. This is a great feature to pre-qualify your proposals. You can also require a cover letter from potential hires, to find out more about their skills and previous work.
  • Select specific skills desired. The next page asks you for the most important and related skills you believe are necessary to complete the job. You can optionally select the software to be used, as well as any complimentary attributes you find desirable.
  • Select location. If you want to work with local freelancers, you can specify that on the next page, or open it to freelancers and agencies worldwide. You might get better response times from workers in your timezone, but you could save money and pay lower project costs by opening it up to other markets. It's possible to select your preferred regions or countries also.
  • Set job visibility and other specifics. Next, you'll be asked to set the visibility of your job. The options are anyone (including Upwork members and public search engines), only Upwork users or an invite-only basis. This step also asks how many freelancers you need and the qualifications you're seeking. Options include 90% and up success scores, threshold amounts earned on the site, or English language proficiency.
  • Budgeting. The budget page lets you pick between per hour billing or fixed-price contracts. Hourly pricing works for ongoing projects and provides you with screenshots and a productivity work diary. You can set the level of expertise required, e.g. entry or expert, which also determines how much you'll spend. You also enter the duration of the project here and time requirements.
  • Review job and post. The final page before posting lets you review your post as well as promoting your job through a "Boosted" listing. You can add coworkers if you need help with the interviewing process or plan on having one of your own employees manage the account.

Upwork proposals screen

  • Wait for proposals to come in.

Some businesses that use Upwork

There are some pretty big household name, multinational businesses employing through Upwork, including:

  • Microsoft
  • GoDaddy
  • Samsung
  • Airbnb
  • Dropbox
  • PGA Tour
  • Corel
  • Automattic (the company behind WordPress, Tumblr and WooCommerce)
  • General Electric (American multinational with arms in everything from aviation to healthcare)
  • Finder – we use Upwork to power some of our Finder crew!

Upwork business membership comparison

BasicPlusBusinessEnterprise
FreeUS$49.99/monthUS$849/monthPrice on application
Verified freelancer work history and ratingsβœ”βœ”βœ”βœ”
Unlimited proposals from freelancersβœ”βœ”βœ”βœ”
Built-in collaboration tools and simple paymentsβœ”βœ”βœ”βœ”
Dedicated advisors to help find and hire freelancersβœ–οΈβœ”βœ”βœ”
Project tracking and collaboration toolsβœ–οΈβœ”βœ”βœ”
Advanced search filtering optionsβœ–οΈβœ”βœ”βœ”
Consolidated invoicing and pay after 30 daysβœ–οΈβœ–οΈβœ”βœ”
Dedicated account advisorβœ–οΈβœ–οΈβœ”βœ”
Detailed reports, with company insights and trendsβœ–οΈβœ–οΈβœ”βœ”
Customisable contracting and on-boarding processβœ–οΈβœ–οΈβœ–οΈβœ”
Worker classification compliance servicesβœ–οΈβœ–οΈβœ–οΈβœ”
Project-based or managed solutionsβœ–οΈβœ–οΈβœ–οΈβœ”

Finding work on Upwork

There are thousands of jobs on Upwork. They vary from simple, one-off tasks to long-term contracts. You could make a living jumping from one small gig to the next, or you could aim to land a long-term position. Upwork could be a side hustle or your main source of income.

If you're looking for remote or online work, you'll need a free Upwork account. You should invest some serious time in filling out your profile and making it really pop.

Tips on getting hired on Upwork

  • First, you need to write your job title – basically a brief, single sentence summary of your professional skills and experience. If you've won awards, lead with that. "Award-winning web designer", for example.
  • Then, you can go into more detail in your overview. Here you can talk at length about your strengths and skills, stand-out projects and accomplishments, your education and other info. You can't do too much formatting as it's text-based. Make sure there are no spelling or grammatical errors here.
  • It's possible to add an introduction video to your profile. This could be a project (if you're a video editor or voice-over artist) or an explainer video of who you are.
  • You'll want to fill out the testimonials section, with comments from past employers and clients, as well as your portfolio section.
  • Add relevant skills to your profile.
  • If you have any certifications, add those to prove to clients you have both the necessary knowledge and skills to get their work done.
  • Upwork also says that your profile picture is important. It should be a professional headshot where possible; this image should convey that you're trustworthy and reliable.

Standing out

You're going up against a large number of other freelancers, so you need to stand out. You want to make sure that when a potential client views your profile, they are impressed, enticing them to message you. Try and make it concise and make sure it underscores your value. If you've got (or worked with) well-known clients, list those too where possible. It helps to be specific. For example, if you specialise in WooCommerce websites, say so!

Upwork fees for freelancers

Though it is free to set up an account and begin pitching for work, Upwork still has to make money. It does this by charging you fees.

FeeAmount
Sliding service fee (per client)

$0-$500 earned: 20%

$500.01-$10,000 earned: 10%

$10,000.01 and higher: 5%

Local bank transfer feeUS$0.99 per transaction (plus incoming fees from the bank)
PayoneerIf you select Payoneer instead of using a local bank transfer, you'll pay US$2.50 to get your money instantly
GSTYou're charged 10% GST on the service fee unless you have an ABN and have registered for GST

Fees last checked April 2020

Example of fees and earnings on Upwork

If you earned $2,000 in a month with one client, you'd pay a 20% service fee for the first $500, then 10% for the remainder. Your total service fee would be $250, plus an additional $25 GST charge. Your total income would be $1,725 before currency conversion costs and the bank transfer charge. The longer you work with a client, the lower the fees you pay!

Pros and cons of Upwork for employers

Why would you use Upwork as an employer?

Pros:

  • Easy-to-use website
  • Potentially thousands of skilled freelancers to choose from
  • Ease of interviewing and hiring
  • Reviews from past clients and success scores
  • Top Rated program makes finding the best freelancers straightforward
  • Ability to organise projects and chat within Upwork
  • Upwork handles payment and invoicing automatically
  • Payment protection through escrow; only releases funds when pre-agreed milestones are completed
  • Upwork's hourly time tracker means you can see what the freelancer was doing in approximate 10-minute time slots, as well as how productive they were
  • Upwork provides dispute assistance
  • 24/7 customer support
  • Employ freelancers on a part-time or an as-needed basis to get work done
  • Large variety of freelance services on offer
  • Ability to upgrade membership to match business size, with extra features
  • Efficiently build a team of distributed workers, saving on office costs
  • Average time to employ a freelancer is just 23 hours

Cons:

  • Working outside of Upwork is discouraged and against terms. You'll have to pay 12% of the estimated annual income of your freelancer's Upwork earnings to move outside the platform for billing and invoicing
  • Freelancers could get a more lucrative offer or find permanent work elsewhere (same risk as having employees)

Pros and cons of Upwork for freelancers

Looking for online work? Here are the pros and cons of getting gigs on Upwork.

Pros:

  • Straightforward website interface
  • Plenty of jobs to pitch for; Upwork clients spent a total of US$1.5 billion in 2017
  • 12 job categories with hundreds of sub-categories. If you can work on a computer, there are probably jobs available on Upwork
  • Can charge industry rates
  • More success brings more work
  • Get hired in under 24 hours
  • Big-name businesses use Upwork to look for freelancers
  • Option to start an agency
  • Get paid on time
  • Break down big projects into smaller payment milestones
  • Upwork invoices automatically for you
  • Multiple ways to get paid
  • Clients have to pre-fund milestones
  • All projects covered by Upwork Payment Protection, securing your pay
  • Easy to pick up extra clients
  • Fees reduce the more you work with a single client
  • Anyone with an Internet connection, an in-demand skill and a computer can join
  • Online chat, file sharing and video calls provided by Upwork
  • Intuitive proposal interface lets you customise your hourly rate and negotiate a deal
  • Included time tracker
  • Flexibility to work where and when you like
  • Provides a certificate of earnings (might come in useful for proving income for mortgage and credit applications)
  • Supplement your income or work full-time on the site

Cons:

  • Can be hard to get the ball rolling if you have little experience as a freelancer
  • Upwork fees add up
  • Limit to jobs you can pitch for with free account
  • Currency conversion can see your earnings going up and down

Frequently asked questions about Upwork

Alternatives to Upwork

If you're interested in investigating all your options for freelance marketplaces, you can read our guide or learn about rivals like Fiverr and Freelancer.com

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