Upwork is the biggest online freelancing platform and is used by more than sixteen million freelancers worldwide.

As many as three million jobs are posted on the platform every year, with a combined worth of more than $1 billion.

If you’re looking for a freelancer to help with your next project, Upwork is worth a look. There are tons of great freelancers on the platform.

Of course, there are also some less than great freelancers that use Upwork, too. If you know what to look for, you’re much more likely to have a great experience and get your projects done at a good price.

Read our Upwork review to learn more about how Upwork works, what its advantages and disadvantages are, and how you can hire top talent on the platform.

We’ll also answer some of your most frequently asked questions about Upwork.

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How does Upwork work?

At its core, using Upwork is very simple. You post a job, review all the applications, and choose the best freelancer for your project. The freelancer then completes the project and you pay them for their work.

However, there are a number of things you need to keep in mind to ensure that you’ll have a great experience when using the platform.

Using Upwork to find a talented freelancer is similar to using a job board to find a great employee. You’re going to have to sift through some applications from candidates who don’t quite fit before you find the right person for the job.

If you know what to expect and have a clear idea of what you want to accomplish, Upwork is a great resource. We’ll help you get the best results with this guide.

In this section, we’re going to go over all the fees associated with using Upwork, talk about the best way to price Upwork projects, and show you how to review and pay for a freelancer’s work. We’ll go over more of the logistical details later.

Upwork fees

Upwork’s fees mostly apply to freelancers, who need to pay:

  • 20% for the first $500 charged to a client
  • 10% for lifetime billings between $500.01 and $10,000
  • 5% for lifetime billings over $10,000

Along with the fees listed above, freelancers are also responsible for covering withdrawal fees. Those depend on the withdrawal method they use.

Additionally, freelancers have to spend Connects to apply for jobs on the platform. At the moment, Connects cost $0.15/each, and can be purchased in bundles ranging from 10 to 80 connects. It costs between 1 to 6 connects to apply for a job.

Your business doesn’t pay those fees directly, but those costs will affect a freelancer’s price.

On your side, you’re billed a 3% payment processing fee every time you pay a freelancer. If you want to, you can also tip a freelancer who did a great job by using the Bonus feature. It’s good practice to tip when someone goes above and beyond on your Upwork project.

Most businesses use the Basic plan for free. It gives you access to the majority of Upwork’s features.

There are more premium features available for power users.

Upgraded plans include more robust reporting, premium support, and tools to help you find the right freelancer faster. If that sounds like something your business needs, you can opt for the Plus plan at $49.99/month or the Business plan for $849/month.

How to price Upwork projects

Setting an appropriate budget for your project is crucial. Budget too little and you’ll struggle to find a freelancer that can deliver the quality you need. Spend too much, and it will be hard to generate a return on that investment.

When determining a budget for a particular Upwork project, you’ll need to take into account the complexity of the project, the value of the completed project to your business, and the approximate time needed to get it done.

You’ll also want to look into the average rates for similar projects. This will give you a good idea of what your budget should be for a competent freelancer.

How to review a freelancer’s work

How to review a freelancer’s work on Upwork depends on the type of project. For fixed-price jobs, clients usually set milestones that are attached to specific deliverables.

Once a freelancer submits work for review, you can look at the files they attached or the links they submitted to review their work. It’s very easy to do.

For hourly projects that don’t have those kinds of milestones, you may review the freelancer’s Work Diary instead.

The Work Diary is a visual record of the freelancer’s activity. It includes work-in-progress snapshots that you can use to gain a better understanding of how a freelancer spent their time while working on your project.

How do you pay a freelancer on Upwork?

In order to pay a freelancer through Upwork, start by adding a billing method to your account. You can add a billing method to your account by going to Settings > Billing Methods, and then clicking the Add Billing Method button.

Upwork supports the following billing methods at the time of this writing: credit cards, PayPal, and ACH direct deposit.

Note that you can add multiple billing methods to your account to prevent account disruption in case of an issue with your preferred card or payment method.

Once your billing method has been added, paying for work is easy. It just takes a couple of clicks, and Upwork will walk you through it.

How to hire top talent on Upwork

Are you ready to find a freelancer on Upwork to help with your project?

Upwork is packed with excellent freelancers who are available for work. Their platform is designed to protect both businesses and freelancers so that everyone gets a fair deal.

You’ll get better results if you put a little extra effort into your job postings. Make sure to think about these best practices when you’re looking for someone to complete a freelance project through Upwork.

Here’s what you need to do to ensure that you’ll be able to hire top talent on the platform.

Write a detailed job description

In order to attract top talent, your job description should accurately describe the work you need done. It’s also a good idea to include details about the type of contractor you’re looking to hire.

While it might be tempting to keep your job posting brief, putting in the extra time to list your project details will save you lots of time later.

Generic job descriptions attract droves of unqualified freelancers who are more desperate for work. The best freelancers will shy away from job postings that aren’t clear. This creates a lot more work for you, since you must sort through hundreds of irrelevant applications to find someone that can do what you need.

The very best freelancers expect their clients to be a good partner. Your job description is your first opportunity to show top talent that you’re a good company to work with.

Focus on specialists

If you want to hire the absolute best talent for your project, focus on specialists that have dedicated their career to doing precisely the type of work you need done.

Specialists might charge slightly more, but they’re worth the higher rates. They know how to generate better results. If you absolutely must get a great return on this investment, pay for specialized skills and experience.

This is one of the ways that Upwork shines. No matter how niche your project or demands might be, with so many freelancers on Upwork, there’s bound to be someone who does what you need. Usually, there are dozens of specialists, so you have your pick.

Be prepared to pay the price

Top talent usually comes with top rates. That’s true of permanent employees, and it’s true of Upwork freelancers.

If you’re looking to hire the best person for the job, make sure that you can afford to pay them. Don’t expect to find a highly experienced professional who’s willing to work for the same rate a novice would.

However, be aware that a high rate doesn’t always indicate quality or talent. Remember to do your homework and check out the freelancer’s portfolio to make sure they’re worth the price tag.

Use screening questions

Upwork gives you the option of adding screening questions to your job posting. Use them!

Including relevant questions with your job posting allows you to quickly filter out all the background noise. You can efficiently bypass applications from freelancers who aren’t qualified to do everything you need.

Upwork screening questions

You can also use the screening questions to spot the top candidates and move them to the top of your list.

This is another situation when putting a little more time in at the beginning makes the rest of the process go much faster. Make sure to put serious thought into your screening questions, and ask your employees for help if you’re not sure what kind of questions you should include.

Invite top-rated freelancers to apply to your job posting

You don’t need to wait for freelancers to find your job posting and apply. You can invite them to do so yourself. That doesn’t mean you’re offering them the job outright, but you get more high quality applications faster by using the invite feature.

It’s very easy to do and does a lot to help your results.

Simply use Upwork’s search function to find freelancers with relevant experience, visit their profile, and click the Invite to Job button to invite them to apply to your posting.

We suggest focusing on Top-Rated freelancers that have a decent number of positive reviews. Look at their samples, review their profile, and invite them if they look like a good fit.

Once you’ve sent out invitations, you still have a chance to interview those that apply.

Conduct video interviews

There’s only so much you can learn from a freelancer’s cover letter and Upwork profile. Great samples are wonderful, but they don’t always mean that you’ll get the results you’re looking for.

That’s why it’s best to invite the most promising freelancers to join you for a short video interview.

During the quick interview, you’ll learn more about them, give them more information about your project, and determine if they’re a good fit.

Remember that Upwork is global, so if you request a video interview, be prepared to schedule at odd hours in your own timezone so that you can match up with other local times.

Start with a paid trial project

If you’ve narrowed down the field to two or three potential candidates, a good way to make it easier for yourself to come to a final decision is to give the remaining candidates a small, paid trial project.

This will help you gain a better understanding of their skills and approach, as well as how good they are at meeting deadlines. From there, you can move forward with the person who fits your needs to complete the bigger project.

Since you’re paying for this work, it’s totally okay to assign projects for things that you’ll use in your business.

For example, let’s say you want to hire a freelancer to write an ebook for you. You’ve narrowed it down to three copywriters who have relevant experience and great writing samples.

Ask each of them to complete a blog post that you’ll use to promote the ebook once it’s ready. When the projects come back, you get three quality posts for your blog, and you can select the freelancer who does the best work to write the ebook. It’s a win-win.

How to find the perfect gig on Upwork as a freelancer

We’ve covered what businesses need to focus on if they want to hire top talent on Upwork.

What about freelancers? Is there a way for them to find the perfect gig on the platform and ensure they’ll be able to make a living doing what they love?

There sure is.

As a business owner, it’s valuable to understand what a freelancer is looking for when they apply for an Upwork job. You might want to skim this next section to help you optimize your job listings, but you’re welcome to skip ahead.

If you’re a freelancer looking to land a great gig on Upwork, here’s what you need to focus on:

Improve your profile

Before applying to any job posting on Upwork, make sure your profile is optimized for the types of jobs you want. A great profile is thoughtfully designed to show you and your experience in the best light possible.

For example, if you’re looking to apply for copywriting gigs, your profile should be well-written and free of errors. Make sure to describe your copywriting experience and give lots of relevant samples. Focus on a particular industry or type of copywriting to attract higher paying clients.

No matter what type of freelancer you are, it’s important to fill out all sections of your Upwork profile to give potential clients as much information as possible. Your goal is to make it easier for people to hire you. If they have questions, they’re more likely to move on to the next person.

Personalize your cover letter

Most job postings on Upwork will get at least a dozen applications. Some get a lot more.

Since there’s so much competition for the most appealing jobs, you need to find a way to stand out.

One of the best ways to do this is to make sure to personalize your cover letter based on the client and their project requirements.

That means that you shouldn’t use the same generic cover letter for all your job applications, even if it saves time.

Most experienced clients can spot generic cover letters straight away and will disregard your application if you didn’t put in the effort to write a cover letter that focuses on their specific project and needs. You don’t want to give the impression that you’re too lazy or too busy to do great work on their project.

Look for Expert job postings

If you want to find great gigs on Upwork, focus on job postings that are honestly looking for the best person for the job. Avoid applying to those that are simply looking to get their project done at the lowest cost possible.

Clients who are looking for experts to handle their project are usually prepared to pay a fair rate. Businesses that don’t care about the output as long as it’s cheap are generally difficult to work with and will push you to put in much more time and effort than they’re paying for.

On Upwork, you can easily avoid a lot of difficult and low-paying clients by skipping the entry and intermediate level job postings and filtering for expert postings only.

Watch for red flags in the job description like vague parameters or a laundry list of requirements that don’t match the budget. You can tell a lot about your potential working relationship based on the job description alone.

Vet the client first

Always vet a potential client before applying to their job posting.

Start by checking if they’ve added and verified a billing method to their Upwork account. If they haven’t added a payment method yet, you should be cautious.

Also look at how long the client has been using Upwork. New clients aren’t necessarily bad clients, but it’s a good idea to dig a little deeper to see what you can find out about their company if they’re new to the platform.

Read the reviews other freelancers left for them.

If all of these look fine, go ahead and apply to the job posting, but be on the lookout for red flags. You don’t have to agree to a project even if a client states that they’d like to work with you.

If you’re required to take an interview before you start working with a client, make sure to note how they behave during the interview. Did they accommodate your time zone or expect you to take the call during their regular working hours? Were they polite and respectful, or was the interviewer very one-sided?

Remember, the purpose of an interview isn’t just for the client to decide if they want to work with you. It’s also for you to determine whether working with the client will be a good fit for you.

If something about the project is unclear, make sure to ask plenty of questions to learn what the client really wants. The way they answer your questions and provide instructions can also tell you a lot about what it’s going to be like working with them.

A major red flag is a potential client asking for free work during the selection process. Apart from showing that the client doesn’t value your time, it’s also against Upwork’s Terms of Service, so make sure to avoid these types of clients and report them to Upwork if this happens to you.

Only apply to jobs that match your skills

It can be tempting to apply for a project that promises great pay, even if you’re missing just a couple of qualifications. Even if you somehow manage to land that project, you’re putting yourself in a risky situation.

If you’re not entirely sure what you’re doing, you’ll either underdeliver or take too much time to complete the project and miss your deadline. In either case, you’ll end up with an unsatisfied client and get a bad review.

Is it worth the risk of hurting your long-term job prospects just to take on a project that might pay a little more?

Only apply to those job postings that match your skills and experience. If you’re not utterly confident that you can do it and have the track record to prove it, move on to a different opportunity.

Advantages of Upwork

As a platform for hiring freelancers, Upwork has a number of advantages. These include:

Access to plenty of talent

Upwork is by far the largest freelance marketplace. Using Upwork to find help for your next project gives you access to more than 12 million freelancers who currently use the platform.

Whether you need a coder, marketer, copywriter, graphic designer, or a virtual assistant, Upwork has you covered. As we mentioned earlier, it’s also an excellent tool to find specialists for your more niche projects.

Because of the sheer volume of users, Upwork is probably the best website for finding a freelancer for any kind of project.

Great screening process

Upwork is very motivated to match great freelancers with reputable businesses. It would be very bad for business if they earned a reputation for low quality work and difficult collections.

They make it very easy to screen for the jobs and freelancers you want to work with.

When deciding whether to hire a particular freelancer, get more than just their profile information. You can also check out reviews from other people who have worked with them and review samples of their work.

You can also add screening questions to your job posting, use Upwork’s video meeting feature to interview freelancers, as well as get someone from Upwork’s team to screen applicants for you (Plus and Business accounts only).

All of that makes it more likely that you’ll find a quality candidate that can deliver the results you need.

Payment protection

Upwork has a payment protection system that safeguards both freelancers and clients. Freelancers are more likely to deliver work on time because they’re confident they’ll get paid. Clients feel more comfortable making payment arrangements when they know they’ll get what they paid for.

That’s a recipe for a healthy working relationship.

Upwork includes payment protection for both hourly and fixed-price projects.

For hourly projects, freelancers log their time by using Upwork’s desktop app. Upwork makes sure that freelancers are paid for every hour of work that qualifies for Upwork’s Hourly Protection.

There’s protection for the client here, too. Clients can review a freelancer’s Work Diary and file a dispute if they notice that a freelancer logged hours not related to their project.

In case of a dispute, Upwork’s team will review the freelancer’s work themselves and refund the client if they determine that the freelancer abused the time tracking feature.

When it comes to fixed-price projects, a client and a freelancer can agree on deliverables and milestones, after which the client deposits funds into escrow.

After completing the work, the freelancer submits the deliverable for approval. Once the client gives their approval, the funds are released from escrow and paid to the freelancer.

That eliminates the worry that the freelancer will get stiffed, and the client still has to sign off on a quality end product before payment is complete.

Clients can also ask for revisions or request the escrow to be refunded if necessary, and it’s always possible to contact Upwork to resolve disputes.

Disadvantages of Upwork

While Upwork is an amazing platform, it does have a couple of disadvantages. These include:

Job postings can attract a lot of unqualified freelancers

Since anyone can apply to your job posting, there’s really nothing stopping unqualified freelancers from applying. Some freelancers submit generic applications for everything that might be in their wheelhouse and hope they get jobs out of sheer luck.

This can result in a job posting getting hundreds of applicants, which makes it difficult to review all the applications and find the right person for the job.

It might also mean that you’ll miss out on a highly competent and experienced freelancer because you never got the chance to even review their application.

This is mitigated a little by using screening questions and following the best practices. Still, the volume of generic applications can be really annoying.

There are too many fees

Upwork charges so many different fees to both clients and freelancers that it’s hard to keep track.

Clients need to cover a payment processing fee every time they pay a freelancer. If they want access to advanced features and premium support, they also need to pay a monthly subscription.

Freelancers pay a fee every time they bill a client, as well as when they withdraw money from their Upwork account.

Upwork also seems to try to make it difficult for freelancers and clients to move their relationship away from Upwork, forcing them to pay a so-called Upwork Conversion Fee to be able to work together outside of the platform.

The total fees freelancers pay amount to about 12% of their estimated earnings from a client over a 12-month period. Depending on the size of the projects a client and a freelancer worked on, this fee can end up being very costly.

Working outside of the platform without paying the fee first is against Upwork’s Terms of Service and can get both the client and the freelancer banned from the platform.

Looking for an Upwork alternative? Here are our top picks.

Should you hire your next freelancer on Upwork?

Upwork is home to millions of highly skilled freelancers who specialize in a variety of fields.

It’s very simple to use and has a lot of advanced features that can help you hire the best freelancer for your project. Upwork’s payment protection system also means that both clients and freelancers are safeguarded against any type of fraud.

Considering the amount of available talent and the security features implemented into the platform, Upwork is a great place to hire your next freelancer.

Do you use it? Share your experience in the comments and help a business owner who’s still on the fence.