Upwork Review

Posted on August 1, 2017

When we mention Upwork, we are talking about one of the biggest, if not THE biggest, freelance platform in the world. The company started about 10 years ago and was initially called Elance, then Elance-oDesk before finally changing to the current name – Upwork.

Unlike some of the other freelance platforms, Upwork is available worldwide. You can register as a client or freelancer, no matter where you are located. Upwork posts over 3 million jobs annually and turns over $1 billion. That’s serious freelancing in any currency. Initially it was all about content, writing and SEO articles but Upwork now boasts freelance work in graphic design, web design, all things internet, voice overs, translations, social media posting and marketing, video creation, virtual assistants and much more. There are virtually no restrictions to what kind of services can be offered.

How to get started on Upwork as a freelancer

In order to register on Upwork, you will need to create a profile and take a so called readiness test. At the beginning, you will have little to show for a portfolio, but like any construction job, get the foundations in and then start building. Clients looking for freelancers do take the time to read your profile, so make sure your details reflect your skills and expertise. A photo is a must and a video is a nice touch.

Moreover, there are several further tests you can take to show clients what you are capable of. These tests range from language skills to more broader knowledge, such as customer service and email etiquette. These tests are optional, but sometimes having passed a specific test is set as a requirement by clients.

Bidding for projects costs you tokens. This system is in place not to force you to buy more tokens, but to keep freelancers from sending out spam applications. The tokens you get for free are usually enough to get you started. You get 60. Most projects cost you 2 tokens. That’s 30 projects a month for which you can bid.

There are three options on how you can get paid for a project: The full amount after concluding the project, in milestones (very useful for long-term and bigger projects) and hourly. Hourly contracts involve the Upwork Time Tracker, a software you will need to install on your device that will keep track of the hours you worked by also tacking screenshots, measuring your keyboard activity and telling your client which software you were using while working for them. On the plus side, Upwork says that using their Time Tracker guarantees that ‘an hour worked is an hour paid’.

How to get started on Upwork as a client

There is a basic registration process, after which you must put into place a payment system. When you post projects looking for freelancers and opt for a non-hourly contract, you will need to provide the amount upfront or have an auto payment system such as Paypal in place. This is a guaranteed form of payment and one of the key aspects of the safety of using the Upwork platform.

The funds will only be released to the freelancer when you approve the payment and this can be done either at the very end of the project or with several milestones. For hourly contracts you will have the option to keep an eye on what your freelancers were working on while tracking the time, allowing you to raise alarm should hours be tracked that weren’t actually spent working on your project. Should you be particularly happy with a freelancer’s performance, you can also pay a bonus on top of the agreed amount.

Freelancers that are attracted to your project posting have the option to look closely at the company details, feedback provided by freelancers, and payment record before applying to work for that business or individual. So to attract the very best freelancers, your profile, feedback and good standing are as important as those of the freelancer.

Fees and additional services

Fees and Services for Freelancers

As mentioned, you can elect to pay to start your freelance career on Upwork. The best additional information you will get paying the monthly fee is being able to compare your bid with other freelancers. Furthermore, you will receive further tokens that can be used for applications.

A few months ago, Upwork raised its service fee for new contracts from 10% to 20%. However, you will not always get charged 20%. After the first $500 earned through a client, the fee drops to 10% and then 5% once total billings with a client get above $10,000. Please do keep in mind that this applies to each client. This means that for one client you get charged 20% and another, because you exceeded $500 in total billings with that particular client, it is 10%.

Should you manage to land a place in Upwork’s Top Rated programme by fulfilling the criteria mentioned here, not only will clients be made aware of your high-quality work, further perks, such as premium customer support, also await. As a freelancer you can also become part of an agency through which you can get work without having to apply to clients’ project postings yourself.

Fees and Services for Clients

It’s free to register a business and post projects onto Upwork. From a client’s point of view, the 20% that Upwork takes does not affect them financially; however, freelancers might be less willing to apply for one off, less well paid projects.

Upwork provides a few additional services for clients. There is a service called Upwork Enterprise in which they help you find the people you want for your business or project. It’s certainly cheaper than hiring a HR Headhunter, and with a talent pool that covers the globe, a company looking for the right person is more than likely to get them through the Upwork platform. Upwork has an impressive list of companies using their services for their recruiting process.

Payment methods

Freelancers can be paid through Paypal or direct to their bank accounts. Should your bank account be a US account, this withdrawal method is free of charge. For bank accounts outside of the US you will have to cover the fee Upwork is charged by their bank. For Europe that would be $30. For a withdrawal request via Paypal Upwork charges $1. However, PayPal might apply further charges for receiving the funds.

Clients can set up a bank transfer, Credit Card payment or a Paypal system that authorises automatic deductions.

Pros and Cons for freelancers using Upwork


  •  The format of the Upwork platform is very simple to use. You see a job posted, you read the details, spend two tokens and apply
  •  Interaction message set up between client and freelancer is quick and easy
  •  The hourly rate system is simple to set up
  •  The sheer amount of work is nothing short of amazing. Thousands of jobs to go through
  •  No restrictions to the type of projects and skills that can be offered


  •  With international competition amongst freelancers (and depending on your skill set), clients often get cheap and yet good quality work
  •  The 20% fee is a killer. You need to factor this Upwork cut into your rate, which might not always be possible.
  •  Lack of feedback when your bid fails. You remain clueless, which means trying to work out whether it was the bid price or your lack of suitability to do the job.

The design of the website and the immense amount of available projects for all kinds of skill sets make Upwork a joy to work with. The high fees borne by freelancers, however, make this freelance platform slightly less attractive, especially when looking for smaller one-off projects.

Pros and Cons for clients using Upwork


  •  The sheer size and reach of Upwork means clients can source the biggest possible talent pool
  •  You have the ability to set the project parameters – skill level of the freelancer and price range
  •  You can really get jobs done very cheaply


  •  There doesn’t seem to be a way that you can highlight the job – importance or urgency
  •  Choice also means that it will cost you time to filter through many applicants to find the right one

Using Upwork as a client is uncomplicated and you can use the features you need without being distracted because other features keep on popping up. The Top Rated badge will help you select the crème de la crème of the freelancers amongst your choice of many.

Do you have any experience with this platform? Let us know in the comment section or rate it above.
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