Thanks for stopping by to check out my Upwork Review.
You want more freedom and independence, the ability to control your own destiny... I’m with you. You’re definitely not alone. And as a freelancer, I can tell you working for clients from the comfort of your own home is a great way to do it.
It’s not easy to get started though, as you probably know. Where do you find clients? How do you find jobs?
That’s where sites like Upwork come in. But are they legit? Can you actually make money with them?
As a previous Upwork freelancer, I can confirm that Upwork is the real deal, but more on that in a moment.
The truth is, the corporate world is not for everyone. Working for someone else in general is not for most people. I know I don't enjoy it and I'm guessing you don't either. Very few of my friends with regular jobs enjoy what they do. In fact, most of them hate what they do, but it’s all they know.
I'm sure you can relate. And the people at Upwork can relate too.It's the era of the gig worker, and if escaping your usual routine is what you want, it's a good time to get it.
In this review, I’m going to explain who Upwork is, how they work and what they do. As a freelancer myself, I'm also going to share some tips and advice from my own experiences with their platform.
More than a review, this is also a guide and I hope you find it helpful 😊.
Of course, you may have encountered some comments and complaints online that suggest Upwork is a scam, so I'll address that subject too.
Here is an overview of the specific topics I’m going to cover:
- What is Upwork?
- Is Upwork a Scam?
- Can you Really Make Money with Upwork?
- How Does Upwork Work?
- Reviews and Complaints
- What I Like About Upwork
- What I Don’t Like
- Where Do You Go From Here?
Please note, I am an "inactive" Upwork member, but not an affiliate. This review has been researched with information and/or testimonials that are available online in the public domain, as well as my own experience. Any recommendations and/or conclusions are strictly opinions and may not apply to, or agree with, all persons or situations. See full disclaimer for more info
What Is Upwork?
Upwork Global Inc. is a freelance marketplace and considered by many to be an important pioneer not only in the gig economy... but of the gig economy. Yes, Upwork has been a positive influence and they've contributed to the work-at-home and freelance industry as much as they've benefited from it.
Born from a merger between two other well known freelancing websites called Elance and oDesk, Upwork today is one of the most popular freelance platforms... if not the most popular (which some would argue).
Elance, whose original concept was to become the eBay of digital services, was founded in 1999 by Beerud Sheth, Srini Anumolu, and Samjay Noronja. It became a popular platform for both freelancers and digital entrepreneurs.
It was in 2013 when Elance and oDesk joined forces and originally became Elance-oDesk before evolving Upwork as we know them now. With the Elance platform phased out, oDesk’s platform was maintained and upgraded.
Upwork's global headquarters is located in Santa Clara CA, with satellite offices in San Francisco CA, and Chicago IL.
According to Wikipedia, Upwork has 12M registered freelancers and 5M registered businesses/clients in 180 countries. They are currently posting 3M jobs every year (give or take) which generate a billion dollars in gross revenue.
Both Elance and oDesk work by connecting independent contractors (worldwide) with businesses/clients (also worldwide).
UpWork and The Gig Economy
The world is changing quickly. What was once considered an independent workforce has grown to the point it deserves it's own designation - the gig economy. Also referred to as the DIY economy.
According to a New York Times opinion column by Thomas Friedman, the "great inflection" that led to this rise was the availability of low cost/high powered devices such as mobile phones and computers with cheap connectivity.
It's hard to argue with him.
At the same time, changing values with an emphasis on simplicity and work-at-home living along with waning confidence in the economy has given rise to a generation of gig workers who are no longer leaning on the traditional workplace.
Upwork's evolution has run parallel to this trend and they've not only benefited from it... they've also driven it. They've made it easier for corporations and clients to find independent workers. Likewise, they've given gig workers a place to showcase their skills and find employers.
And now, on the heels of a global crisis that has caused economic chaos... the gig economy will continue to grow. Upwork should be perfectly positioned to grow with it.
Is Upwork a Scam?
If you've read this far you'll know Upwork is not a scam. However, if you're skimming as I often do, here is what you need to know.
Having said that, I understand why you might be concerned. This is making money online we're talking about after all. An industry rife with scams, schemes and shady characters.
If there's one persistent topic when it comes to making money online, it's dealing with scams. And, while Upwork is well-established with a good reputation, if you're new to freelancing and have never heard of them before, how would you know?
Upwork's legitimacy will become more clear as get further into this review, but for now you can be confident they're one of the good ones.
They've been in the freelance platform business for over 20 years now (when you include their time as Elance and oDesk) and although they have their fair share of complaints and bad reviews, few would say Upwork is a scam.
That's not to say you won't find scammers on their platform. You might. But that's true of any freelance marketplace and job board. But that doesn't mean Upwork is a scam. In fact, just the opposite.
Review after review will tell you Upwork is legit and that they’re a solid platform servicing the freelance marketplace.
They also have their fair share of negative reviews, like most companies do. My goal is not to sugar coat this review, but I'm also not going to bash them for the sake of bashing them..
I'm not a disgruntled freelancer or someone with a bone to pick. I'm not going to sensationalize Upwork's flaws for clicks and views.
As a freelancer who has used Upwork successfully in the past, my goal is to provide you with a detailed and unbiased review.
Can You Really Make Money on Upwork?
Yes, you can really make money on Upwork. However, it's important to understand what Upwork is not.
It's not a make-money program, course or system. It's a freelance marketplace.
In other words, you must have skills and services you can sell on Upwork. They are not going to show you how to make money. If you're a writer, an illustrator, editor or programmer for example, you can search for an employer who needs what you have to offer.
The good news is that there are dozens of categories, from photography, game development and audio production to translation, engineering and paralegal services.
If you don't have a specific skill (or can't think of one at the moment), you can look into data entry, user testing and customer service gigs.
The biggest challenge new freelancers will have is landing a job. It's competitive.
Please don't let that discourage you though. We all have to start somewhere and I can promise you, there is someone today just getting started who will eventually become a successful freelancer. It might as well be you.
And you don't have to put all of your eggs in a single basket. While you're applying for gigs and waiting, you can freelance in other ways. I know you probably don't want to mow lawns or deliver pizza, but the empowering thing about freelancing is being able to pull in money whenever you want, in a multitude of ways.
They won't make you rich and online surveys are not a viable full-time "freelance strategy", but they are an easy way to get started online and make a few extra bucks from home.
They can also be a stepping stone to something more serious like an online business.
You may be at home because of difficulties with your health for example, or young ones to look after.
If that’s the case and a full-time income online is what you want, knowing how and where to get started is what you need in order to get what you want.
How Does Upwork Work?
As I've mentioned above, Upwork is a marketplace. They are not an employer or a system of making money online.
The simplified version of how they work can be summarized in 5 steps:
- Choose your skillset category
- Find a job opportunity.
- Get hired.
- Do your work.
- Get paid.
I know, it's not exactly that simple, and there’s a little more to it than that. But those are basic steps to making money with Upwork.
It's kind of like making money in the traditional job market.
In the following sections of this review I’m going to discuss the important details you need to know about Upwork, as well as how to be a successful freelancer on their platform.
How to Sign Up to Upwork
First, you need to create an Upwork account so you can get inside and start messing around on the platform. For this, you’ll need to create a username and password.
You’ll also need a valid email to open an account, which you can also use (instead of your username) to log into their site.
Having said that, although it’s easy to sign up and create an Upwork account, getting accepted is not so easy.
Upon signup, you’re required to complete your profile first so they can check your credentials. Then you’ll have to wait for them to confirm your account.
Upwork's Terms of Service specifically state that they reserve the right to decline registrations for whatever reason.
Violating their Terms of Service can also result in your account getting suspended or banned.
I'm a member of Upwork and I've used them to find freelancing jobs, so I want to give you a heads-up that they have VERY strict rules.
They also update their Terms of Service regularly (usually to add more rules) – so it’s always a good idea to check occasionally to make sure you're not doing anything that could potentially get you kicked out.
Also, keep in mind they only allow one account per person. I’ve seen people getting banned from Upwork for creating multiple accounts.
To be blunt, what I'm trying to say is, they have a lot of rules and the will enforce those rules.
Contract Types in Upwork
Upwork has two types of job contracts to choose from – hourly jobs and fixed-rate jobs.
Upwork has a desktop app (called your Work Diary) you can use for hourly contracts (the pay per hour is found in the job description).
The app monitors the number of hours you put into a job and allows you to take screenshots of your work. Your client can access the snapshots of your hourly work through the built-in app.
When you choose hourly contracts, the billing will occur every Monday (calculated from Monday to Sunday of the previous week). The computation will be based on your work diary, but final approval is made by your client.
Fixed-rate jobs have a predetermined amount (contract price) and turnaround time. Upwork will secure your payment in advance by making your client deposit the agreed amount to an escrow account. This protects you by verifying your client as the funds ready and available for release.
Depending on your agreement (and length of contract), it can be a one-time payment gig or partial payments can be released to you as milestones.
Payments for fixed-rate jobs are released to freelancers after a holding period of 5 days. So, while your payment is held safely in escrow, your client can still raise disputes regarding your work within those 5 days. Note that Upwork’s built-in protection system is meant to benefit both you (the freelancer) and your client/s.
This is an important element to Upwork's success as a freelance marketplace.
Choosing between hourly and fixed-rate jobs is entirely up to you.
Sometimes you might want to accept different types of contracts. We all have our own preferences and your's will depend on the type of work, the client, and your previous experience.
I used to go for fixed-rates contracts when I worked for oDesk. There’s just something about having a timer/timekeeper that makes me uncomfortable. I'd rather just do my work. With fixed-rate jobs, I felt I had more control of my time – and as long as I met the turnaround time, everybody was happy (including me).
Back in the oDesk days, freelancers could apply to as many jobs in the marketplace as they wanted. When it became Upwork though, each registered freelancer was given a limited number of connects each month.
Additional connects can be purchased.
You get 60 connects for free every month. These don’t carry over, but they do get refreshed. Each month you start with 60.
Freelancers use connects to submit their proposals and bids to clients.
That’s how Upwork used to work.
At the time of this writing, Upwork is no longer giving free connects. They rolled out this new rule in June of 2019.
As of today, connects are for sale on Upwork – with connects costing 15 cents each. They are sold in bundles so you can get…
- 10 connects for $1.50
- 20 connects for $3.00
- 40 connects for $6.00
- 60 connects for $9.00
- 80 connects for $12.00
You will need anywhere from 1 to 6 connects to apply for jobs (and submit your proposal).
Small projects with earning potential of $49 or less only need 1 to 2 connects.
For projects that pay $50 to $599, you’ll need 3 to 4 connects to apply.
And, for projects that are valued at $600 and above, 5 to 6 connects are required to submit your proposal.
A carryover from oDesk, you can also get invitations from clients. I used to get invites because my profile was presentable with good feedback, high test scores, and links to my previous work.
In other words, make sure YOU have a presentable profile with good feedback, high test scores, and links to your previous work.
Clients also send invitations to their favorite freelancers who have worked for them before. The nice thing about client invitations (other than the boost to your ego 😀) is that you can apply and send proposals without having to use connects.
To be honest, having worked with both oDesk and Upwork, I don’t feel too good about Upwork’s connect feature. I understand why they do it. Many freelancers have the habit of mass applying and it makes it difficult for clients to weed through serious and not-so-serious applicants.
And as much as I don’t like it, I must admit it’s a benefit for freelancers as well. Mass applications make it more difficult for serious freelancers to stand out from the crowd.
What I don’t like though, is that it makes it harder for newbies to get into the game. I also started out as a newbie (as we all do), and I know how hard it is to apply for jobs when you have nothing (yet) to show clients.
Paying for connects puts newbies at a disadvantage. Sure, it only costs 15 cents per connect and 10 connects only cost $1.50. But when I was a newbie, every single cent counted because I wasn’t making any money yet. And I wasn’t getting many responses or any invites either.
Upwork’s old system of 60 free connects per month was reasonable, and I think it was good balance between the original system and the current one. I wonder why they changed it?
With 60 free connects per month, a freelancer can apply to up to 10 large projects per month and several small jobs (remember, applying doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get accepted). But now those 60 connects will cost a you $9, which isn’t that easy to earn when you’re just starting out as a freelancer on Upwork.
As I said earlier, I’m not going to bash Upwork just for the sake of bashing them, but I think there may be a grain of truth to some of the reviews I read from people complaining Upwork has become more about the money than the clients and freelancers.
Let me add a disclaimer to that though; I don’t know what it costs to run a company the size of Upwork, and I don’t know that the owners are simply piling up stacks of cash and buying Lambo’s like candy. It’s entirely possible these additional costs are required to cover their expenses.
And let’s be honest, companies are not immune to inflation.
With that said, they have also increased the price of their Freelancer Plus membership plan. Their Basic plan is free, but their Plus plan which used to cost $10 is now priced at $14.99 per month.
Freelancer Plus includes 70 connects per month which would normally cost you $10.50 (if you were to buy them monthly). You’ll also get other perks with the Plus membership plan, so I can’t say it’s not worth the price.
Still… I don’t have to like it.
$14.99 per month can be costly if you’re not earning much from their platform (and if you’re a newbie who’s only making a few dollars per month there). They also charge 20% service fees for the first $500 (I’ll talk more about this in a bit) – so again it’s the newbies who are affected by these fees and costs.
It's true that Upwork’s connect feature seems to work in regulating the submission of proposals and keeping the mass submitters at bay.
And I’m sure clients are now finding it easier to handle the influx of proposals on their end.
Newbies who are short on funds though are paying the price.
If you're a freelancer with money to buy connects you will benefit from this setup because you will have less competition. My heart really just goes out to the struggling newbies, especially those who don’t have money to spare.
By the way, connects expire after 1 year of purchasing them. And although unused connects can roll over to the next month, this is capped at 140.
Disputes on Upwork
Disagreements between freelancers and clients are called disputes – and disputes are handled by Upwork’s Customer Support team. Ideally, I suggest talking with your client directly if you have issues. It’s the easiest way to solve problems. Good communication can usually solve minor problems and misunderstandings, which are the root of most issues.
Don’t ignore something small until it becomes something big.
I’ve never been involved in a dispute with any of my clients to be honest. I can remember a few misunderstandings and things not working out, but these got settled just between the client and I.
Having said that, I’m sure there are issues many freelancers have that are hard to settle quietly. Here are two common causes of serious disputes (and may need Upwork’s intervention):
- A client refuses to pay you because of supposedly unsatisfactory work.
This type of dispute gets settled by Upwork and they’ll base their investigation on your contract, messages (exchanged between you and your client), and the final work.
Upwork’s decision is final. And although there’s an option to escalate the matter to arbitration, it will cost fees and prove to be troublesome for everyone involved. This is why it’s important to avoid disputes in general by making everything very clear from the start, setting expectations and documenting everything.
- A client pays you but then files a complaint to Upwork that you failed on your delivery.
Your deliverables could be a finished project, project templates, files, etc. So again, I would advise delivering on your commitment to your clients to avoid misunderstandings and disagreements.
In fact, I advise over-delivering on your promises as an act of goodwill. That always seems to work for me in building good relationships with clients (especially when you’re aiming for repeat clients).
Among other things, Upwork’s payment system is one of the things I like most. There are no minimum thresholds to meet, so you can withdraw your money at any time.
You can also create an automatic disbursement schedule (through your Account Settings).
For example, if you want your money to accumulate up to $500 before being released, you can do that. And you have the option of overriding that schedule at any time.
Upwork also has an internal setting of automatically disbursing available funds after 90 days.
For this feature, there is a minimum threshold ($100 for those living in the US and $1,000 for those outside the US).
That doesn’t mean you’ll never see your money if you don’t keep working to meet the minimum threshold. You can request disbursement, or, if the minimum is not met, Upwork will release your funds after 180 days.
They provide various payout methods which include:
- Direct to U.S. Bank – Free
- Direct to Local Bank – $0.99 USD (per transfer)
- U.S. Dollar Wire Transfer – $30 USD (per transfer)
- Instant Pay for U.S. Freelancers - $2.00 USD (per transfer)
- M-Pesa (Kenya)
My preferences are PayPal or Payoneer, but that’s just me. I’ve had good experiences with both. Your situation may be different.
Depending on where you live, these payment methods will vary, as will the fees at some banks. Do your research ahead of time and compare costs, transfer delays, etc. to avoid surprises.
Upwork Service Fees
Upwork has a sliding service fee structure which works like this...
Their fee is 20% of your earnings up to $500 (per client). This is important because if you have 5 clients, for example, Upwork will deduct 20% of your earnings from each project up to the $500 requirement.
Now, for earnings from $500.01 to $10,000, Upwork will only deduct 10% from your earnings. But again, this is on a per client basis. One big job from one client will pay you more than many small small jobs from many clients.
And, although you’ll be busier if you have several clients, it’ll be harder to reach the higher limits and your fee percentages will be higher.
At $10,000.01, Upwork’s service fees are reduced to only 5%.
I think I understand why Upwork created this sliding fee structure. It encourages freelancers to stick with the same clients, develop relationships and work on long term projects. That puts pressure on freelancers to over-deliver and provide exceptional service to their clients.
It’s better for the client, and it rewards the good freelancers with significantly lower fees.
And of course, renewing and continuing contracts is easier than creating new ones.
My concern with this structure again has to do with newbies. In my opinion, 20% is high and it’s a lot more difficult for newbies to land longer-term, higher paying jobs.
It also takes time for them to navigate the freelancing world, develop strong communication skills with clients and manage expectations. Their intentions are good, but let’s be honest… rarely does anyone knock it out of the park their first time.
This fee structure is also a big change from when I worked for oDesk. At that time, they had a standard service fee of 10% - and even then, I wasn’t happy about the deduction from my pay when it came time to withdraw. Imagine, it was a $10 deduction for every $100. Now it’s $20.
Don’t get me wrong. It would be a lot harder to find clients without platforms like Upwork and they provide an important service. They should be compensated for it. Like taxes though, that doesn’t mean I have to like it 😀.
Upwork's Opt-Out Fee
Upwork has a rule that clients and freelancers can only transact (make and receive payments) within their platform, unless you pay an opt-out fee.
The rule applies to the first 24 months, and again, they are very strict with this. If you’re caught violating this rule and doing business with your client directly they will most likely close your account.
I have done work on other platforms and had clients pay me directly via PayPal.
Even with Upwork (when it was still oDeskBack) I was able to have clients pay me directly. At that time, they didn’t have the 24-month rule. Their only rule then (with regards to this) was that freelancers were not allowed to initiate communication outside of their platform. The client could, but freelancers could not.
Back in those days I was a bit of a risk-taker and used to communicate with clients directly, but that’s another time and another story. Doing that today might save you from paying fees, but you’ll lose your protections (like their payment and dispute systems) and of course, the ability to land new clients.
With Upwork, I can’t recommend doing what I did back then because they are much stricter than oDesk with more rules. You could lose everything you worked for (in Upwork) and get kicked out for good if they catch you violating their terms of service.
This is where the opt-out fee comes in.
You can choose to communicate outside of Upwork and even accept payments directly from your clients but it comes with a price. A hefty price. In fact, their opt-out fee calculation in most situations makes the entire thing pointless.
It’s good for those rare occasions such a client hiring you for a multi-year contract and Upwork understands this. But it’s not a feature they want every client and freelancer to be using regularly.
If you really want to opt-out and work with your client directly, you can contact them directly to find out what your specific fee will be. If it were me though, I wouldn’t complicate my freelancing life further by opting out.
Upwork obviously wants all business transactions done inside their platform because they charge both the client and freelancer. We can complain about it, but the truth is, they are providing a needed service. As freelancers, we always have the option of finding our own clients… but it’s not easy.
Tips to Finding Great Clients on Upwork (and Reducing your Risk of Getting Scammed)
Yes, I said “getting scammed”.
But why would I say that having already confirmed Upwork is legit?
Unfortunately, things can go wrong. When there are disputes for example, and you end up not getting paid, you’ll undoubtedly feel as though you’ve been scammed.
So, even though Upwork is a legit freelance marketplace, it’s possible to get scammed (sort of).
You can imagine, there are honest and understanding clients who are great to work for. And, there are dishonest clients who will look for any reason or loophole to avoid paying you.
Bad players are the exception, not the rule. But as a freelancer, it’s a problem you have to deal with nonetheless. And it’s not specific to Upwork.
Not even close…
I don’t think there’s a perfect system that can deter scammers from scamming people. If there is one, I haven’t found it yet.
I’m certain Upwork does all they can with evolving security measures and identity confirmations to deter people who are out to rip you off, but experience tells me there will always be scammers.
And to be clear, this applies to both clients and freelancers. There are many “fake” freelancers out there as well trying to rip off clients (selling plagiarized work for example, or outsourcing their jobs to much cheaper low quality freelance farms).
Here are some things I’ve learned as a freelancer that might help you out on your freelancing journey.
“Verified” Clients are Safer to Deal With.
To reduce your risk of getting scammed, only apply to clients with verified accounts. They have already proven their worth and have already made contracts and payments within Upwork (these are all good signs).
For example, in the screenshot below you'll see the client's payment method has been confirmed, they've posted 20 jobs, have had 16 hires and has spent $300,000. They've also been a member since July 8th, 2008.
Upwork is a platform where both freelancers and clients can leave their feedbacks about each other. I always look for reviews that say it’s easy to work with a particular client. Usually, those types of clients are easy to please and really nice to work with.
As much as possible, avoid working with clients that have a lot of bad reviews. I know it’s not easy, especially when you’re having difficulty finding work, but there’s a reason for these bad reviews.
These are usually the hard to please clients, and more than being hard to please… there’s a good possibility they’ll leave you a bad review for not living up to their super high standards, regardless of how hard you work, or how good your service was.
Use Upwork’s Messenger System for Communication.
This is critical in the case of disputes because Upwork will only investigate messages within their system. If you go outside of Upwork, you’re on your own.
For example, if you and your client chat on Skype and you have evidence there to prove your point, Upwork won’t consider it.
If a client is trying to get you away from Upwork’s system, there may be reasons beyond just paying fees. Scammers will try to bring you to their territory where they have more control of the situation and their communication is not under scrutiny.
That’s not always the case, but a healthy skepticism is appropriate and unless you’ve already developed a strong working relationship with established milestones, it’s best to stick to communicating on Upwork’s messenger system.
Tips to Finding Jobs on Upwork
For some reason (whether luck or timing), I rarely found it hard to land jobs on Upwork (it's become more competitive over the years though).
Let me share with you the following tips to help you find decent gigs from the platform…
- Create a professional profile.
Do not overlook this. Your Upwork profile is your first impression. There may be dozens of freelancers applying for the same jobs and busy clients will judge you on your profile. Right or wrong, it’s the only thing they have to make a quick decision.
Your profile represents you. It showcases your skills, your capabilities, experience and all of your accomplishments.
Everything should be there (and presented nicely).
Having a decent-looking picture is also important – and in most cases does not need to be formal. In the gig economy, too formal can come across fake. Clients know you’re working from home in comfortable clothes, not wearing a suit in a corporate environment.
Look the part.
- Take qualification tests.
Good grades are not only impressive, but they show you’re taking your freelance career seriously.
Amateur freelancers just trying it out or looking for a quick buck rarely take the time to do tests and exams. In fact, most will avoid them. So the simple fact you took the time is always impressive – and first impressions are key when potential clients visit your Profile.
I don’t know for sure, but I suspect the test scores on my profile had a lot to do with me getting accepted for many of the jobs I applied to.
- Make great proposals.
Your pay rate shouldn’t be too low, but it must be competitive. Do your research and learn your competition.
I shouldn’t tell you this, but I will. Most people won’t put in this much effort anyway…
You can also sign up as a client (a website owner for example) and post similar jobs to the ones you’re applying for. You will get an inbox of proposals from freelancers who are your competition. Now you have an unfair advantage…
You’ll know what their rates are, what their qualifications are and how they approach their clients. In other words, you’ll have what you need to go above and beyond to craft a better proposal.
Whatever you do, do not create copy and paste proposals. As good as you think they are, clients are smart enough to know a mass-produced proposal from a sincere one. They stand out like a sore thumb.
Finally, and this should go without saying… your proposal is about what you can do for your client, not what they can do for you.
- Upwork clients will ask questions during the application process.
When submitting your application and facing questions, answer them seriously (and sincerely).
Clients are asking these questions because they want genuine answers. And they are asking because they’re interested.
Remember, other applicants are also answering those questions – therefore, your answers should stand out. The best way to do this is to make sure your answers in some way indicate a benefit to the client.
- Work on your cover letter and include specifics.
Like proposals, clients can sense generic cover letters.
It’s okay to start with a template, but “just” a template won’t work. Your cover letter must stand out and grab the client’s attention.
Again, pay attention to what the client is looking for. Not just what they’re asking for in their job posting, that’s the obvious stuff everyone can see. Go deeper…
Read their job posting as it was written… through the lens of someone who is trying to simplify their life and offload their stress so they can focus on other things. Someone who wants (or needs) their business to be more profitable.
Yes, they are hiring someone to do a job for them, but you need to know why? They won’t say to say “to make my life easier” but ultimately, that’s what they want.
If, by hiring you, their job becomes harder, or their business less profitable… you are applying for the wrong job. You are not providing the service they are “really” looking for.
- Pay attention to special instructions.
This is especially important if your client’s instruction is long. Addressing every point will show your client that you’re really interested in the job.
What I do is read the instructions a few times and jot down the important points before sending or submitting my application.
Think about it…
The client put time and effort into crafting their job posting. If they put instructions in there, it was for a reason.
And savvy clients will hide instructions in their postings just to make sure you’re paying attention. This allows to them to quickly filter serious applicants from the willy-nilly ones. If you miss these instructions you are guaranteed to end up in the too-bad-so-sad pile.
- Ace the interview (if there is one).
Interviews for freelancing jobs are not as formal as interviews in the corporate world but they are important.
Clients know freelancers are not their employees, so it’s a totally different thing. But that doesn’t mean they’re not paying you money for service.
While impressing your client is certainly an important goal during your interview, getting to know what the job is all about is equally important.
Interviews between clients and freelancers are usually about getting to know one another and establish expectations… so be yourself. And feel free to ask your clients questions as well.
And I know I've said this multiple times, but your potential client will make his or her decision based on how you can help them, not on how they can help you. So let them know you will be taking a load off their shoulders if they hire you.
This is a general freelancing tip, not specific to Upwork. Have a diverse freelance strategy and don't get hung up on one freelancing gig, like writing for example (unless you get hired full-time).
It's not easy being a full-time freelancer. Back-up jobs and other hustles can fill the gaps in your income. Uber for example, or buying and selling in your local marketplace.
What are you good at? What do you like to do?
Interior painting, car detailing, carpet cleaning.. There are hundreds of part-time gigs you can fill you time with and earn money.
As mentioned earlier, you can also earn some extra money with online survey sites.
Market research companies like Survey Junkie are a simple way to get paid for your opinion. Inbox Dollars is another site that pays for doing things you may be doing online anyway, like searching the web, watching videos and visiting websites.
Of course, you won't be able to retire by doing online surveys, but if you've never made money online before, they can be a good place to start.
For something more significant, an online business may be what you're looking for.
Making money from home might be something you need because of medical issues, children to look after, or maybe you're just tired of working for a boss.
If that’s the case, knowing how (and where) to get started is what you need in order to get what you want.
Upwork Reviews and Complaints
I’m sure I’ve seen somewhere that Upwork used to be accredited with the Better Business Bureau, but for some reason (at the time of writing this Upwork review) they are not.
It does cost money, so I imagine that has something to do with it.
Having said that, even though they are not currently accredited, they still have an A+ rating.
I did however find some Upwork complaints at the Better Business Bureau, and there appears to be a common complaint – freelancers getting their accounts closed and banned for no apparent reason.
According to these complainants, they have no idea why they got into trouble and they can’t get anything other than a generic explanation from Upwork’s customer service team.
Upwork has responded to some of these complaints stating they are caused by a violation of their terms of service. Sadly, that’s about all they say. There are no specifics and Upwork doesn’t elaborate on the violations for security reasons.
Now, I have no idea what actually happened here.
I’ve seen accusations from freelancers claiming Upwork is using their terms of service as an excuse to ban people from their platform.
Fair enough… but why?
I could be entirely wrong here and maybe someone will provide a reason in the comments section below… but I don’t see any benefit to Upwork for ousting people without reason.
If the person is a good freelancer, Upwork does not benefit from losing them. Nor do they benefit from having a bad review or complaint lodged against them.
What I think is more likely, is that a violation has occurred without the freelancer knowing it. And I also think the accountability in part belongs to Upwork.
Look, in my opinion having read through Upwork’s rules and regulations, there are just too many – it’s like walking on egg shells. Of course, Upwork needs to protect themselves and their users (clients and freelancers), but perhaps there should be a mechanism that warns people first before booting them.
Or, maybe Upwork does warn them first and the complaints I’m reading are from people who are deliberately violating the rules… but I’d like to think that’s not the case.
Upwork Reviews on Indeed
Like all companies though, there are mix of positive and negative reviews. On Indeed.com, Upwork has an overall rating of 4.1 out of 5 (from roughly 1000 reviews), which is extraordinary.
Among other things, the positive reviews made the following points:
- Upwork is a good place to freelance.
- Some reviewers appreciate the flexibility of working from home.
- According to a lot of reviewers, Upwork jobs pay well.
- Freelancers can learn and earn at the same time.
- Upwork’s platform is said to be suitable for beginners and part-timers.
- Freelancers (and clients) have some degree of protection from fraud.
Now, those who are less happy with Upwork have shared the following experiences:
- Upwork disabled their accounts with no explanation.
- It can feel like a waste of time and money on Upwork when your proposals get no replies (One reviewer sent around 20 proposals with no response).
- Upwork fees are high.
The majority of reviews are positive, but I think the above points (positive and negative) more or less embody what working for Upwork feels like.
While it’s a good platform to find freelancing jobs, the fees are high and sure, some freelancers will spend a lot of time and money on connects with few, if no responses at all.
And as we’ve seen with the BBB complaints, it’s possible to get your account disabled without knowing why.
Looking at the big picture though, I can’t help but think Upwork is doing something right. They have over 20 years of online presence (including its time as Elance and oDesk) and are considered one of the most influential freelance platforms on the web.
Upwork Reviews on TrustPilot
Moving onto Trustpilot, there they currently have a 4-star rating based on 2,000+ reviews. That’s a lot of reviews!
- Upwork is simple and easy to use.
- Their platform is secure.
- Upwork clients are great (my way of saying it would be… generally of a higher caliber than some other platforms).
- Fast payment.
The not so positives…
- Upwork fees are high (not the first time we’ve heard this).
- Funds are held for five days after being released from escrow (for fixed-rate jobs).
Again, I found truth in the above user reviews. There are no real surprises.
Upwork is legit and is a great source of job opportunities. Their secure platform and fast payment system are also some of their best features.
With regards to the negatives… we already established their fees are relatively high. As far as holding released funds for five days, which is no doubt a hassle, it’s because of their added level of security regarding disputes.
I should have stated this earlier but here’s the thing…
With all companies (not just Upwork), people usually dictate policy. In other words, if Upwork has a rule or regulation, it’s because there was a need for it. At some point they ran into an issue that required a new rule to prevent future issues.
In the case of holding funds for five days, my guess is that they’ve had clients discover something about their clients work after the fact (like plagiarism for example) and were unable to recover the funds. The five days provides a buffer.
I’m only speculating, but generally speaking, rules are created for a reason.
Upwork Reviews on Glassdoor
So far there were no real surprises, and Upwork’s reviews on Glassdoor were no different.
They currently score a 4 out of 5 based on more than 260.
Most of the pros say Upwork is a great place to start for freelancers – which I agree to a certain point. I’m not fond of the fee structure for newbies, but as far as launching your freelance career, Upwork is great place to do it.
And, as I’ve mentioned earlier… I’ve used Upwork (when it was still oDesk) as a beginner, made money with them and gained a lot of valuable experience. I have fond memories of them.
As far as the cons on Glassdoor, there was mention of low pay – which I also agree with.
To be clear, that’s not a dig at Upwork specifically. Some clients and small businesses simply have limited budgets and can only offer a small amount.
In a lot of cases, it’s not the actual person hiring who makes the decision. It may be a middle manager working within a budget who’s tasked with getting the best work for the lowest pay. They’d like to pay more, but they’re not the ones signing the check.
Look, as a freelancers, you choose which projects to bid on. I’ve went for low-paying jobs when I was just starting out and it helped me get 5-star rating which improved my profile and allowed me to bid for higher paying gigs.
Some of these low-paying clients are also nice, it’s just that they have a limited budget.
What I Like About Upwork
- Upwork is a legit online platform for finding freelance jobs.
- You can search through a wide range of available jobs and choose projects that are interesting and worthwhile to you.
- Upwork has strong security features for both the clients and freelancers. Funds are held on escrow account and clients’ payment methods are verified. They also handle disputes when disagreements arise between clients and freelancers (and although I haven't been involved in a dispute myself, based on their many years of success I’m guessing they are relatively fair and do proper investigations).
- I like Upwork’s payment system because you can request for the disbursement of your funds at any time.
- You don’t need to use connects when you get invitations from clients. This will save you your connects, but only works for freelancers who have established relationships on Upwork.
- There’s no minimum threshold for funds to be withdrawn.
- Aside from their fee structure which favors seasoned freelancers in my opinion, Upwork is a great place for newbies to get started.
What I Don't Like
- Upwork's application and registration process can be a bit difficult. While they don’t have a particular set of requirements for you to apply and get accepted, they reserve the right to decline your application.
- Upwork is known to change their rules every now and then, and not paying close attention can get you booted. I’ve also witnessed this with their sytems of connects because I still have an account with them (I’m still a registered freelancer but inactive) and found that I have 60 available connects. It’s only recently I've learned they’re now charging for these.
- Their high fees of 20% are a big turn off for me. I know a lot of freelancers will get stuck on this rate for a long time and that makes me sad. I liked it better when there standard fee was only 10% (of course back then I wished it could be less). Nevertheless, it is what it is.
- You’ll have to pay for connects. This is not great for beginners. It would be nice if Upwork provided some free connects each month to help newbies get started but I understand the logic behind it. It keeps serial-submitters from annoying clients and competing with serious freelancers.
- I don't like that they can give you the boot without explanation or the ability to appeal. It's their platform and their rules, so I get it. Still, it would be nice if you had more options than just tucking your tail between your legs and moving on.
Where Do You Go From Here?
I know you want to work at home and make money on your own terms, without a boss breathing down your neck. I get it.
And you’re not alone. As I mentioned earlier, the gig economy is on the rise. If you’re not already a part of it, now is great time jump on the bandwagon.
Upwork is great place to start and there are a lot of things to like. First of all, and perhaps the most obvious “pro” so to speak is that Upwork is not a scam. It’s a legit source of online jobs.
It’s also free to join.
They also have a secure payment system and as a freelancer who’s cautious of getting ripped off, I can’t overstate the peace of mind having your funds held in escrow gives you. The client has essentially already paid.
For all their rules and regulations, if someone actually tries to scam you, Upwork has your back.
From being able to withdraw funds at any time to having a place to find clients you know have been vetted, Upwork is as reputable as a freelance marketplace gets.
And isn’t that what freelancing is all about anyway. A simpler life with less stress and peace of mind?
Okay, the money is important too.
You will probably end up with some low paying jobs, especially if you’re just starting out. But if you’re serious about freelancing, low pay is not forever.
The truth is…
Really good freelancers are far and few between. Sure, there are millions of people online trying to make a buck, but a very small percentage put together the full package. Mastery of their skill, a sincere desire to improve their client’s life and business, willingness to go the extra mile, and the ability to market all of those qualities.
The higher level you play at, the fewer competitors you’ll have.
However, if all you’re after is a few extra bucks every once in awhile and doing a job when the mood hits, freelancing will be more difficult. You can do it of course, and that’s part of the gig economy’s appeal… but the key word is economy.
Economies are competitive.
As much as gig workers are chasing simplicity, less stress and the ability to do their own thing… at the end of the day it’s a life you must fight for. It’s not going to fall from the sky and land in your lap.
There will be times when you have more work than you can handle, and times when there is no work at all.
I recommend a diverse approach.
You are not limited to just one platform, nor are you limited to just one method. You can drive for Uber when you’re not working online, walk dogs, clean homes or take wedding photos.
Freelancing is not just about sitting behind a computer (although that’s my favorite kind of freelancing 😀).
You might be a student in school or a single parent at home. You may have health challenges that make regular work difficult, or maybe you just hate your job and you’re desperate for a way out.
If that's the case, an online business may be what you want.
With all the scams and schemes out there though, knowing how and where to get started the right way is what you need in order to get what you want.
I need to be clear here... these sites do NOT pay big bucks. That's not what they're meant for.
If you've never made money online before though, they can be a good first step to bigger things down the road and passing the time between freelan