We’ve put together this Upwork FAQ to give you an idea on how Upwork works and how to make the platform work for you. Whether you’re just starting, or already have experience looking for work or someone to get something done for you, you can use the knowledge we’ve gathered in this article to become an expert on using Upwork.

Feel free to use the table of contents below to jump to your desired question.

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What is Upwork?

Upwork is a popular freelance platform that connects a database of millions of freelance professionals with jobs from around the world. This global platform is a great way for independent contractors to find work, and for companies or individuals to find talented freelancers.

Below are some general questions about Upwork that we hear pretty often, followed by common questions from freelancers and companies. We hope these answers will be useful to you as you explore the benefits of remote work and outsourcing in your careers and businesses.

How is Upwork different from oDesk?

oDesk and Upwork are the same thing. Upwork was created as a merger between oDesk and another popular freelancing site, Elance. One of the biggest improvements from oDesk to Upwork is a new Message Center that will allow companies to chat with a freelancer available for immediate work. Even those who are not signed up for this recruiting website can use this message system.

How does Upwork work? How much do they charge?

Upwork fees are paid by the freelancer. The Upwork Service Fee is 5% – 10% of the total amount charged to the client, which is paid automatically depending on the size of the contract.

It’s important to note that although the fees are paid by the freelancer, many will adjust their fees depending on what they want to make. Therefore, businesses pay higher fees indirectly as a result. Businesses can avoid these higher fees by using an alternative service (a few are covered in a question below) such as Hubstaff Talent, which doesn’t charge a percentage.

What are some of the top Upwork hacks?

For freelancers

It’s essential to complete your profile and get a few reviews on your page. Complete some projects for the experience, or if you have current clients ask if they would be willing to assign you one or two of your tasks via Upwork so your record reflects successfully completed jobs.

When listing skills, be specific. Instead of listing “website designer” say “WordPress designer” or “eCommerce website design.” When you send in a job proposal, tailor your cover letter and show that you’ve done your research on the job and company.

Finally, take the Upwork tests and verifications available to you. These are a great way to show how skilled you are in grammar, coding, design or whatever your chosen field is.

For clients

Add a test in your job description to find the candidates who are truly interested in working with you. For example, ask all applicants to include the word “moo” or “blue” in their cover letter when they apply. This is a good way to weed out applicants who send out generic cover letters in bulk.

Also, be sure to look at the actual skills and qualifications of your candidates, not just their hourly rate. Ignore how much they charge and select the best freelancer based on their profile, past work history, and cover letter. Saving a few dollars by hiring the cheapest bidder could turn into a headache later on when you’re getting low-quality, ineffective work.

find an alternative to Upwork

What are some good alternatives to Upwork?

We are proud to provide a comprehensive list of alternatives to Upwork to those who want to build and manage a remote team with the help of one set of tools. However, there are many services that provide a feasible alternative that you can use to your advantage, here are some of our favorites:

  • Freelancer.com – a freelancer platform similar to Upwork
  • Hubstaff Talent – talented freelancers and free job postings (no service fees)
  • Angel.co – a job site focused on startups and a great place to find top talent
  • Authentic Jobs – a job site established in 2005 with filters for industry and remote positions
  • Coworks – work with a team of freelancers from Coworks – 3.95% service fee
  • Flexjobs – a subscription-based job board with focused on telecommuting jobs
  • Inbound.org – a community of marketing professionals with a page of job listings
  • Jobbatical – take a working sabbatical and freelance in a different country for a while
  • Jobspresso – job board that offers on-demand recruiting and fully screened candidates
  • Remote OK – completely remote jobs with filters for highest paid and remote startups
  • Remote.co – remote job board, free for applicants
  • Remotive – a remote job board that is free for companies and freelancers to use
  • Toptal – an exclusive network of the top 3% of freelancers
  • We Work Remotely – a remote job board from the authors of Remote, who also created Basecamp
  • Outsourcely – a platform for employers to find remote talent, hire directly, and pay zero fees. Free for freelancers

What are the biggest obstacles for freelancers to get clients?

The sheer number of other freelancers and competition. Upwork is saturated with more than 10 million registered freelancers. You will be battling multiple other talented professionals for jobs. Not only is there a lot of competition, many freelancers who live in countries with a lower cost of living can afford to charge clients significantly less than freelancers in more expensive areas.

How do I land a job on Upwork?

The basics of Upwork are this: sign up, fill out your profile and start applying for jobs. Sometimes, clients will reach out to you to see if you’re willing to work for them. However, it’s more likely that you will have to do the legwork and find jobs that suit your skills. Freelancers will submit applications for projects, then the clients will select the freelancer they are most impressed with.

Start with your application. Make sure that your materials are accurate, you send everything that was requested, follow instructions and your documents are well-written. Be sure to write each cover letter separately, depending on your client. This will show the client that you have paid attention to their company and project.

I am a freelancer who wants to work on a pay-per-hour basis. How does the client know how many hours I’ve worked?

Upwork has a system that tracks the time you work and bills your client weekly. The Upwork team app has a timer that you can start when you begin work. However, if you want to track time outside of Upwork, you may use alternative freelance time tracking software with automatic invoicing.

What are the top 20 skills on Upwork?

According to this post on their blog, the top 20 skills in-demand on Upwork are:

  1. Bitcoin
  2. Amazon DynamoDB
  3. React native
  4. Robotics
  5. Go development
  6. Forex trading
  7. 3D rigging
  8. Augmented reality
  9. Computer vision
  10. Penetration testing
  11. Media buying
  12. Chef.io
  13. Shopify development
  14. AngularJS development
  15. Swift development
  16. Video editing
  17. Influencer marketing
  18. Machine learning
  19. 3D modeling
  20. Motion graphics

I’ve seen a lot of blogs online talking about how to make big bucks on Upwork if you do it right. Is this an exaggeration?

While there have been many success stories, being successful on Upwork is not guaranteed. How much you make on this platform depends on a number of things, from your work ethic, how many hours a week you’re willing to work, your hourly fee and the quality of clients you attain.

Should I hire on Upwork or hire independently?

Whether or not Upwork is a better choice for you than the many alternatives depends on what you’re looking for. Upwork has a free app to help you track time and ensure automatic weekly payments, 24-hour customer support and a client feedback system you can use to find great freelancers. It also has a large database of talented freelancers, but there are more than 100,000+ projects posted each month. That means you’re facing competition all around for the best talent. Upwork is also a little expensive, with a 10% fee taken from every payment.

How can I find quality freelancers on Upwork?

Start with a detailed job posting. Make sure you include all the required and recommended skills and responsibilities to discourage unqualified candidates from applying. Add a unique identifier in your post, such as a request about how to title their resume file, or to include their years of experience in the field in the cover letter. This will show who has paid attention to your job posting.

Avoid offering low starting pay, as talented freelancers aren’t likely to apply for low-paying jobs. Look at their experience, previous work, and how many hours they’ve worked to get an idea of their background.

Be sure to interview them on Skype before hiring them, and have them do a [paid] test project before coming on board.

There are a lot of steps to hiring quality freelancers, but getting the top talent is definitely worth it.

Read our detailed walkthrough on how to find a VA on websites such as Upwork. It’s guaranteed to give you some ideas even if you’re looking to fill a different type of vacancy.

Are there better freelancers on Upwork than other platforms?

Many freelancers who are registered on this platform also have accounts on platforms like Freelancer.com. Services like Toptal and Outsourcely screen their freelancers more carefully, and Hubstaff Talent is completely free to both employers and freelancers. Some freelancers are better than others, but there is such a wide range of talent you can’t rely on all Upwork freelancers being either better or worse than freelancers on other platforms.

What are best practices for managing Upwork hires?

You can use Upwork’s in-built tools, such as time tracking, note-taking, simple tasks and invoicing, or you can put your hires on a 3rd-party app for a more comprehensive management tool. One example is Hubstaff, the time tracking software that lets you track time spent on projects, see your freelancers’ activity levels and screenshots of their work activity. These features can be customized or turned off on a per-user basis.

The software is especially useful if you plan on hiring people for a longer project or multiple projects since it can integrate with popular project management software, including Hubstaff Tasks.

Hubstaff Tasks is an Agile project management tool that uses visual Kanban boards. In the app, you can create columns for each step of your process, outline the project in detailed tasks, and put them in the right place on the board.

Each task can have a description, checklist, due date, labels, assignees and followers. Use the comment section to pass on important information or to have your hires post updates.

Perhaps the most powerful feature of Hubstaff Tasks is the sprints functionality. Tasks are assigned to a certain timeframe: the backlog, future sprint or current sprint. This ensures work is done by prioritization and that the most important things get done.

Other than using specific software designed to manage remote employees, there’s no secret sauce to managing Upwork employees. It’s up to you as the manager to find what works and what doesn’t.

Related Posts

If you enjoyed this post, you may want to check out 10 websites to find freelancers online, and five personalities to avoid when hiring on Upwork.

This post was updated on February 23, 2018.

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Category: Outsourcing