Upwork is the biggest online freelancing platform in the world. With more than eighteen million registered freelancers and three million jobs posted on the platform each year, it’s no wonder that it’s worth more than $1 billion.

If you’re looking for a freelancer to help with your next project, Upwork is worth a look. A freelance platform like Upwork is a powerful tool for finding the talent and resources you need.

Unfortunately, not all of Upwork’s registered freelancers are reliable. If you know what to look for, you can find the perfect fit to complete projects on time and on budget.

In this review, you’ll learn more about how Upwork works, what its advantages and disadvantages are, and how to hire the best talent available.

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

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How does Upwork work?

At its core, 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. They make money, and you get things done.

However, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that you’ll have a great experience using the freelance platform.

Finding a talented Upwork freelancer is similar to using a job board to find a great employee. You’re going to have to sift through some applications until you find the right person for the job.

If you have realistic expectations and 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.

First, let’s take a look at Upwork service fees, the best ways to price Upwork projects, and 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 want to find jobs. They 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. Of course, this depends 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.

However, you will be charged a 3% payment processing fee every time you pay a freelancer. If you want to, you can 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. However, there are some 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. If you manage an enterprise-grade team, you’ll have to call for a custom quote.

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, you’ll need to account for the complexity of the project and the skill set needed to do it. It’s also worth considering the time you’ll need to complete the project and the value the completed project brings to your business.

You’ll also want to look into the average rates for similar projects. This will give you a good idea of how much time and money you should expect to invest in a competent freelancer.

How to review an Upwork 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.

Freelance customer support and other projects that are billed per hour won’t have those kinds of milestones. You may need to 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. With their Work Diary and hourly rate, you’ll know exactly how much to pay and why.

Upwork has a built-in time tracker, but many businesses choose to use a more comprehensive time tracking tool to manage their freelancers instead.

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:

  • Credit cards
  • PayPal
  • ACH direct deposit

You can add multiple billing methods to your account in case of an issue with your preferred card or payment method.

Once your billing method has been added, paying for work is pretty easy. It just takes a couple of clicks, but Upwork will still walk you through the whole process.

How to hire top talent on Upwork

Are you ready to find a freelancer on Upwork for your next project?

Upwork is packed with excellent freelancers who are available for work. This is one of the better freelance platforms designed to protect both businesses and freelancers. With Upwork, it’s easier for everyone to get 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 this freelance platform.

Write a detailed job description

In order to attract top talent, your job description should accurately describe the work you’re looking for. 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 weeding out applicants later.

Generic job descriptions attract droves of unqualified freelancers who are 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’ll need to sort through hundreds of irrelevant applications to find someone that can do what you need.

If you want to hire for a long-term contract, be clear. If you’re hiring developers, specify what kind of development you need to do.

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 usually worth the higher rates. They know how to generate better results and meet deadlines on time. 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, there’s bound to be someone who does what you need. Usually, there are plenty of specialists to choose from.

Remember that specialists are on Upwork to get a job — but not just any job. Most will want to focus on their area of expertise. Don’t be offended if they turn down offers that are a little outside of that scope.

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 as well.

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 hourly or per-project rate doesn’t always indicate quality or talent. Use Upwork to do your homework and check out the freelancer’s portfolio. Make sure they’re worth the hourly rates they’ve listed.

Use screening questions

Upwork offers 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. 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. Use Upwork to manually invite people who are rated 5 stars to apply. That doesn’t mean you’re offering them the job outright, but you will get more high-quality applications faster by inviting proposals from these top-rated candidates.

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

Simply use Upwork’s site 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 Upwork 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. Don’t forget to ask how many hours they can commit per month.

Remember that Upwork is global. If you request a video interview, be prepared to schedule meetings during odd hours. It may not be ideal for your schedule, but it sends the message that you care and are mindful of the time zone difference.

Start with a paid trial project

If you’ve narrowed down the field to two or three potential candidates, you’re in the home stretch. A good way 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, ability to meet deadlines, and overall approach to problem-solving. From there, you can move forward with the person who fits your needs.

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 on Upwork? Is there a way for them to use Upwork to find the perfect gig 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, make sure your Upwork profile is optimized for the types of jobs you want. A great profile is thoughtfully designed to showcase your experience and personality 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. Think of this as your first proposal.

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 right away and will disregard those that don’t focus 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 freelancing gigs on Upwork, focus on those job listings that are truly looking for the best person. Avoid applying to those that are simply looking to get their project done with the lowest pay.

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. They 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 freelancing relationship based on the job description alone.

Vet the client first

Always vet a potential client before applying to their job posting. Freelancing comes with some risk, and it’s wise to do your homework before committing your skills and time.

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 Upwork 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 offers you a contract.

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?

Remember, the purpose of an interview isn’t just for the client to make a hiring decision. It’s also for you to determine whether freelancing with this client and working on this project will be a good experience for you.

If something about the project proposal 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 and skills, it’s also against Upwork’s Terms of Service. 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 contract, 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 just to get paid 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 developer, 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 Upwork reviews from other people who have worked with them and review samples of their work. This will help you determine if their services are worth the money.

You can also add screening questions to your posting, use Upwork’s video meeting feature to interview freelancers, or get someone from Upwork’s team to screen applicants for you.

All of these features increase the likelihood 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 hiring process.

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. Then 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. 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. It’s always possible to contact Upwork to resolve disputes, too.

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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 person with the right skill set.

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

This is mitigated a little by using screening questions and following the best practices. Still, the hours spent sifting through 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 fee.

Freelancers pay a fee every time they bill a client — and when they withdraw money from their Upwork account.

2021 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 share your projects and 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.

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