Is Upwork Legit? How to Use Upwork to Make Money

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By Amanda Kruse, Contributor

As a beginning freelancer, finding work can be a challenge. In your search for freelance jobs, you’ll run across many websites that claim to help you find clients. But, with all the freelancing sites out there, it’s hard to know which ones are legitimate!

Upwork is one of the most popular sites for freelancers. But you might wonder—how does it work? Is it a good way to find paying freelance clients? Is Upwork legit? Read on to find out!

In this article, I’ll explain how Upwork works, if it’s legit, and how to get started. I’ll also cover Upwork’s pricing structure, the pros and cons of using the site, and who it’s is best suited for.

What Is Upwork?

Upwork is a freelance marketplace, connecting freelancers with paying clients worldwide. Freelancers can find jobs, interact with clients, send and receive files, and get paid through Upwork.

Over 5 million businesses hire all types of freelancers through Upwork. Clients look for a wide range of skills and expertise for short and long term projects. And opportunities are available in a variety of fields. You can find work in data entry, writing, customer service, graphic design, and programming, to name a few.

How does Upwork work?

Clients post job listings, specifying the skills and budget for a project. Freelancers then submit proposals to clients to bid on suitable jobs.

Is Upwork a legitimate site?

Yes, Upwork is a legitimate site used by millions of businesses and freelancers alike. With a proactive approach, freelancers can find work and make money through Upwork.

That said, with so many users, questionable jobs get posted now and then. Scams are rare. But it’s wise for freelancers to do their due diligence and only interact with clients on the Upwork site.

Getting Started with Upwork

Use the following steps to get started and find freelance jobs on Upwork.

1. Create your Upwork profile.

Because your profile is the first thing prospective clients see, it needs to stand out. Create a professional, honest profile highlighting your skills and areas of expertise. Once your profile is complete, Upwork has to approve it.

To set up your Upwork profile:

  • Confirm your email address.
  • List all skills in which you’re competent. Be specific, so you match with relevant projects.
  • Include a title, overview, and headshot. You can even add a short video!
  • Showcase your qualifications. Detail your education and experience.
  • Include your portfolio. Choose fitting samples of your best work.

2. Select your membership plan.

Select from two plans:

  • The Freelancer Basic plan is free and provides payment protection. On this plan, you still pay a small fee to submit proposals to clients.
  • The Freelancer Plus plan is $14.99 a month and offers everything in the basic plan, with extra perks. See the pricing section below for more information.

3. View job postings.

Job postings list the criteria and budget for a client’s project. Some include specific application instructions too. Make sure a job is a good fit before sending your proposal!

It’s also wise to check a clients’ reputation before sending a proposal. Upwork’s 5-star rating system for clients is an excellent place to start. Go a step further with an internet search and check the Better Business Bureau. Also, only interact on the Upwork site to help avoid scams and to qualify for payment protection.

4. Send proposals to clients.

Your professional proposal should include a unique cover letter and your rate of pay. Be sure to submit relevant samples of your work to stand out among the competition!

5. Get hired

Some clients request a short video or phone interview – take this opportunity to stand out! If they decide to hire you, you receive a contract through the Upwork site and begin work.

6. Get paid.

Payment is an hourly rate or fixed price. If you work hourly, the Upwork app tracks your time in 10-minute increments. By using the app, you qualify for Upwork’s hourly payment protection.

For fixed-price contracts, payment depends on the length of your contract. On longer projects, clients provide milestones for you to complete. This way, you get paid part of the total price when you reach each milestone.

Once work gets approved, you receive your full payment. Upwork uses direct deposit, Paypal, and wire transfers to pay freelancers.

Upwork Pricing

Freelancers pay Upwork fees in two ways: membership and service fees.

Upwork membership fees

The Freelancer Basic membership is free. It includes payment protection for hourly and fixed price projects.

Membership is free, but you still must pay for tokens, called Connects, to send proposals. Each proposal costs from one to six Connects, depending on the client and project. Connects are $0.15 each and get sold in bundles.

The Freelancer Plus membership is $14.99. It offers everything in the Basic plan, plus the following perks:

  • 70 free Connects each month
  • Custom URL for your Upwork profile
  • See what other freelancers bid for a job
  • Your Upwork earnings stay confidential
  • Your profile appears “Active” even if you’re inactive

Upwork service fees

Service fees get figured on a sliding fee scale of total earnings from each client. They start at 20% and decrease as your earnings increase. As you can see below, long-term and repeat clients will save you money.

Upwork’s service fee scale:

  • 20% fee for up to $500 in payments from a client
  • 10% fee for $500.01-$10,000 in payments from a client
  • 5% fee for $10,000 or more in payments from a client

For example, if you earn $700 from a new client, Upwork charges 20% on the first $500 and 10% on the remaining $200 earned. If you get another contract with the same client, your fees will be 10% of your earnings (up to $10,000) the next time.

Pros and Cons of Upwork

Pros of Upwork

Work from anywhere. Upwork’s platform is all about remote work!

It’s easy to get paid. Payments go through the Upwork site, so there’s no need to send invoices or hound clients to get paid. Plus, Upwork offers payment protection to ensure you get paid.

Get clients without cold pitching. Once you have your Upwork profile complete, you can start applying for jobs. Beginning freelancers might find it easier than cold pitching.

Proposal fees lessen competition. Freelancers pay a small price to submit proposals on Upwork. Though annoying, these fees help limit the number of bids for any one project.

Cons of Upwork

The fees add up, especially for beginners. Freelancers pay to submit proposals and service fees based on earnings.

Getting hired can be challenging at first. Upwork profiles display freelancer earnings, along with client reviews and ratings. When you have no payments or feedback, it can be hard to get the first client. But once you do, it gets easier!

Competition drives the bids down. When you’re trying to land those first clients, other freelancers are doing the same. Finding clients at first might mean sacrificing your rate.

Upwork can kick you off if you don’t follow the rules. Upwork has some strict guidelines to prevent scams. When you read and follow the rules, you won’t have any problems.

Upwork can hold payment until work gets approved. Though rare, clients can claim a job isn’t complete and hold payment. Upwork has a dispute process and offers payment protection in these situations.

Who is Upwork Best Suited For?

Beginning freelancers. Once you gain experience and build your portfolio, you open doors to new opportunities. You might even get referrals from your Upwork clients.

Those wanting remote work. Upwork is a great place to start making money from home, especially as a beginner.

Freelancers intimidated by cold pitching. Upwork offers another way to find freelance jobs.

People who want a flexible schedule. Don’t like the idea of a 9 to 5? Freelancing lets you design a schedule to fit your life.

Final Thoughts on Using Upwork

Like other freelance job sites, Upwork has its drawbacks. But it offers a legit way to find freelance work and build a portfolio. Upwork is an excellent way for beginning freelancers to gain experience. And ultimately, this experience will lead to higher-paying, long-term freelance opportunities.

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