Here are five things to know before you start applying:
Below, I’ll include more detailed information on Upwork including how it works, how to find jobs and what you can expect once you’re hired.
What Is Upwork?
Upwork is an employment website that was founded in 2015. It was developed in response to the rising need for remote work opportunities. There are millions of remote freelance jobs posted on Upwork each year according to the company website. You can use Upwork to search for jobs, build your portfolio and make connections in your field.
While it's completely free to create a basic account, search for jobs and apply via Upwork, there are fees if you accept a job. You can also sign up for a Plus membership for $14.99 monthly, but it isn't required to get started.
Upwork also offers additional resources online for free including tips and inspiration from top talent, guides on launching and growing your independent business and more.
Is Upwork Legit?
Upwork is a completely legitimate job posting site.
According to the website, Upwork prides itself on following cutting-edge security and privacy best practices. You can learn more about Upwork's policies on data protection, industry certifications and information security online.
Upwork maintains an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and a 4.5 out of 5-star rating on Trustpilot. Despite having overall positive ratings, the company has definitely prompted its fair share of negative reviews. I spent some time reading through the Upwork reviews on BBB and Trustpilot to find out what the common complaints are.
Many of the negative reviews are from employers who have issues with specific freelancers they’ve met through Upwork.
The negative reviews left by freelancers mention poor customer service, being suspended from the platform seemingly without a reason and fake job postings. Upwork does have the right to suspend your account if they believe you've violated certain terms.
And you should keep in mind that, just like any job posting you respond to online, you can help protect yourself by keeping an eye out for fake employers. If a job posting doesn't seem legitimate on Upwork, be sure to click the "Flag as inappropriate" button."
Despite these complaints, Upwork does seem to be legit to me. The site does take steps to protect your data and information. And based on reviews at the BBB and Trustpilot, it’s clear that many people have found success through Upwork.
How Does Upwork Work?
Upwork connects clients with freelancer workers in a variety of fields. You'll find jobs in categories including IT, design, sales, marketing, writing, translation, customer support, administration, accounting and more. You can find a complete list of skills and job categories online.
In order to apply to jobs posted on Upwork, you have to create an account and fill out an application profile. Once you submit your application for approval, you should get an email within 24 hours to let you know if you've been accepted to join the Upwork platform.
To begin, visit Upwork.com and click "Sign Up." You'll just have to enter your name, email address and create a password to get started. Then you'll need to verify your email address and begin filling out your profile.
Upwork profile application
Upwork profile application
You can upload your LinkedIn profile or fill it out the profile page manually. When I created my profile, I filled it out myself. I entered information about myself and the work I was looking for including category, expertise, expertise level, education, employment history, languages, hourly rate, title and contact information. I also uploaded a profile photo.
The first thing that stood out to me while building my profile was the hourly rate section. Unlike Indeed, Upwork charges freelancers for using the service. Upwork charges a service fee of 20% for the first $500 that you earn from each client. If you earn between $500.01 and $10,000 from a single client, the service fee rate drops to 10%. Anything over $10,000 that you earn from a client comes with a 5% service fee rate.
Upwork hourly rates and service fee calculator
Upwork hourly rates and service fee calculator
When you set your hourly rates, you'll be able to enter the rate that clients will see. From there, you can see how much the Upwork service fee will run for a new client. Finally, you'll see the estimated amount you'll receive after service fees. In the example above, I entered an hourly rate of $25. The 20% service fee would come to $5 per hour which means I would get $20 an hour.
For clients (the people who hire freelancers), Upwork offers a free basic membership or a Plus Client membership for $49.99 monthly, which the company says optimizes the clients' ability to find workers on the site. Beyond that, clients pay the amount agreed upon with their freelancer in addition to a 3% payment processing fee.
Applying for Upwork Jobs
Once you’ve created your profile and Upwork has accepted you, you’ll be ready to begin searching and applying for jobs. Here’s what you need to know about each step of the process.
Searching for Jobs
When you're ready to search for a new job, simply click the "Find Work" tab. There, you can search for jobs or browse featured jobs based on your interests and qualifications. You can also begin searching from any page using the search bar on the top of the screen.
When I checked out Upwork, I visited the website. There, I was able to click through U.S.-only job opportunities, my feed, best matches and recommended jobs from the “Find Work” tab.
I also searched for jobs using the search bar and found thousands of postings in my field. As you search, you can filter your results by category, experience level, job type (hourly or fixed price), number of proposals, client history, project length, hours per week and more. You can click "Advanced Search" to narrow your results even further.
As you browse through job postings, you'll see a post title, whether the client is paying hourly or a fixed price, how many hours are estimated weekly, how long the project will last, the client's rating, the amount of money they've spent on Upwork freelancers and more. You can click on a post for more information.
Applying for Jobs
Upwork uses its own system that involves what it calls "Connects." Connects are intended to help freelancers apply to the jobs they really want while also keeping spam from crowding job posts.
To apply for a job, you’ll need to have the required number of “Connects” available. Below the “Submit a Proposal” button, you’ll see the number of Connects required to apply and how many Connects you currently have available.
Applying to jobs on Upwork - submitting a proposal
Applying to jobs on Upwork - submitting a proposal
If you have a free Freelancer Basic account, you'll get 10 free Connects each month. You can also buy Connects for $0.15 each (the smallest bundle available includes 10 Connects).
But you can earn free Connects in various ways:
- Register for the first time. You'll earn 40 Connects to get started.
- Complete the Upwork Readiness Test. You can earn another 40 Connects this way.
- Land an interview. You'll get a bonus of 10 Connects (up to 50 every seven days.)
- Complete an Upwork Skill Certification. Each one you complete will earn you an additional Connect.
- Earn a badge. Some Upwork talent badges come with additional free Connects. You can check out the criteria and benefits for each talent online.
Once you’ve found a job that interests you, if you have enough Connects, you’ll be able to submit a proposal. Once you click the button, you’ll see the proposal settings, the job details and the terms. There, you can adjust the rate you’d like to bid for the job. You can also attach a cover letter or upload any project files before submitting.
In addition to applying, you can "favorite" jobs you're interested in and "downvote" jobs that don't interest you to get more individualized recommendations in the future.
Once you start applying for jobs and landing contracts, you'll be able to keep track of potential and current clients using the "My Jobs" tab.
If you're working on an hourly project, you'll be able to track your hours using the "Work Diary." There, you can add, edit and delete time for the current week. This is how Upwork keep tracks of your payment and how clients keep track of your project progress. You can learn more about how to use your Work Diary here.
Hourly projects work on a weekly billing cycle that ends on Sunday. Funds will available for withdrawal 10 days later. Fixed-price contracts work on a milestone system: you get paid once you’ve accomplished a certain task, as decided by the client. Once a client approves a milestone, your funds will be available for withdrawal after a five-day period. Bonus payments are also available after your client’s payment has been processed.
Know that you will have to add a payment method and set your tax status in order to receive payments. For more information on how to handle taxes as a freelancer, be sure to check out our guide.
You can choose from the following payment methods available at Upwork:
- Direct to U.S. Bank – free
- Direct to local bank – $0.99 per transfer
- U.S. dollar wire transfer – $30 per transfer
- Instant pay for U.S. freelancers – $2.00 per transfer
Upwork also works with PayPal, Payoneer and M-Pesa. For more information on getting paid through Upwork, check out this article.
Tips for Finding Jobs
If you’re thinking about using Upwork to find remote freelance jobs, here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind:
- Make your profile stand out. Your profile will determine whether or not you get accepted to Upwork. A strong profile can also help you stand out to potential clients. Upwork recommends showcasing your skills, using a professional picture, creating an introduction video and highlighting your best work. You can check out additional tips to make your profile stand out on Upwork's website.
- Narrow your search results. Depending on the type of work you're looking for, you may find hundreds or even thousands of job postings. Use the filters to sort through the results. Look for jobs that match the type of work you're looking for (hourly, set-price, etc.). You can also narrow your results by rate, expertise level, client history, project length and more.
- Start with the recommended jobs. The more you use Upwork, the more personalized your recommendations become. Even if you don't apply to every interesting job you see (which you shouldn't), be sure to use the "favorite" and "downvote" features to get more relevant recommendations and notifications. You can see your personalized feed and best matches in the "Find Work" tab.
- Be mindful of your Connects. You'll get 40 Connects when you first sign up and 10 free Connects every month, but you'll find that they run out quickly if you apply to a lot of jobs. For this reason, be mindful of where you submit proposals. And be sure to earn free Connects by completing the Upwork Readiness Test, landing interviews, completing skill certifications and earning badges.
- Follow the Terms of Service. While this is a good practice on any website, it's especially important on Upwork. The company reserves the right to suspend your profile if there's a violation, and a profile suspension could hurt your current and future contracts. To avoid this, be mindful of the Terms of Service. Common violations include failing to be honest in your profile, accepting outside payments from your Upwork clients or failure to perform on contracts.
In addition to these Upwork-specific tips, be sure to follow general job application etiquette as well. Take the time to update your resume to stand out and showcase your skills. Also, consider updating your LinkedIn profile and other professional social media accounts.
Finally, be ready for a job interview. Follow these tips to prepare for a virtual interview.
Ultimately, Upwork can be a great way to find remote freelance job opportunities for an hourly rate or a set price. Unfortunately, Upwork isn't completely free to use. You can expect to pay a 20% service fee for the first $500 you earn with each individual client.
In addition to the service fee, Upwork also limits the number of jobs that you can apply to using the Connects system. You’ll get 40 free Connects when you sign up and 10 free Connects each month to apply to new projects; there are additional ways to earn free Connects.
While you're looking for new jobs, be sure to check out a variety of platforms. You may find job postings directly on company websites or on social media platforms such as LinkedIn. In addition to Upwork, be sure to also check out a few other job posting sites like Indeed and FlexJobs.
No matter where you decide to apply, take the time to update your resume. Finally, be sure to avoid common work-at-home job scams. If you notice them on Upwork, be sure to report the posting.
Have you ever been hired for a job you found on Upwork? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!
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