Don't Do It Yourself

My Honest Review of Upwork (Pros/Cons in 2023)

As a site operator, we’ve had to hire freelancers for many different roles, and every time we started our search, Upwork would come up.

But is there a reason that it’s so popular for businesses and freelancers alike?

Pretty much, yes. We’ll highlight some of the pros and cons of Upwork, and why they’re so popular in this space.

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Upwork Review

Upwork Review

Let me preface this review by saying that I've been using Upwork before Upwork was even Upwork.

For some context, Upwork was formerly called Elance-oDesk. In 2015, the Elance-oDesk merger was rebranded as Upwork. So, I've been using the platform to find and hire freelancers for many years now.

Today, I continue to use Upwork to support my agency and a portfolio of different digital web properties. This means that I use the platform religiously to hire virtual assistants, web and UX designers and developers, content writers, video editors, marketing automation experts, and more. Basically I use Upwork for any project that requires a very specific skillset and experience, but doesn't have enough ongoing work to justify hiring someone full-time. This is where Upwork absolutely shines.

I've found some really amazing freelancers on the platform. Some of them have even turned into lifelong friends and colleagues. I can recall many dark nights where “the sky was falling” in my life as a project manager. Maybe a deadline was missed. Another contractor vanished. A web server crashed. Whatever the scenario might have been, I managed to swallow my anxiety (and pride) and almost always turned to Upwork, posted a job, and by some divine miracle, ended up finding a freelancer that could solve my problems and put all of my worries to rest. For that, I'm forever grateful to Upwork and their platform.

With that being said, it hasn't been all sunshine and roses over the years. I've made some pretty poor hiring mistakes. I've significantly overpaid Upwork freelancers for work that could have been sourced more cost effectively elsewhere. For example, I once paid a copywriter around $2K for a project where I paid someone on Fiverr for a whopping fixed price of $200. And I've also even been scammed…twice…

While those experiences have been frustrating. I don't attribute them to Upwork. Virtually every bad experience I've had on Upwork has come at my own naivety. And for what it's worth, Upwork has made significant strides in making more resources available to streamline the hiring process to ensure success. For example, they now have a Talent Scout, which is essentially a dedicated recruiter that will put in front of the right freelancers.

Overall, I really love using Upwork for hiring freelancers. They make it stupid simple to find and hire freelancers. The user interface is super clean and easy to navigate. Sharing files and collaborating via their messaging platform is also enjoyable. I also love the reporting system and ability to see when freelancers worked and what exactly they were working on. This visibility helps foster trust and ensure that your work is getting done efficiently.

Also, because Upwork is also a publicly traded company, they have a lot of firepower for research and marketing. This has helped them build a path towards profitability, but it's also provided benefits to hiring managers, mainly in the fact that they have the largest marketplace of freelance talent to connect with.

In summary, if you're a business looking to hire remote freelancers, I'd 100% recommend checking Upwork out (or check out the alternatives like Toptal). I have no doubt that you'll be able to find someone that can help you with your project. Just make sure to hire slow and fire fast. Good luck!

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Upwork Pros

Pros: Here’s what I like about Upwork

Honestly, there’s a lot to like about Upwork. But here are just a few of the best things about the site.

  • They offer a large and active talent pool.
  • Easy to use user interface; intuitive messaging platform for collaboration.
  • Setting up a job is very straightforward and easy.
  • Within minutes of posting a job, you can get multiple proposals.
  • They handle all of the paperwork necessary from a tax standpoint; simplifies hiring processes.
  • The API feature allows you to automate some things like contracts and get messages sent to Slack or Teams.
  • For an additional fee, Upwork will put together weekly expenditure reports.
  • Premium plans are available for bigger businesses that need more support.

Upwork Cons

Cons: Here are the only things I don’t like about Upwork

  • They don’t offer things like checklists, templates, or guidance on how to write your job posts, so you have to figure it out by trial and error.
  • If you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, you could end up hiring the wrong person (and being stuck with them).
  • Premium features that used to be free now cost a monthly fee ($49.99 for Upwork PLUS).
  • Freelancers can sometimes be across multiple time zones and makes it challenging to collaborate in real-time.
  • Job success scores are not exactly accurate. If a freelancer ends a contract that has been sitting open too long, clients are not required to leave feedback. No feedback counts as a negative toward job success score.

Is Upwork Worth It?

Yes, Upwork is worth it for both freelancers and business owners.

With how many freelancers are out there, every business is bound to find one that can perform any task they may need taken care of.

And while they do take 20% out of your paycheck, it’s a great place for freelancers to get started if they’re new to the industry.

Upwork Overview


What is Upwork?

As one of the most popular websites for clients to get connected with freelancers, Upwork has gained a lot of notoriety for making hiring contractors for various web projects easier. But what exactly is the platform? And is it worth your time to post jobs there? Let’s talk about it.

Upwork is a website that allows both businesses and freelancers to create profiles. Businesses or individuals in need of contracting out projects (everything from copywriting to programming to web design and even voiceover work) can post listings for jobs. Freelancers then have the opportunity to browse through and apply for those jobs, giving the clients the opportunity to look through applications and find the freelancer that they feel is right for the job.

Is Upwork legit?

Yes, Upwork is a legit freelancing site that has been trusted by millions of freelancers and businesses.

They offer a secure, safe platform for freelancers and businesses to connect. While it does suck for freelancers that they take 20% off the first $500, it allows new freelancers to find their first gigs and build their portfolios in a safe environment.

Businesses also benefit from having a place where freelancers can come to them and where they can have security that they will get options to choose from.

How does Upwork work?

Upwork is a site that connects freelancers to clients that need various projects done. They offer a large talent pool full of freelancers that provide a variety of services. Everything from short, one-off copywriting projects to long-term web designers can be found in one place, meeting the various needs of many small business owners.

Essentially, all that businesses need to do is create a job posting, set a timeline, and list pay information, then wait for the applications to come in. Setting up a job on Upwork is almost too easy, so it’s important to make sure that you include all necessary information so that potential freelancers have a clear idea of what you will expect from them. You can pay per project or pay a contractor hourly for their work.

Here’s what it looks like when you set up a job posting:

You can also propose milestones for longer projects that require a few different parts, which can keep your freelancers on track while paying them for each step of the process as they complete it.

If you are paying a contractor hourly, Upwork has an option for freelancers to upload screenshots of their work, allowing you to see the progress that they’ve made and verifying how many hours they have worked.

Of course, it doesn’t offer these connection services for free. Upwork does charge a percentage on top of what you are paying per project or hour, and it also takes a percentage from your freelancers. But it’s worth the price to get the jobs that you need to be done quickly and by a professional, rather than spending hours struggling through designing a web page or trying to create content.

What is Upwork good for?

At its core, Upwork is best used for businesses both big and small that need things like web design, copywriting, coding, and reviews outsourced to freelance professionals. Its expansive talent pool allows businesses to post temporary work, one-offs, and odd jobs. 

Once upon a time, businesses would have to search for a copywriter, programmer, or designer, even for the smallest of jobs. But that just doesn’t work when you need a blog post written yesterday or an updated webpage within the next few hours. This is where Upwork can really shine; by connecting you with freelancers for every job you need to be done, you spend less time stressing out about paperwork and more time focusing on the bigger picture.

The best part of this service is that it offers the security of vetting freelancers a bit. You can see their profile where other clients have rated their work, see their list of special skills, and even access their portfolio to see samples of their work. That’s a lot less shady than just, I don’t know, posting an ad on Craigslist.

Who uses Upwork?


And people that want to hire freelancers for basically anything!

The wonderful thing about Upwork is that both businesses and freelancers alike use the service to post and find jobs. You can find 145.4 thousand core clients spending at least $5,000 per year and an innumerable amount of skilled freelancers with a variety of talents on the platform.

Though they cater to just about every industry out there, a large share of their clients is in technology and services, internet, and computer software.

Some of their biggest clients to date include:

  • Penguin Random House LLC
  • Zendesk Inc.
  • Internet Brands, Inc.
  • The Party People
  • Counterweight Creative

What does Upwork cost? (Upwork Pricing)

Upwork Basic is free to join for both sellers and buyers.

From a client standpoint, Upwork’s costs ultimately vary by what sort of services you need. They have three plans that new members can choose from.

  • Upwork Basic – (FREE) This plan allows you to post jobs for free, browse the database and invite freelancers to interview for job postings, connect with freelancers, share files, and receive finished work from them. You also have access to tools that can help you make sure that work is properly invoiced and send payment to freelancers securely.
  • Upwork Plus – ($49.99/ month) The Plus plan allows you access to all of the features listed in the basic plan plus a dedicated account manager who can help you strategize, talent agents that highlight specific freelancers for you, as well as 24/7 chat support and 24/5 phone support. You can also add as many coworkers as you want to your account, add unique payment methods, and track your whole team’s progress through analytics.
  • Upwork Enterprise – (Price Varies) Upwork also offers a fully customizable plan for big businesses that have specific needs. These plans offer services that range from cost center tracking and IP-ownership agreement to the option of using Upwork Payroll. They also offer enterprise members high-support customer service and automated invoicing to keep everything as simple as possible.

How does Upwork earn money?

In terms of how Upwork makes most of its money — a good chunk of it comes from service and transaction fees.

Freelancers are charged a sliding fee based on your lifetime billings with each non-Enterprise client. This includes all contracts you’ve ever had with that client. Service fees are the same whether the contracts are hourly, fixed-price, or projects on Project Catalog.

  • $0-$500: 20%
  • $500.01-$10,000: 10%
  • $10,000.01 or more: 5%

Clients are charged a 3% fee on all payments made to Upwork. This fee goes toward payment processing and administration costs.

The fee is assessed any time Upwork charges your billing method and will show up as a separate item on your transaction history and payment receipt. The fee is calculated as a percentage, on top of the payment you are making.

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How Does Upwork Pay Freelancers?

Upwork freelancers can choose to receive secured payments via PayPal, direct deposit, or wire transfer.

There are also different options for how freelancers get paid: hourly or fixed-rate.

All hourly projects are billed weekly. Freelancers will get paid after the seller and the client review the work, 10 days after the billing period ends.

Fixed-price projects start paying out as you hit agreed-upon milestones. These funds will be available to freelancers five days after the payment has been made.

Hourly Protection and milestones come in handy if projects get dropped before they’re finished. Upwork has a dispute process for freelancers who feel they were not compensated fairly.

How to Hire a Freelancer on Upwork?

To hire a freelancer on Upwork, all you have to do is first set up a business account.

Next, create a job posting, listing pay, level of experience desired, how long the duration of the project is, and any other relevant information that candidates should have.

Once you’re ready to pick your freelancer or agency, these are the steps for hiring one (per Upwork’s website):

  1. Go to the My Jobs page
  2. Open the posting you wish to hire on
  3. Locate the freelancer or agency you’d like to hire
  4. Choose the Hire Freelancer or Hire Agency button
  5. Send an offer

Your freelancer will then either accept or decline the offer or send you a message to discuss details before accepting.

Upwork Hiring Tips and Tricks

Here are a few tips and tricks you can use to find your perfect freelancer.

  • Provide a detailed overview about your company- If you look at job postings as a freelancer, you’ll see an incredible number of postings that are vague. As fun as it sounds to work for a mysterious company, it makes freelancers think twice about applying to your job.
  • Be clear about expectations- What exactly does the job entail? What does a timeline look like? Freelancers need to know what they will be expected to do, and you need to find freelancers that know what is expected of them and can deliver.
  • List necessary qualifications- Does your freelancer need to have a specific skill set or degree in order to do the job? Do they need years of experience in the field? Just like setting up expectations, listing qualifications saves your time and the freelancer’s time.
  • Include call-to-action statements- Inspire freelancers to take action and apply to your posting ASAP. This can be as simple as “We’re hiring immediately, apply now!”
  • Set expectations for interviews- Once you’ve identified a shortlist of candidates, send them options to schedule an interview and include information on what to expect in the interview. This shows that you value their time and want them to succeed.
  • Communicate with all qualified candidates- Don’t ghost the candidates that didn’t make the cut. Once you choose your freelancer, follow up with your other qualified candidates to inform them that you’ve made a decision. This shows respect and creates a connection that you may want to use in the future!

Avoiding Upwork Scams

While Upwork is a legitimate site for both freelancers and clients to get connected, there are scammers on Upwork who will waste your time and possibly even take your money.

Here are a few ways to identify and avoid Upwork scams:

For Clients

  • Trust reviews – If the freelancer has multiple poor reviews, move on.
  • Check for plagiarism – Always run your freelancer’s work through a plagiarism checker like Grammarly. If they copied someone else’s work, don’t waste your time working with them further.
  • Don’t give out sensitive information – It’s important to be transparent about your company, but don’t give out sensitive information or details that the freelancer doesn’t need to know.
  • Hire slow, fire fast – Vet your freelancers carefully. We suggest setting up a video interview and giving them a smaller, one-off project to gauge skills and decide if you want to work with them further. If not, cut ‘em loose.

For Freelancers

  • If it sounds too good to be true, it is – Gigs offering amazing pay for very little work are usually scams. Avoid them!
  • Keep everything in Upwork – Upwork offers you protection within their platform. Any communication or payment made off the site is unprotected (and also can violate Upwork’s policies.)
  • Don’t hand over your identity – Giving them your email is fine, but be cautious with who you give other identifying information including your phone number.

Never pay them – They should be paying you, not the other way around.

Upwork Alternatives

If your business is thinking of using a service like Upwork to hire freelancers, it’s important to check around and make sure you’re using a platform that meets your company’s specific needs.

Here are some websites that are similar to Upwork:

There are also a number of other Upwork alternatives depending on the type of freelancer that you're looking to hire. Check out our collection of best freelance websites by category to explore other platforms for hiring the best freelancing talent:

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Upwork good for beginners?

Yes, Upwork is easy to use and great for businesses in all stages of growth and development.

Is Upwork free?

The basic business plan is free, you just have to add 3% to each payment you make to freelancers.

How does Upwork make money?

Upwork makes money by charging businesses 3% on top of payments, taking a floating percentage of their freelancers’ pay, and charging for their premium plans.

How is Fiverr different from Upwork?

Generally, Fiverr is a cheaper option for finding and hiring freelancers. Typically, clients will hire Fiverr freelancers on a fixed per project fee, known as a gig. Whereas on Upwork, clients can hire freelancers for short-term and long-term work with both fixed and hourly contract options.