Is Upwork a legit opportunity for freelancers?

Upwork is a legit and established online freelancing platform that offers freelancers, of all skill levels, the opportunity to make money working remotely for clients who are willing to pay for their services.

Let’s get that one out of the way right up front.

You’ll likely hear all kinds of different opinions about Upwork and I’m going to take the time in this post to set the record on Upwork straight.

You might hear things you don’t want to hear, you might get a healthy dose of reality, but the opinion you get will be from someone who has worked on Upwork since 2015 and has earned tens of thousands of dollars in that time.

So, yes Upwork is legit.

Three questions you probably want an answer to

Is it easy?

Sometimes and sometimes not. Like anything, you have good runs and bad runs.

Is it frustrating trying to land gigs there?

It can be very frustrating when you can’t work out why work isn’t dropping from the skies at the push of a button. But, that’s not reality, is it?

Can you make a decent full-time income on the platform?

Yes, you can, and much more.

Let’s get into the mechanics of how Upwork works first, then we can look at ways of making it profitable for you if you want to go that route.

Upwork wants a chunk of what you earn – that’s how they pay for things!

When you work on Upwork, they take a percentage of what you earn. Now, here’s the thing that sticks in the throat of many freelancers.

They take 20% of the first $500 you earn with a client, then between $501-$9,999 it drops to 10% and 5% once you reach $10,000.

If you think that’s excessive, then move on. Upwork may not be for you.

If you’re a reasonable thinking person who’s able to weigh up pros and cons and can think of the bigger picture (that is you, isn’t it) then read on.

Upwork is a business and they have business overheads to pay. If you’ve never run a business before, the concept may be foreign to you, but the reality is that business overheads – staff, benefits for staff, rent, tech, systems etc. etc. all cost money to support.

Upwork went for an IPO (Initial Public Offering) recently so they’re even more of a real business now, with shareholders to keep happy. The only way you keep shareholders happy is to pay them a regular return on their investment (dividend) and that also costs money…

I personally think that 20% is a little on the high side, I won’t deny it.

But I also believe it’s a step in the right direction to getting Upwork to be a better place for quality freelancers who are serious about exchanging value for money.

How so?

Well, there are a lot of lowballers on Upwork who want the world for absolutely nothing in return. Here I’m talking about clients who will happily pay some poor struggling freelancer pennies for their work.

The sad thing for me is that there are freelancers so desperate they’ll take the work.

So, anything that ups the ante and says you need to be serious to work here is good in my book.

If you have to pay 20% of the first $500 you earn back to Upwork, surely it will encourage you to bid higher and blackball the cheapskates who want to pay a pittance.

This is the kind of crap some of these idiots post  – 200 pages – you gotta be joking, right?

is Upwork a legit opportunity for freelancers

The above is an example of a serious lowballer – simply ignore!

I for one believe there should be minimum rates set on Upwork that allow freelancers the chance to make a decent living. If you can deliver what you say you can to clients, they shouldn’t have a problem paying you for it.

Think about this. There are a lot of benefits a client gets by engaging the services of a freelancer on Upwork and it shouldn’t be a one-sided transaction, not at all.

What the client gets from Upwork

If you’re going to make Upwork work in your favor, it’s worth taking a minute to put yourself in the shoes of a client that uses the platform. Understanding their motivation will help you when you’re trying to work out the best way to land a job, makes sense, right?

What clients want

QUALITY WORK – this one might seem a bit obvious but it’s one of the areas most Freelancers will mess up from the start or get lazy and mess up further down the line. Your work should always be your best, period. The surest way to lose clients quickly is to let your standards drop and turn in rushed or shoddy work.

This means if you’re a writer, proofreading everything 2 or 3 times and preferably on different days. You’d be amazed at what mistakes you spot the day after writing a piece that you completely overlooked on the first pass! Also, use Grammarly and the “read out loud” function in Word to help you get it spot on.

AN EASY EXPERIENCE – clients can sometimes be a challenge for all sorts of reasons. With that said, your job is to make their lives as easy as possible, that’s one of the reasons they hire you after all. If you have to think for a client to a certain extent, do so. Not all clients are experienced hirers of freelancers and anything you can do make their lives easier will help you retain them.

I’ll make a caveat to this. Don’t let clients take advantage of you. Helping them out is one thing but be aware and deal with “scope creep” early and firmly. Scope creep is where a client asks for more and more work for free that wasn’t originally specified. You may do them a bit of a favor here and there, and that will stand you in good stead, but don’t let them take advantage of your good nature.

AN EFFICIENT EXPERIENCE – hit deadlines, or better them by a day. You should never miss a deadline, never. I can honestly say that I stick by this rule and have never missed one with any client on or off Upwork. But how do you ensure you always hit a deadline?

Here are a couple of tips:

  • Never quote impossible deadlines or timeframes just to land a job.
  • Overestimate the time a job will take so you have a safety margin to work with.
  • Make sure you’re organized at all times and on top of your work.
  • If you’re running into problems with a job, communicate with your client. Most are reasonable human beings and will often agree to extend a deadline if you guarantee them an even better piece of work.
  • Life sometimes gets in the way – again communicate with your client.

What clients DON’T want

  • The hassle of employing full-time staff with all the overheads and headaches that entails – that’s why they work with you.
  • Shoddy work, missed deadlines, your life story.
  • Scope creep – just as you don’t want to do extra work for nothing, your client will want your price estimates to reasonably accurate (this gets easier with experience).
  • Abandoned projects – possibly the worst thing you can do is abandon a project with a client if the going gets tough. Stick with it, work something out. If you don’t, you’ll destroy your reputation on Upwork, if you do, you may get one of the best 5-star reviews ever (this has happened to me a few times).
  • Excuses – there’s no excuse for being a poor, unreliable freelancer. Don’t go there, you’ll only be letting yourself and your client down. If you can’t hack it, don’t waste everyone’s time – life’s too short for that!

Is Upwork a legit opportunity – here’s the bottom line!

So, to answer our original question – is Upwork a legit opportunity for freelancers – definitely, yes. It’s not always an easy ride, but you can earn a lot of money there if you approach it in the right way.

As I’m writing this, I’m making $1,000s a month on the platform and it forms a big part of my monthly income. I don’t just stick with Upwork though, I make sure I have other strings to my bow and source clients elsewhere as well. You should do the same.

It’s a good idea not to rely on one source of clients

Create a “safety net” for your business and make sure to have more than one place you find of business. If you start with Upwork, make sure to use email marketing as well to compliment your efforts on the platform.

I’m not going to go into all the details of email marketing here, but what I’m talking about is email outreach – get a list of prospects, send them an introductory email and follow up. I’ve landed some of my best-paying clients this way.

Just make sure if you’re dealing directly with a client (not using Upwork’s payment processing) you get your terms and conditions sorted out upfront.

50% deposit – NO EXCEPTIONS

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed my article. If you’re interested in freelancing and you’d like more info, head over to my START Freelancing post which is HERE.

Do you also have experience with Upwork or do you just want to get started? Drop a comment below and let’s discuss it. Ask a question in the comments if you need my help 🙂


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