Is UpWork Worth It in 2021? (My Honest Experience)

UpWork just might be the biggest and largest platform for finding freelancers and clients. I started UpWork 5 years ago and I’ve had my fair share of woes. 

Is UpWork worth it in 2021? My answer is yes. I know people who started out on the platform and have grown way beyond it. It’s a great springboard for those freelancers starting out and in my opinion, it handles most of the administrative stuff that confuses beginner freelancers. 

What is UpWork?

UpWork is a freelancing marketplace where businesses, freelancers, independent talents, and agencies come together to find different ways that they could work together. Essentially, it’s a platform that allows clients to interview, hire and work with freelancers and freelance agencies through the job postings that it posts.

From what I’ve seen, UpWork users post hundreds of job postings on a daily basis. Their freelance talent in fields like writing, graphic design, and web development all come together, apply, and compete for the same projects. 

First started in 1999 as Elance, the company went over different phases of rebranding and ownership. In 2017, UpWork had over twelve million registered freelancers and over five million registered clients. Jobs worth over $1 billion USD were posted in the same year. 

Is UpWork legit?

UpWork is as legit as it gets. It has an intense process of verification for both businesses and freelance talent and agencies. Plus, when you’re working on your job, UpWork actually keeps the payment of your client as a middleman. This makes sure that your client just doesn’t disappear without pay after you complete a project or you don’t forget the project after he sends payment. 

How does UpWork work?

It all starts with the job posting.

In it, you’ll find the job description complete with all the details you need to know before making an application. This will include the requirements of the project, their ideal candidates, and, of course, the pay range. If you’re really good, the client will invite you personally to apply for the job. 

If you’re waitlisted for the job, you could communicate with your prospective client through UpWorks messaging features. Set meeting times and communicate through this feature. 

If you’re chosen, you’ll be sent a contract, which will specify the hours, pay rate, and deadlines that you’ll need to remember. Complete the project and submit it then your payments will be released.

What are the pros and cons of UpWork?

Now that you have an understanding of UpWork, let’s talk about some of the pros and cons. 

[Con] UpWork takes 20% of your pay up to 500$

When you get your first couple of payments from your client, UpWork will take 20% of the first 500 dollars and then 10% from every subsequent payment. This is a pretty hefty price to pay unless you have a lot of recurring clients and a lot of work. 

Of course, it’d also be worth it so far as your projects are over $1000 dollars. But as a beginner freelancer on the platform, I doubt that this large “tax” falls under the range of acceptable. I remember when I first started out, the jobs I got were $5 an hour for 20 hours a week.

[Yes, I know that that was incredibly small but trust me when I say that the prices only went up since then. Up by how much? Well, I’ll reveal that at a later time. ]

Anyway, by the time I had reached the $500 mark, the project was over. Do you see the problem here?

[Pro] It handles your entire administrative side

UpWork justifies this hefty price for handling your entire administrative side. One thing I can say about UpWork is that it’s incredibly beginner-friendly. When I first started, I had no idea how to create contacts or get paid, UpWork did all of that for me. 

Basically, the entire system of UpWork lets freelancers does what freelancers do best: create.

If you’re a graphic designer or writer, you’d have no idea about writing contracts and what a contract would need for it to be considered legit. It’s a huge pro and, I believe, the reason why UpWork has such high traffic from both clients and freelancers in their marketplace. 

[Con] There’s a lot of competition

Given that UpWork is a global platform, it’s understandable to have lots of competition. And what does high competition mean? That’s right, low prices. For freelance writing, there are thousands of posts where they charge $10 USD  per 1000 words. For real, that’s less than what I started with at $5 an hour, if you factor in the research you have to do. 

The problem here is that you’re competing with freelancers from all types of socio-economic classes in different countries. In a first-world country, $5 USD is barely one meal. In a third-world country, $5 is enough to sustain them for an entire day. 

So will jobs that pay this low go away? No. You’ll just need to find a way to go around them. 

[Pro] It offers protection to clients

As I explained earlier, UpWork acts as a middle man between you and your client. That way, you’re both protected from scams. 

Their verification services are also quite extensive and you need to submit quite a number of documents before they verify your profile. This pro is huge for beginner freelancers and those working from different countries. If your client is from the States and you’re in Europe, what’s to stop him from just, not sending the payment? The answer in this case: UpWork. 

Is UpWork worth my time?

As a beginner freelancer, yes, UpWork is definitely worth your time and something that you should look to get into if you want to build on your freelancing career. Later on, though, I’d advise you to start looking for other ways to find clients. Why? Because you can’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Use UpWork as a means to build your portfolio and work from there. 

If you have any more questions, feel free to leave a comment down below or email me. 

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