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Is Upwork legit? What you need to know

If you’ve ever tried an easier way of looking for a job, chances are that you’ve heard of Upwork.

Sites like Upwork have made online working easier than ever, using a freelancing marketplace to connect people to jobs, even internationally. Whatever your chosen profession, there are various opportunities to choose from.

While many freelancers today take full advantage of this platform, for some, there is still this lingering question – is Upwork legit?

Before we answer that question, let us first discuss the fundamentals of Upwork.

What is Upwork?

“Our mission to create economic opportunities so people have better lives has taken us so much further. As a result, we’ve become the world’s work marketplace where everyday businesses of all sizes and independent talent from around the globe meet here to accomplish incredible things.” – Upwork CEO Hayden Brown

Upwork is a site where independent professionals connect to clients. According to its company profile, it is the world’s largest workplace.

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As many as 3.5 million jobs are posted annually by 4.5 million clients, who choose from 10 million registered freelancers.

What is Upwork?

Upwork offers the attraction of freelancing to its users. It is accessible to all types of freelancers, most especially those with administrative, writing, technical, design, and data entry skill sets.

Many people choose this type of career mainly due to the flexibility attached to it. In freelancing, you can choose your schedule, as well as apply for only the kinds of projects you’re interested in working on.

Money is also a factor in engaging people to freelance.

On average, freelancers can earn higher than traditionally employed workers. Upwork’s Freelance Forward Economist Report revealed that freelancers earn 44% higher than traditional office workers.

In addition, several large and small businesses prefer to hire freelancers for certain remote jobs where workers don’t need to be physically present.

What is Upwork?

How does Upwork work? 

The platform is relatively simple to use. On their Upwork account, companies or clients post job offers, freelancers bid on the job, and the ones that fit the role are chosen.

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Upwork is free, but the website must first approve your application to join.

Upwork has its Team Management App for time tracking. It takes a screenshot of the freelancers’ progress every 10 minutes to ensure that they work within the agreed-upon time and guaranteed payment.

Upwork for Freelancers

Aspiring Upwork freelancers must register an Upwork account and create a profile. This is perhaps the most lengthy stage of the process, as you also have to take a series of tests in the area of your expertise.

In your profile, you will display your skills, experience, portfolio, desired hourly rate, and mode of payment.

Upwork for Clients 

As a client, you will also be required to create a profile to set up job postings (which include an estimated hourly payment and timeline).

After that, you simply wait for professionals to begin bidding on your post. You select the ones you want to interview, then cut down the list before eventually selecting the one/s you feel fits the job.

Alternatively, if you have already been on Upwork for a while, another option is to offer jobs to specific freelancers. You can build a network of professionals to contact whenever you have a project that needs workers.

Is Upwork a scam?

Upwork itself is not a scam. The website is legitimate, and freelancers can find actual work on the platform.

However, as with any business transaction, one must exercise caution when using the website. While Upwork itself can be useful, that doesn’t stop scammers from infiltrating the network.

Upwork is simply a tool, and it’s what people decide to do with that tool that matters. Still, it’s best to stay careful at all times.

Common criticisms of Upwork 

There are several issues you must consider before registering with Upwork. The website isn’t clean of criticism. Hence, the frequent concern – is Upwork legit?

Here we have some commonly heard criticisms from those who have experienced it:

Fake profiles and testimonials

This may be the thought that immediately comes to the minds of most. After all, it is an online platform. How do you know if you are dealing with real people?

This has been a major problem for the site.

Both freelancers and clients can do this. A common practice for delinquent freelancers is to create a fake client profile. Then they post a job,  switch to their freelancer profile, accept the job, switch back to their client profile, and post good reviews on their freelancer profile.

Real clients may also forge testimonials that their hires wrote of them. Either way, it misrepresents them, and this is a problem when one is searching for trustworthy accounts.

Weak guidelines for vetting

Following closely with the above criticism, Upwork has weak guidelines for vetting freelancers. Basically, anyone can create an account, both freelancers and clients and run rampant on job postings.

It’s really a gamble when hiring on the site. Even when reviews are posted, you must take the assumption that these are legitimate testimonials and not dummy comments.

Breakdown of agreements

This is another problem plaguing both freelancers and clients, typically taking the form of “ghosting” or the sudden non-communication between two parties.

For freelancers, an agreement is set up regarding a job. After laboring on it for days, they may find that the client has simply disappeared.

All that effort was for nothing.

Clients may have gone through the process of interviewing and selecting a candidate and assigned them the job. But when the deadline comes, the freelancer cannot be contacted.

No money was spent on payment, but time and resources were wasted.

Unfortunately, this is something that Upwork leaves up to its users to solve.

Upwork charges fees

To make money, you have to lose money.

Upwork has a system where it takes a cut of the pay that freelancers make. Now while this sounds terrifying, in practice, it isn’t so harmful in the long run.

When freelancers begin working with new clients, 20% of their pay is taken by Upwork if the total payment is less than $500. When freelancers increase their pay with that client, the fee drops to 10% if the total payment is less than $10,000.

And if they earn more than that, the fee drops to 5%.

So as you make more, you do end up paying less of a fee. Upwork is still a business, and this is how they make their money. It’s up to the user to decide if this method of finding work is worth it.

Race to the bottom

Some critics have called Upwork a “race to the bottom.”

In economic terms, this happens when businesses try to maintain high profits by undercutting their opponent’s prices. While in the process, they cut corners and sacrifice their own operation’s well-being in the long run.

With Upwork, clients can all too easily take advantage of desperate freelancers, giving them heavy workloads with meager pay and a promise to “help them build their network.” Sometimes, payment is withheld for long periods.

Tips on using Upwork 

There are, however, workarounds to the website’s flaws. Upwork may not work for everyone, but there is a good chance of finding success in it.


This goes without saying. Find ways to learn about your potential client or freelancer beyond their Upwork profile. Read up on their policies and testimonials before considering a job with them.

The freedom is still ultimately yours whether you want to enter a working relationship.

Create a professional profile

Start with your best foot forward. How you present yourself is also important, whether you are a client looking to hire, especially if you are a freelancer.

Complete the profile that Upwork asks for, and your visibility will shoot up.

Be concrete with what you are looking for and what you can offer in terms of skills. Do not neglect the importance of putting together a portfolio that can showcase your talent.

Strategically increase your rates

Newbie freelancers may feel scared to charge high, but that is what cheap clients prey on.

It’s best to pick a starting rate and increase it depending on how clients react. Consider also how much experience you have.

Build your reputation

On Upwork, your clients rate you with a Job Success Score. Pay attention to this. A high score is a quick metric to display that you are a capable and reliable hire.

Upwork may be online but maintain professionalism. Communicate with clients and workers to ensure the product is satisfactory, and build relationships to gain traction in your career.

Be patient and explore

Freelancing is not a traditional job, so much of it is indeed trial and error. Take note of what worked for you and what didn’t, and adapt to overcome problems in the future.

Many professionals can attest that finding success in Upwork takes time.

Explore the site and look up the other features and services it offers. Upwork’s main objective is to connect skilled freelancers with genuine clients. It does what it can to maintain that standard by giving you the tools to achieve that better.

Tips on using Upwork

So is Upwork legit?

Yes, we can say with finality that Upwork is a legitimate freelancing platform. Many can testify that it is a genuine way to earn money and establish contacts for your professional network.

It does admittedly have fraud accounts and scammers, but that is true of almost every freelancing marketplace. That doesn’t make the website itself a scam.

Additionally, Upwork provides features and services that protect honest users from fraudulent accounts.

There is definitely a portion of the audience, both client and freelancer, that has sworn off Upwork and has looked into other sites that offer similar services.

Read here for advice on using those types of freelancer sites. But if you’re interested in looking into freelancing for your career, or are looking for skilled independent professionals, consider checking out Upwork.

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