Price: Free or $10/month
Scam or Not: Not a Scam
Overall Ranking: 6/10
What is Upwork?
Upwork is one of the most well-known and popular sites that facilitates freelancing.
Essentially, the site acts as a job board, matching people offering work with those wanting to earn money. As a result, the site itself targets two very different groups of people.
In this particular Upwork review, I’m just focusing on the potential of Upwork for actually earning money. So, this applies to people who have skills or services to sell, not those wanting to buy them.
There are also other sites that offer similar services. A key example of this is Freelancer, which I reviewed in the past. Both sites target the same general audience and the processes are similar. You could potentially use both at the same time or just pick one.
Another related site was Elance, which catered to around 2 million freelancers and 500,000 customers at its height. In 2014, this company merged with oDesk (a similar platform) and the result was relaunched as Upwork.
As a result, many of the Upwork reviews reference Elance in some way. Likewise, some people have used both versions of the platform.
How Does Upwork Work?
First of all, getting started with Upwork is a little frustrating. You have to provide some personal information, including your professional experience, educational history and a photo.
The site also uses photo recognition software, so you are forced to pick an image that actually shows your face.
The process is a little frustrating and might be enough to turn some people away. However, the process does make sense because you’re building your profile on the site.
Theoretically, a better profile will mean that you get more work. So, setting this up at the beginning does make sense.
Once you have your profile organized, you can access the site itself. The main aspect here is the Job Search function. This lets you look at the jobs available on the site and you can do so based on keywords and categories.
You can also refine your search results based on things like experience level, client history and job type.
Within any given category, there is a range of jobs. Some will be simple and others complex. For example, the job below comes from the ‘web content’ category.
From the search page, you have the option to view the individual jobs and submit a proposal. There are three key aspects to the proposal:
- Your bid (i.e. how much you charge)
- How long it would take you to do the work
- A cover letter
You can also submit attachments, such as samples of your work that are relevant to the project.
Basically, you use your proposal as a way to sell yourself and show that you can do a good job of the project. So, the more information you put in and the more evidence you provide, the better your chances.
However, doing so is also time-consuming, especially if you apply to multiple jobs.
The basic idea is that you use the job search process to apply for work that relates to your specific skill set. You can basically pick whichever jobs interest you.
You are bidding on jobs, which means that you’re trying to prove that you can be effective at the required tasks. The setup also means that you’re competing against a number of other members. Precisely how many will depend on the specific job.
If you do get a job, then you are basically freelancing for the job owner. Upwork takes a fee for the process but you get some protections. Basically, the system means you’re much more likely to actually get paid for your work than you would if you were freelancing for yourself.
Whether or not this is worth it really comes down to a matter of opinion.
One other interesting thing about Upwork is the membership options. So, you can join Upwork for free or pay a $10 monthly fee.
Both versions give you the ability to bid on a certain number of projects per month, with the Freelancer Plus offering slightly more. You bid using a type of currency called Connects, and the basic plan offers 60 per month, while the plus plan offers 70.
However, the plus version also lets you roll over and buy more Connects, which is useful if you plan on bidding on a large number of jobs.
There are other differences too.
For example, the paid version has more types of protection and also gives you the ability to see the average bids for jobs.
These areas can help increase security for you and may give you an advantage when are making proposals on jobs.
In particular, you get to view the averages of other competitor’s bids. This gives you a better chance to make a bid that the job owner will actually be interested in.
Many people would be happy with just the free version of this site. However, it is clear that the paid option offers more security and some advantages.
Benefits and Advantages
The first benefit here is that Upwork does function as it claims to. So, it gives you the chance to find work that you simply couldn’t have any other way. This pattern alone is powerful, especially as finding freelance clients can be a tough process.
The protections that Upwork offers is also another advantage.
As a process, freelancing puts you at the mercy of your customer somewhat. This is always frustrating because clients aren’t always predictable and some are unreasonable.
Upwork doesn’t remove the challenges of dealing with clients but the system means you’re likely to actually get paid, even if you have a bad client.
Another interesting advantage is the ability to develop a visible reputation.
So, on Upwork, clients can see some of your history on the site and reviews that people have made about your work. As you do well on the site, your reputation grows, which can make it easier to find work.
The final advantage is that you have access to more clients and potential jobs than you would normally.
Upwork does have a large database of customers and work, which is pretty easy to sort through. This is much more powerful than having to manually advertise for clients.
Issues with Upwork
For the most part, Upwork functions exactly as you would expect it to.
However, there are still some factors that limit the potential for income.
The first of these is fees. You pay a fee to Upwork for each job you do, along with the membership fee if you go with the paid option.
These costs aren’t excessive, especially as UpWork does make it easier to find work in the first place. But, they do still add up. Also, the highest tier of fees is 20%, which is a lot to pay.
On one hand, this is fair enough as you wouldn’t actually have the job without Upwork. But, if you were freelancing outside of the site, you wouldn’t have to pay this type of fee.
So, the fee is a disadvantage.
In some ways, it comes down to whether or not you could get clients on your own. For example, many successful freelancers don’t need to rely on sites like Upwork. In fact, you can end up with a situation where you don’t need to advertise at all.
The design of Upwork also gets a little frustrating.
For example, the site requires you to use Connects when you submit a proposal for a job.
You get allocated a certain number per month depending on your plan. Likewise, you can also buy Connects at $1 each, but only if you’re on the paid membership.
The point of this may be to stop people spamming every job that they can find. But, it does lower your chance of finding work. It’s easy to see how you could use your Connects up without finding as much work as you wanted to in a given month.
Another major issue is competition, which is fairly evident from the company’s marketing.
So, there are upwards of 12 million freelancers using Upwork but only 3 million jobs posted each year. That’s a pretty major difference.
To make matters worse, some freelancers will get a lot more work than others.
For example, your success is partly tied into your work history and ratings on the site. So, the more success you have, the more likely you are to get future work. This is great once you get to that point – but it sucks early on.
The practice means that most jobs will go to those who already have a good reputation on the site, making it much harder for you to develop one. Additionally, most customers will tend to use the same freelancer time and time again if they like that freelancer’s work.
For that matter, many people send out invites to freelancers they like when they open a project.
So again, you are at a major disadvantage when you first begin.
Often the only way to get around this issue is to take on low-paying jobs or frustrating clients that nobody else wants. Even then, you’d still face considerable competition.
The one other approach is to simply keep trying. This is something that many freelancers say and the idea comes up time and time again in Upwork reviews. Theoretically, the more requests you submit, the better chance you have of getting work.
That pattern can work but it leads me to one final issue – time.
If you get a good pay rate, freelancing itself can be a profitable field. But, that typically won’t happen when you start. So, you may actually be earning relatively little while you develop a customer base and reputation.
At the same time, the process of searching and applying for jobs on Upwork takes time, especially as you may not get many early on. In fact, you could spend hours each week doing so and not get accepted for a single one.
This is an incredibly frustrating situation and it’s one reason that many people don’t use Upwork and similar sites.
As I’ve mentioned. There are some significant issues with Upwork. So, it’s no surprise that there are many negative Upwork reviews out there as well.
Many of them focus on the fact that the site closes accounts, apparently at random.
I suspect that, in part, accounts get closed when a freelancer gets a significant number of negative ratings. This is a challenge early on because one or two bad reviews is enough to make your account look horrible.
Some Upwork reviews note that the suspending issue is connected to the company thinking you’ve received payment from outside of Upwork.
The banning issue is certainly significant and it is a major problem if you are investing time and money in the site.
Other reviews are negative because people don’t like the system itself.
Now, I agree that the system ends up charging you fairly high fees and you often make relatively little for your work. But, that’s not exactly hidden information.
Plus, there truly is the potential for growth and some people clearly achieve it.
Besides that, the pattern is fairly similar for freelancing in general. While freelancing works as a way to make income, the competition makes it a tough field. As a result, you can easily end up working for peanuts while developing your reputation.
This does suck but it’s not entirely unexpected and the problem isn’t specific to Upwork.
Personally, I would only ever recommend the site as a way of getting started in freelancing. It certainly isn’t a good choice if you’re already doing well in the field and it won’t work if you want to be paid what you’re worth right from the beginning.
At the same time, I did notice that some people had bad experiences with specific clients on the site.
Certainly, this is frustrating but, to a degree, it isn’t Upwork’s fault. If you are working for individual clients, then there is always the chance of risk. The design of Upwork offers considerable protection but it isn’t likely to be 100%.
Likewise, some of the customers on Upwork are scammers who are intentionally manipulating the system.
These are all significant issues but they are also risks that come with freelancing in general. You can reduce the potential for problems by paying close attention to what clients say and avoiding anything that seems too good to be true.
Additionally, you can dramatically limit your risks by sticking to the rules of Upwork. Most scammers will try to get you to break them (like offering to pay you outside of the site), as you have no real protection if you do so.
Finally though, I do want to note that not all Upwork reviews are negative. Instead, some people do seem to make money through the company and like the system.
As the reviewer notes, you do need to stick within the rules of Upwork to be successful with the company.
Is Upwork a Scam?
Upwork isn’t a scam.
The site is very honest about what is involved and never claims to be a fast way to make money. Instead, it’s just a place that makes it a little easier to find freelancing clients.
At the same time, Upwork does add in restrictions that you wouldn’t normally have and some protections.
As a result, Upwork won’t be effective for everyone.
Additionally, what you think of Upwork will entirely depend on what you expect. The site is a job board with intense competition. That doesn’t make it a scam – but it does mean that getting work is tough.
Many people may get involved thinking that work is going to be easy to obtain. If that’s your view, then you’re going to be disappointed.
But, I still wouldn’t call the site a scam.
Can You Make Money with Upwork?
First of all, Upwork is all about freelancing. So, your potential to earn money is really related to that field.
Basically, freelancing refers to selling your skills. In this case, you’re doing so online. Freelancing is a legitimate way to earn money and some people to make an entire business out of it.
In many ways, Upwork acts as a leg up in that field.
In particular, the site lets you connect with clients more easily than you could otherwise. This can help you to build a reputation as a freelancer and you may even find clients that you eventually work for outside of Upwork (although you’re not supposed to do that).
Some people also find that sites like Upwork let them learn the field better, including what to expect from clients, how long different types of work takes and what rates they are looking for.
Nevertheless, Upwork isn’t a great long-term solution for freelancers.
The fees are a key reason for this, as you are losing a significant amount of your potential income. At the same time, the service means that you have less control over your business, particularly in terms of marketing.
As such, many freelancers would branch away from the service over time, finding other ways to get clients.
The other thing to note is that freelancing doesn’t work for everybody.
Yes, it’s a powerful way to make money and it is effective for some people. But, much of your success would depend on your skills.
In particular, there are many different types of skills and services that you can sell.
Some of these are fairly rare and specialized, while others are extremely common.
Take freelance writing for example.
The idea of making money from writing is extremely popular, partly because there are so many people with this skill. At the same time, there is fairly high demand.
Many website owners do outsource some or all of their content creation, especially if they are trying to be successful with multiple websites. For that matter, many of the people offering work on Upwork are website owners.
That demand makes the field seem easier than it actually is.
Realistically, the competition involved with being a freelance writer is excessive – higher than most other types of freelance skills. At the same time, many writers are prepared to work for low rates.
This makes it extremely difficult to get jobs and make decent money.
As a result, freelancing works best for people with something unusual to offer. The rarer your skills, the better chance you have of getting good jobs and being paid well.
So, if you’re a writer, you would want to have something unique that makes you stand out. Even then, you’d probably struggle early on, as you still need to beat your competition for getting a job.
More than anything, it’s important to be realistic about Upwork and freelancing. As other Upwork reviews state, you can make money but it takes time and dedication. Likewise, if your skills aren’t all that good, you may struggle to make this method work.
Take the time to seriously look at what the site offers and precisely what your competition is. Doing so can tell you a lot about whether you stand a chance at Upwork or as a freelancer in general.
Upwork Success Stories
While Upwork may not be effective for everyone, there are many glowing Upwork reviews out there. Likewise, there are testimonials of how people have been very successful with the site.
This pattern isn’t surprising.
There is a lot of potential in Upwork, especially if you have a marketable skill and are good at what you do.
So, for the right person, the site can work really well and could easily be a key source of income.
Still, for the wrong person, Upwork would be mostly a waste of time and money. Again, doing your research first and thinking about your chances seriously is a critical first step.
My Personal Upwork Review
For its goal, Upwork is effective. Finding work as a freelancer can be tough and the site offers an easier way to connect with clients.
Nevertheless, freelancing isn’t going to be a good fit for most people. It is a tough field at the best of times, especially if you don’t have a strongly marketable skill. As you can see with this Upwork review, the competition in the field is also very intense.
A more practical alternative is affiliate marketing.
With this approach, you’re making money from products, not skills. This makes it a more relevant field for many people, as you don’t need a specific skill set.
But, you don’t need to own or buy products either. Instead, affiliate marketing lets you promote products from other companies and make a commission off sales. Through this approach, you can promote products that people are interested in, including ones from well-known brands.
Affiliate marketing is a big field but the competition isn’t as intense as you might imagine. Instead, people operate in small niches, so there no shortage of potential for income.
At the same time, affiliate marketing is easy to get into. As I mentioned before, you don’t need products or specific skills. Instead, simply need to take the time and learn the processes.
The best way to achieve this is through a site called Wealthy Affiliate. The site is a powerful option to learn exactly how to make money online, from basics to the more complex components. It also offers an amazing community and is worth trying for that reason alone.