Can You Make a Living on Upwork?


Can you make money on Upwork? The answer is a definite yes. If you want to make money on Upwork as a freelancer, the best place to start is to create an Upwork account. It is free to create your account.

What is Upwork?

Elance and oDesk were merged to form Elance-oDesk in 2013. In 2015, the company was rebranded as Upwork. The company operates a marketplace that matches registered clients with global freelancers. Upwork charges a fee for every job completed on its platform. In recent years, the company has seen tremendous growth that has enabled it to go public. It is now valued at more than $1.98 billion. It has more than 475K annual clients and more than 12 million freelancers.

Why Use Upwork?

While Upwork charges are exorbitant, the fact is that it is one of the most viable options that can help you make money as a freelancer. This is because of a number of reasons:

  • More than 5000 skills. This means that you can make money in one of the 5,000 skills. Examples of these skills are creative writing, SEO services, accounting, and programming among others.
  • Barriers to entry. One reason why Upwork has succeeded is that there are significant barriers to enter the business. As such, companies that compete with it are relatively small and can’t make you a lot of money.
  • A well-known brand. The company is a well-known brand in the freelancing community.
  • Trusted by large brands. Many large companies like DropBox, Facebook, Zendesk, and Microsoft use the company to hire freelancers.
  • Additional tools. The company’s platform offers freelancers additional tools like payment protection, Upwork time tracker, and secure communication tools.

How to Become an Upwork Freelancer Successfully

To become a successful Upwork freelancer, you need to do the following:

Identify your skills

Since Upwork has more than 5000 skills, it is important for you to identify your best skills. This is because you want to provide the best services to your customers while having fun doing it.

Create a good profile

After identifying your skills, you should create a good Upwork profile. This profile is so important because it will be the second thing your clients see after you apply for a task. In brief, a good Upwork profile should:

  • Have a good picture of yourself.
  • Be simple and clear in explaining what you do.
  • Explain your academic and professional qualifications.
  • Have a short and professional title.
  • Add power to your profile by having a great introductory video.
  • Add external credentials to your profile.

Portfolio Showcase

In your profile, you should add your portfolio. This includes some of the past work that you have done. For example, if you are an app developer, you should showcase some of the apps you have created. If you are a writer, you should provide links to some of your past work. The same is true for all the other categories.

Job Application

After creating your profile, you should now start applying for tasks that meet your qualifications. To do this, you need to ensure that:

  • Your application describes your best skills.
  • It highlights why you are better than the other applicants.
  • It highlights some of your past work.
  • It has attachments that showcases your past work.
  • You are among the first few people to apply.
  • You have read all the details of the task.


If you are fortunate to get a customer, you should do the best you can to deliver high-quality work. If you are unsure about anything, you should ensure that you ask the customer. Also, you should submit the work on time. If the customer asks for revisions, you should do them as soon as possible.

After completing the work, you should ask the customer to leave you a positive rating and review. Customers will always prefer freelancers with great ratings and reviews.

One More Thing

To succeed as an Upwork freelancer, you must follow the guidelines set by the company. Failure to do this can see your account deleted. Some of the most common violations you must always avoid are:

  • Asking payments off Upwork. While this can help you avoid the exorbitant charges, it can make you lose your account.
  • Failing to perform your contracts. If you do this, customers can complain to Upwork, which can make you lose your account.
  • Upwork does not allow you to share your personal contacts to the customers.
  • Feedback abuse and harassing customers.

How Do I Receive Payment from Upwork?

Upwork offers a number of choices for withdrawing your funds. You can withdraw funds directly to your bank account or use third party vendors such as PayPal, Payoneer and Mpesa in Kenya.

The availability of payment methods varies by country. The payment options available to you will be displayed when you add a payment method.

Upwork Fees

You may be asking yourself, “how does Upwork make money?”

It is free to join and create your profile on Upwork. However, as a freelancer, you are charged a sliding fee based on your lifetime billings with each non-Enterprise client. Service fees are the same whether the contracts are hourly, fixed-price, or projects on Project Catalog. They are as follows.

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

How Upwork fees work: On a $600 project with a new client, your service fee would be 20% on the first $500 and 10% on the remaining $100. Your earnings after fees would be $490.

Sliding fees don’t apply to contracts with Enterprise clients. Upwork Enterprise clients range from fast-growing startups to global Fortune 500 companies. Upwork negotiates individual contracts with these companies on a case by case basis. In general, Enterprise contracts have a flat 10% service fee.

If you are are Top Rated or a Rising Talent hired for “Featured Jobs” you will pay a reduced service fee. Featured Jobs are job posts have been paid for by a motivated client looking to upgrade their job post in order to help it stand out on Upwork.

These are fees associated with fund withdrawal.

  • Direct to U.S. Bank (ACH) – free
  • Direct to Local Bank – $0.99 per transfer
  • U.S. Dollar Wire Transfer – $30 per transfer
  • Instant Pay for U.S. Freelancers – $2.00 per transfer

Is Upwork Legit?

Yes, Upwork is a legitimate online job marketplace. From time to time, there may be scammers on the platform. But the platform itself (the company behind it) is legit and trustworthy. You will get paid after you and the client review the work. Fortunately, Upwork has a dispute process in case you did not get paid for your work.

Upwork Alternative

Other leading online freelancing platforms include:

Final Thoughts

For years, Upwork has built a strong brand that connects freelancers from around the world to businesses and individuals. As a result, many people now make millions of dollars every year as freelancers. By following the above steps, you too can succeed in this.

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Crispus (BSc and MBA) is a finance professional with more than a decade experience as a financial analyst, writer, researcher, and trader. Crispus has written in-depth articles on leading platforms like CCN, Marketwatch, Investing Cube and Seeking Alpha. He also runs a forex education firm. Follow him on Twitter: @crispusnyaga and read more about us.