How does Upwork Work in 2023: Ultimate Beginners Guide

by Timothy Ronaldson


The gig economy is alive and well, in many different ways.

More and more people today are going the route of freelancing to either make extra money or fund their entire income.

One of the most popular sites for doing so is Upwork. If you’re new to the platform, you might be wondering how does Upwork work — or even what is Upwork.

Below, we’ll explain everything you need to know about Upwork and whether it’s worth trying out.

What is Upwork?


Upwork is an online platform that seeks to connect freelancers with people and businesses that need jobs completed.

Most of the jobs that are listed on the site are for temporary work or “one-off” jobs (a great way to make money in college without a job), though there are some gigs that can turn into long-term work.

It’s free to create an Upwork profile so you can begin freelancing and start your business today with no money.

The platform looks very similar to a job board, allowing freelancers to apply directly to the jobs that are listed on the site.

Tactic for Success

There are many categories you’ll find when you learn how to work with Upwork, which is one reason why the platform is attractive to work on. But, before you sign up and throw all your eggs in this basket, do a search for how many jobs are available in the categories you want. If there aren’t enough jobs, you may not be able to find sufficient work.

Clients who post jobs are able to make decisions on who to hire, and can communicate directly on the platform.

One of the biggest benefits to the platform is that all work can be submitted through it, and payment can be handled right on the site.

This removes some of the hesitation of freelancers working with clients they don’t know, and vice versa.

Upwork has many different categories for jobs, including:

  • Writing – This ranges from web content writing to digital ads to YouTube scripts
  • IT – Networking jobs or programming are included in here
  • Design – Jobs include paintings, drawings, digital sketches and web design
  • Translation – You can translate written or oral text

Trend on the Rise

Looking for high-paying jobs on Upwork? If you have IT skills, machine learning jobs could be very profitable. They typically pay anywhere from $80 to $125 per hour.

Is Upwork good for beginners?

Upwork has a lot of great jobs listed for beginners. In fact, every job posting includes a category of worker the client is looking for — either beginner, intermediate or expert.

Jobs looking for experts typically pay the best, while jobs for beginners pay the least. This makes it possible to make money on Upwork without skills.

That being said, there are still plenty of jobs for beginners that pay a decent wage.

And, as you do more jobs and become more experienced, you can start charging some more for your work.

One of the potential downsides to Upwork is that there are a lot of freelancers on the platform. As such, new users often have a tougher time finding jobs — at least at first.

That’s because they don’t have any logged work experience or reviews from past clients on the site. This can look suspicious to clients who want to hire freelancers.

As a result, you may need to take some lower-paying jobs at first to get the experience and build your reputation on the platform.

Once you’re able to land these jobs and complete them well, though, you can start to apply for jobs that are more your speed.

Even when a job is low-paying, you at least get to enjoy all the benefits of working from home.

Trend on the Rise

Upwork has 145,400 core active clients that spend $5,000 per year at least on the platform. That’s a lot of major clients that have a lot of jobs. If you’re working in one of the categories that are active on the platform, and you have the skills and experience, you can easily find jobs that would be good for you.

Does Upwork charge a fee?

Upwork has to make money somehow, and they do so by charging a fee — on both the freelancers on the marketplace and the clients who post jobs there.

For clients posting jobs, Upwork takes a 5% flat fee on every transaction for every client, whether they are hiring a virtual assistant or an expert web designer.

This fee is charged every time a client processes a payment to a freelancer. Eligible clients in the United States who pay using a checking account qualify for this fee to be reduced to 3%.

It’s worth highlighting, fees are actually lower when comparing Upwork vs Fiverr, a great benefit with Upwork.

The Fee for Freelancers

The fee charged on freelancers is a little more complicated.

The fee is percentage-based, and it operates on a sliding scale based on how much the freelancer has earned per contract, per client.

For the first $499 earned with a specific client, Upwork takes a 20% fee from the money the freelancer earns.

For $500 through $9,999, Upwork takes a 10% fee. That fee drops to 5% once a freelancer has earned $10,000 or more with one client.

Keep in mind that this fee is on a per-client basis.

So, if you’ve earned $550 with one client and $200 with another, you’ll be charged a 10% fee on all earnings with the first client and 20% on the second one.

This can seem like a lot, so is it worth working on Upwork?


Tactic for Success

It can sometimes be hard to stand out from the crowd as a freelancer on Upwork. One of the keys to separating yourself from others is to take the time to build a solid profile, including any links to examples of previous work. Also, take the time to write intriguing and well-written proposals to each client you wish to land.

How does Upwork payment work?

Upwork’s payment platform is pretty solid.

It works in two ways — either you log your hours worked through the built-in time tracker, or you submit your work on a project basis (known as fixed-price).

For hourly logs, weeks run from Monday through Sunday.

Clients have two days after that point to review your hours logged, and pay for the work based on the agreed-upon hourly rate.

You will then be released that money seven days later.

For fixed-price contracts, your money goes in escrow after your client approves the project on the platform. It gets released to you five days after this time.

Once your money is available, you can withdrawal it via:

  • ACH – This option is free and will send the money directly to your bank
  • Direct to Bank (outside U.S.) – Money is sent directly to your bank, with a $0.99 fee
  • Wire Transfer – You can wire the money to an account, but it costs $30 per transfer
  • Instant Pay – You can opt to have the money paid instantly for $2 per transaction

Can you make money on Upwork?


The quick and straightforward answer is yes, you can make money on Upwork. But, how much you make can vary greatly.

There are 12 million people who are registered as a freelancer on the platform, though not all of them are active or make a ton of money on the platform, obviously.

If you want to take freelancing seriously, Upwork is a good platform for you. In 2020, the average U.S. freelancer made $20 per hour, which is a fairly solid rate.

One of the biggest challenges to freelancing is finding legitimate work that pays well.

Beyond that, once you’ve found that work, freelancers often have to worry about things such as payment processing and job protection.

In other words, it can be very easy for clients to take advantage of freelancers and not pay them for their work.

This is the biggest benefit of Upwork.

They provide protection for freelancers in the form of escrow payments from clients and a formal dispute system in case there’s ever a question about what you are owed, or if a client tries not to pay.

Is it worth working on Upwork?

If you want to try freelancing on at least a relatively serious basis, then Upwork is definitely worth trying.

The marketplace has a ton of jobs in many categories, and is a legitimate company.

While they do charge pretty high fees for freelancers, the good news is that it’s free to join and free to apply for jobs — for the most part.

The fees are only taken out of your earnings, so you never pay for the services Upwork provides until you’re paid for your work.

Freelancers would be hard-pressed to find a similar site with as much as Upwork does.

Wrapping Up

Whether you’re interested in making extra money on the side freelancing or making freelancing a full-time job, Upwork is definitely a platform you should check out.

There are millions of active users who utilize the platform for this purpose, and you should, too.

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Tim is a classically-trained journalist who loves to share knowledge and information with others. In the past, he has worked in TV, online and print media, and currently works with companies to help design, create and strategize their messaging.

About the Author

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Tim is a classically-trained journalist who loves to share knowledge and information with others. In the past, he has worked in TV, online and print media, and currently works with companies to help design, create and strategize their messaging.