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What Is Upwork and How Does It Work?

Upwork is an online platform that connects freelancers with clients and businesses who need their services. As a freelancer myself, Upwork can be a significant part of your career growth. It provides access to a wide range of clients from all over the world and can help you build your portfolio and earn a steady income.

Upwork was founded in 2015 as a merger between two online job platforms, Elance and oDesk. Since then, it has grown to become one of the largest freelance marketplaces, with more than 2.5 million registered freelancers from around 180 countries.

For freelancers like myself, Upwork is a game-changer. It provides access to clients from all over the world, and it's easy to use. It also offers a secure payment system that ensures that freelancers are paid for their work.

Getting Started on Upwork

If you're new to Upwork, getting started is easy. Here are the steps to follow:

An Overview of My Upwork Profile
An Overview of My Upwork Profile

Signing up on Upwork:

The first step is to create an account on Upwork. You will be required to provide basic personal information such as your name, email address, and password. Not that for you to be approved, you will need a professional email like So personal emails like or won't work here.

Profile creation and optimization:

Your profile is your online portfolio and should showcase your skills and experience. Ensure that your profile is optimized by including a professional profile photo, a compelling summary, and relevant samples of your work. Remember, the more professional your profile looks, the better chance you stand at getting offered work on Upwork.

Verification process:

Upwork has a strict verification process to ensure the safety and security of its users. As a freelancer, you will be required to verify your identity, location, and payment method. A government-approved ID and documents that verify your location are required here. Upwork may also ask for your professional experience and educational background.

Understanding Upwork terms of service and policies:

Before you start working on Upwork, it is important to understand the terms of service and policies. These policies cover everything from payment methods to dispute resolution and are designed to protect both clients and freelancers. You can read about Upwork's terms and conditions here.

Once you have completed these steps, you're ready to start bidding on projects and building your client base.

Upwork Basics

Upwork Statistics in Numbers
Upwork Statistics in Numbers

Here are the basics you need to know to apply for your first work and get started:

How Upwork works:

Clients post job opportunities on Upwork, and freelancers submit proposals outlining their skills and qualifications. A freelancer must have "connects" to be able to apply for a job. Jobs may cost between 1 - 6 connects, depending on how lucrative the work is. Additional connects can be purchased to apply for more jobs, and can expire when not used.

After a freelancer submits a proposal to a client, the client then reviews proposals, interviews the freelancer if they qualify, and hires the freelancer based on their suitability for the job.

Clients can invite freelancers to a job they have created. This happens when they have had a history of quality work from certain freelancers. In this case, a freelancer can choose to accept or decline the invite.

Types of jobs available on Upwork:

In 2022 alone, Upwork recorded 1.3 million projects from 90 work categories. This means that there is plenty of work for everyone. There are various types of jobs available on Upwork, ranging from web development and graphic design to writing and translation services. Some of the most popular categories on Upwork include:

Upwork in numbers
Upwork Statistics for 2022

  • Web development: This category includes jobs related to web design, coding, and programming.

  • Writing and translation: This category includes jobs related to writing, editing, proofreading, and translation services.

  • Graphic design: This category includes jobs related to designing logos, websites, advertisements, and other graphic design work.

  • Virtual assistance: This category includes jobs related to administrative support, customer service, and data entry.

  • Marketing and sales: This category includes jobs related to digital marketing, social media management, and sales.

How to search for jobs on Upwork:

Use Upwork's search function to find jobs that match your skills and expertise. This option is located at the top left corner of your screen, close to the Upwork logo. You can filter results by category, job type, location, experience, and budget. Additionally, you can save job searches to receive email notifications when new jobs that match your search criteria are posted.

Understanding Upwork's bidding system:

To apply for a job, you will need to submit a proposal outlining your skills, experience, and qualifications. Clients review proposals and hire the freelancer who is the best fit for the job. Upwork's bidding system allows freelancers to set their own rates and bid for projects that match their skills and expertise.

A freelancer may choose to be paid either by completing a milestone or after the project has been completed; you can also set the duration you want the project to take; but bear in mind that the faster you can complete a project without sacrificing quality, the better reviews you will get from clients. This can lead to future opportunities for hiring.

Creating and submitting a proposal on Upwork:

When creating a proposal, it's important to address the client's needs and show how your skills and experience make you the best candidate for the job. A good rule of thumb is to reiterate the need of the client in your proposal to show that you understand what is required for the job.

For example, if a client's job description is titled: "We are in search of a writer in the pet niche", you can start your proposal like this: "I see that you are in search of a writer in the pet niche..."

This can be determining factor in getting the job at the end of the day.

Your proposal should also include your rate, estimated timeline, and any relevant work samples.

As a beginner, it's important to be patient and persistent when searching for jobs on Upwork. At first, Upwork may be a numbers game, as you may need to apply for as many jobs as possible. It may take some time to build your reputation and win your first job, but with persistence and quality work, you can quickly establish yourself as a successful freelancer on Upwork.

Making Money on Upwork

Upwork can be a great platform for freelancers to earn money, but it does require effort and dedication. So many times I hear this question: "can you make money on Upwork?" My answer has always been the same: yes, you can make money on Upwork. However, success on the platform depends on various factors such as your skills, experience, and how well you present yourself to potential clients.

Upwork can be a good platform for beginners, but it may take some time to get established and build a reputation. Beginners may need to start with smaller projects and work their way up to larger, more lucrative ones. It is important to take the time to learn about the platform and best practices for success.

Beginners can make money on Upwork by starting with smaller projects and building up their reputation and client base. They can also consider taking skills tests to showcase their expertise and increase their visibility on the platform.

Some of the most needed jobs on Upwork can vary depending on current trends and demands. However, some consistently in-demand jobs include web development, content writing, graphic design, and virtual assistance.

How much can a beginner earn from Upwork?

Earnings on Upwork can vary significantly depending on a variety of factors such as skills, experience, and the type of job being performed. Some beginners may start with smaller projects that pay $5-$10 per hour, while more experienced freelancers can earn $50 or more per hour.

What can I sell on Upwork?

Upwork offers a wide range of job categories, including programming, design, writing, administrative support, customer service, and more. Freelancers can sell any skills that fall within these categories, but it is important to ensure that their services align with Upwork's policies and terms of service.

What skills do I need for freelancing?

The skills needed for freelancing can vary depending on the type of work being performed. However, some common skills that can be valuable for freelancers include communication, time management, self-motivation, problem-solving, and technical expertise in a particular area. It is important for freelancers to continually develop their skills and stay up-to-date with industry trends and best practices.

Upwork Payments

Upwork provides a secure payment system for freelancers and clients to ensure smooth transactions. Here are some key things to know about Upwork payments:

Upwork provides a reliable payment system that ensures both clients receive the quality work they are paid for and freelancers get paid for the work they have done. Below is an in-depth explanation of how Upwork payments work.

Payment Types

There are four payment types on Upwork: hourly, fixed-price, Project Catalog, and bonus. The availability of earnings depends on the payment type.

Hourly Contracts:

Hourly contracts are based on a weekly billing cycle that ends on Sunday. Funds become available for withdrawal 10 days later (the following Wednesday). However, some contracts are eligible for faster payments.

Fixed-Price Contracts:

Fixed-price contracts are based on milestones. Once a milestone is approved by the client, funds become available for withdrawal after a five-day security period.

Project Catalog Contracts:

Project Catalog contracts are based on project approval. Once the client approves the project, funds become available for withdrawal after a five-day security period.

Bonus Payments:

Bonus payments become available after the client's payment is processed successfully, and the five-day security period has passed.

Adding a Payment Method

To access earnings, freelancers must add a payment method and set their tax status. Upwork offers various payment methods, including Direct to U.S. Bank (ACH), Direct to Local Bank (outside of the U.S.), the U.S. Dollar Wire Transfer, and Instant Pay for U.S freelancers.

Upwork also works with third-party payment vendors such as PayPal, Payoneer (outside the U.S.), and M-Pesa (Kenyan residents only). The availability of payment methods may vary by country, and some banks may charge additional incoming fees.

When adding a payment method, freelancers must ensure that their account details and numbers are accurate. It's also advisable to set up a backup payment method in case the primary one is unavailable for any reason. Freelancers can add multiple payment methods and make changes as needed.

Automatic Payment Schedules

Freelancers can set up an automatic payment schedule to receive payment without having to request a withdrawal each time. They can do this by setting up a payment method and choosing their payment schedule. Upwork will then disburse the available balance to the preferred payment method automatically according to the chosen schedule. Freelancers can still withdraw their available funds manually at any time.

Withdrawing Earnings Manually

Freelancers can withdraw their available balance anytime by selecting the "Get Paid Now" option. They need to go to Settings › Get Paid, choose the Get Paid Now button, select the amount to withdraw, and then choose ›Get Paid Now.

Editing Payment Information

Freelancers can edit payment information by going to Settings › Get Paid, finding the payment method they want to edit, choosing Edit from the (...) options menu, editing the information, and selecting Save Changes.

However, certain information within a payment method such as email addresses, bank account numbers, and bank codes cannot be edited. If these details change, freelancers must add a new payment method, which will be subject to the same three-day waiting period that applied to the first payment selection.

To remove a payment method, freelancers need to go to their Upwork account's Settings, select "Get Paid," find the payment method they want to remove and click on the "Remove" option from the (...) options menu. They must confirm that they want to remove the payment method by clicking "Yes."

Once the payment method is removed, it will no longer be available for receiving payments. However, if there are any pending payments associated with the removed payment method, freelancers must add a new payment method to receive those funds.

It's a good idea to regularly review and manage payment methods to ensure that they're up-to-date and accurate.

Upwork Success Strategies

Upwork can be a highly competitive platform, and it may be challenging for new freelancers to get hired right away. However, with the right strategies and approach, it is possible to succeed on Upwork. Here are some tips to help you succeed:

1. Build a Strong Profile

Your profile is your selling point on Upwork, and it's important to create a strong one. Include a professional profile picture, write a clear and concise profile headline and overview, and showcase your skills and experience. Don't forget to include relevant keywords to make your profile more searchable.

An overview of my freelancer profile on Upwork
An overview of my freelancer profile on Upwork

2. Tailor Your Proposal

When submitting a proposal, make sure to read the job description carefully and tailor your proposal accordingly. Address the client's specific needs and explain how your skills and experience make you the best candidate for the job. Use a professional and friendly tone and avoid copy-pasting generic proposals.

3. Be Competitive with Your Rates

If you are a new freelancer, it's essential to be competitive with your rates, but also make sure you are not undervaluing your work. Research the average rates for the type of job you're applying for and set your rates accordingly. As you gain more experience and positive reviews, you can increase your rates.

4. Apply for Relevant Jobs

Don't waste your time applying for jobs that are not relevant to your skills and experience. Focus on applying for jobs that are a good match for your expertise, and where you can showcase your best work.

5. Communicate Effectively with Clients

Effective communication is crucial to succeed on Upwork. Make sure to respond promptly to messages and provide regular updates on your progress. Be clear about your expectations, deadlines, and any potential issues that may arise.

6. Build a Strong Portfolio

Having a strong portfolio can help you stand out from other freelancers and showcase your skills and experience. Include your best work and highlight the projects that are most relevant to the jobs you're applying for.

7. Be Professional

Maintain a professional attitude throughout the hiring process, from submitting your proposal to delivering the final product. Be polite, responsive, and respectful to clients, even if the job doesn't work out. Positive reviews and feedback can lead to more job opportunities in the future.

8. Avoid Scams

Unfortunately, there are scammers on Upwork, and it's essential to be cautious. Don't work for clients who ask you to work outside of the platform, pay upfront, or offer payment that seems too good to be true. Use the Upwork escrow system to ensure payment is secure.

9. Remain Persistent

It may take time to get hired on Upwork, but don't give up. Keep submitting proposals and improving your profile and skills. Remember, persistence pays off, and success on Upwork is possible with dedication and hard work.

Wrapping things up

In conclusion, Upwork is a powerful platform for freelancers looking to build a successful career. It offers a wide range of job opportunities, flexible working hours, and the chance to work with clients from all over the world.

While it may take some time and effort to get started, by following the tips and strategies outlined in this guide, you can increase your chances of success on Upwork. Whether you're a seasoned freelancer or just starting out, Upwork provides a unique opportunity to build your skills, expand your portfolio, and earn a comfortable living from the comfort of your own home. So why not sign up today and start exploring all that Upwork has to offer?


Upwork FAQs

Can people from any country use Upwork?

Yes, people from any country can use Upwork. However, countries like

Iran, North Korea, Syria, Crimea, Ukraine, Cuba may have restrictions, which may affect their ability to use the platform.

How do I start Upwork with no experience?

Starting on Upwork with no experience can be challenging, but it's not impossible. You can start by creating a professional profile, showcasing your skills and expertise, and taking skills tests to demonstrate your knowledge. You can also apply for jobs that require less experience and build your portfolio from there.

What is the difference between Upwork and Fiverr?

Upwork and Fiverr are both freelancing platforms, but they have some key differences. Upwork offers a wide range of projects, from short-term to long-term, and clients can hire freelancers for hourly or fixed-price projects. Fiverr, on the other hand, is more focused on fixed-price projects, and it offers a more streamlined process for hiring freelancers for specific tasks or services.

Can I work on Upwork without verification?

Upwork requires all users to verify their identity and complete the verification process before they can start working on the platform.

Can I work on Upwork without a payment method?

At the moment, Upwork requires all users to have a verified payment method on file in order to receive payments from clients.

What is not allowed on Upwork?

Upwork has a list of prohibited activities, which includes anything that is illegal, fraudulent, or violates their terms of service. This includes things like spamming, plagiarism, and misrepresenting yourself or your skills.

How can I open a verified Upwork account?

To open a verified Upwork account, you need to provide your personal information, including your full name, address, and government-issued ID. You also need to provide a payment method and complete the verification process.

Does Upwork track your screen?

Yes, Upwork has a feature called the Work Diary, which allows clients to track the hours worked by freelancers. The Work Diary records screenshots of the freelancer's computer screen at regular intervals to ensure that the freelancer is working on the project.

How to calculate work hours in Upwork?

The work hours in Upwork are calculated based on the time that the freelancer logs in and out of the Work Diary. The Work Diary records the hours worked by the freelancer and takes into account any breaks or pauses that the freelancer takes during the project.

How do I submit work hours on Upwork?

To submit work hours on Upwork, the freelancer needs to log in and out of the Work Diary using the Upwork Desktop App. The app records the hours worked by the freelancer and submits them to the client for review and payment.

Does Upwork work on weekends?

Yes, Upwork works on weekends. Freelancers can work on projects and submit their work hours on Upwork at any time, including weekends.

How do I send hourly pay on Upwork?

Hourly pay on Upwork is sent automatically once the client approves the hours worked by the freelancer. Upwork charges a fee for processing payments, which is deducted from the freelancer's earnings.

How do I know if my Upwork proposal is accepted?

You will receive a notification from Upwork if your proposal is accepted by the client. You can also check the status of your proposals in your Upwork account.

How long does Upwork project approval take?

The approval time for Upwork projects can vary depending on the client and the type of project. Some clients may approve projects quickly, while others may take longer to review and approve the work.

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