What: Upwork finds jobs for writers, web and mobile developers, designers, virtual assistants, customer service agents, project managers, sales and marketing professionals, accountants and consultants.

Expected pay: widely variable

Husl $core: $$

Commissions & Fees: 20%

Where: National and international

Requirements: depend on the job sought


If you click through the Upwork site, you’re going to see “top” freelancers apparently earning great wages — from $30 to $150 per hour. But if you look at freelancer reviews on Glassdoor, SiteJabber or Indeed, you’ll see a drastically different picture.

Freelancers say that Upwork connects you with employers that offer marginal pay for long hours of work. And the site’s workers are reluctant to turn down even low-paying jobs for fear of getting poor ratings. Worse, you have to pay to apply to jobs and pay a steep commission on any work you secure through the site. 

Fees & Commissions

The site imposes graduated commissions on freelancers who find work here. Upwork charges a 20% commission on the first $500 freelancers earn working for any given client. If that same client pays you between $501 and $9,999, you’ll pay a lower 10% commission on that revenue. Once that same client pays you more than $10,000, Upwork’s commission drops to 5%.

However, the graduated commission starts over with each new client. So, unless you’re only working for long-time clients, you’ll be paying a good portion of your wages to Upwork for the connection. 

Connection fees

Moreover, the site requires you to have “connects” to apply for any job. You get a certain number of “connects” for free. After that, you have to pay 15 cents to buy them. Since you need several of these credits to apply for any job listed on the site,  the 10 monthly connects you get with Upwork’s free membership wont get you very far. You can pay $15 for an upgraded membership that gets you 80 connects a month. 

What you get for all those fees

Of course, if Upwork provided access to great jobs that you couldn’t find anywhere else, you might shrug off the multitude of fees. But that doesn’t appear to be the case. Testing the site for writing jobs, we found the same content mills, paying pennies per word, that you can find almost anywhere.

The site also pits freelancers against each other to “bid” on projects. What that does is drive rates down to ridiculously low levels. Unless you got your start years ago, when the platform had fewer freelancers, we think there are better options.

Better sites to consider: WorkingNotWorking, FreeeUp, Catalant and BrainTrust

What their freelancers say: (from Indeed)

“This site has saved me during this pandemic but there are a ton of people here underselling each other. And 20% off the top is a tough pill to swallow.”

“Don’t even try. New members are at an extreme disadvantage because Upwork encourages hiring those with the most time on Upwork. They CHARGE YOU to apply for each job. When you do apply, you are one of 100 or more applications. Many jobs (even those listed as “US worker only” are at offshore rates.”
“My experience with Upwork was great so far. I started with quite law rate and slowly increased it within 2 years. I believe that everyone can find a job there.”
“I started here when Upwork was called Odesk and my first job was for $5. I have built up such a large clientele that I don’t need to work outside the home. And I love every job and client I have!”
Upwork is okay for picking up an occasional gig, but the volume of subpar clients and the 20% cut (!!!) the platform takes from vendor payouts should discourage regular use unless you’re just starting out.

“The clients are often difficult, flakey, and cheap. Upwork uses arbitrary practices to bully their freelancers into submission.”

*Updated 1/4/2021