If you’re starting out as a freelancer, you’re probably wondering if Upwork is legit, safe AND a good place to set up shop. After all, it’s consistently touted as one of the best freelancer platforms around.
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Indeed, Upwork has been around since 2013, making it one of the oldest freelancing platforms available. And it certainly has established market dominance in that time, with millions of freelancers vying for the attention of over 750,000 clients.
But is Upwork going to make your freelancing dreams come true? Or is it a platform best left alone?
Here’s what you should know about Upwork in 2023.
TL;DR: Upwork is safe and legit, but there are scammers operating on the platform. Therefore, you must follow its safety guidelines and refuse a job if something seems “off.” Upwork also charges a lot to use its platform, and while this is perfectly legit, many people feel it is “scammy” behavior.
Is Upwork a Legit Freelance Hiring Platform?
Upwork is 100% a legit platform and, within two decades, has become the leading platform for finding freelancers.
Upwork is trusted by leading global brands such as Microsoft, Airbnb, and Bissell and consistently receives good reviews across all platforms, including Glassdoor, TrustPilot, and Indeed.
But, while Upwork is a fully legit website, the people who use it are sometimes not. In other words, despite having a fairly decent vetting process and safety measures in place, Upwork cannot guarantee that you won’t encounter the odd scammer here and there.
Additionally, Upwork has been increasingly thrown into the spotlight for how much it charges freelancers to use the platform, and this often throws up the question of whether or not the platform is a scam.
Why Upwork Could be Considered a Scam
Okay, so every job posting site in existence needs to monetize itself in some way or another. In most circumstances, you either pay a subscription fee to use the site, or the site takes a cut of your earnings.
Upwork takes a cut of what each freelancer earns. For new users, this is a whopping 20% but drops down to 5% after you’ve earned over $10,000.
Not only that, but Upwork has something called “Connects.” This is the platform’s virtual currency that you use to bid on jobs to increase your chances of being seen.
You get a number of free Connects each month, but these are limited and don’t last long especially considering you need to bid up to six Connects per job listing. You can purchase further Connects at $0.15 each or buy bundles of them.
You don’t have to use Connects to bid for jobs, but your application will soon drop to the bottom of the pile as each job posting on Upwork has tonnes of applicants.
Keep in mind that even if you use connects to bid for a job, it doesn’t guarantee you will get the job or that you’ll even get a response. Success on Upwork typically requires multiple job applications a day which can soon add up if you’re using Connects each time.
Ultimately, not only do you have to pay to apply for each job on Upwork (to stand a chance), but you also have to give a cut of your earnings to the platform. And this is before you’ve even paid your taxes!
So you can see that while Upwork is a legit platform, many people feel that its practices are unfair.
Is Upwork Safe to Use?
Upwork is safe to use as long as you follow its user guidelines. The platform takes security seriously and offers resources about how you can stay safe while using its platform.
While Upwork itself is safe, the people that use it may not be, and unfortunately, the platform has its fair share of scammers waiting for their chance to take advantage.
These scammers operate in a number of ways:
- Fake jobs will be posted with the objective of stealing your personal data. They do this by claiming they require certain information from you before they will consider you for the role
- Real jobs will be posted, but the scammer will disappear once you have completed the work, and you’ll be left without payment
- Scammers can also convince you that you need to purchase something before you can do the job for them (software or training course, for example)
- Lastly, a scammer can send you a link for a job or piece of work that contains a malicious link
How to Avoid Being Scammed on Upwork
You can avoid scams on Upwork by ensuring you stick to and follow these tips:
- Research a client before applying for a role. This can be done either via their Upwork profile (read the reviews), or you can search for the company online
- Never provide any of your personal information, no matter how relevant it may seem for the role.
- Do not click on any links sent by the client. They should instead provide document attachments that detail the job.
- Never ever move anything outside of the Upwork platform. This includes the delivery of any work and receiving payments. If a client tries to do this, you must report them to Upwork.
- Do not pay for anything in order to complete the job. If the client is legit, they will provide all resources and training materials for free.
- Never create or provide free samples of work. If a client requests this, they are likely doing it to multiple other freelancers and getting a tonne of work for free.
- Avoid “pay to work” opportunities at all costs. In no world should you ever have to pay to do a job.
Is Upwork Worth It?
If you are new to the platform, Upwork is notoriously difficult to gain a foothold on. The competition is fierce, and most clients favor established users who have many reviews on their profiles. It’s not uncommon for you to apply for 50+ jobs before getting a reply or an interview.
Additionally, Upwork is not the place where your work is valued highly. Thanks again to the sheer number of competing freelancers, people frequently drop their rates to stand a better chance of being selected. Therefore, it becomes a race to the bottom, and clients come to expect a bargain.
If you’re determined, Upwork can be lucrative, but you need to be prepared to put in a lot of grunt work to get there. Additionally, you’ll likely have to charge less than you want or take up badly paid gigs until you’ve got a few reviews under your belt.
Upwork Alternatives to Consider
Upwork isn’t the only platform out there for freelancers. And as it becomes harder and more expensive to establish yourself there, other websites are gaining in popularity.
If you feel that Upwork isn’t the best option for you, check out the following:
- Fiverr: If you don’t want to hustle to get jobs, Fiverr is for you. Post your services and let customers find you. You can charge what you like, but Fiverr will take 20%.
- Toptal: If you’re very experienced in your field of work, then Toptal is a great choice. Because it is specifically for top talent, you can charge what you’re worth. The platform will take 20% of your earnings.
- Freelancer.com: Clients post jobs, and freelancers apply or compete for jobs. It can be very lucrative, but you may end up doing work for nothing. Freelancer takes 10% of your earnings.
Want more options? Check out my full article on the best Upwork competitor sites.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Upwork?
Upwork has been around since 2013, making it one of the oldest freelancing platforms available. And it certainly has established market dominance in that time, with millions of freelancers vying for the attention of over 750,000 clients.
Should I trust Upwork?
Upwork is a legit and long-running platform and can be trusted. While Upwork takes plenty of measures to keep you safe, the platform is still used by scammers. Therefore, you must follow the platform’s safety guidelines to ensure you don’t fall victim to a scam.
Is Upwork a fake website?
Upwork is a genuine website that is trusted by millions of freelancers and clients.
Are all jobs on Upwork legit?
Not all jobs on Upwork are legit. If you cannot find any information about the client on Upwork or elsewhere on the web, you should be suspicious. Additionally, if the client asks you to do business off the Upwork platform or for any money upfront, you should decline and report the client to Upwork.
How do I not get scammed on Upwork?
To stay safe on Upwork, you must stick to its safety guidelines and perform all client relations on the Upwork platform. Never pay anything to do a job, never disclose your personal information, and go with your gut. If something seems “off,” it probably is.
Is paying on Upwork safe?
Upwork has payment protection measures in place to ensure you get paid for the work you do. In most cases, the funds are taken from the client and placed into escrow until you complete the work. After you have fulfilled your obligations, payment will be released to you.
Bear in mind that if the client asks to pay you outside the Upwork platform, Upwork cannot protect you. So, if the client requests this, you must refuse and report them.
Are there fake clients on Upwork?
Fake clients do operate on Upwork, so you must be aware and vigilant. Fake clients won’t have any company information available, nor will they have any reviews on their Upwork profile.
Fake clients are looking to get free work, money, or your personal information. If any of these things are requested, you must refuse and report the client to Upwork.
Can you make money on Upwork?
You can make money on Upwork, but it can be very tough if you are new to the platform. To initially get jobs, you may have to charge less than you want or take poorly paid jobs until you have some reviews and have built up credibility on the platform.
Is Upwork any good for beginners?
Upwork is not a good place to start if you are a beginner in what you do. Competition on the platform is fierce, and experienced and established freelancers will always be selected over newcomers.
It is best to build up a portfolio of examples of your work before joining Upwork so you can demonstrate your skill.
Is working for Upwork worth it?
Upwork can be worth it once you have managed to get a few jobs and reviews under your belt. Once you have earned over $10,000, Upwork’s fee drops to 5%, and this is the point it becomes lucrative. However, it can be a long, hard slog to get to this point.
How much does Upwork take from your pay?
Upwork takes the following from your pay:
Client earnings: $0-$500 = 20% service fee
Client earnings: $500.01-$10,000 = 10% service fee
Client earnings: $10,000.01+ = 5% service fee
Summary- Is Upwork Legit and Safe to Use?
There’s no doubt that Upwork is a genuine and safe platform. But the people that use it may not be. Therefore, you must remain vigilant and follow the safety guidelines in this article and from Upwork.
While Upwork is genuine, getting established on the platform is difficult and may cost you money to do so, especially if you are inexperienced in your field of work. However, if you do gain a foothold, it can become a decent money earner.
If you want to try out Upwork, you can sign up for free here. If it sounds like it’s not for you, why not try one of the many other freelancer sites like Fiverr available instead?