“Is Upwork legit or a scam freelance marketplace?” That was the exact question I got from a friend who was interested in joining Upwork to get freelance jobs. As a result of that question, I decided to offer an Upwork review to clarify all of the doubts you may have about the platform.
Not just freelancers, even buyers need to know how legit and reliable a freelance marketplace is – so as to avoid any potential wastage of time and money.
Upwork is a popular freelance marketplace and has been around for a very long time. However, you may still not know anything about it.
When Upwork was initially founded, I also didn’t know much about it until after a few years. I first stumbled upon an Upwork ad from AdSense — which, in my opinion, gave it some bit of early endorsement.
Before a company that provides services that involve buying and selling is allowed to advertise with Google AdSense, then it must have beyond reasonable doubt proven its legitimacy.
Okay, let’s assume there was a mix-up somewhere. Maybe Google didn’t properly verify that site — after all, millions of businesses advertise with AdSense.
Then you may need to either find someone who has used Upwork or carryout a research on the website yourself; maybe by investing very little time or money on it so you won’t have to lose too big.
This guide will answer all the questions most new freelancers and buyers have about Upwork — so you won’t have to worry about anything when you decide to or not to do business on Upwork.
Is Upwork Legit or Scam?
Formerly elance-oDesk, it was re-branded to Upwork in 2015. Upwork global inc. is a registered American company with headquarters located in Mountain view, California, USA.
Elance and oDesk trace as far back as 1999, so it’s safe to recognize Upwork as one of the oldest freelance companies in the world. It is a legit freelance marketplace to get jobs and hire freelancers.
However, just like every other freelance marketplaces, it has its lapses. There are over 17 million registered users on Upwork, so it’s always never going to be an easy task managing such a large number of freelancers and buyers.
Upwork allows sellers and buyers to review each other after a job is completed. With those reviews, you can decide whether a freelancer is fit enough to be hired; or as a freelancer, whether you should work with a buyer or not.
There are bad buyers and also bad freelancers on the platform; so you must be extremely careful when hiring freelancers or working with buyers.
How Upwork works
In the process of creating an account with Upwork, you must choose to either be a seller or a buyer, which is unlike Fiverr. So, this will be sectioned into two parts: how Upwork works for freelancers and buyers:
After creating a freelancer account with Upwork, right from your homepage, you begin to see job postings relevant to the category of jobs you chose to offer while creating your profile.
But before you begin applying for jobs, here are a few things you need to take note of about Upwork. So, if you find a platform offering anything different, then it’s not Upwork.
Before your freelancer account is approved, your application would be reviewed; and before it is reviewed, you need to create your profile centered around the services you plan to render.
Currently, Upwork supports the following services:
- Web, Mobile & Software Development
- IT & Networking
- Engineering & Architecture
- Design & Creative Writing
- Customer Service
- Sales & Marketing
- Accounting & Consulting
- Data Science & Analytics
- Admin Support
New freelancers get 30 connects monthly, with which they can apply for jobs. So you don’t have to subscribe to any pro account before you start selling.
When you see a job posting you have interest in, all you need to do is write a good proposal to that buyer.
However, after using up your connects, you may decide to wait till it is replenished or purchase new connects from Upwork.
For buyers (clients)
There are three tiers of buyer accounts:
- Upwork: You get access to all regular freelancers on the platform, you decide how to interview them to know how fit they are to complete your project.
- Upwork pro: Access to pre-vetted freelancers on the platform — highly qualified professionals that require little or no interviewing. You also get assistance with job posting and talent search.
- Upwork enterprise: Access to a team of the best freelancers on Upwork; with end-to-end technology and tools to easily manage them.
After creating a buyer account and funding it, you can begin to post jobs for freelancers to bid on. And once you get a quality freelancer that bids a price you feel comfortable with, you can hire that freelancer for your project.
Upwork is very popular in the US and all over the world. People have been making a living off it by either working as freelancers or getting stuff done on the cheap and growing their businesses.
But like I said earlier, every platform has its pros and cons. Major reason I’ll be offering this Upwork review to help you understand a few things about the platform before choosing to find freelance work on it or hiring freelancers from the platform.
Good for buyers
There are millions of quality freelancers on the platform. However, if you choose to go with the regular Upwork buyer account, then you need to spend so much time interviewing freelancers.
At first, you may find the processes involved in posting jobs, entertaining proposals, interviewing and recruiting freelancers to be stressful. But with time, you will get better at it.
The minute you post a job with a good description and enticing pricing, freelancers will begin to queue up to get that job done for you. All you need to do is read their cover letters, profiles and job histories to have an overview of how good those freelancers are.
Let’s admit it, freelance platforms have helped turn many small businesses into huge ones because of the cheap services you can get from them.
Come to think of it, you can get professional jobs done for just $10. A job that maybe would have cost 10 times more in the outside world.
If you become better at outsourcing, then your business will continue to experience a huge growth.
My advise is, when you get quality freelancers, you need to keep close contacts with them so you won’t have to start afresh whenever you have new jobs in related categories.
Not so good for freelancers
Upwork has a user-friendly interface that’s easy to quickly master even in one day. You have the opportunity to work from home full-time or part-time. So, if you want, you can keep your current day job and use Upwork as a side job.
The amount of money you can make on Upwork has no limits. It’s dependent on how many hours of efforts you are willing to dedicate into the work.
While my review for buyers was a bit all positive, I’m afraid to say, it’s not so positive for freelancers. There are a lot of negative experiences you may likely face as a freelancer at Upwork.
It’s hard to get started:
You have probably heard of freelancers who make up to 6 figures annually. However, getting started is always the hardest part of freelancing anywhere, Upwork inclusive.
When you are new, buyers won’t believe in you because you don’t have any review on your profile. They sometimes won’t even reply to your proposals.
20% fee on sales made:
Upwork takes an outrageous cut of 20% from freelancers earnings, coupled with VAT and withdrawal fees. Consequently, if you complete a job of $100, you may end up only receiving $70 pay.
Low pay rate:
No doubt freelancers are underpaid on all freelance platforms. However, some platforms are worse than others when it comes to how underpaid freelancers are.
Freelancers have to bid for job postings from sellers in order to make sales, this procedure has immensely increased the rate of competition among freelancers for jobs.
As a new freelancer on Upwork, you will be forced to set your pricing at ridiculously cheap rates in order to generate your first sale.
If you live in the US, you may find it extremely difficult competing with freelancers living in countries where the standard of living is relatively lower.
Pay after service:
I find a direct rival company, Fiverr, to be better at the way payments for jobs are handled. There, it’s pay before services. Although they put a freeze on funds for 2 weeks so as to resolve any potential disputes.
But on Upwork, a freelancer will commence and complete a job before demanding for payments. Many freelancers have complained of issues like buyers changing their minds on certain projects, which may result to a disappointing waste of the freelancer’s time. You may have to start submitting tickets to support to resolve such issues, which can be seriously time wasting.
Upwork is legit, but you have to be careful
I told you earlier that Upwork is a registered American company and a legit freelance marketplace. However, you must play your part by being extremely careful with the way you exchange information and do business on the platform.
On every platform, you will always find people with evil intentions. People with plans to siphon money or sensitive information from unsuspecting victims.
Some people may try to trick you into doing business with them outside the platform. This act is not only prohibited on Upwork, it also puts you at risk of losing money or not getting paid for jobs.
Upwork only comes in to settle disputes that resulted from transactions carried out on the platform.
Avoiding scam freelancers
- Check for quality of profile, reviews and positive feedback
Since you’re not seeing the seller you’re dealing with, the only way a freelancer’s astuteness can be verified is through the profile. In most cases, the profile says it all.
If you’re not certain about the information you see on the profile, then just go ahead and check for job experience. How many jobs has that freelancer completed? How many positive feedback and ratings did those jobs attract?
If you have a large project, you may go as far as having sessions of video calls with that client. You can connect with sellers on their social profiles, just to make sure they are real and not people involved in identity theft.
- Always provide a good job description and requirements
You don’t want to give any freelancer an excuse for not getting your job done properly. So you need to provide them with proper instructions.
When settling disputes with a freelancer, the support team may request for adequate proofs that you actually provided that freelancer with all the instructions needed.
- Watch out for plagiarists and copyright violators
Plagiarists and copyright violators can be found on all freelance website. I have a blogger friend who once complained about hiring a freelance writer to write 10 blog posts, only to realize later that the freelancer had used an article spinning software to rewrite other people’s blog posts.
Not just blog posts, copyrighted logo designs, graphic works, etc. may be delivered to buyers. So you must be extremely careful about some suspiciously cheap offerings.
Always make sure you cross-check for originality after a job is delivered. For blog posts, it’s quite easy to check for originality using copyscape.
- Treat sensitive information with care
If you intend to hire a freelancer to work sensitive platforms, like: Amazon account, website, Google Analytics, etc., you may need to provide your account details to that freelancer.
Besides the fact that you need to check that freelancer’s reliable and work history, you need to be extremely careful with the way you grant access to freelancers for any sensitive platform.
Create a temporary password for your account and as soon as the job is completed, quickly change that password. Also, make sure to crosscheck important account details.
Avoiding scam clients
- Check for verified payment method, ratings and amount spent
Before applying to work for any client, the first thing you must do is check if that buyer has a verified payment method. And if so, are there positive ratings?
This is not a perfect method, as there may be new clients trying to hire freelancers for the first time. However, I’d prefer not to be the lab rat; how about you? If you don’t have a problem with that, you can read the clients profile to clarify any doubts you may have.
The reason I prefer to see ratings and feedback on a buyer’s profile is that, you can almost detect a bad buyer from freelancers’ reviews. When you see a lot of bad reviews on a particular client, it’s an indication for you to stay clear; except you are willing to take your chances.
Also, if you intend to bill a client on an hourly rate, then it has to be a client with a verified billing method.
- Don’t agree to jobs outside Upwork
Some clients may try to cajole you into working with them outside Upwork. You must never do that. Because if you do, then you will lose the payment protection you get from Upwork. You may end up not getting paid for jobs completed.
Some clients may even request for free samples in order to prove your worth. Don’t agree to that. That’s a strategy many corrupt clients use in getting free jobs from freelancers.
- Report suspicious activities to support
Whenever you observe suspicious moves by a client, always make sure to submit a ticket to support ASAP. This way, you’ll be able to tackle problems quickly.
- Rate down bad clients
Upwork allows both freelancers and buyers to review each other. Make use of this rating system without sentiments. Whenever you get a good experience from a buyer, you must help other freelancers know about it. Also, when you find a bad client, you need to rate them down; so as to avoid other freelancers falling victims.
Check this out: 10 sites like Upwork to hire freelancers or get freelance jobs.