Whether you’re doing a full career change, or seeking casual jobs to earn some money, freelancing can be a great option.
If you’re looking to outsource a job or get more freelance work yourself, you can use Upwork. It’s a global freelancer marketplace with over 375,000 active freelancers¹, which aims to make it easy to post jobs, access a range of services and get paid.
In this guide, we’ll look at Upwork in detail. This includes the types of work you can find on Upwork, fees and charges, and alternatives you can use if Upwork turns out to be the wrong platform for you.
We’ll also cover the most cost-effective ways to get your money out of Upwork as a freelancer. For example, get a free Wise Business account and you can get paid quickly and securely. Crucially, you won’t lose hard-earned cash to expensive exchange rate mark-ups if you’re withdrawing money in a currency other than USD.²
But first, let’s run through the basics of using Upwork.
Upwork offers a user-friendly platform where it’s easy to find freelance jobs or employ remote workers for your business.
Here’s how it works³ – an employer posts a job on the site, and interested freelancers start to send in their proposals. The employer can sift through these submissions, looking at the freelancer’s skills, portfolio and feedback from previous clients. You can even interview a prospective hire using instant messaging or video calling – all through the Upwork or desktop app.
According to Upwork, you could find your dream freelancer and get your project started in as little as 23 hours after posting the job⁴!
The employer selects their preferred candidate and the freelancer gets to work, with all payment and invoicing automated through the platform.
Upwork’s list of features includes⁵:
- Platform for organising projects
- Hourly time tracker for hourly contract jobs
- Dispute assistance
- 24/7 customer support
- Payment protection through escrow
- Choice of communication and chat methods.
Upwork is mainly geared towards work that can be done online. Examples of service categories on the platform include⁶:
- Web design
- Software engineering
- Legal services
- Video editing
- Data analysis
- Writing, content creation, editing and proofreading
- Sales and marketing
For freelancers, there’s a sliding service fee system. You’ll pay 20% commission if you earn less than $500 USD per client, which drops to 10% for earnings between $500 and $10,000 USD. Earn over $10,000 USD and you’ll pay just 5% fees.
If you’re a freelancer working within Australia, 10% GST (Goods and Services Tax) will be added on top of this service fee – unless you have a valid Australian Business Number (ABN) and are registered for GST.
There are also fees for transferring your money out of Upwork along with costs related to currency conversion. We’ll cover these near the end of this guide.
If you’re an employer looking to outsource projects via Upwork, you’ll have a choice of price plans. The Basic plan is free, but you’ll only get very limited features. There’s also Plus membership for $49.99 USD a month and Business membership for $849 USD a month – both offering a wider range of premium tools and features.
There is one more fee that both freelancers and employers should know about when using Upwork. If you take the project outside of the platform (i.e. for billing or invoicing, discouraged by Upwork), a fee of 12% of the estimated annual earnings will be applied.
Upwork isn’t the only platform doing this sort of thing. Here are a couple of alternatives to check out:
Fiverr works in a very similar way to Upwork, with a large number of global freelancers and employers, plus a user-friendly platform. There are hundreds of categories of work available, with graphic designers being particularly in-demand on Fiverr. Pricing is relatively simple and transparent, but unlike Upwork – freelancers offer their services as a package rather than billing by the hour.
As one of the world’s largest freelancing platforms⁹, Freelancer connects millions of talented professionals and employers. All kinds of jobs little and large are listed here, and you can bill at a fixed rate or per hour. Like Upwork, in-platform communication is a great feature of Freelancer, but it also offers 24/7 support, secure billing and an easy process for bidding on jobs¹⁰.
All projects are invoiced, billed and paid for through the platform, which makes things straightforward and secure for all parties.
If you’re a freelancer and you’d like to take your money out of Upwork, there are a few important things you need to know.
Firstly, fees. There’s a fee of $0.99 USD per transaction for transferring money to your bank account, or $2.50 USD if you choose to use Payoneer instead¹¹. All prices on Upwork are in USD (as you’ll have guessed from this guide), which makes the transfer fees nice and simple if you already have a US bank account. But what about freelancers in Australia or the rest of the world?
If you’ll be receiving your money from Upwork in a bank account in another country, the sum in USD will be converted using the exchange rate set by the platform’s payment partner. This rate is often below the mid-market rate¹², as the payment partner adds a mark-up – this means you lose some of your hard-earning cash in the conversion.
But don’t worry, there’s a way round this¹³. If you open a free Wise multi-currency account, you’ll get US bank details to use for your Upwork payout. These are unique details which will direct payment to a US-based Wise account – but the money will appear in your Wise account.
From here, it’s up to you whether you hold onto the money for future payments, spend it using your linked debit Mastercard or send it to your bank account. To do this, you’ll only pay a small, fair fee for currency conversion – and you’ll always get the real, mid-market exchange rate with no mark-up added.
If you use Upwork a lot, this could be the best way to hang on to more of your earnings.
So, you should now have all the info you need to start using Upwork, whether it’s to find freelance work or outsource projects. There’s a great deal to recommend the platform, but if it doesn’t work for you – choose one of the alternatives we’ve listed above.
Sources checked on 7-October 2020.
This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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