Upwork Canada: What You Need To Know Before You Sign Up

Diane Rekker

Upwork is a freelance marketplace which connects talented professionals around the world with businesses which need short term - or ongoing - project support. Post a profile, submit proposals for work, and get going with jobs from all over the globe¹.

The system is simple - but making yourself stand out in a competitive market is crucial to succeeding on Upwork. You’ll also want to think about the fees you pay to use the Upwork service, and any extra costs incurred if you work with overseas clients.

We’ll look at these considerations later, as well as touching on a smart way to cut the costs of invoicing clients abroad, using Wise. Let’s get started with this handy guide to making money with Upwork Canada.

Receive foreign currency as a freelancer, with Wise

When you’re freelancing on Upwork, you’ll get paid in US dollars. If you don’t have a US dollar bank account and want to avoid exchange rate markups, you can open a Wise multi currency account. On this account you can receive US dollars and exchange these to Canadian dollars, or a different currency, whenever you want.

Wise Businesses helps freelancers, small businesses and big businesses save money by charging a fair and transparent fee for international transactions, and by exchanging your money with the real mid-market rate, without any hidden markups.

See if you can save money with Wise

What is Upwork?

Upwork is a platform which connects freelancers with employers and business owners all over the world.

As a business owner, you might use Upwork if you need short term support from a skilled professional for a specific job. Upwork can help if you’re looking for a web designer, business consultant, translator, HR specialist or pretty much any other qualified role you can think of which can be done remotely. Post details of the job you need doing, browse qualified freelancers, and find the perfect person for you.²

If you’re a freelancer, or looking for small projects to supplement your main income, you can register on Upwork to connect with employers. Just post details of your skills, and submit proposals to employers looking for support in your niche. If there’s a match you can take the job, get paid through the platform and start to build an online presence which will attract more business³.

How to get started on Upwork

As a freelancer, the first thing you’ll need to do to get started on Upwork is build a profile.

In your profile you’ll include key information a client may need to know. This covers your skills, your hourly rate and more. Adding detail to your profile can make it easier for clients to see how you might help their project. You’ll also be able to include information about your work history, education, certifications, level of English proficiency and any other languages spoken, and so on⁴.

Once you have completed your profile, it will be assessed by Upwork. Upwork states that they receive some 10,000 applications to register daily. Therefore, they accept only suitable applicants to make sure the freelancers who are successful are a good fit for the platform, with skills which fulfil client needs.

You should know within about 24 hours if your profile has been approved. If your profile is not initially accepted, you can update it to better showcase your skills, or add in extra experience to see if you can better fit the needs of the platform⁵.

Once you start to accept jobs you’ll need to connect a bank account and select how you want to get paid. You’ll also need to confirm your tax status. The payment routes which are usually available are bank transfer, PayPal and Payoneer. All of these different payment methods come with varied fees and charges, so make sure you do some research before you select one⁶.

How can you find freelance jobs on Upwork, in Canada or abroad

To find jobs on Upwork, you’ll browse the projects available, and submit proposals for those which suit your skillset. If an employer is interested in your proposal they may request an interview to talk it through. Once you have agreed the project outline, milestones and payment methods, you can get started.

There are a few things which make your proposals and your profile stand out to potential employers.

  • Make sure your profile is up to date and fully complete
  • Tailor make each proposal to the job advertised - do not cut and paste
  • Show how you’d approach the job, and mention similar projects you have previously completed
  • Tell the client you’re available to interview and discuss the project
  • When asked to interview, the response time is recorded - accept or decline quickly
  • After completing a job, check the client is happy - their feedback is recorded and influences your Upwork score

You can get more ideas and tips online, from the Upwork blog⁷⁺⁸.

Does Upwork pay well?

When you take a job on Upwork, you’ll see it is either listed with an hourly rate or a project fee. This is the guide to what the employer will pay for the job, although you’ll get a chance to confirm your fees and negotiate further if you interview with the client⁹.

Some projects available on Upwork pay well. Others aren’t so well funded. As a freelancer, you can pick and choose the projects which interest you and which pay you would consider fair.

If you choose to work on a project which is paid at an hourly rate, you’ll agree how to log the hours with the client to ensure fair billing. This can be done manually or using the Uptime App.

If you’re being paid for project completion, you’ll agree to the payment schedule and milestones when you confirm the job outline. You may ask for a payment for part completion of the project, for example, with the full amount paid at the very end of the project. If this happens, the part payment or deposit will be held in escrow until the project is signed off by the client⁹.

What are the Upwork fees?

As you might expect, there is a fee to use Upwork’s service. Make sure you check out all the potential costs so you can set your own charges accordingly, and protect your profits. Here are the key fees you need to know about:[10]

Type of fee Upwork charges
Tiered service charge¹⁰ Upwork’s fees are based on the total amount you earn from any individual client: For the first $500 billed, you pay 20%From $500 - $10,000, you pay 10%From $10,000 and up, you pay 5% Effectively this means that the more you work with one client, the lower the fees become
Withdrawal fees Your pay is deposited in your Upwork account. You may pay a fee to withdraw it. Withdrawing to your local bank account using a bank transfer - $0.99 + any recipient fees charged by your own bank + any currency conversion fees, if relevant¹¹ Withdrawing to your PayPal account - there’s a small Upwork charge (which you should be able to see in your Upwork account). The PayPal fees can vary by method, destination choice and currency. There could be additional fees based on your location¹² Withdrawing using Payoneer - there’s a small Upwork charge (which you should be able to see in your Upwork account). If you choose the instant transfer options, this will cost up to $2.50 + other fees relating to managing your Payoneer account + any relevant currency conversion fees¹³
Currency conversion fees Depending on which currency you’re paid in, you may find you’re paying additional fees to convert your money back to CAD. More on that - and how to avoid it - below.

Upwork and international clients

One of the great things about working remotely is that you can take on projects from employers all over the world. However, if you’re going to get paid in another currency, you’ll want to think about the potential costs of currency conversion to make sure you’re not spending more than you expect on fees.

It’s worth knowing, for example, that PayPal charges a currency conversion fee of at least 3% + a fixed cost which is set according to the currency involved. This can mean that you get less than you expect in the end. Learn more about the costs of using PayPal, here.

Even if you choose to have your money sent to your local bank account, you should check the exchange rate used. That’s because many banks add a markup to the exchange rates they use, as well as any other admin fees levied.

One way around this is to use a multi-currency account which lets you receive payments in different currencies without extra charges.

Take a look at the multi-currency borderless account from Wise. You’ll get your own bank details for the US, UK, euro area, Australia and New Zealand, allowing you to get paid like a local from any of these major regions. You can then switch your money back to CAD using the mid-market exchange rate with no markup. You just pay a low, transparent fee, which can work out much cheaper than using a bank or an alternative like PayPal.

If you’re thinking of working through Upwork, invest some time upfront to work out the best ways to protect your profits and build your business, including good ways to connect with clients internationally without losing out on the costs of currency conversion.

Start saving money with Wise

Sources used for this article:
1.Upwork - Homepage
2.Upwork - How It Works, if you’re hiring
3.Upwork - How it works, if you’re working
4.Upwork - Build Your Profile - Essential Items
5.Upwork - Application to Join Upwork Declined
6.Upwork - Manage How You Get Paid
7.Upwork - Submitting a Winning Proposal on Upwork
8.Upwork - 17 Tips for Boosting Your Success on Upwork
9.Upwork - Hourly vs. Fixed-Price Projects
10.Upwork - Fee and ACH Authorization Agreement
11.Upwork - Direct to Local Bank, Fees and Timing
12.Upwork - PayPal, Fees and Timing
13.Upwork - Payoneer, Fees and Timing
*All sources last checked on Oct 27, 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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