Upwork vs Freelancer: Which one is best for Indian freelancers?

Aman Saxena

Being a freelancer can be flexible and rewarding. And more and more people are turning to websites like Upwork and Freelancer to make it easier to find work from overseas.

If you have ever considered joining Upwork or Freelancer, read on to learn more about each and how they compare- especially for freelancers in India.

📝 Table of contents

Upwork: An overview

Upwork is a popular online platform that lets freelancers find and apply for projects. With options for hourly rates, or projects and milestones for completion, freelancers can find a variety of work on the website. Upwork also incentivizes long term relationships with a sliding scale fee structure.¹

  • Freelancers can submit a proposal for projects
  • Indian residents can get paid through PayPal
  • Fees are capped at 20% of earnings per client and can decrease

Freelancer: An overview

Freelancer is a marketplace for freelancers and businesses to connect for projects. Popular in India specifically for website development, Freelancer is free to sign up and search for work but they do take a cut of every project earnings.²

  • Freelancers can work hourly or with project milestones
  • Works with PayPal for free withdrawals to a PayPal wallet in India
  • Minimum fee of ₹250, or 10% whichever is greater, on every project

Finding work

Freelancer and Upwork are similar in that they help freelancers find work, and on the flip allow clients to find freelancers for projects. But the type of work and scale can differ between the two.

Freelancer

First, Freelancer is a crowdsourced marketplace. So anyone can sign up and take on work, which means the barrier to entry is lower. Secondly, Freelancer does well with software and website work out of India more specifically.

Once you join Freelancer, you can browse the jobs listed. You can filter by hourly costs, project costs, location, languages and skills. There is a simple way to sort for skills like NET, PHP, CSS, and HTML. After finding a project within the range that works for you, you may go ahead and submit a bid for the project. If approved by the buyer you can get started. You get 6 free bids per month. ³

Upwork

Upwork is globally popular and has clients like Microsoft, Airbnb and GoDaddy. There are a wide variety of projects available, which include an array of creative work too.

When you are ready to sign up, which is free by the way, you can do so from the website and create a profile. You will have to be approved by Upwork to move forward. Afterwards, you can search Upwork for jobs that match your profile and specialization.

If you find one that works, you can submit a proposal for the project. You can also sell a project on the platform too. Once you complete a job, you can invoice and receive payments through your Upwork dashboard. Upwork freelancers get 10 free connects every month.⁴

Fees

Freelancer and Upwork take a percentage of your earnings through the platform. But they have differences. Here is how they compare:

Freelancer⁵ Upwork⁶
Sign-up cost ₹0 for Intro package ₹0
Fees 10% of earnings, with a minimum of ₹250.00 20% of earnings, then sliding scale the more you earn
Payout Weekly 5 days after fixed price project milestones are complete; 10 days after for hourly projects

While Freelancer’s charges are flat, Upwork has a sliding scale for earnings. Here is how it breaks down:

Earnings per client Upwork Fee
Up to $500 20%
$500-$10,000 10%
$10,000+ 5%

The sliding scale incentivizes working with a single client while using Upwork, as your fee lowers the more you earn. All earnings are in dollars on Upwork, so you will have to take into account the exchange rate and fees when calculating how much you will make.

Getting Paid

For Indian residents, getting paid from Upwork or Freelancer isn’t as easy as it is for other parts of the world. First, both Upwork and Freelancer hold your earnings in the wallet on the platform until you actively take steps to withdraw the funds.

Once you go to the dashboard and opt to withdraw the funds, you will see the withdrawal options listed on the site. Direct to local bank accounts is either not possible unless you have a US bank account, or you will have to pay a large fee with a wire transfer.

So for ease and economics, Indian residents have the option for PayPal with Upwork and Freelancer. It is recommended that before you join either platform, make sure you have created a PayPal account and wallet.

Once your project has been successfully completed, or you have reached a project milestone which has been approved by your client, you will be eligible for your payment. Here is a quick look at how to get your payment through Freelancer and Upwork:

Freelancer⁷ Upwork⁸
Minimal withdrawal amount $30 N/A
PayPal Free Free
Wire transfer ₹1250 $30

Again, Indians do have limited options for receiving funds. PayPal is a popular option to get paid from either platform. But that does not mean you can avoid PayPal’s fees. PayPal has its own direct to bank account withdrawal fee as well as a conversion fee, plus a hidden exchange rate fee.

That is when PayPal makes their exchange rate lower than the mid-market or real exchange rate, and sneak in a fee on every note that is converted. So it is easy to feel that even with overseas clients, you are getting less than you hoped.

So if you get a weaker exchange rate, you are getting hit with a fee on every dollar or outside currency that is being converted into Indian Rupees. And though it can seem small, it can add up to less money in your pocket.

You can get the real exchange rate on money transfers from abroad when your clients use Wise. Wise is free to sign up and the money gets deposited directly into your Indian bank account.

💸 Get payments directly into your Indian bank account with Wise Web/Android/ iOS app

Get started with a Wise Business Account 🚀 and save with a low-cost transfer fee and mid-market exchange rate - which is the same as the one you see on Google.

Wise offers Indian businesses and freelancers with account details in 8 different currencies to receive payments from abroad. You can use these account details to receive payments from platforms like Upwork or Freelancer. And even if you work directly with customers, your international clients will find it convenient pay you with a local transfer in their currency, and you receive rupees in your INR bank account — with eFIRC for every transfer.

Open your Wise Business Account

Premium accounts

For added flexibility, visibility and services, both Freelancer and Upwork offer premium accounts. These accounts have monthly membership costs in exchange for their services.

While the intro account is free, Freelancer offers 4 different options for membership, which include premium accounts. Here is how they look:⁹

Basic Plus Professional Premier
Cost per month ₹329 ₹729 ₹1999 ₹3999
Bids 50 100 300 1500
Additional Benefits Eligible for preferred freelancer Daily withdrawal requests Premium Freelancer Insights Unlimited External Invoicings

You can find additional details on the memberships under Freelancer Membership Plans. There may be free trials or discounts on annual payment plans for premium accounts.

Upwork has a premium account called Freelancer Plus. It costs $14.99 per month and can be signed up from the Upwork dashboard. Here is what it includes:

  • Allows for keeping your profile active even when there isn’t activity
  • Gain insights into competitor bid range on projects
  • Get 80 connects per month
  • Get a customized profile URL
  • Earnings can be kept confidential

You can downgrade at any time from the Upwork dashboard if need be. Buyers or clients have additional options for premium accounts when doing job posts on their end.¹⁰

Dispute resolution

Freelancer has a Dispute Resolution Service for freelancers. It is recommended as the option of last resort and only to be used if all other methods had failed between the freelancer and client. The Dispute Resolution Service can be accessed through the Milestone Payments dashboard on Freelancer.¹¹

Upwork has a Dispute Resolution Center that is available only under the two following instances:

  1. The client ends the job with an escrow balance
  2. The client doesn’t release the milestone payment after receiving the work

Upwork suggests that freelancers and clients work amongst themselves for changes to any contract, but if there is still a dispute, it can be raised to Upwork. You can do so by heading to the Upwork dashboard and clicking on My Jobs. You can then dispute a contract that is over or the active one. A dispute specialist can then reach out to both parties to settle the dispute. ¹²

The Bottom Line

It really depends on the type of freelancing you are looking to do.

Upwork has a strong track record, high quality job options and a sliding scale fee system that incentivizes creating returning clients. So for those that are looking for either a longer career move into freelancing or have an existing portfolio of work and want to go global, Upwork is a good idea.

Freelancer can be a better way for those that are looking for an easier way to move into freelancing digitally or who are doing it as a side hustle. It is easier to sign up and Freelancer operates more as a marketplace than Upwork. Freelancer also has an India specific site that can be found useful.

Overall both platforms can be good options for freelancers that are looking for work globally. But depending on your business, one can be preferred over the other.

🔖 Read more: Freelancer vs Fiverr

Sources used for this article:

  1. Freelancer
  2. Upwork
  3. Freelancer finding work
  4. Upwork finding work
  5. Freelancer fees
  6. Upwork fees
  7. Freelancer payment
  8. Upwork payment
  9. Freelancer Membership
  10. Upwork Freelancer Plus
  11. Freelancer dispute
  12. Upwork dispute

All sources checked as of 9 November, 2021


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.

Money for here, there and everywhere

Find out more

Tips, news and updates for your location