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How to get started with Upwork and make money

The struggle is real in the freelancer market. Get started and give yourself the edge with these simple tips!

Published onJune 7, 2021

A freelancer’s biggest challenge is finding clients. That’s where services like Upwork come in. These helpful platforms help clients and freelancers find each other and establish a business relationship. Whether you are looking for extra cash or a serious source of income, it’s almost impossible to ignore Upwork. Today we are going to teach you the ins and outs of getting started with it.

What is Upwork, and how does it work?

Typing Writing Development Work Online Outdoors Gig Economy

Upwork is a web service where freelancers can set up profiles, specify their areas of expertise, and show off their work to find gigs. Clients can create job postings explaining what they need, the required timeframe, how much they are willing to pay, and other details. Freelancers can look through a feed of job listings and submit proposals to jobs of interest. Customers can also look at talent profiles and invite freelancers to submit a proposal.

Upwork is a hub that enables clients and freelancers to find each other and work together.Edgar Cervantes

In a nutshell, Upwork is a hub that enables clients and freelancers to find each other and work together, ensuring the safety of both parties. They are an intermediary of sorts. All communications and file transfers can be done through the website and logging the time you have worked. Upwork will also process payments. They make sure clients pay, but don’t release the funds to talent until the job is done. This brings peace of mind to everyone involved.

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Of course, the website will take a cut. Upwork’s fees are 20% of the first $500 you get from a single client. The percentage goes down to 10% of whatever the client pays you between $500-$10,000, and 5% for anything that surpasses the $10,000 threshold.

What kind of work can you find at Upwork?

Upwork is mostly all about freelancing work, which usually revolves around specific categories. These are mostly artistic or skilled labor positions that are temporary. Here are some common jobs you can find at Upwork:

  • Photography/editing
  • Video production
  • Web design
  • SEO
  • Marketing
  • Social media managing
  • Graphic design
  • Programming
  • Software development
  • Literature/editing/writing
  • Copywriting
  • Content strategy
  • Advertising
  • Teaching
  • Translating
  • Voiceovers
  • Art direction
  • Music
  • General labor
  • Virtual assistance

Should you sign up for Upwork?

Working Online Web Design
Think of Upwork as the Facebook of the gig economy; you may not like it, but everyone's using it.Edgar Cervantes

I have taken on some gigs using Upwork and believe it’s worth signing up as a part of your freelancing efforts. Chances are it won’t become your main source of income, but it’s a large network that can help you reach clients who otherwise wouldn’t find you. We’ve heard stories of people making it a full-time gig, but those stories are a bit rare.

Think of Upwork as the Facebook of the gig economy; you may not like it, but everyone’s using it. Freelancers need to follow the crowd if they want more gigs. Upwork’s Wikipedia page mentions the service has 18 million registered freelancers and five million clients. Those are numbers you can’t ignore, even if the fees and system are a bit limiting.

The website and apps work like a charm, and the experience is pretty straightforward. The secure payment process is also nice to have.

After starting an Upwork contract, both parties are contractually obligated to keep their business relationship within the confines of Upwork for two years. Edgar Cervantes

Of course, there are some downsides to using Upwork. As mentioned before, fees can add up. 20% is a high number. The number doesn’t get any lower unless the client starts paying you more. And even then, 10% to 5% is a high price to pay in the long run. Especially once you add taxes to the equation. But the fees aren’t even the biggest issue!

Read also: Upwork vs Fiverr: Which is the best place to sell your services?

Because Upwork made your business relationship possible, they make you agree to keep all transactions exclusive to the platform for two years. After accepting a gig, both parties are contractually obligated to keep their business relationship within the confines of Upwork until 24 months are up. The only way out of this is to pay an “opt-out fee.” If these terms are violated, both parties will receive penalties and possibly face legal disputes.

That’s quite the commitment. But then again, the relationship probably wouldn’t have happened without Upwork. More work is always better, especially for a freelancer.

How to sign up for Upwork

Upwork handshake

If you have decided Upwork is for you, here’s how to get started.

  1. Sign up for an account at
  2. You can also download the app from the Google Play Store and tap where it says New to Upwork? Sign up.
  3. You can use your Google or Apple account to sign up. Alternatively, it’s possible to input a work email address manually.
  4. Fill out the required details and specify if you want to be a client or a freelancer. Selecting the latter will require you to enter a nickname.
  5. Read and accept the terms.
  6. Create a password and select your country of residence.
  7. Hit the Create my account button.
  8. You will receive a verification via email. Go to your email, open the message, and select the Verify email button.
  9. Fill out your profile and enter all required information.
  10. In the end, you will be asked to input a phone number and verify it through a code you will receive via text.
  11. Submit your profile.

You are now part of Upwork! You can search for jobs, send proposals, and get to know the platform. Play around with it and see what it’s all about.

Secondary steps

While it may seem like you are ready for prime time, there are secondary steps to take. Some are required, and others help you get more jobs. Let us guide you through them.

  • Verify your ID here. This is a requirement.
  • Make sure to add some work history so clients know what you have done.
  • Of course, your educational history will also help.
  • Click the View profile option on the home page and make sure you add as much information as you can. Clients like to see detailed profiles.
  • Consider creating specialized profiles. These are great if you have multiple areas of expertise or want to target different audiences. If you knit and take photos, photography clients likely don’t want to see all your knitting information, and vice versa.
  • Look through your profile settings to make sure everything is customized for your specific needs.
  • Read all about the terms of service and Upwork payment protection.
  • Take a look at Upwork’s freelancer education hub for tips.
  • Check out available webinars to learn more about the system and increase your chances of getting jobs.

Understanding memberships and connects

Freelancer membership plans

To send job proposals to clients, one must have Connects (think of them as tokens). Each job proposal costs a set amount of Connects, ranging from one to six. These will be returned to you if a project is canceled without making a hire, or if the job post is removed for violating terms of service. Furthermore, no Connects are required when a client invites you to send a proposal.

Related: 7 easy passive income ideas to make money while you sleep

You get 10 Connects per month under the free membership. This is great, but they will run out, and you will need more. This is when you’ll have to pay up. Using the free Upwork membership, you can purchase extra Connects for $0.15 each.

Those who have signed up for the Upwork Plus membership will get 80 Connects per month. This membership costs $14.99 per month and offers some added benefits. Let us break down what each membership provides.

Free Basic Membership:

  • 10 Connects per month
  • Buy Connects as you need them for $0.15 each.
  • Unused Connects rollover up to 200.
  • Hourly protection to ensure you’re paid for each hour worked.
  • Fixed-price payments are secured through milestones.
  • Limited reports and functionality.

$14.99 Plus Membership:

  • 80 Connects/month.
  • Your profile will never be set to hidden due to inactivity.
  • Setting to keep your earnings confidential.
  • View competitor bids for any job.
  • Customize your profile URL.
  • Extended reports and functionality, including grouping and sorting.

How to get a job at Upwork


  1. Click on the Find work tab and look through the feed. Alternatively, you can look for specific jobs using the search bar.
  2. Find a gig you want to sign up for, open the job page, and read through the details.
  3. Select the Submit a proposal button to… well, send a proposal.
  4. In this section, you will introduce yourself, talk about your expertise, provide ideas to the client, and mention your payment expectations. You can also send samples of your work.
  5. If the client is interested in working with you, he/she will continue the conversation with you via messages.
  6. Given that both of you agree to work together, a contract can be started.

Getting paid by Upwork

Money Stock Photo 1
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

There are multiple payment options and systems you can opt for. Much of it depends on your agreement, payment method, and preferences. To learn the ins and outs of payments, go to Upwork’s dedicated page.

Personal tips for working with Upwork

I have quite a bit of experience with Upwork and want to share some tips for beginners. Being a freelancer is no easy feat, so I know you are looking for all the insight you can get.

  • Get a nice profile picture: First impressions count, so getting a professional headshot or a nice photo is always a plus.
  • Fill your profile completely: Clients like to see your previous work, portfolio, and other details. Most importantly, a full profile shows your commitment and attention to detail.
  • Perfect your proposals: Proposals are your main introduction to clients, so make them count. I like to find a balance between friendliness and professionalism. This sends a message that I am personable but also serious about my work. If you can send work samples, make sure it’s your best. Make sure to get across why you are worth their time and hard-earned money.
  • Attend local events: I often get emails from Upwork inviting me to local workshops, networking events, and meetups. Go socialize and learn from others!
  • Be responsive: Don’t you hate it when you reach out to a business, and they take forever to answer back? Your clients do, too, so always be responsive and reply to messages as soon as possible.
  • Guarantee your work: I always tell clients I will not stop working until they tell me they are 100% satisfied with the results. This makes them feel at ease about hiring me. It also shows them I take their project seriously, and they won’t be let down. Humans make mistakes, and clients understand that; it’s how we deal with them that makes the difference.
  • You can say no: Like any platform, Upwork has a healthy amount of low-ballers. Make sure no one is abusing you and paying you less than what your work is worth! Not to mention people clients and freelancers can be incompatible. It’s OK to say no!
  • Pick your battles: I used to send proposals to every job that crossed my path. This may have increased my chances of getting gigs, but it also took a lot of my time. Since time and Connects are money, my pocket was also affected. Not to mention I almost always got jobs I actually wanted and worked hard for, so why waste my time with other gigs? Focus on the jobs you know you are good at and can leave a good impression.
  • You can go above the client’s budget: If you know you can deliver solid work worth more than the client’s budget, don’t be afraid to send a proposal at a higher price. Just make sure to convince them you are worth it, and they might give in.
  • Always be honest: Be honest to yourself and the client. Some of these gigs are complex, extensive, expensive, and very important. Only sign up for gigs you know you can plan well and handle. Not every job is for you, and knowing your limitations is crucial. Do your best to fix mistakes (again, we are human). If you can’t, inform your client right away so they can plan accordingly. Don’t lie about your abilities or experience, either. Always be honest!
Not every job is for you, and knowing your limitations is crucial.Edgar Cervantes

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