Today, I am going to tackle a question I hear a lot; particularly from freelancers who are just trying to set themselves up on Upwork i.e. “Is it really worth paying to be on Upwork?” 


Full Transcript:

Hi there! Laura here from Better Biz Academy and It’s been a while since I made a video. I’m in my new home office and I had to show off the piece of art that’s behind me to get things started. Let me hop out of the way. That’s actually a painting that was given to me by my sister in law for our wedding and it’s so amazing. I love cats — anyone who knows me knows that I’m obsessed with cats. So she wrote on the back all about courage and strength of big kitties. I just love it. The detail on it is so amazing. You can comment below this video if you’re interested in learning more about her art. She’s actually a really talented special effects artist but she’s great at classic painting and charcoal and drawing and techniques too when she’s not making monsters. I had to highlight that painting just because it’s so awesome.

Now I want to talk about whether it’s worth paying to be on Upwork in 2018. I get this question every so often from new freelancers who’ve never joined the site before and they’re hesitant about handing over their money. Now, first of all, there are lots of other job board sites where you would have to pay a lot more. I think when I joined Contena, which is a popular freelancing site for writing leads specifically, I paid over $100 a month for several months to have access to that resource. It was great, I was getting high-quality leads but that’s really expensive for a beginning freelancer.

The ease of accessibility to Upwork is one of the reasons that I think it’s one of the best sites for new freelancers. Now I’ve been on Upwork for years. I pay $10 a month for my monthly plan on Upwork and you can always purchase extra “connects”, on the site and those are essentially bids that allow you to submit a proposal to a job. You can certainly pay more if you want to. For me, the plan I’m on — I’m not sure if it’s 100 or 200 connects per month because I don’t bid there as often as I used to because I’m so fully booked with private clients, but the $10 a month has just more than paid for itself. For example, in 2017, Upwork brought me more than $45,000 worth of leads, so in comparison, paying $10 a month/$120 a year is kind of a joke in comparison to the number of jobs that you could get.

If you’re not landing jobs paying $10 a month to Upwork, you may need to increase the number of connects you purchase to start landing those gigs. But it really shouldn’t be long — it really shouldn’t be any time before Upwork is paying for itself. In comparison to some of the more expensive services you could pay for, Upwork has the lowest barrier to entry — super easy. And with that you have to keep in mind your Upwork marketing strategy, like if you’re bidding on one job a day and then you come into my Facebook group, which is called Make Money on Upwork – Freelance Marketing Mastery, and say, ‘hey I’ve bid on ten jobs and I didn’t get anything,’ you need to check out some of my other videos about having a consistent Upwork strategy because I don’t know anybody who — unless they’ve built up a huge reputation on Upwork — is bidding on only ten jobs and is even landing one of them. You really have to cast a wide net especially when you get started because you have no feedback. So in my opinion, it is well worth paying to be on Upwork.

There’s actually another component of the fees that go to Upwork. So when you first start working with a client, if the job is less than $500, then you’re going to give a 20% cut to Upwork. I see people in uproar over this all the time — I’m not giving my money to Upwork. Why do they take such a huge cut? Well, in my opinion, that’s a client you would not have had were it not for Upwork; and the escrow protection they’re giving you, meaning that when you and the client agree to work together, the client funds money into an escrow account held by Upwork and then when it’s time for you to get paid, the client just has to release those funds. Even if the client doesn’t release those funds as soon as you submit it, after 10 to 14 days, they’ll be automatically released to you unless the client was to file some type of a dispute.

I’ve had hundreds of clients on Upwork, I’ve had a dispute with less than five. I’m going to keep in perspective because I think when freelancers get started, they’re always looking for reasons to not to do something, and they’ve heard nightmare stories. Upwork is not for everyone but don’t write it off because of something you heard from someone else who got burned there. They may not be telling you the full story about what happened. I just think disputes are rare. If you’re doing what you say you’re going to do and if you’re hiring the right clients and that’s’ really important for any freelance strategy that you’re going to have. In my opinion, Upwork is well worth that even paying the 20% fee. Build that into your proposals, raise your rates by 20% if you want the client to cover that cost. You don’t even need to tell the client you’re doing that. I just say this is my price including the Upwork fee. They know you’re paying a fee to be on Upwork. Clients are paying a fee as well. Once you get past $500 working with a client — and this is as of January 2018 — it could change but as of right now, once you get beyond that point, your fees will drop to 10% of the project with that particular client. So it’s to your benefit to have biggest projects or ongoing projects with the right client, and then after you surpass thousands of dollars, the client fee drops to 5%.

I view that as a cost of doing business. You use PayPal, you’re paying fees; you use a credit card swiping system, you’re paying fees, you use a monthly accounting system, you’re paying for that. So for me, it’s like paying monthly $10 to Upwork plus their percentage of the fee is giving me additional protection as a freelancer and it’s bringing me leads I wouldn’t have otherwise had that were pretty substantial. Actually, 2017 was one of my lowest years in Upwork earnings because I have so many private clients. My private client earnings far surpassed what I earn on Upwork but it was still — aside from referrals, Upwork was my second biggest lead source in 2016 and in all my freelance years beyond that. Upwork was a huge portion of my income going back to 2012.

Consider a couple of things if you’re deciding whether or not to pay for Upwork.

  1. First of all, the cost of other services that are out there. Those like Contena for freelance writers — pretty expensive.

  2. Secondly, classify it as a cost of doing business. For $10, you’re getting access to jobs you wouldn’t have otherwise had and the opportunity to build your experience and build your reputation, and if you’re worried about the percentage fees, you need to budget accordingly for that when you’re quoting a client.

I’d love to hear your questions about using Upwork and how to make it still work for you in 2018. Still a great source of amazing clients for me and for many other freelancers. 


You’ll find all my best advice about building a fulfilling and sustainable business here. It’s where I’ll give you all the juicy details about building a strong digital team or using project management to stay on top of tasks.

Let’s Get Social

Featured Posts