Is Upwork Legit?

is Upwork a scam

If you have technical skills, finding freelance work to do from home can be very challenging. Upwork is a site that may help you with that. I signed up with Upwork because I thought they were reputable. Then I had to wonder, is Upwork legit? Can Upwork help you find freelance work? I started doing my research and found that there may be trouble in paradise here too.  Afterall, there are so many of these companies out there. It really is hard to find a diamond in the rough. Read on to find out if Upwork is right for you.

In December 2013, Upwork was created as a rebranding and merging of Elance and ODesk and has been around since 2003. Both Elance and ODesk are online sites where you can find work to complete from home. It’s a place for freelancers to find online work. The type of work ranges from customer service all the way up to specific types of programming jobs. Jobs can be a once-off job or a longer term job that could last several months.

What is Upwork? is upwork a scam

In December 2013, Upwork was created as a rebranding and merging of Elance and ODesk and has been around since 2003. Both Elance and ODesk are online sites where you can find work to complete from home. It’s a place for freelancers to find online work. The type of work ranges from customer service all the way up to specific types of programming jobs. Jobs can be a once-off job or a longer term job that could last several months.

Who Is Upwork good for?

If you have any kind of technical skills, office skills, or administrative skills, you can more than likely find work here. There are also data entry jobs here so even if you only have keyboard skills, you can still bid on work. If you have more advanced skills such as computer programming, graphic design, or web development skills, you’ll have more job to choose from.

Where is Upwork?

Upwork is based out of Mountain View, California.

What Is Upwork About? Here’s How It Works

Companies from all over the world register with Upwork, similar to Hubstaff and Workmarket, and from submitted bids, pick freelancers with the skills they need to complete projects.

From a freelancer’s perspective, you sign up by picking a membership type and complete your profile. There are two types of memberships available. Freelancer Basic and Freelancer Plus. Freelancer Plus costs $14.99 per month. This is not to be confused with This is simply the names of the membership plans.

When a freelancer bids on a project, albeit hourly rate or fixed rate, the client may want to discuss the project with you via Skype, etc. Once the freelancer accepts the job, the freelancer will fill out a work log for all time spent on the project. A freelancer can request a milestone payment if it’s a long project. Once the work is completed and submitted, the client approves the work log and authorizes Upwork to pay the freelancer.

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When Do I Get Paid From Upwork?

Most freelancers get paid via a personal Paypal account. You must have your tax form completed and submitted on the site before you can get paid. If you live outside the U.S. a W-8BEN form must be completed. You get paid when the Client authorizes Upwork to release a payment through the client’s escrow account.

Upwork Features

  • Competency tests are free
  • Live chat available
  • Support forum
  • Ability to set your profile to indicate whether you are available for work, not available or available in the future
  • Payment Protection Plan: freelancers and clients use a work diary and a team app to track work completed. There are payment protection plans used for hourly and fixed rates.
  • A variety of work to choose from
  • You can configure a search to your country


Upwork Complaints

So we’ve talked about how Upwork works and what the pros are. Now, let’s outline a few things that you may not like so much. Here’s a list of things that might be deal breakers for you:

Pay Before You Play
When you sign up for Upwork, you will have a free account. This allows you to post unlimited proposals according to their website. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that experience. I currently have a free account yet it’s been locked to Private due to inactivity. So if you want to keep your account in the Active status, you either have to continuously bid on jobs using up your Connects or you have to buy a membership plan for $14.99 a month.

Upwork Membership Plans

Would You Like Fees With That?
There’s a 3% payment processing and admin fee you will have to pay at the very minimum whether you have a free account or not. So you may want to add 3% onto every bid you submit to cover that.

Bidding on Jobs
There can be a lot of competition to bid for jobs. And it’s a fine line you walk. You don’t want to bid too low yet if you bid too high you risk not getting the work.

Tough to Get Your First Gig
When you first sign up with Upwork it can be tough to get your first job because you don’t have any experience for companies to review.

Low Bids Usually Get the Jobs
It’s a Catch-22. On the one hand, you don’t want to sell yourself too cheap but on the other hand, companies looking for freelancers on Upwork tend to look for cheap labor.

Dry Spells In Between Jobs
Depending on your skill set, there may be long periods of time in between jobs.

Payments Are Withheld Until Your Work Is Approved
When you accept and complete a job, you can’t have the funds released until your work has been approved and paid for. If, for some reason, the job is not satisfactory to the company, they can choose to withhold funds or only pay for a portion of work.

Many Complaints On The BBB Website
Upwork is registered on the BBB (Better Business Bureau). However, there are a number of complaints from freelancers who were not paid for their work, reports that there are jobs that are scams, and too many low-paying jobs. For those of you that rely on the BBB for reliable information this may be a deal breaker for you.

Verdict – Is Upwork Legit?

Using Upwork may take up a lot of your time and you may end up with very little results. It worrisome to think that you could take on a job and not get paid for it. And even if you are lucky enough to get work, you may not get paid the amount of money you think you are worth. Not to mention the fees you will have to factor in. While the decision is yours to make, I think I’ve given you plenty to think about. If you really want to start your own freelancer business, check out my top recommended way to build your business.

Thank you for stopping by and checking out my Upwork review. Have you decided? Is Upwork legit? Well, I can report that I completed a job and was paid within 3 days. Have you worked at Upwork? Please share your experience. I’d love to know your thoughts!


Alanna Birmingham Empty Nester Blog

20 thoughts on “Is Upwork Legit?”

  1. Great review! Valuable information for those of us who are trying to make a living on the internet.

    You are correct when you say there are so many scams out there and a person really has to be careful who they sign up with. If you sign up with some companies they may lead you down a garden path, never pay you and charge you for things you didn’t even know about.

    Thanks for the info!


    • Yes, it can be very disheartening for those of us who are determined to work from home. I’m glad you enjoyed the article! Thanks for stopping by Cherie!

    • Hi Jon. Thank you. I just really hate seeing people get scammed and so far Upwork seems legit. I’m still bidding on jobs over there and haven’t landed anything yet. Thanks for stopping by. All the best, Alanna

  2. I’m currently doing work for UpWork. One thing I don’t like (that they don’t tell you before signing up) is that you have to pay for submitting proposals for a job. You are given 20 free credits to use when signing up and most jobs cost between 2-6 credits to even submit a proposal. After that the credits are around 0.15 each. This can be frustrating because, as you mentioned, it can be hard to get your first gig because you don’t have the experience on the site that others may have. I ended up having to bid very low on a job just to secure some experience and not have to spend money on credits /:
    Also for anyone excited about collecting earnings, they will not let you collect your money until you prove your identity (uploading a form of identification and a short live interview).

    • Hi Samantha. Things have indeed changed since I started at Upwork a few years ago. You are right when you say that you have to low-ball bids to get work. That’s what annoys me about Upwork as well. There’s such a large pool of people that you never feel like you are being paid what you are worth yet you need to get that first gig. Not only that, you need to do well on that first gig so you get a good review for future work. I’ll be reviewing other freelancer sites going forward so I hope you’ll stop back in and check them out. Hopefully, you’ll find something. (Sorry for the late reply on this. I was working on another site and didn’t get a notification about your post.) Best of luck with Upwork!

  3. I am currently in the process of trying to get work with Upwork and was also wondering if it is legit because it just asked me today to prove my identity (uploading a form of identification) which I wasn’t sure I should do because I don’t want to put my ID “out there.”

    I am wondering if you can suggest other freelancer sites for me to look into that you have used and know are legit.

    • Hi Mary. I’m in the process of gathering information on other freelancer sites. I’ll add reviews here as I test the sites. I understand your apprehension about putting your identity out there. I’m the same. My advise to you would be to look for sites that pay via PayPal, for example. Sites that don’t require you to provide any personal information such as your bank information, SSN, etc. Upwork has changed their Terms of Service recently so now, as a freelancer, you will also be required to pay fees to Upwork based on the amount you are paid from a client. See the Terms of Service here. It outlines the freelancer fee structure. Unfortunately, many U.S. based companies that don’t allow foreign freelancers are requiring things like 1099s and other personal information. It’s important to read the Terms and Conditions of any company you sign up with so that you know how your personal information is being managed. I hope you’ll check back here again soon. Hopefully, I’ll find some golden nuggets for you! Alanna

  4. I enjoyed reading your article and benefitted from it and the comment section. I am just starting out as a freelance writer. My background is in finance and education. I am in the process of signing up with Upwork; I felt fairly comfortable they were legit because they recently went public and there is usually a lot of scrutiny from financial and product professionals before a company goes pubic. Good to hear from people who have used the service. Is it hard to get approved as a freelancer, I read that you have to be approved.

    • Hi Beverly. I’m glad you found the article useful. Upwork is VERY competitive as are most of these types of freelance sites. When I first started with them a few years ago, you were able to take competency tests that would help prove you were competent. Upwork no longer offer those tests, unfortunately. I don’t think it’s difficult to get approval. I think it’s difficult to get your first gig and get good feedback from the client. Once you can get that first gig and a good reference, getting additional work should be easier. There are people from all over the world willing to work cheaply which was quite discouraging to me. I bidded on a few jobs but wasn’t willing to work for next to nothing so I haven’t tried very much recently. I wish you the best of luck with Upwork. I truly hope it works for you. Please come back and let us know about your experience. Thank you for reading my article. Alanna

      • Re: people from all over the world who work for next to nothing — you can set it up so that you only get job listings that require the freelancer to be located in the United States.

        • Hi Jason. Yes, people from all over the world who have very low rates can sign up with Upwork making it almost impossible to make a decent living as a freelancer. The filter feature where you only get job listings from a certain country can help. Thanks for stopping by. All the best, Alanna

  5. I enjoyed this very much. Once I was asked for a form of identification I decided to look deeper and make sure it is legit. I currently cannot work outside of the home, and finding something remote has been very hard because of scams. As long as the site is legitimate, I will upload my ID. I was wondering, can everyone see the ID, or just the people who run the page?

    • Hi Vanessa. I’m glad you found the information useful. As to your question, I could not find any definitive information regarding how Upwork processes any personal data they receive from you. You can check this link for information. It might be best to send them an email and ask for an answer. If you do find out, I hope you’ll come back and let us all know the answer. I’m sure others would appreciate the information. Thank you for stopping by and best of luck with Upwork! Alanna

  6. Upwork is an illegal scam site run from California. Visit California and you’ll discover that they do not have a decent office and are also involved in a tax scam just like Uber. Most of the jobs on the site are fake and there is no candidate rating system to allow candidates to improve. Upwork simply wants freelancers to pay for an account, that’s all. It’s an illegal site, not GDPR compliant and also not compliant with many local and international laws.

    • Hi Herbert. I have found no information that Upwork is an illegal scam site. I did a small amount of work for someone who found me through Upwork. He was based in the UK and I’m in Ireland. Upwork is listed on the BBB website with many reviews. Granted, they have only a 1.25 rating. They have addressed the GDPR issue as well. They seem to have gone downhill after they discontinued the qualifying tests and added paid memberships to their site. It sounds like you’ve had a bad experience with them and for that I am sorry. The BBB site lists many complaints from freelancers. Upwork is definitely not as good as it may have been in the past. I would encourage everyone to read the complaints on the BBB site before signing up. Thank you for your comment, Herbert. All the best, Alanna

  7. Great points. In a nutshell, UPWORK IS NOT A SCAM BUT IT’S HARD TO MAKE DECENT MONEY.

    It’s a totally legit company, but you might spend hours submitting proposals and not get a bite. The best tip I ever got was to include the client’s name in your proposal, like ‘Hi Paul!” It shows you are on the ball and it’s a lot more personal than “Dear sir” or whatever.

    I’ve made a little over $300 for Upwork, mostly with blog posts and proofreading.

    • Hi Anna. I think most will agree that it’s hard to make decent money with Upwork unless you have a well established reputation and that takes a lot of time. Thank you for your comment! All the best, Alanna


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