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Is Upwork Legit and Can You Actually Make Money Here

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Denzil Otieno

There have been lots of controversies lately about Upwork, and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear anyone ask this question – is Upwork legit or is Upwork safe? 

As a college student, life can prove hard at times, and you can’t entirely rely on your parents; you need to step up and get something useful to do; something that will take care of your bills. 

And freelancing sites like Upwork or Fiverr are some of the platforms every college student or someone wishing to quit their job will look at. 

Sadly, there is a lot of confusion regarding Upwork, and so it’s quite hard to know if Upwork is legit or safe. So I stepped up to answer this question in this detailed post. 

Now, in this post, I’ll explain how I went from a broke college student to a top-rated Upwork freelance SEO writer. Let’s cut to the chase. 

What Is Upwork

If you are entirely new in the world of freelancing, you’d be probably asking yourself – what is Upwork. Well, Upwork is a freelancing platform that offers a ton of opportunities for freelancers like YOU. 

All you need to do is identify your skills, sign up for Upwork and start offering your skill services. Now, it is essential to note that Upwork is almost similar to Fiverr and that you’ll be offering your services remotely. 

As such, you will need to have a functioning laptop or computer to help you connect with freelance clients all over the world and even get your projects over the line. And in case you don’t have an idea of what services you can offer on Upwork, below are a few suggestions: 

  • Freelance writing services
  • Data entry services
  • Data mining
  • Video editing
  • Transcription/ transcribing
  • Translation
  • Consultation 
  • Machine learning
  • And more. 

Is Upwork Legit – Frequently Asked Questions

Apart from this question – is Upwork legit or is Upwork safe, people also ask some other questions, and it would help if we also cover them. 

1. Can you actually make money on Upwork?

Now, this is one of the million-dollar questions that aspiring freelancers ask quite often, and it’s not bad because nobody wants to spend time on something that won’t bring a positive ROI in the long run. 

And the truth is that the majority of freelancers are earning big on Upwork. And while you will go through a lot of hassles from the start, Upwork can be a real goldmine if you keep on grinding and learning new tricks. 

To prove to you that Upwork is a goldmine, check out the screenshots below of freelancers from different job categories crushing it on Upwork. 

2. How much can I earn from Upwork?

How much you can earn on Upwork depends on your charge per project or your Upwork hourly rate. Now, you probably are asking what you should charge to make more on Upwork. 

But the truth is that nobody can ever tell you what to charge. Freelancer rates will vary depending on many factors such as the kind of project, the industry you are working in, the location, years of experience, among others. 

So, in my opinion, I suggest that you always charge and set your Upwork hourly rate considering in mind the above factors. Also, you can decide to charge, depending on what you think is worth your time. 

Getting Started on Upwork – How I Got Started on Upwork 

If you have been to college, you probably know the life there – OMG, it’s quite hard, and there are lots of things you may need and to rely entirely on your parents for support is the worst idea. 

When I joined campus in 2016, I was focused on my academics and pushing it hard to get the best grades in a procurement class of over 200 students. 

I was active in class, active in group discussions, and I could spend my entire time with friends discussing academic issues. 

In my opinion, I thought life was all about books until it dawned on me. I needed to change my lifestyle and lead a better life. 

So I did a quick Google search to identify if there’s anything I could offer remotely and earn a living while still on campus. 

My experience before setting my foot on Upwork

I don’t want to narrate to you the whole story. Trust me; it will be quite boring to learn how I failed on Upwork several times. 

To be precise, I have created more than five Upwork accounts, which have been suspended or have gone completely dormant due to inactivity. 

At the time of writing this, I only have one standing account that is approximately six months old. 

Before I decided to join Upwork again, I was working with multiple agencies across the world in the United States and Australia. 

And my experience with digital marketing agencies is wanting. These people recruit many freelancers, then end up going bankrupt. 

So after a month or two, issues crop in, and you fall out. You are shown the door and forced to look for a new gig. 

Almost getting scammed by the so-called business coaches

In October 2019, I was left with not even a single client; no jobs and no monthly invoices to send to clients. I was desperate for jobs, and I scheduled numerous calls with the so-called business coaches to help me figure out how I could go back to my earning days. 

And it is from this experience that I realized most coaches that exist today are total crap. I’m down financially, and someone in the name of a coach wants me to pay $500/ hour for a call, seriously? 

And if you take a careful look at this coach, you will realize that they don’t even lead a good life themselves. They are just lurking around on Facebook groups waiting to scam dummies with their crappy services. To hell with them. 

Long story cut short – I joined Upwork again; this time more focused than I ever was on Upwork. 

I signed up for Upwork and started bidding jobs. And because consistency is critical, I submitted at least 3 Upwork proposals daily. 

Within the first week, I landed my first Upwork contract of $5. This was a one-time project, and after completing the task, I got a decent Upwork testimonial and review. 

In less than three days, I landed one of my biggest clients during that time, paying me $100/ 1000 words. 

Going from a broke college student to an Upwork top-rated writer

Approximately three weeks later, Upwork invited me to become a rising talent. So to get the Upwork rising talent badge, I had to take the Upwork skill test and pass it, which I did. 

Life being a rising talent gave me a ton of priorities, and I got nearly every job I applied to. I can’t explain the algorithm behind it, but my understanding tells me that Upwork pushes rising talent profiles up the searches. 

In a couple of weeks, I got my Job Success Score (JSS), and because I had continuously delivered pure gold, I was awarded 100% JSS. 

To get to Upwork top-rated status, you must attain certain conditions. For example, you must have earned $1k, maintained your JSS at 90% and above for 13/16 weeks. 

Thanks to God, I got my top-rated badge on my 13th week. It was a new dawn, and I couldn’t hide the happiness. 

Again, life as an Upwork top rated freelancer was even better. I enjoyed a ton of perks, such as decreased Upwork fees on my earnings, customized Upwork job invites, among others. 

I also landed a gig from one of the best clients who taught me several digital marketing techniques. This client paid me $18.75 per hour and even more offered jobs every week. 

And yes, that’s my “little success.” But as a college student waiting to graduate (after the Covid-19 pandemic,) this is a huge success. 

All this story sounds encouraging, but what about the question – is Upwork legit? Can we now answer it in detail? Sure, here we go.

Is Upwork Legit? 

From my success story above, you probably can tell that Upwork is legit, but let’s get a few questions answered to confirm this. 

1. Is Upwork any good? Is Upwork worth it? 

I always thought that Upwork was a shitty bidding site like other influencers put it, but I came to realize that not everyone will succeed with something. So when others fail on Upwork, they will probably rush and say that it’s a shitty bidding site, and that is their opinion. 

However, I encourage you to test out different platforms – Upwork or Fiverr or Freelancer and see what works best for you. And while others cling on cold emailing and saying that you could scale your business fast with it, it is essential to test out that too and see if it works. 

So, in my opinion, Upwork is excellent and worth your time. You must make sure that you are sourcing for the right jobs and working with the best freelance clients. Many people may be criticizing Upwork because they have been falling into the trap of bad clients.

So make sure that you are working with the best clients. 

2. Can you get scammed on Upwork?

This can be a little disappointing, but yes, you can get scammed on Upwork if you are not careful. Just like you’d get scammed with cold emailing, or any other way of getting freelance writing jobs is the same way you’d get scammed. 

But there are a few things you can do to make sure that you stay safe on Upwork and that you don’t get scammed. First, you need to make sure that you identify the right jobs on Upwork and that the client you are about to work with has a verified payment method. 

More on that later in this article. 

3. Upwork or Fiverr – which is better? 

As I mentioned earlier, you must never criticize any platform before testing it out. Additionally, people find success with different platforms. So you may succeed on Upwork and fail on Fiverr and vice versa. So you must test and see what works best for you. 

From my experience working on both freelancing platforms, I can say that Upwork has worked in my favor as compared to Fiverr. Now, Fiverr is a little bit different from Upwork because you don’t have to write detailed proposals on Fiverr as you do on Upwork. 

In my opinion, Fiverr is more of a take account, where clients go and order services from freelancers. So if you have no better persuasion skills to write detailed proposals on Upwork, I’d suggest giving Fiverr a try. 

4. Does Upwork pay well?

Millions of jobs are posted on Upwork every month, and nearly half of the clients in there are million-dollar companies, so you can expect to work with big clients. 

For example, I have worked with million-dollar tuition agencies across the world, such as SmileTutor Agency in Singapore, Q-dees in Malaysia and EduardK in Spain. 

All these clients have paid me well. Again, how much you will earn depends on the factors we talked about earlier – what you charge; your Upwork hourly rate, location and experience. 

How Does Upwork Pay – Upwork Payment Methods and Fees

Now that we have known that Upwork is legit and safe let’s now look at how you can secure your Upwork payments. 

How much does Upwork take? 

Upwork charges a flat fee of 20% on every job you land on Upwork, but the fee decreases as you gain more experience and bag more money. 

For example, Upwork will reduce your fee to 10% if you are top-rated and you have worked with a client worth more than $501. (please take note that the 10% fee will only apply to every client you work with and that you have earned more than $500 from this client.)

Additionally, your Upwork fees will be slashed to 5% after you have hit the $10,000 mark with your Upwork client. (again, please take note that the 5% fee will only apply to every client you work with and that you have earned more than $10,000 from this client.)

Upwork hourly rate, fixed, and bonuses on Upwork

Upwork has two types of jobs – the hourly rate jobs and fixed priced jobs. 

The hourly rate jobs require you to login in hours using the Upwork desktop app. On the other hand, fixed priced jobs require the client to set up milestones and fund the projects before you can work on them. 

Whenever a client is happy with your work or wants to pay more than what you agreed in the fixed price agreement, he or she will send you a payment, often called “a bonus.” A bonus is like a tip for the excellent work or topping up the deficit of what the client ought to pay you. 

Payment methods and vendors 

Upwork provides three payment methods, namely: 

  1. Direct to U.S Bank
  2. U.S Dollar Wire Transfer 
  3. Direct to your Local Bank

Additionally, Upwork provides additional payment vendors, which include: 

  1. Mpesa for Kenyan freelancers only
  2. PayPal
  3. Payoneer 

Upwork Terms 

  • Your Upwork overview – This is a section within your Upwork profile where you can showcase your expertise and tell your prospective client what you can offer. 
  • Your profile picture – Your Upwork profile picture is one of your identification elements to show your real identity. 
  • Upwork work samples – These are proof of your previous works, proving that you can handle the job at hand. 
  • Upwork chat – Upwork chats refer to the conversations you have with your clients or prospective clients via the messages to discuss more about a project. 
  • Upwork skills test – Upwork skill tests are tests provided by Upwork to help them gauge your understanding about a specific field. As at now, Upwork only offers Upwork readiness tests to those invited for rising talent. 
  • Upwork video verification – Upwork ID verification process – This is a verification process done by the Upwork support team to help them verify your true identity through a video call. Usually, only freelancers who have scored their first job are eligible for the Upwork video verification.  
  • Upwork tracker – This is an Upwork tool that tracks down the time you spend working on hourly contracts for billing purposes. Usually, this process is done using the Upwork desktop app. 
  • Upwork contract – An Upwork contract is any job agreement you enter in with a client. It could either be a fixed price contract or an hourly contract. 
  • Contact Upwork – Contact Upwork is how you can reach the Upwork support team whenever you have issues regarding Upwork. 
  • Upwork portfolio – Upwork portfolio is a section within your Upwork profile where you can add your work samples that clients will refer to whenever they want to hire you. 
  • Upwork milestones – These are subdivided contracts on the fixed price Upwork gigs. A client should set milestones and fund them before you can start working. 

How Can I Get Job in Upwork Fast – How to Get Work on Upwork

By now, I expect that you understand how Upwork works and that you are ready to score your first job. Getting your first job on Upwork can be a little tricky, so you need to position yourself well if you want to succeed on Upwork. Below are some of the things you need to do to secure your first and subsequent jobs on Upwork: 

1. Make sure you have your writing samples ready

Before you start applying to jobs on Upwork, you need to make sure that you have work samples, and in our case, writing samples that will prove you can handle the job. 

Creating writing samples doesn’t have to be a daunting process. This article on how to become a ghostwriter outlines how you can create your writing samples. 

To give you a clue, make sure that you have enough samples to prove your worthiness to the client (at least three work samples.) 

2. Identify a job and read the description 

Next, you need to identify a job that you can handle and complete successfully. Most newbies on Upwork will apply to nearly any job, and that’s a wrong strategy.


To identify the right job, you should ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Can I handle this job? 
  • Do I have time to complete this job? 
  • Do I have the necessary skills required to complete this job? 

These questions should help you judge whether or not you can do the job. 

Ideally, these pain points should form the basis of writing an excellent Upwork pitch. 

3. Apply for the job

Next, you need to apply for the job. Here, you need to make sure that you have captured the client’s pain points and addressed them appropriately. 

In my opinion, this is what makes the difference between good freelancers and bad freelancers. Suitable freelancers will tell the client how best they can help them. 

On the other hand, bad freelancers will focus on themselves and start talking about their experiences that are not directly related to the job. 

So to help you write a good Upwork pitch, I created this article, just for you. Check it out and write better Upwork proposals. 

How to Get Hired on Upwork

You have applied for a job on Upwork, and you are on an Upwork interview with the client. So how do a client hire you for a project? 

This is quite critical, and you need to make sure that you do the following before you start working on an Upwork contract: 

1. Your client must set a milestone or an hourly contract

Before you start working on any Upwork contract, you need to make sure that your client has either set a milestone or an hourly contract with the limit hours. 

This is what indicates that you have entered into a contract with the client. Additionally, it acts as proof that you are in agreement with a client in case there are any disputes. 

Once the client has set a milestone or an Upwork hourly contract, you will receive an offer. Make sure to confirm that everything is in agreement before you accept it. 

2. The client must have a verified payment method

If you don’t want to fall, a victim of Upwork scams, you need to make sure that the client you are dealing with has a verified method of payment on Upwork. 

is upwork legit

This will act as security in case you have any disputes with the client once the contract commences. So make sure that you have confirmed that the client has a verified payment method even before you apply to a job. 

3. The client must fund the project

For chrissake, don’t ever begin any Upwork contract before you can see that the amount has been funded on Escrow. Below is a screenshot of what I mean. 

is upwork legit

So if you don’t see anything like this in the section of your contract, then you need to request the client to fund the milestone before you start working. 

Amounts on Escrow will help protect you from Upwork scams. So instead of a client walking away without paying you, Upwork will follow up and make sure that you are paid. 

4. Agree to the Upwork’s terms of service

Usually, before you apply to a fixed price job or accept an Upwork offer, you will need to accept Upwork’s terms of service. 

This shows that you agree to the terms and conditions provided by Upwork and that you confirm that you will abide by them. 

And you don’t need to stress yourself much about this. It’s all about checking the box of “agree to the Upwork’s terms of service.” 

How to Be Successful on Upwork – Make Money on Upwork

Don’t let your guard down just yet. You need to make sure that you get the best out of Upwork. So how do you make sure that you become successful and make money on Upwork? 

1. Leverage Upwork forum

Like any other company, Upwork provides a free environment where freelancers can air their views, ask questions and get answers. This environment is called Upwork forum

By doing a quick Google search, you can find the Upwork forum, log in using your Upwork login details and start participating by asking questions and sharing your ideas. 

2. Make the most out of Upwork interviews 

Upwork interviews refer to when you apply to a job, and a client reaches out via the messages, or a client posts a job then invites you for an interview. 

If a client reaches out via the message, one rule is that you MUST never allow this client to slide into another freelancer’s inbox. 

In my opinion, the more swift you are to responding to a client will limit the chances of him or her inboxing another freelancer. 

is upwork legit

Also, make sure you are clear on how you are going to help the client during your Upwork interview. 

Since I started on Upwork, almost all of the clients that landed in my inbox ended up hiring me, and that should be your aim, as well. 

3. Set your Upwork rates well

Your Upwork hourly rates is a significant determinant of how much you will earn on Upwork. 

Now, some beginners feel they can’t charge more on Upwork, and I’m afraid I have to disagree with this. Some freelancers are less experienced than me and are charging super-high rates. 

is upwork legit

So go to your Upwork profile and charge what is worth your time. 

4. Reach out to Upwork help if you have any issues 

Upwork has an excellent support team that will always be there for you anytime. You can reach out to them via email, Twitter or Facebook. 

I think emails delay, so I usually directly contact them on Twitter. At least I’ll get a response within 30 minutes or so. 

But this depends on how urgent and the nature of help you may need. Just make sure that you are using the right channel to contact Upwork. 

5. Aim for Upwork top-rated status

The Upwork top-rated status can open many doors for you on Upwork. First, Upwork support team will give you top priority whenever you ask a question on Upwork community. Additionally, you will have access to some perks only available to top-rated professionals on Upwork.         is upwork legit - top-rated status

To get to top-rated status, continuously deliver pure gold and aim for decent feedback/ Upwork reviews. 

Once your JSS is available, maintain it to 90% or higher for at least 13/ 16 weeks out of the. 

Is Upwork Legit and Is Upwork Safe

Upwork is legit and safe, so you can jump into the bandwagon and start making money on Upwork. As I said, Upwork needs you to be more careful. Follow the guidelines they have put in place, and you are free from Upwork scams.

Now, it’s your turn, and I’d love to hear from you. Have you experienced any Upwork scams? Is Upwork legit or is Upwork safe, according to you? What challenges are you facing on Upwork? And is there a way I can help you make your Upwork experience much better? 

Let me know in the comments below. As always, I will reply to all comments and try as much as I can to be helpful. 

About The Author

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Hi, I’m Denzil Otieno, an ambitious, passionate entrepreneur, freelancer, and certified online marketer. Passion is my primary trait; resilience, grit, and self-reliance are the other forces that push me to overcome the odds and leave my mark on whatever I do in life.

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