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Is Upwork Legit? How Clients & Freelancers Can Stay Safe

In this article, I’ll be exploring global freelancing platform Upwork. With so many people asking ‘Is Upwork Legit?‘ I’ll be sharing my own experiences as both a freelancer and a client, to help you understand everything you need to know – and how you can use Upwork safely.

David Michael, Co-Founder, CEO Tutorial

David is a former freelancer and co-founder of CEO Tutorial. For 10+ years he ran his freelance contracting business, and now he helps others navigate the industry.

Let’s get right to it.

Is Upwork Legit?

The answer is yes.

Upwork is a global, multi-billion dollar platform, used by 14 million users around the world.

It scores extremely highly on TrustPilot, earning a 4.5 star rating from almost 7,000 user reviews.

Is Upwork Legit? TrustPilot says yes. Here is a snapshot of Upwork's TrustPilot rating in the UK, scoring 4.5 stars from almost 7000 reviews.
A snapshot of Upwork’s TrustPilot rating in the UK, scoring 4.5 stars from almost 7000 reviews.

Here’s the information Google has listed against the platform:

Upwork snapshot and company information on Google
Upwork company information

In 2020, Upwork posted $370 million in revenue, and at the beginning of 2021 had just over 550 employees.

It was founded in 2015, and has enjoyed a rapid rise to become one of the most-used freelancing platforms in the world.

Why do people ask ‘Is Upwork Legit?’

Both client and freelancers ask this question surprisingly regularly.

Here’s a screenshot showing search volume on ahrefs.

Upwork search volume on ahrefs | how many people ask Is Upwork Legit?
Over 1000 people each month ask: Is Upwork Legit?

For over 1,000 people every single month to be asking the same question suggests that many people have had bad experiences with the platform.

The actual numbers are far higher, since many people will be asking similar questions like:

  • Is Upwork a scam?
  • Is Upwork safe?
  • Do people get scammed on Upwork?
  • Is Upwork a con?
  • Is Upwork secure?

You get the picture.

However, Upwork is a multi-billion dollar company, used by millions. It has to keep both clients and freelancers happy, so just because plenty of people ask: ‘Is Upwork Legit?’, that alone shouldn’t necessarily undermine the platform.

Upwork is definitely not a scam, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have its issues.

In the next section, I’ll be addressing the five biggest complaints people have with Upwork and exploring the truth behind each one.

The most common Upwork complaints

First up, we’ll look at why freelancers and contractors ask ‘Is Upwork Legit?’

Upwork complaint #1: They take the side of the client

No surprises to discover that this is one of the most common complaints from freelancers, although clients may be somewhat relieved to hear it.

But is this opinion true?

Let’s dig a little deeper.

Here is a real life bad review example:

Is Upwork Legit? Negative review
Negative Upwork review from a freelancer. Source: TrustPilot

Now, this is obviously from someone who feels they have been wronged by the platform.

HOWEVER…

Here’s a client review with the EXACT OPPOSITE opinion:

Upwork negative review | Is Upwork legit and safe?
Negative Upwork review. Source: TrustPilot

So, who is right?

These two reviews sum up why no freelancing platform can ever win with everyone.

Some people will believe that the platform sides with the client, some people will believe that it sides with the freelancer.

In truth, the negative reviews are quite balanced between the two.

Since Upwork scores 4.5 stars overall, the opinion below is far, far more common.

Here is an example of an Upworker who feels that the platform benefits both equally.

A real life good review example:

Upwork positive review | Is upwork legit and safe?
Positive review on TrustPilot about Upwork

Having worked as both a freelancer and a client on the platform, I’ve never felt like it sided with one over the other.

Remember, Upwork needs to strike a balance:

  • Without freelancers they wouldn’t exist
  • Without clients, they’d make no money

There is a refund system in place where you can dispute work, but the platform does its best to mitigate this.

As a client you can look through a work diary, with screenshots updated every few minutes. Or allow your freelancer to add manual time.

As a freelancer, you know that there is a time period where clients can dispute work but the work diary with regular visual snapshots also helps protect you.

Upwork policy on disputes: Is Upwork Legit?
Upwork policy on disputes

Summary:

While Upwork does need to strike a balance, one side of the party will always feel wronged.

It doesn’t make Upwork any less legit, it just means that the platform needs to constantly monitor the balance they strike to make sure it’s fair to all.

Upwork complaint #2: My account was blocked

One of the most common complaints by people is that their account was blocked.

This probably isn’t a surprise since Upwork purged around 1.8 million freelancers from their platform in 2019.

Here’s how a typical Upwork complaint looks:

A complaint about Upwork | Is Upwork Legit?
Upwork negative comment on blocking accounts unfairly

There are a few things to address here:

  • What is Upwork’s policy on shutting accounts?
  • Do users get enough support after this happens?
  • Is this different to most other social platforms?

Here is Upwork’s official policy on trust and safety:

Is upwork legit? Official Upwork Trust and safety policy screenshot
Upwork Trust and Safety policy. Source: Upwork

In the FAQ section, Upwork admits that errors do happen with account blocks, but that there is a chance to give another side of the story to resolve it with the team.

Is Upwork legit? Upwork policy on blocked accounts
Upwork policy, source: Upwork.

While this issue can be frustrating and unfair for clients and freelancers, it should be pointed out that not many people are unable to resolve their issues with Upwork.

However, with only 550 people working for the platform and millions of customers, there could be an argument that the customer support should be quicker.

Most people understand that mistakes can happen, and it’s not being able to resolve it immediately that irritates people more than the mistake in the first place.

However, there’s something deeper about this complaint that needs to be said.

Pretty much ANY social platform can do the same.

This is not an issue specific to Upwork, but one consistent with every digital platform.

There are stories of Instagram accounts being deleted for no reason:

Instagram Account Disabled, just like an Upwork account can be disabled
Source Instagram

There are stories of TikTok account being removed:

How To Reverse A TikTok Ban
Source TikTok

I am sure that some of these removals will have been fair.

I’m equally sure that some will have been unfair.

In some cases, where people have built hundreds of thousands of followers, getting an account deactivated can totally undercut their earnings. Instagram influencers can make millions, but everyone who builds a living this way needs to understand that there is a risk.

This quote sums it up quite well:

That’s why I would always advise freelancer, clients, customers – basically everyone – to diversify their business.

If you’re a freelancer, build up positive reviews on multiple platforms. Some great Upwork alternatives include:

  • Fiverr
  • Freelancer.com
  • Simply Hired

That way, if you’re treated unfairly on one, you don’t lose it all overnight.

Blocking accounts: Is Upwork Legit? A summary

Like any platform, Upwork does have account-blocking protocols. Sometimes this will be activated on purpose (like the 1.8 million user purge), and other times there will make mistakes.

This should serve as a warning as a user and the advice they should take from it is that they would be best working across several platforms.

However, this is not a reason avoid Upwork, as each platform has the similar issues.

It doesn’t undermine Upwork’s legitimacy any more than Instagram, or Facebook, or TikTok’s when they do the same thing.

Upwork Complaint #3: I always get undercut

This is a tricky one.

Depending on whether you’re a client or freelancer, you might have a different opinion on this.

For example, of course clients love paying as little as possible.

But what this really comes down to is the global nature of the platform. It has nothing to do with the question ‘Is Upwork Legit?’ and everything to do with the different cost of living in different economies.

Is Upwork Legit | image showing how people from different economies with different cost of living compete on the platform
A cost of living comparison between India and the UK. Source: Numbero

This is a huge issue.

The average rent in New York City for a 1 bed apartment is $2,800.

The average rent in New Delhi for a 1 bed apartment is around $240.

That’s more than 10x as much!

And yet, on a truly global platform like Upwork, these people could be going for the SAME job.

This presents a problem.

There’s no way that I could accept a job that pays $100 for 5 or 6 blog posts.

However, someone would.

But is this anything to do with Upwork?

This issue alone is why I came off Upwork as a freelancer, because it was just becoming too much of a slog to compete on price with people from all over the world.

However, there are things you can leverage to your advantage.

The US, UK and Australia might have a far higher cost of living, but they are natively english speakers, and there’s a premium for that.

My advice would be to put your price point higher and just don’t try and compete on price at all. This might mean that the simpler jobs like data entry or research are out of your scope, but as a freelancer you need to stick to your guns and deliver brilliant work at all times.

Remember, price is just one of the client considerations.

Make sure that you excel in other areas like accuracy, speed, competency and common sense and you can still do well on the platform.

Is Upwork legit wherever you’re from? A summary

Yes.

It might seem unfair to come from a high-cost location and not able to compete on price, but that’s just the nature of a global platform. Upwork is no different to any of the others.

Upwork Complaint #4: It’s too hard to get clients.

It is true that Upwork can be difficult to get clients on.

There are tonnes of client jobs posted.

However, there are even more freelancers.

It’s as simple as that. Supply outstrips demand!

Check out this job I posted and the sheer number of responses.

Screenshot of an Upwork job posting with 51 responses
A recent job posting with 51 responses (!!!)

By the time this job posting had been live for 24 hours, it already had more than 40 interested freelancers trying to work with me.

Overall it got 51 responses!

As you can see, I hired two people for this role.

(If you’re interested in the actual report they helped me with, it’s here.)

Still, two hires from 51 applications makes your chance of getting hired less than 1 in 25. Or put another way, less than 4%.

So I can totally see why people would complain about it. However, with 1.1 billion freelancers around the world, it’s hardly surprising. It certainly doesn’t shouldn’t make people question: is Upwork Legit?

Instead they should ask, ‘How can I stand out on Upwork?’

As a client, here are my tips for getting jobs on Upwork:

  • Read the brief! You wouldn’t believe how many of those 51 responses simply forwarded me their pre-written resume or cover letter. These are just irritating.
  • Reply with a personalised response that tells the client HOW you will approach the challenge. Make it clear in your response that you’ve read the brief.
  • Send a few visual examples of your work if you can.

Upwork Complaint #5: It’s not as good as a rival platform

Is Upwork Legit | TrustPilot review comparing Upwork to Fiverr
TrustPilot review comparing Upwork to Fiverr

Surprisingly, many of the complaints about Upwork compare it to another platform. For example:

  • It’s easier to get hired on Fiverr
  • You make more money on Freelancer
  • The user experience is better on Simply Hired

This has nothing to do with the question ‘Is Upwork Legit?’ And is more about people’s personal preference.

All of these comments may be fair, but it’s not really worth comparing the platforms when there’s nothing stopping you being on all of them

Do you prefer Fiverr? Great, sign up.

Do you make more money on Freelancer? Perfect, sign up.

In a previous point, I talked about the value of spreading your portfolio around several platforms. In my opinion, you should try them all as they’ll all have pros and cons for each type of job.

Is Upwork Legit and safe? A conclusion

Yes, Upwork is legit.

No, it isn’t for everyone.

The things for you should keep in mind to use Upwork safely and securely are:

  • Clear communication at all times. Whether you’re a client posting a job, or a freelancer answering a pitch, personalised, honest communication is the way forward.
  • Use Upwork as one tool among many. This can also be true for clients and freelancers. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.
  • Do every pice of work to the best of your ability. On these platforms, you’ll rely a lot on your ratings, so there are no shortcuts.

I hope you enjoyed this piece.

Upwork is a legit, safe and secure platform.

It can be very rewarding for both clients and freelancers if used correctly.

If you want to sign up with several other platforms to diversify your portfolio, use the links below.

Sign up with:

Good luck!

Let me know about your Upwork experiences in the comments.