Direct Contracts allow you to manage contracts in the Upwork platform with your clients who don’t have an Upwork account. Enjoy the benefits of escrow services, simple contract management, faster payments, and dispute assistance should a problem arise. 

How Direct Contracts Work

With Direct Contracts, you can create and send contract proposals to your clients that don’t have Upwork accounts. You can set up a fixed-price or hourly contract, and your client will deposit funds in escrow before the contract starts. When you’ve completed the work or worked your weekly hours, you’ll request payment from your client. Once they’ve accepted your request, the funds are released to you. 

As a freelancer, you’ll pay a processing fee of 3.4% of the total contract amount but you won’t pay any freelancer service fees to Upwork. Your client won’t have to create an Upwork account, keeping the experience easy to use for them.

Please note that all transactions are in USD.

How are Direct Contracts different from other Upwork contracts?

  • Can only be used with clients who do not have an Upwork account
  • No freelancer service fees are deducted, just a 3.4% processing fee on the contract amount
  • You create the contract terms and send proposals to your client
  • If you have a fixed-price Direct Contracts contract, once your work is approved the funds are released to you immediately (no 5-day security period)
  • If you have an hourly Direct Contracts contract, the client will deposit enough to cover a week's worth of hours into escrow
  • Your client won’t need to create an Upwork account

Manage your Direct Contracts

Choose the Direct Contracts icon in your navigation bar.


From here, you can create and send contract offers, request payments, and cancel contracts, as well as view all your Direct Contracts details. 

If you choose to use a fixed-price contract, you can add milestones to divide your job into a series of phases, due dates, or deliverables based on your needs. Milestones are individually funded, and provide a way to work through a large project in smaller steps. 

When setting your contract amount, choose the "Milestones" option to customize the phases of your job. There is a $5 minimum for milestones.


You can also choose to manage your job with an hourly contract.

Escrow services 

Your client will need to place funds in escrow with Upwork Escrow before the contract can start. Once you request payment to your client they will have 14 days to accept or reject the request. If they don’t take action after 14 days, the funds are automatically released to you.

Your client will pay a payment processing fee. The fee is 3% of the payment when they use a credit card, debit card, or PayPal. For example, if the payment is for $100 and they pay with a card or PayPal, they’ll pay a $3 processing fee (3% of $100). If they use a checking account, they’ll pay a flat $0.50 USD for each payment they make. 

Important note: Both clients and freelancers have the option to cancel the contract at any point before funds are released. In either case, the funds are returned to the client in their original form of payment within seven business days.


What’s the cost for me as a freelancer?

Freelancers are charged a 3.4% payment processing fee. For example, if your earnings are $100 you’ll be charged a payment processing fee of $3.40 USD. You are not charged a freelancer service fee, only the 3.4%. Please note that all transactions are in USD.

How does this affect my Upwork activity metrics (e.g. JSS score, number of contracts, dollar earnings, Top Rated status)?

Since your client and you will only be using Upwork for payments, any Direct Contracts will not impact your Upwork reputation metrics (for example your Job Success Score or Top Rated status). These contracts also will not be included in your other Upwork profile stats, such as total earnings, number of jobs, etc.

Can I have hourly and fixed-price contracts with Direct Contracts?

Yes! You can now have both hourly and fixed-price contracts with the Direct Contracts option.

Where do I go to initiate a Direct Contracts contract?

Look for the paper airplane icon in your navigation bar.


How do I file a dispute?

Direct Contracts are supported by escrow services and dispute assistance.

If a client has canceled a contract without payment or has failed to release a milestone payment despite the delivery of work, initiate a dispute directly from the contract list page. Click "..." then "Get Help" and "Contact Us."

How do I make changes to the contract?

Direct Contracts can be edited by you until your client accepts the contract and funds the project. If a change in terms or scope is needed after that, please reach out to your client to discuss. You can then cancel the existing contract and create a new one.

How do I cancel the contract?

Go to My Jobs > Direct Contact to find the contract. Click on the (...) and you’ll see an option to “Cancel Contract” and include a personalized note.

Does this get included in my U.S. tax information that Upwork provides me at the end of the year?

In most cases U.S. freelancers—including those who earned more than $600—will not receive a Form 1099-MISC from Upwork or their clients. However, there are three important exceptions:

  • If you’re an U.S. freelancer enrolled in Upwork Payroll you’ll receive a W-2
  • If you are a U.S. freelancer who receives over $20,000 and have more than 200 transactions you’ll receive a 1099-K
  • You live in a U.S. state that requires a 1099-K if you reach a certain earning threshold. In these cases, we will send you the 1099-K, if required.

In addition, your client may decide to issue you a tax form if they believe they are required to do so. We recommend that all freelancers use their Earnings by Client report to accurately document your earnings. Learn more here.


What requirements/restrictions are there with Direct Contracts?

On the freelancer/agency side:

  • If terms of the contract need to be changed you must cancel and create a new contract with updated terms

On the client side:

  • Billing method must be PayPal or credit card and a small payment processing fee will be added
  • If terms of the contract need to be changed, the freelancer must cancel and create a new contract with updated terms
  • Clients cannot initiate a contract -- the freelancer must

There is no ability/need for a client to create an Upwork account with Direct Contracts. Clients can access the contract via email from Upwork. If a client decides to create an Upwork client account, new contracts with that freelancer will be subject to freelancer service fees.

Can I send the contract details page URL on my browser directly to my client?

Please avoid sending your client the contract details page URL. Your client does not have an Upwork account, so they need a specially generated link to be able to access the contract information. We will send them the link to your contract via email, so let them know to be on the lookout for an email from

Can I set up a Direct Contract with anyone, anywhere in the world?

Yes, Direct Contracts are available to freelancers and their clients in the 180+ countries where we operate.

What happens if a client cancels a Direct Contracts project while in progress?

If your client cancels a contract with you, any money deposited into escrow will be returned to them. If you need to dispute a canceled contract, you can contact our customer support team to initiate the dispute by clicking on the “Get help” menu in your contract details page.

If needed, am I able to issue my client a refund? If yes, is it possible to issue a partial refund vs. a full refund?

Yes, you can issue a full or partial refund if you have a fixed-price Direct Contracts contract. 

Will the client submit feedback for this contract?

Sharing feedback is not an option with Direct Contracts.

How do I switch my current contracts to this option?

Existing contracts on Upwork cannot be changed to a Direct Contracts contract.

I started a Direct Contract with a client and now I have to verify my identity in order to get paid. Why?

Thanks for your question. We ask freelancers to verify their identity to help keep their accounts safe, as well as keep Upwork secure. We may ask you to verify your identity at different times, and it is always about security. We thank you for taking the time to go through the process, which you can learn more about here.

Do you have to verify your identity to set up a Direct Contract?

Thanks for your question. Not always, however we may reach out and ask you verify your identity at a later time. We ask freelancers to verify their identity to help keep their accounts safe, as well as keep Upwork secure. You can learn more about verifying your identity here.


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