Direct Contracts let you 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 who aren't on Upwork. Just like your other contracts on Upwork, you can have a fixed-price or hourly contract, and your client will deposit project funds in escrow before the contract starts. When you've completed work on a fixed-price contract, you'll request payment. We'll release fixed-price funds to you after the client accepts your request. For hours you work on an hourly contract, you will need to enter the hours manually instead of using the Time Tracker. We'll bill the client weekly on Mondays and release funds to you on Fridays after your client has had a chance to review your hours.

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 for them to use, as well.

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
  • As a freelancer, you'll just pay a 3.4% processing fee on the contract amount and not our traditional freelancer service fee
  • 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 account
  • You will log all hours manually. You won't use the Time Tracker to log time for hourly contracts

Manage your Direct Contracts

Choose the Direct Contracts icon in your navigation bar..

Direct Contract icon - Upwork

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

If you choose to use a fixed-price contract, you can add up to five 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. In an hourly contract, you will set your hourly rate and a maximum number of hours that can be billed per week in the contract.

Escrow services

Your client will need to place funds in escrow with Upwork Escrow before the contract can start.

For a fixed-price contract, 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.

For an hourly contract, your work week ends at midnight each Monday (UTC) and we will bill the client for the hours you worked during the previous week. Your client will have 4 days to review and approve the hours. If they approve or take no action, we will release the funds to you on Friday (UTC).

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). 

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.

If a freelancer initiates a dispute on a fixed-price contract within those seven days, the contract is put on hold. Funds will be held in escrow until the dispute has been resolved.

Frequently Asked Questions

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. We won't charge you an additional 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 you and your client 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 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.

Direct Contracts icon - Upwork

How do I file a dispute?

Direct Contracts are supported by escrow services and dispute assistance.

If a client has canceled a fixed-price 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. Select "..." then "Get Help" and "Contact Us."

Please note that freelancers cannot file disputes on hourly Direct Contracts.

Learn more here

How do I make changes to the contract?

Direct Contracts can be edited by you until your client accepts the contract and funds it. 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.

How do I request payment from my Direct Contract client?

Go to My Jobs > Direct Contracts to find the contract. Click on the (...) and you'll see an option to “Request Payment” and include a personalized note. You must request payment for the full amount, not a partial amount.

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

Yes, since we process your payments for Direct Contracts, that information will be included in your tax information for Upwork. 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 freelancers will be subject to freelancer service fees and client payment processing 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 it is still in progress?

If your client cancels a fixed-price contract with you, any money deposited into escrow will be returned to them. If you need to dispute a canceled fixed-price contract, you can contact Upwork Support to initiate the dispute by clicking on the “Get help” menu in your contract details page.If your client cancels an hourly contract, you will be paid for all billed hours, unless the client files a dispute of your hours within four (4) days.

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.

Can 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.

What should I do if I find a client on Upwork and would like to use Direct Contracts?
If you would like to use a Direct Contract with a client you find on Upwork, the client will pay the conversion fee. Otherwise, you cannot use Direct Contracts. 
Why isn't time that I logged in the Time Tracker for a Direct Contracts contract showing on my client's invoice?

For Direct Contracts, you must log your hours manually. Even though your contract may be listed in Time Tracker, only hours logged manually are entered onto your Direct Contracts invoice. Since Direct Contracts clients do not have Upwork accounts, they do not have access to the Reports that display Time Tracker information.

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