We've changed the way Direct Contracts work on Upwork.

You will still be able to create Direct Contracts and send contract proposals to clients who aren't on Upwork yet, but with the following changes:

  • Existing contracts automatically closed on April 22, 2024. If you want to continue working with your DIrect Contracts client, you will need to start a new contract
  • You’ll pay a 5% freelancer service fee on the earnings you make on these contracts. This is lower than our standard freelancer service fee of 10%, and we’ve eliminated the 3.4% payment processing fee. This means the only fee you will pay is a 5% freelancer service fee on your earnings
  • The clients you invite will also be asked to create an Upwork account. This will allow you to access these contracts alongside your regular Marketplace contracts. Clients will also pay our contract initiation fee and marketplace fee, in addition to the project’s cost

Learn more about how a new Direct Contract works below.

Direct Contracts let you invite clients who don’t have an Upwork account to work with you on Upwork and pay lower freelancer service fees on contracts with those clients. By bringing your clients to Upwork, you can enjoy the benefits of escrow protection, simple contract management, 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 yet. Just like your other contracts on Upwork, you can have a fixed-price or hourly contract. You’ll send the invitation by email to your client.

If your client wants to accept your invitation, they’ll need to create an Upwork account and accept your proposal. (If you try to invite a client who has already signed up for Upwork, you’ll get an error message that the email is already associated with Upwork and you won’t be able to send the invitation).

You can see your pending contracts on the Direct Contracts page. Once a client accepts a contract, you’ll see it on your All Contracts page.

After your client signs up for Upwork and accepts your proposed contract, it will work just like other Marketplace contracts, except you’ll pay a reduced freelancer service fee on these contracts. Also, if the contract closes, you’ll need to initiate future contracts with that client through the Direct Contracts page to continue to receive the discount.

Here’s how it works:

  • You pay a 5% freelancer service fee on the earnings you make on Direct Contracts. The fee is 5% of the total value of the contract. For example, if your earnings are $100 USD you'll be charged a fee of $5 USD.
  • Your client will pay a one-time contract initiation fee of up to $9.95 USD and the marketplace fee. The marketplace fee is 5% of the payment when they use a credit card, debit card, or PayPal. For example, if the payment is for $100 USD and they pay with a card or PayPal, they'll pay a $5 USD marketplace fee (5% of $100 USD). If they are eligible to use a bank account, the marketplace fee is reduced to 3%.

Learn about hourly contracts and fixed-price contracts.

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. Please confirm with your client that they have never signed up for an account on Upwork. You cannot invite them using Direct Contracts if they have already signed up, even if they have not been actively hiring on the platform
  • As a freelancer, you'll pay a 5% freelancer service fee instead of 10%
  • You create the contract terms and send proposals to your client
  • You’ll need to initiate every contract with your Direct Contracts client through the Direct Contracts page to receive discounted freelancer services fees

Frequently Asked Questions

What's the cost for me as a freelancer?

Freelancers are charged a 5% freelancer service fee for contracts initiated through the Direct Contracts page. For example, if your earnings are $100 USD you'll be charged a fee of $5 USD.

Note that after your client accepts your invitation, you’ll need to initiate future contracts with them through the Direct Contracts page to receive the discounted freelancer fees.

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

A Direct Contracts contract will have the same impact on your metrics as other contracts. You and your client can leave each other feedback, which can impact your JSS score and Rising Talent or Top Rated status, and the number of contracts and dollar earnings will be counted in your totals.

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?

Learn how to file a dispute on a fixed-price contract. For fixed-price contracts, you can file a dispute if a client has canceled a contract without payment, has ended the contract without paying the full amount in escrow, or has failed to release a milestone payment despite the delivery of work.

Freelancers cannot file disputes on hourly contracts. However, you do need to respond if your client disputes your hours. Learn how to respond to an hourly dispute.

How do I make changes to the contract?

You can’t edit a proposed contract that hasn’t been accepted yet. If your client wants changes, you will need to create a new contract. Once the contract is accepted, a contract can be edited in the same ways as Marketplace contracts:

  • Hourly: You can lower an hourly rate or your client can raise it
  • Fixed-price: You can request edits or clients can make edits to future milestones only. You and your client cannot edit an active milestone or a contract with no milestones
How do I cancel the contract?

Go to My Jobs All Contracts to find the contract. Select 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 All Contracts to find the contract. Select 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.

Can I send the contract details page to my client using the page’s URL?

Please don’t. Your client does not have an Upwork account yet, so they need a special link to access the contract information. We will send that 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?

You can send a Direct Contracts contract to any of 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 that return of escrow, learn how to file a dispute on a fixed-price contract here.

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 of your hours being submitted. Learn how to respond to a client’s hourly dispute here.

If needed, am I able to issue my client a refund?

Yes, you can issue a full or partial refund.

Can the client submit feedback for this contract?

Yes, you and your client can share feedback on 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?

You can only use DIrect contracts with clients who are not signed up for Upwork.

Do I log time for Direct Contracts in the Time Tracker?

Yes, you’ll log time for Direct Contracts in the Time Tracker, just like for other contracts.

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