This feature is currently in invite-only beta. Stay tuned!

Direct Contracts are a new offering that 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. 

Note: If you’re eligible for the program, we’ll notify you by email and provide instructions on how to get started.

How it works

With Direct Contracts, you can create and send fixed-price contract proposals to your clients that don’t have Upwork accounts. Just like your other fixed-price contracts on Upwork, your client deposits project funds in escrow before the contract starts. When you’ve completed the work, 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 or pay any additional fees, keeping the experience easy to use for them.

Please note that all transactions are in USD.

How Direct Contracts differ 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
  • Only fixed-price contracts are supported at this time
  • Contracts are for a single amount and can’t be broken into milestones
  • You create the contract terms and send proposals to your client
  • Once your work is approved the funds are released to you immediately (no 5-day security period)
  • Your client won’t need to create an account or pay any fees

How to manage your contracts

Once you’re enrolled in the program, you’ll see a “Direct Contracts” option in your “My Jobs” tab. From here you can create and send contract offers, request payments, and cancel contracts, as well as view all your Direct Contract details. 

Escrow services 

Your client will need to place funds in escrow with Upwork Escrow before the contact 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. 

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


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%. Clients also are not charged any fees. 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?

This option is only for fixed-price contracts.

Where do I go to initiate a Direct Contracts contract?

This option is currently being tested with select freelancers. To see if you are part of the test group, look for “Direct Contracts” under “My Jobs.”

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."

Freelancers can also take these steps to file a dispute.

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.

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?

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.


How do I switch my current contracts to this option?

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


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