It doesn’t matter if it’s a small project or a big one, short-term or long-term. We understand how important it is to work with the right person, because a good connection can last you a lifetime.

If your freelancer has invited you to have a Direct Contracts contract on Upwork, you get the security and convenience of paying through Upwork.

How it works

With Direct Contracts, you’ll benefit from the following:

  • Escrow service to protect your funds until you’ve had the chance to review the work and approve it. This also gives your freelancer peace of mind that the project funds are available, and they can be certain of your payment upon the successful completion of the job.
  • Power to dispute the payment or cancel the contract if done within the window of time before you approve the release of funds (4 days for hourly contracts, 14 days for fixed price contracts). If you cancel, the funds are returned to your original payment method within 7 business days.
  • Project management tools, such as invoices, emailed directly to you.

Review and accept a Direct Contract

When you receive a Direct Contract offer, you will receive an email with the key information, including the contract amount, title, and description. You will have the option to either “Accept and Fund Contract” or “Decline.”

Fund a Direct Contract

After you have agreed to the terms of the contract, you’ll be asked to deposit the funds for the contract in escrow via a credit card or PayPal. Once you have deposited funds, the contract starts and the project can begin. All transactions are in USD.

For an hourly contract, you'll be asked for a one-time deposit of the equivalent of one week's worth of contracted work.

For a fixed-price contract, you and the independent professional you work with may choose to add milestones to divide the 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. You will only need to fund one milestone at a time, making it easier to scale your project.

Example

If a contract has five milestones at $100 for each milestone, the contract total is $500. However, you'll only need to fund Milestone 1 with $100 to get started. Once that milestone is complete, you have the power to fund and activate the next one.

Review Payment Requests

Depending upon your contract type, you'll review payment in different ways. Follow on-screen prompts in your email to review and approve/decline work.

Fixed-price Contracts

Once your freelancer has completed and submitted work for a fixed-price project (based on milestones), they will send you a request for payment. You’ll receive an email notification with the option to “Accept” or “Decline” the request.

If you accept the payment request, we immediately release the funds to the freelancer and, if all milestones are finished, the contract is closed.

If you reject the request, the funds remain in escrow and the contract is kept open; the freelancer can then make any necessary changes to the work and resubmit their payment request. You’ll have 14 days to approve or decline the work –– if you take no action during that time we will release the funds automatically to your freelancer at the end of the 14 days.

Hourly Contracts

Once the freelancer has logged hours, you will have the opportunity to review them. You'll see what was logged in the previous week, and what is being logged in the current week. You’ll have 4 days to approve or dispute the hours, Monday-Thursday of that week –– if you take no action during that time we will release the funds automatically to your freelancer on Friday. If a freelancer logs extra hours outside of the weekly hourly limit on your contract, you'll be able to approve or decline them. If you decline the extra hours, you will not be charged for those extra hours.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why would I use this instead of my current method?

We see your vision, and everything we do is an effort to help you make and maintain the connections that will turn that vision into reality. With Direct Contracts, you get escrow protection and the ability to easily make payments through Upwork. Your freelancer(s) will appreciate the security of Upwork as a third-party escrow partner, and you don’t have to worry about paying for a project that doesn’t get completed. Plus, you have the protection and ability to cancel and have your funds returned. The best talent-client relationships live here because everything we do is about making your work connections stronger and easier to manage.

What’s the cost to set up a Direct Contract?

Clients using Direct Contracts pay 3% fees on paypal/credit/debit charges and $0.50 on payments made through Direct to Bank (ACH), plus the costs for work.

Do I have to create an Upwork account?

No, you will not have to create an Upwork account unless you choose to join our community. (We hope you will!) Any time action is needed on your part, we’ll send you an email and link to the webpage where you can make things happen.

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

Yes, it is available in all countries now.

What are Upwork escrow services?

Escrow is a neutral holding place where we put money aside until the project, or project milestone, is complete. With Direct Contracts, you and your virtual talent get escrow protection to easily make payments through Upwork. Freelancers feel assured because you’ve deposited the project funds into a third-party escrow partner, and you don’t have to worry about paying for a project that doesn’t get completed.

Can I fund a Direct Contract via PayPal?

Yes! Users can fund Direct Contracts via credit card or their PayPal account, as well as through Direct to Bank (ACH) payments.

How do I view my contract?

When you accept the contract, you’ll receive an email confirmation. That email will have a link to allow you to view the contract and request cancellation in case you decide to cancel an active contract.

How do I file a dispute if I'm not satisfied?

We designed this service to include escrow services to protect your projects. On fixed-price projects (based on milestones), once the freelancer has completed and submitted work for the project, they will send you a request for payment. You’ll receive an email notification with the option to “Accept” or “Decline” the payment request.

If you accept the payment request, we will immediately release the funds to the freelancer and the contract will be closed if all milestones are finished. If you reject it, the funds remain in escrow and the contract is kept open. The freelancer can adjust the work and resubmit their payment request.

We encourage you to work through issues with your freelancer. However, if the work is not completed according to the terms of your fixed-price contract, you do have the option to cancel the contract without releasing payment. The freelancer can accept or dispute your non-payment within 7 days of cancellation. If the freelancer disputes, then an Upwork Dispute Specialist will help both parties mediate the dispute.

Important note:

For fixed-price contracts, you have 14 days to review after your freelancer submits work and a payment request. Doing nothing is considered approval under the Direct Contract Fixed-Price Escrow Instructions, and we will automatically release funds to the freelancer.


For hourly contracts, you’ll be invoiced on Mondays for any hours your freelancer worked the previous week. You’ll have 4 days to review the hours before the payment is released on Friday. It is during these four days that you can file a dispute, if needed. If you do, we will be there to help. An Upwork Dispute Specialist will reach out to you and help mediate.


To file a dispute:

  • Go to the "Contract Details" page.
  • Hover over the ellipses (...) in the upper right-hand corner and choose the "Get help" option.
  • In the "How Can We Help" box that appears, choose "Contact us".
  • Under "Select the reason you’re contacting us", choose "File a dispute".

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