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 to work with an established connection and 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. (Later, you may become eligible for paying with a bank account. Learn more about billing methods.) Once you have deposited funds, the contract starts and the project can begin. All transactions are in USD.

For hourly contracts, we will charge you for the previous week’s hours every Monday.

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.


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 can 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.

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’s pending payments at the end of the 14 days.

Hourly Contracts

Once the freelancer has logged hours, you’ll have the opportunity to review them. You'll see what was logged in the previous 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

What's the cost for clients to use Upwork’s Direct Contracts?

You’ll pay a contract initiation fee of up to $9.95 per contract and a marketplace fee of 5% of the value of the contract. If you are eligible to use a bank account, your fee is reduced to 3%. For example, if the payment is for $100 USD and you pay with a card or PayPal, you'll pay a $5 USD marketplace fee (5% of $100 USD). In that same case, if you are eligible to pay with a bank account and choose to do so, you’ll pay 3%, or $3 USD.

Do I have to create an Upwork account?

Yes, you will need to create an Upwork account to begin the contract.

Can I have a Direct Contracts contract with anyone, anywhere in the world?

Direct Contracts are available in all of the 180+ countries where Upwork operates.

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 freelancer 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.

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. Once you’ve accepted the contract, you can see it on our platform in All Contracts.

What happens if I'm not satisfied with my freelancer’s work?

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

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. Learn how to dispute a freelancer’s hours here.

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