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Grow your business on Upwork

In our signature webinar for new clients, we cover: 

  • How to select the best freelancer for your project;
  • How to plan for timely delivery of results;
  • Tips on how to manage quality;
  • How to fund and pay your freelancer;
  • A live Q&A session for timely insights.

Register for an upcoming session now at Explore Upwork Events, or view a recording here:


Click here to read the full transcript

1  Hello! My name is Drew McCrary from the Training and Education team and I’m here today to talk about how to grow your business on Upwork

With the skills of hundreds of thousands of freelancers on the platform, we can quickly and efficiently match the right freelancer with the right client in real-time. I’m here to show you how!

3  Here is what we are going to cover today. First, we’re going to start with an overview of Upwork in general. Then we’re going to talk about how to find the right talent on our platform. We’re going to talk about the different contracts and how you pay your freelancers. We will give you some tips for collaborating with your freelancers. And we will share some other resources on how you can get information.  

4  Let’s start with an overview of Upwork itself

5 I want to describe how our platform works from both a client and freelancer perspective, and some of the value propositions that make it the largest online talent solution

6  Let’s look at it from the client side first. At a high level, this is the process that you’ll go through to find the right folks for your project. You’ll first post a project on our site using our Job Post flow, which will ask you questions about the specifics of your project so that our algorithms can assist in matching you with the most relevant Freelancers to your project.  

Once you’ve posted a project, you will start to receive proposals from freelancers, and you can also search the platform itself for Freelancers if you would like even more control over the process! You will then compare bids, freelancer feedback from past jobs, and the prior work of your top candidates, Interview, find your right fit and hire.

You can then use our collaboration tools to chat or video call, share files, and track project milestones from your desktop or mobile device.

As work is completed, you’ll pay your Freelancer, either by a fixed-price or hourly format. We are constantly at work to make payments as safe and easy as possible while ensuring that you only pay for work that you authorize.  

We will dive deeper into each part of that process in a bit, but before we do that, let’s talk for just a moment about how it works for freelancers!

7  From a freelancer perspective, there are a number of ways they may find your project on the platform. Freelancers may search out your job post using our search functions, they might be invited by you as you search the platform, or they might be invited by our internal talent agents depending on the type of service you are utilizing with us.  

Freelancers then submit a proposal which will HOPEFULLY answer all of the questions you’ve asked, and you’ll go through the process of selecting your best fit and agreeing with the freelancer on the terms.  Start a contract with the freelancer on Upwork. Work can then be completed using our communication tools. One thing I’d like to note here is that one of the value propositions of Upwork is that we protect both sides of relationship during a project to help make sure that you only pay for the work you authorize, and the Freelancer gets paid for the work that they complete. We will dive deeper into how that works based on the project type in a little bit.  

8  As you get started here on Upwork, you will choose a plan that works best for your needs. If you’re just looking to get started quickly with the essentials, the basic plan may be the best fit for you. If your team is looking to scale quickly and stand out to quality talent, our Plus plan offers back end support, more invites, and deeper reporting to get moving even faster! And finally, if you’re looking for the highest level of support and service to scale, our Business plan is the right choice for you.  

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dive a little deeper into how our platform works.

10  To post a job on Upwork, all you have to do is follow our job post flow! We have templates to help you get started. If you’ve already worked with a freelancer on Upwork and want to reuse a prior job post, that is also available.  

I’ll provide more information on this a bit later, but one thing you may consider is a paid freelancer test project as the final step to deciding on that perfect freelancer for your project. It allows you to set up a very small, paid project for those top freelancers to show you exactly what they can do beyond their portfolio and interviews. I use it on most of my projects! 

11  Here are some things to consider as you go through the job post flow, again, looking to be as specific as you can be about the work you want completed. Outlining the scope, the budget, relevant timelines, and any other specific considerations will help attract top-quality freelancers who do not have time to try to read your mind. The more clear you are here, the easier it will be to find talent!

12  Another way to attract the best freelancers is with a featured job post. If you’re already a member of Client Plus, you get to upgrade one job post a month to a featured job post, which attracts 50% more proposals from Top Rated and Rising Talent freelancers. Our team of talent specialists also highlights the top 3-5 freelancers for your job post. If you’re not on the Plus plan, you can do this on an ad-hoc basis for 29.99 a post.  

13  Ok. So you’ve posted a job. Now what? Let’s talk about how to find the best freelancer for your project. We’ve built out a system that will make it easy for you to sort and select which proposals should move along in the process, and to track all proposals through the entire process.  

14 There are two programs I’d like to first draw your attention to as you begin your search, the Top Rated and Rising Talent programs which I’ve briefly mentioned a few times already. Our Top Rated program is for Freelancers who have demonstrated consistently high-quality work across multiple clients with a strong earnings track record. You’ll recognize them by the Top Rated badge seen here. 

15  Another badge we have is through our Rising Talent program. This program highlights the best NEW members of our platform. They do not yet have a deep work history but have shown their potential through their profile, proposals, and early projects. You should still review their proposal just as you would any of your candidates, but they are definitely worth taking a look at!

16  Bearing all that in mind, one way you can find freelancers is through our search feature.  You can customize this in many different ways, for example by searching for Top Rated and Rising Talent freelancers (if you are a part of our Plus plan), and it’s a great way to complement the influx of proposals that you will get after you’ve posted your job.  

17 Remember, many successful freelancers are quite busy and might not see every job post, so inviting them might draw their attention to the deep and comprehensive job post you wrote, right?  

18  You can also bring your own freelancer! If you’ve got someone you want to bring onto the platform, you can click on the dropdown for bring your own freelancer and then complete the invitation form.  

19 Ok back to the hiring flow! After you have posted your job, you’ll land on this screen where you can view your dashboard. You’ll be able to view all proposals that come in as Freelancers submit them, and sort them to make the process as easy as possible. You can upvote or downvote a proposal to either archive or shortlist them (this will not notify the freelancer), and message any of the candidates at any time you’d like.  You will lead the way on this next phase, only talking to the freelancers that you would like to move forward with.  

20 You can also sort your proposals in a number of ways. You can sort them by “best match” which is a match of what you’ve written in your job post and the freelancer's profile, as well as a number of other sorting options.  

21 Once you see a freelancer that catches your eye, you can click into their proposal, their answers to your questions, and can navigate over to their profile for a deeper dive.

22  Here you’ll find a more comprehensive look into the Freelancer, from their work history to their skills, their overview/introduction, intro video if they have one, and professional samples of their work. This will help you to determine if their experience/philosophy matches up with what you are looking for, and warrants a message or call!

23  Here’s a real example of what a proposal looks like. You can tell me whether this person warrants a further discussion, or will be archived or declined. This proposal was for a PowerPoint designer, and I can tell you that if I received this proposal, I would be very excited to look at the examples that they provided. It demonstrates that this person has deep experience in the field, shows other clients they’ve worked for, and dives into the specific style they use along with what I assume to be a relevant example attached. This screams to me that even if this freelancer is not the best fit for my project, they at this point seem to be highly skilled and have taken the time to customize their proposal for my project. That’s my level of expectation for jobs that I personally post on the platform. If you can’t take the time to customize your proposal and answer the questions I’ve asked in my job post, how could you possibly do great work on my job?  

24 Once you’ve found the freelancers that you would like to message or interview you can open a conversation by clicking on the message button. As you begin to interview, you may come to a point where you would like to see a practical example relevant to your specific project, and as I mentioned earlier, consider a paid test project to help differentiate those final few freelancers.  This can be the first milestone of your project, whether it be a mockup, mini version of your end goal (if it was graphic design it could be one image in the style/branding you need it to be in), or something that will help you make the final determination of who is the best fit for your project. It’s a low cost and quick way to give you more data, (much like a candidate for a job might come in to do a live coding test).  

And once you’ve made your final determination, you can click on the hire button to move forward and get work started!

25  The next thing we’ll talk about is how to set up your project to make it work best for the results you are trying to achieve. This process will actually happen before you set up your job post, so we will take a bit of a step back here.  

26  There are two types of contracts on our platform, hourly, and fixed-priced contracts. Hourly contracts are built for tasks that are not easily defined into steps, like customer support services that include answering emails or phone calls. These hourly contracts are billed on a weekly basis. Fixed-priced projects are built for projects that can be delivered in measurable steps, called “milestones.” Let’s dive a little deeper into each type.

27-28 On an hourly contact, for example, let’s say that we are ready to offer a contract to a freelancer for a google analytics project. You will then negotiate the hours of work per week, and the rate with your freelancer, and then the freelancer can download and use the Upwork Desktop App (also on mobile) to log and invoice their time. 

What you see here is the weekly billing cycle, and let’s say that you negotiated your freelancer to work 10 hours a week at 50  dollars an hour. The billing cycle would start on Monday, and end that Sunday evening.  

So if they worked that 10 hours, on Monday 500 dollars would be charged to you and held in escrow (protecting the freelancer because they worked those hours). You could then review their invoice based on the time tracker if you chose to use it, which takes periodic screenshots of their desktop when they are logging time and records this information in a work diary. This protects you as you can make sure the freelancer was working for the time they billed you. Going back to the billing cycle, you’ll have 5 days to review your freelancer's work and speak with them if you have any questions about what you are seeing.  Then, on that Friday, the final day to dispute those hours ends, the money is held in a security period and is released the next Wednesday to the freelancer. In the meantime, work continues!

29 Fixed-priced contracts work slightly differently, in that you are reviewing the quality of work. You will define your project in specific milestones or stoplights as I like to call them.  

Let’s use that example from before and say instead that this time, instead of doing the analytics work, you want to build the overall marketing channel strategy.  You define the scope and settle with a freelancer on $1000 dollars for the development of the plan that will be split up into 4 milestones of $250 each: The mockup of the plan, a milestone for each type of marketing channel you will use and the strategy (2 in this case), and the final report being delivered as the last milestone.

You clearly define what is to be achieved at each milestone, and then you begin work by funding the first milestone. You will pay for the first milestone of 250 dollars and it will be held in escrow while the freelancer completes work, protecting the freelancer's work and time. When they reach that first stoplight /milestone, they will submit work to you, and you’ll review it on that stoplight system.  

Green means you approve the work and release the milestone, it sends the money to the freelancer, and you then fund the next milestone and they continue work. Yellow means you have some feedback for them to make minor changes, and you may choose to release a partial amount of the milestone. Red means they didn’t do what you asked, and you’ll give specific feedback for them to make relevant changes. What is important here is the quality of work. You don’t release the money until you’ve received what you’ve asked for. One caveat here is to make sure that you define your milestones as specifically as possible in the beginning so that the freelancer can deliver what you asked for. Help them help you!

30 Payment wise, we make payments quick and secure as a value proposition, and you’ll pay a 3% payment processing and administration fee. The freelancer will also pay a sliding fee based on the lifetime value of your work together and should be building that cost into the amount they set as their rate.  

31  So you’ve gotten your project set up as fixed price or hourly, you’ve vetted those top freelancers, and now you want to start communicating with them. Let’s talk about the different ways you’ll do that.  

32 You will be able to use our platform to communicate with your freelancer on any channel you prefer, whether it be web-based, desktop, or mobile. You’ll easily be able to share files, send messages, start a voice or video call, and sort through all of your projects with ease.  

33 Your freelancer can use the Upwork Desktop App to log time if they are on an hourly contract, and you’ll also be able to use it to send messages and collaborate.

34 From a project perspective, you’ll be able to view the status of your contract at any time by clicking on Jobs and selecting contracts from the drop-down menu. This will give you all the details of your current projects, helping you to navigate your project management quickly and efficiently.

35 You’ll also be able to pull reports to help you manage your business, as well as view the work diaries of all you hourly freelancers. View your transaction history with the basic plan, and with the Plus plan, you’ll receive access to all the reports seen here.  

36 And that’s how it all works! But before we go, there is one critical, and often overlooked part of the process. Once work is completed and delivered, the process is not over yet! Closing the contract and providing public and private feedback is important to our platform. In addition to ensuring you and your freelancer more visibility, feedback can help work move even quicker in the future. The system is double-blind so your freelancer won’t see your public feedback until they’ve submitted feedback for you too.

While closing a contract, take the opportunity to propose new work for your freelancer if they did a great job for you. Sometimes there is a tendency to keep a contract open and keep adding milestones (for a fixed price project), so I encourage you to close the contract and open a new one if there is more work to be done; your freelancers will then gain more feedback for their profile and will be very grateful.  

37 I also in closing want to mention a few tips on trust and safety. We have teams working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to keep Upwork safe, and we’d love your help. If you ever see something that seems a little strange please report it to us, and we will look into it as soon as possible.  

Additionally, our Terms of Service states that by finding freelancers on our platform you are obligated to keep the relationship on the platform for 24 months. There is an opt-out fee should you want to work outside of Upwork.  

Lastly, if you have specific things you’d like to add to our standard agreement like a non-disclosure agreement, you can also do that when offering a contract.  

38  Alright! I think we’ve covered most of the basics to get started on our platform. But here are some additional resources in case you have questions or want to dive deeper.  

39  First up is our hiring headquarters where you can find lots of content on best practices, articles on freelancing and our industry at large.

40  If you want to share and connect with other clients using the platform, or get your questions answered by real people with real opinions (prepare yourself), our community is very vibrant and is full of folks who have gone through the same journey you are on, so you can most definitely get an answer/opinion on your questions! Check it out. 


41  And if you have specific platform-related questions, our help center has a myriad of articles on all of the things we discussed today and more.


42  On behalf of the entire Upwork team, I’d like to thank you for watching and listening. I hope this gives you the confidence to get started hiring on Upwork to get the work you need done quickly and professionally. Thanks for watching!

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