At Upwork, we’re committed to helping you connect with the talent and expertise you need.

With Direct Contracts, you can easily work with independent professionals in over 180 countries and enjoy the support of features such as escrow services, dispute assistance, simplified contract management, and instant payments even if you choose not to join the Upwork platform.

Fund a direct contract

Follow these quick steps to get started:

Review and accept a contract

Freelancers can send Direct Contracts straight to you via email. First, you'll want to review the contract details.

1. Check your email

Look for a Review Contract email from Upwork with contract details, like your freelancer's name. For security, we'll ask that you confirm your email with a quick 6-digit code before starting your full review.

The contract may be set up two different ways, which you will see in the initial email:

  • Fixed-price — The freelancer sets a price for the completed work. The work and pricing may be broken down into steps that are called milestones.
  • Hourly — The freelancer works for a set price per hour. You agree on a maximum number of hours that can be billed per week.
2. Review contract details

Review the full contract details, and reach out to your freelancer directly if you need any changes. Sign and accept to get started, or choose to decline the proposal.

Contract details view

3. Enter your payment method

Escrow services are one benefit that we offer with Direct Contracts. Enter a payment method to fund your contract and get started. We accept PayPal and credit cards.

We won’t release the payment to the freelancer yet.:

  • For a fixed-price contract, you will approve your freelancer's payment requests after they submit work for your review. You and the freelancer may choose to have them submit the work all at once or break it down into multiple milestones. If you break it down into milestones, you will fund and approve one milestone at a time.
  • For an hourly contract, your first payment will be a deposit that we will hold until the contract ends. Each Monday, we will invoice you for the hours that the freelancer worked during the previous week, which you pay weekly. If for some reason your payment method fails during the weekly billing process, we will pay the freelancer from your deposit that is in escrow.
Add a new card and fund
4. Success!

Congratulations! You and your freelancer will both receive confirmation emails from Upwork, and your contract can begin.

No work can begin until we have confirmed contract funding.

Contract funded notification

Pay for Work

Once your contract is funded, it becomes active. For fixed-price contracts, when the freelancer completes the work, you can review the results and release a payment. For hourly contracts, we will bill you weekly for the previous week’s hours.

1. Check your email
  • Fixed-price contracts — your freelancer will send a payment request when the work is done. You'll get an email from Upwork with the request and a link to click through and review it.
  • Hourly contracts — we will invoice you each Monday based on the hours your freelancer billed to you the previous week, each week for as long as your contract is active.
Review payment request
2. Review the request

Fixed-price contracts — After you review the payment request, you can accept it and release your payment. You can also choose to decline the request and request changes to the work. If you do not respond to a fixed-price payment request within 14 days, Upwork will automatically release the payment to your freelancer, as authorized by the escrow instructions you and your freelancer agree to.

Hourly contracts — We will invoice you each Monday for the freelancer’s hours from the previous week. You have 4 business days to review the hours, Monday-Thursday. Unless you dispute the hours, we will automatically pay the freelancer at the end of the review period.

Approve payment
3. You're all set!

When you accept the fixed-price payment request (either by choosing “Approve Payment” or taking no action for 14 days), we will send your payment, a confirmation, and a contract invoice to your freelancer. For hourly contracts, we will send your payment for the billed hours to the freelancer the day after the review period ends, unless you dispute it within the review period. The review period ends on Thursday; we release payments on Friday.


Payment sent notification


4. File your invoice

We'll email you to confirm that we released your payment. You can keep the attached invoice/project receipt for your records.


Invoice created confirmation

Learn more about the Direct Contract experience for a freelancer here.

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