When you use Upwork as your home for work, security is essential. That means keeping you safe with dedicated trust and safety checks to help protect every user from fraud, theft, intimidation, and spam. We understand that an international community of professionals, agencies, and clients relies on us to help deliver quality opportunities and talent matches with full peace of mind.

Keeping working relationships on the Upwork platform is an essential part of maintaining transparency, helping ensure accurate information, and providing you with payment protection and dispute assistance. It also helps protect your personal financial account information and prevents situations where a client might try to get around our systems that protect you.

Why can’t I get paid directly?

The short answer is that it makes Upwork less safe.

More specifically, when relationships are moved outside of Upwork — something called circumvention — it undermines user experiences, limits the protections we can offer, hurts our ability to attract quality clients and talent to create new opportunities and matches, and weakens the marketplace as a whole. Because of this, circumvention is a serious violation of our Terms of Service unless you pay the Conversion Fee.
We enforce a zero-tolerance Circumvention Policy to ensure that Upwork is a safe place for both talent and clients to thrive, while preventing breaches of trust that put you and the community at large at risk.

Circumvention damages user experience both on and off the platform. Users outside of Upwork risk being exposed to fraud, abuse, and harassment without any recourse because their relationship is not covered by Upwork’s protections. On the platform, users lose the trust that is provided through the transparency provided by on-platform relationships. Any relationship taken outside of Upwork will not result in client or freelancer reviews, which provide valuable information to all platform users. It also impacts Upwork’s algorithms, disrupting accuracy and efficiency for everyone.

Note: We do have a conversion process, which enables you to move your relationship off-platform without violating our Terms of Service.

What is Circumvention, exactly?

Circumvention is when a client and freelancer meet on Upwork, but then conduct their relationship outside of Upwork by sending payment through another means without paying the Conversion Fee. Circumvention is a serious violation of the Terms of Service and is laid out in Section 7 of the User Agreement.

We understand that there may be times when a significant, longer-term business relationship develops between you and your client and working together directly makes sense for both parties. And since we allow you to bring your own clients to Upwork, it follows that we have ways for you to bring them off Upwork, as well. That is why we recognize three exceptions, when moving a relationship outside of Upwork does not count as circumvention:

  • The Upwork Conversion Fee has been paid for the relationship.
  • A relationship that started outside the platform, comes onto Upwork, and is then taken outside the platform. This includes Bring Your Own.
  • Relationships that have been maintained on the platform for two years or more.

Violating the Non-Circumvention clause of the Terms of Service will result in loss of the ability to use Upwork (account suspension). Also, violators can be charged the associated Conversion Fee for that relationship.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do I lose by taking my contract off Upwork?

When your relationship is taken outside of Upwork, we will no longer be able to offer any support, including customer service, payment protection, dispute resolution services, etc. You will be responsible for resolving any issues that arise with payments, quality of work, deadlines, etc., without our assistance.

If I qualify for an exception to the Upwork Circumvention Policy and want to get paid directly, what should I do?

Besides paying the Conversion Fee, there are two exceptions to the Upwork Circumvention Policy:

  • Relationships that started outside the platform, are brought onto Upwork, and are then taken back outside the platform. These include existing partnerships or business relationships that may have added Upwork services at a later time, participants in Bring Your Own or Direct Contracts, and similar situations.
  • Relationships that have been maintained for at least two years on the platform may be taken outside of Upwork for a fee of $1.00 USD, plus any applicable taxes. These relationships don’t need to be continuously active, and they are not limited by a certain quantity of projects. You can initiate this request from within Upwork’s platform by following the steps outlined below.

If you qualify for one of these exceptions, you and your client may work together outside of Upwork by paying a $1.00 USD fee, plus any applicable taxes. You can follow the same instructions and complete the conversion process and we’ll notify you when it’s complete.

How does the Conversion Fee work?

In general, the Upwork Conversion Fee is 13.5% of a freelancer’s estimated annual earnings. To help you convert your contract, we will apply a discount on the Conversion Fee. This discount is calculated as a percentage of the total Marketplace Fees that client has paid to Upwork in the previous twelve months on marketplace contracts between the client and the freelancer. The discount won’t make the final Conversion Fee price drop below $1,000. Begin the conversion process to determine your discount.

Our team will calculate the fee for you and answer any questions so you can determine the best option. Learn more about the Conversion Fee.

How do I pay the Conversion Fee to take my project outside of Upwork?

Clients typically initiate this process. To pay the Conversion Fee and take your relationship outside Upwork, your client will need to:

  1. Go to Jobs > All Contracts
  2. Choose a specific contract under All contracts and select the (…) menu
  3. Select the Request Contract Conversion button to start the conversion process
  4. Follow the steps outlined and send the conversion request. The other party will be notified and must accept the request. We’ll then process the payment and notify you when the conversion process is complete. 

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