What is Upwork about? Can you make money doing freelance jobs online?

One of my readers recently left a comment on my website about previously doing freelance work for oDesk so I decided this might be a nice opportunity to check out. Turns out oDesk is now Upwork and the name Elance also turned up. So what is Upwork about and can you make money with them?

Let’s have a look at this opportunity and also see how Odesk, Elance and Upwork all fit together.

Upwork Review
Overall Ranking: 65/100
Price: Free to join

Introduction: What is Upwork about?

Upwork is a platform that connects businesses with independent workers. Any job that can be done on a computer can be done through Upwork.

I will be looking at this review from the point of view of making money by freelancing and also from the viewpoint of hiring freelancers. If you work online you will know that it really is not always possible to do everything yourself and at times it is great to be able to outsource some work.

What is Upwork about

What is oDesk? What is Elance? How do they fit together with Upwork?

Elance was founded in 1999 by Beerud Sheth. oDesk was founded in 2003 by Odysseas Tsatalos and Stratis Karamanlakis. On December 18 2013 Elance and oDesk announced their merger to create oDesk-Elance. oDesk-Elance was then rebranded as Upwork.

After doing some digging around about these companies the general consensus appears to be that oDesk was quite a great company to do work for. Yes the pay was quite low for jobs which is to be expected on this sort of opportunity, but the rest of the user experience both sides appeared to be very positive.

Elance seemed to be an ok platform that had trouble with their support and contact systems. So communication was not great but it seemed like a relatively nice place to make some extra money online.

Now that these two companies have merged to form Upwork the general feeling is that everything has gone down the drain. It seems the website functionality is worse than before. Other problems are that the attitude of Upwork seems to be really bad towards workers and businesses looking for freelancers too. It also appears there is a high staff turn over within this company with all the good staff leaving and staff that are inadequate staying. There appears to be a lot of animosity towards the CEO Stephane Kasriel.

I always look at a company that has a high staff turn over as a big red flag. If you can’t look after your staff how can you look after your customers?

Here is a comment I found on Quora about Upwork that explains some of the problems with Upwork.

What is Elance, What is Odesk

Not looking so good anymore is it? Well let’s have a look at the pros and cons first to get a better picture of this Upwork opportunity.

Upwork Pros and Cons


  • Free to join
  • Large network of businesses and freelancers
  • Businesses can get jobs done at a very good rate (if you are a freelancer though you will see this under the cons!)
  • Payments via Paypal and credit card, depending on your location also bank transfers
  • Offer proficiency tests so you can see how qualified a freelancer is
  • Jobs can be charged per hour or per job
  • You can use your work done as your portfolio, you are building an asset


  • Support and customer service from Upwork towards freelancers and companies hiring freelancers is just not great
  • Complaints that accounts often just get deleted without reason, explanation or apology. This not only affects freelancers when they get deleted, it also affects businesses that have a working relationship with a freelancer. Check out the comment I found below on Quora about this problem.
  • 10% commission charge gets deducted off freelancer’s pay
  • Risk factor dealing with people. Freelancers might do a terrible job, companies might reject perfectly good work without pay!
  • The level of pay is not great for freelancers, the money offered per hour or per job is generally very low.
  • Can be hard to get freelance jobs. According to Wikipedia Upwork has 9 million registered freelancers and 4 million registered clients

Upwork pros and cons

Is Upwork a Scam?

No, it is a legit way to make money online and to find freelancers to do work for you. Yes it is true there are some issues with their company which can cause upset but they are not a scam.

My Verdict for Upwork

This is a legitimate opportunity to make some money online and worth a try if freelancing appeals to you. If you have a business and are not wanting to take on staff I really feel this could be a great alternative.

Yes there are some downsides to Upwork and I have to say I really think that they need to work on their support and customer service. It is a great pity to take a company like oDesk that had great reputation do some merging and rebranding and the end result is a disappointment. How sad really.

If Upwork makes some drastic changes in their company they could pull themselves out of this problem.

I do like this type of opportunity above things like PTC sites and online surveys. It is something more worthwhile, you can also come out of it with more experience and being more knowledgeable.

That said about Upwork if you want to do work online to make your own money why not just start your own online business instead of being dependent on other people for freelance jobs for such a little pay? If you have the skills to do work for someone else you certainly have the ability to do work for yourself right?

Check out this Wealthy Affiliate review where you can get started with your own online business for free, and learn everything you need to know about online marketing.

If you want to get started with Upwork here is a great podcast I came across that gives some really great insight into platforms like this.

What do you think of online freelance opportunities? Have you tried Upwork/ Elance? oDesk before and what was your experience? Please leave a comment!

Upwork Review
Overall Ranking: 65/100
Price: Free to join



Lynne Huysamen

Mommy to a pigeon pair, blogger and online marketer. Lover of chocolate, good books and buckets of coffee.


  1. Hi Lynn,
    Great post, especially the video and other comments, they help give a varied and more subjective opinion of Upwork. The part linking Upwork with Elance and oDesk is useful and your pros and cons list is detailed and helps a lot!
    All the best! Axel.

  2. Thank you so muck for the great information you provide here. This was sure usefull.
    Great to know!


  3. Hi Lynne
    I cannot say that I had heard of Upwork before. At first, as I was reading your review, I was thinking it could be a good opportunity to have some freelance contracts without much hassle. But I am appalled by the comments and reviews of users! Holy crap! It seems like there is zero support and the fact that one’s account can just be terminated with the drop of a hat leaving both sides hanging is just awful. I can imagine the client left there with no service at the last minute. And the freelancer without an account. To me, that is highly unprofessional.

    • Hi Emily, yes I totally agree with you there! I would be livid if that happened to me. Then again there are loads of people rating this opportunity with Upwork 5/5 on the same website….. there is no referral program so I can’t see the reviews and comments being biased. It looks to me like it is luck of the draw, you might like it and do well and you might have an awful experience. It does look to me like you have a better chance of making money from Upwork than say doing online surveys….

  4. Hello Lynn,
    I really appreciate your post because it cleared somethings I did not understand. For instance I knew that Odesk and Elance were two different services but at some point I discovered that Odesk and Elance became one without really knowing what happened. And lately I also discovered that if I searched for Odesk what will pop up would be Upwork, I became even confused the more.
    Though I tried using Odesk in the past to make money online but I couldn’t make any head way because it is a difficult model of online business. Some times to get a gig was very difficult. I would put in so much time creating my profile and all that to make it appealing but the jobs seem not to be coming forth, because most often people prefer giving jobs to pros with pedigree.
    Thanks for sharing anyway

    • Hi Nnamdi
      Yes I agree with you there, I would think it would be hard to get your foot in there and really get some good relationships with clients going… but perhaps once you get a job or two then it can really get going. This personally doesn’t appeal to me because there are just too many variables!

  5. Hi Lynne, I have some experience dealing with these companies, so thought I would chime in. From what I understand odesk became Elance, which I’ve known about for several years, and have hired freelancers using them. For some unknown reason, well unknown to me at least, they decided to become Upwork. To be honest, I never had a problem with Elance. It was easy to find freelancers, the support was readily available when needed, and I got the job done. I actually found a wonderful freelancer who did all my branding for a resource centre I was running. I don’t care for Upwork. I don’t find it as user friendly as Elance was, things are definitely not as clear and something just doesn’t feel comfortable to me. I would prefer they brought back Elance.

    • Hi Hindy
      Thank you for your input! Yes that is exactly what I have been seeing in my research that there is just confusion about why there have been all these changes and the end result is a disappointment.

  6. I have used them for 7+ years and feel they are good for outsourcing, but finding work there is impossible.

    Upwork for finding work isn’t really a good place to find work. The reason being is because you always get beat out by people in India for nearly everything you apply for. I have landed very few jobs with them.

    Outsourcing work on Upwork is pretty good. When I outsource writing you really have to screen people and give them small amounts of work and set milestones. I have met very good connections on there, but some of them are horrible.

    The support from Upwork is generally pretty bad though. It used to be much better with oDesk.

    • Hi Garen

      Thank you for your input! It is just confirming everything I thought about them. I agree that it must be much easier finding someone to do work for you than finding work and trying to make money on Upwork. I would think it is quite cut throat!

    • Thanks for the honest experience on both sides of the fence. I have been looking at different freelance gigs and I think I started signing up for Upwork this past summer, found a different job, and forgot about them until this review. Glad I didn’t devote more time to them than I had originally intended.

      • Hey Josh
        Look it isn’t all bad, there are some people that rave about them… this just isn’t something that would appeal to me personally.

  7. As always, a comprehensive review Lynne. I have personally used Upwork a few times but I am yet to get my head around how it functions. How would you rate it exclusively on the basis of user-friendliness? And also, have you come across guru.com?

    • Hi Shaz
      Thanks for your feedback
      I don’t find Upwork very user friendly at all… and no I have never heard of guru.com. Perhaps now I need to have a look at them! Thanks for sharing.

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