RST Software
Editorial Team
Magdalena Jackiewicz
Reviewed by a tech expert

How to create a freelance marketplace like Upwork?

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Creating a successful freelance marketplace akin to Upwork is an exciting venture in today's digital world. These platforms are dynamic digital hubs, bustling with activity, where a vast array of services and talents meet the demands of businesses and individuals alike. They serve as critical junctions, linking clients with skilled freelancers, fostering mutual benefits and growth.

As a prospective platform owner, you stand to gain significantly from various revenue channels, including transaction fees and subscription models. This taps into the booming gig economy, offering a lucrative opportunity with relatively low maintenance effort. The exciting part? It's now more accessible than ever to launch your own freelance marketplace.

In this guide, we delve into the essential elements of crafting such a platform. We'll explore what constitutes a freelance marketplace, examine various business models, and highlight the potential benefits to both you and the users. Join us as we navigate the roadmap to building a thriving freelance marketplace.

What is a freelance marketplace?

A freelance marketplace is a digital nexus where businesses and individuals seeking specific services connect with skilled freelancers ready to fulfill those needs. These online platforms are not just meeting points but vibrant ecosystems that enable freelancers to present their abilities, craft detailed profiles, and vie for projects through bids. Conversely, clients have the advantage of perusing through a diverse array of freelancer profiles, assessing their expertise and track records, to select the ideal candidate for their project requirements.

What sets these marketplaces apart is their comprehensive framework, which streamlines the entire process. They simplify project management, enhance communication channels, and ensure secure payment transactions, making the collaboration seamless and efficient.

These platforms cater to a wide range of services, including but not limited to writing, content creation, graphic design, video production, animation, IT and software development, digital marketing, business consulting, translation, legal services, and much more. Each service offered on these platforms reflects the dynamic and diverse nature of today's gig economy.

How do freelance marketplaces work?

Freelance marketplaces streamline the interaction between clients and freelancers with a straightforward process. Freelancers begin by crafting detailed profiles, showcasing their expertise, past experiences, and portfolios. Clients, in turn, post projects outlining their specific needs, including budget and timelines. Freelancers then respond by submitting tailored proposals, detailing their approach and pricing. 

Clients review these proposals and select the freelancer who aligns best with their project requirements. Once hired, freelancers commence work, maintaining communication with clients through the platform's integrated messaging system. Upon project completion, payment is processed through the platform, and both parties have the opportunity to leave reviews, closing the cycle smoothly.

Freelance marketplace business models

Freelance platforms adopt diverse business models, each with its unique approach to profitability:

  • Commission-based model: here, the platform deducts a service fee from the payment made by the client to the freelancer.
  • Subscription-based model: freelancers pay a regular subscription fee for access to job listings and platform features.
  • Freemium model: basic services are free for freelancers, but they have the option to purchase premium features, such as enhanced profile visibility or advanced project bidding capabilities.
  • Project listing fees: clients are charged a fee for posting their projects on the platform.
  • Advertising model: revenue is generated by displaying targeted ads to both clients and freelancers on the platform.
  • Enterprise subscriptions: tailored solutions with premium features and support are offered to larger organizations at a subscription fee.
  • Affiliate marketing: the platform partners with other services or products and earns commission by directing freelancers or clients to these external offerings.

Each model offers distinct advantages and caters to different types of users, contributing to the diverse ecosystem of freelance marketplaces.

Upwork’s business model

Upwork's business model is a testament to its role as a leading freelance marketplace, adeptly bridging the gap between businesses or individuals seeking specialized services and a global pool of talented freelancers.

It operates mostly on fees, and must be doing something right. According to, in 2022, it generated almost $620 million in revenue. Upwork’s business model is largely attributed as the driver behind this success.

This comprehensive and user-centric approach has positioned Upwork as a key player in the freelance marketplace domain, effectively meeting the evolving needs of the gig economy.

Revenue streams

Upwork has three main sources of income: freelancers, clients, and advertising.


As of April 2023, Upwork adjusted its commission structure to better accommodate freelancers. The platform charges a 10% commission on most freelancing projects, with a reduced 5% fee for projects exceeding $10,000 (initiated in 2023).

This fee applies uniformly to both individual freelancers and agencies, regardless of the contract type (hourly, fixed-price, or catalog projects).

For enterprise clients, contracts are tailored individually.

Freelancers engaging in direct contracts with clients not registered on Upwork are charged a 3.4% fee for secure payment processing.

The Upwork Payroll program, where individuals are hired in a more traditional employee-client relationship, bypasses the standard service fee.


Clients incur a 5% fee on all transactions, including fixed-price and hourly jobs, and catalog projects.

A one-time contract initiation fee of up to $4.95 is charged with the first payment to a freelancer for each new contract.


Upwork also monetizes by offering advertising spaces, targeting products and services relevant to clients' and freelancers' needs.

Upwork value propositions

Upwork's success is anchored in its clear value propositions:

  • Diverse and economical services: offering a wide array of high-quality services at competitive prices.
  • Global talent access: connecting clients with a diverse pool of skilled professionals from around the world.
  • Variety in skills and tasks: catering to a broad spectrum of tasks and skill sets, meeting various client needs.
  • User-friendly platform: ensuring ease of use for both freelancers and clients, simplifying the process of finding, hiring, and managing talent.

The benefits of online freelance marketplaces

Online freelance marketplaces like Upwork offer distinct advantages to all parties involved – freelancers, clients, and platform owners. These benefits create a symbiotic ecosystem that drives the success and popularity of such platforms.

For freelancers:

  • Zero initial cost: Starting on Upwork is free, offering a low barrier to entry.
  • Competitive rates: The platform enables freelancers to charge fair rates for their skills and expertise.
  • Efficient job search: Advanced filtering tools simplify finding relevant projects.
  • Flexibility: Freelancers enjoy the freedom to choose when, where, and how much they work.
  • Payment protection: Ensures freelancers are compensated for their work.
  • Time-tracking tools: Help in managing work hours efficiently.
  • Talent recognition: Badges and recognition systems that highlight top performers.
  • Community support: Access to a supportive network of fellow freelancers and resources.

For clients:

  • Diverse services range: A vast array of services available under one platform.
  • Global talent pool: Access to skilled professionals worldwide, removing geographical constraints.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Freelancers often offer more competitive rates compared to traditional corporate subcontractors.
  • Scalable workforce: The ability to easily scale the workforce to match project demands.
  • Secure transactions: Reliable payment systems that safeguard client funds.

For platform owners:

  • Revenue from commissions: A practical model to earn from each transaction.
  • Additional income streams: Through premium features and targeted advertising.
  • Scalability: As traffic increases, the platform can grow without a proportional increase in costs.
  • Global reach: Ability to connect with clients and freelancers worldwide.
  • Adaptability: Flexibility to evolve with market trends and new services.
  • Low overhead costs: As intermediaries, these platforms require no physical inventory, production, or shipping.

Indeed, the mutually beneficial nature of such platforms makes them an attractive proposition for freelancers, clients, and entrepreneurs alike, highlighting why they are a cornerstone of the modern gig economy.

Sounds convincing, doesn’t it?

How to develop a freelance marketplace like Upwork

Embarking on creating a freelance marketplace like Upwork is quite the endeavor, blending strategy with innovative thinking and the right software development approach. Let's walk through the journey in a professional, yet accessible manner, outlining the key steps to build a successful platform.

Step 1: Choose your business niche

First things first, identifying your niche is like playing detective in the vast market landscape. You're digging deep to find that sweet spot where demand meets a gap in supply. It's not just about filling a void; it's about becoming a go-to resource in a specific area. Think of how platforms like 99designs became synonymous with graphic design. The aim here is to become a beacon of knowledge and expertise, perhaps even sharing insights through webinars or e-books.

Now, imagine stumbling upon a fresh idea like a service exchange marketplace. It's a space where skills are traded, not just paid for, fostering a unique community vibe.

Step 2: Choose your business model

Next, you're choosing your business model. This step is crucial as it defines how your platform will generate revenue. Will it be a commission-based model, a subscription service, or something entirely novel? It's like crafting a unique recipe that caters to your target audience while ensuring your platform's sustainability and growth.

Step 3: Select a set of core MVP features

Think of creating your Minimum Viable Product (MVP) as laying the foundation of a house. You start with a straightforward registration process, then build up to detailed user profiles. This phase is all about the essentials – a robust rating system, a portfolio section for freelancers to showcase their work, efficient job listing, and an intuitive bidding mechanism. It's about creating a functional yet simplistic version of your vision to test the waters and gather feedback.

What features does an MVP of a freelancer marketplace need?

Registration flows for freelancers and companies

Start with a clean and straightforward page that helps visitors identify themselves as clients or freelancers. Create a concise registration form with a name, email address, and strong password. Consider using Google or Facebook sign-in options.

Advanced user profiles

After completing the basic registration, walk freelancers through the profile creation process (bio, skills, expertise, education, etc.). Encourage them to upload a picture to their account.


Freelancers must have the ability to list their skills, indicating specific services they offer or areas of expertise they possess. This information is essential for matching freelancers with relevant jobs. Implement a tagging system or dropdown menus for freelancers.

Ratings and reviews

This section is of paramount importance because it serves as proof of freelancers’ professional credibility and work quality. The number of projects completed, satisfaction rate, and descriptive reviews validate a freelancer’s expertise but also build trust with prospective clients, establishing a reputable online presence within the marketplace.


This is a section in which freelancers can display their previous work for potential clients. A portfolio could include examples of projects they have designed, links to websites they have worked on, or any other materials that are relevant. Freelancers should be provided the ability to upload files easily in a predefined type and size.

Advanced search

You need a comprehensive search and filtering mechanism for job category, skill level, client history, budget range, and more. Consider implementing the recommended jobs function and saved searches.

Job listing

The job feed should update in real time based on a freelancer’s profile and preferences to keep them informed about the latest relevant projects.

Bidding mechanism

On these platforms, freelancers submit bids detailing their skills, experience, and terms for completing a job posted by a client. Clients can evaluate the proposals before making a decision. The whole bidding process fosters a competitive environment in which everyone has an equal chance.


This is a real-time communication channel between freelancers and clients through which they can discuss task details, negotiate terms, clarify project requirements, etc. Its functionalities and user-friendliness can contribute to client and freelancer satisfaction and loyalty, and mitigate the risk of their communication elsewhere.

Project management tools

Apart from real-time chat, Upwork offers file sharing, project tracking and a notifications system. It also makes sense to prepare for integration with popular management tools such as Trello, Asana, or Slack.

Payments and invoicing

These tools cover the financial aspect of cooperation between freelancers and their clients, ensuring secure, reliable, and transparent transactions. The payment system guarantees that freelancers receive compensation on time. Invoicing allows for clear documentation, facilitating a smooth exchange between freelancers and clients.

Step 4: Kick off a full-cycle product development process

Now, you're in the thick of product development, akin to being the captain of a ship. You've got your MVP feedback, and it's time to refine and expand. This phase is about setting clear goals, prioritizing features, and ensuring your platform is not just functional but also secure and compliant. It's a balancing act between innovation, user needs, and technical excellence.

Step 5: Launch and scale both operations and infrastructure

Finally, the launch. But it's more than just hitting the 'go' button. This is about strategic marketing, engaging users, and then closely monitoring how your platform performs. It's a continuous process of learning, tweaking, and improving. As your platform gains traction, you're also preparing to scale up, making sure your team and infrastructure can handle growth. You will also have to think about gettign freelancers to advertise through your platform, in addition to customers.

Developing a freelance marketplace like Upwork with RST Software

Building any service marketplace, in particular a business that can be considered Upwork competition is tough. Choosing a strategic partner – a software house that will help you build it – is even tougher. Consider your options carefully before making a final choice, but keep in mind that we have a proven track record of developing robust, customized, and scalable marketplace platforms.

Our professional team prides itself on an agile approach, exceptional UX design services that always put end-users first, cutting-edge technologies, MVP mastery, and a deep understanding of the freelance industry and platform clients’ needs. With RST, you gain a partner who is committed to the success of your freelance marketplace – from concept to execution. Are you ready to share your vision with us?

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