How To Use Upwork Referrals by a $600K Freelancer (2023)

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If you’re reading this article it’s probably because you’re trying to figure out whether or not Upwork has a referral program.

But the answer depends on how you define “referral”.

Upwork, for the uninitiated, is the world’s largest online freelance platform. Freelancers come to the platform to find contract work. Clients come to the platform to find freelancers.

Does Upwork have a referral program? Yes, they do, in fact, they have two:

  1. Refer Another Freelancer (refer a freelancer to a job)
  2. Upwork Affiliate Program (refer a client to the platform)

It may also be interesting to note, that you can earn a bit of extra cash with one of those referral programs, but not the other.

Want to learn more?

Below, we are going to take a closer look at both of Upwork’s referral programs and how they work.

Read Also: Can You Make Good Money on Upwork? How I Made $600,000

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A screenshot of the Refer a Freelancer screen
A screenshot of the Refer a Freelancer screen

1. Refer Another Freelancer

On the Upwork platform, when freelancers receive job invites, they are given the option to either decline or accept.

If they decline, they are given the option to refer another Upwork freelancer, who may be a better fit, if:

  • The freelancer hasn’t submitted a proposal of their own already
  • The freelancer hasn’t already been referred to be someone else
  • The job post isn’t set to private
  • The freelancer hasn’t already been invited or hired by the client

It doesn’t matter whether or not the referring freelancer knows the referee.

How does a referral work on Upwork?

After a referral takes place, the referred freelancer will receive an email notification. They may then either accept or decline that referral just like any other job invite.

Freelancers may also view referrals by logging into their Upwork account, clicking on Find Work from the site navigation and selecting Proposals > Referrals from the dropdown menu.

Is there a referral bonus on Upwork?

There is no financial incentive or perk for referring a freelancer – only good karma. Nor are referring freelancer stats impacted – either positively or negatively – by the outcome of the contract.

Read Also: Upwork Profile Examples and Tips From Six-Figure Freelancers

a screenshot of impact radius
Impact Radius provides Upwork affiliate assets like links, banners and buttons

2. Upwork Affiliate Program

Next, let’s take a look at the Upwork Affiliate Program – an entirely different beast from the Refer Another Freelancer program.

Upwork’s affiliate program, hosted by Impact Radius, is designed for social media influencers, content creators and bloggers who want to refer new clients (not freelancers) to the platform.

Approved affiliate partners may even earn a percentage of the newly referred client’s first spend on the platform.

But there is a catch.

Due to the already over-saturated nature of the freelancer side of Upwork, there is currently no financial incentive for referring new freelancers to the platform. It’s only for referring new clients who do not already have an Upwork account.

What is affiliate marketing?

For those of you who have never heard of affiliate marketing before, allow me to provide a brief overview of what it is and how it works.

Affiliate marketing is the act of promoting a company’s service or product in exchange for a – usually financial – incentive on leads, referrals and/or sales.

These promotions usually take the form of blog posts, testimonials and/or social media content.

For instance, as an approved partner of the Upwork Affiliate Program, I simply include a special client signup link (like the one below) in my Upwork-related articles.

If a first-time user becomes a client and makes a hire within 30 days of clicking on my special link, I earn a commission on their initial platform spend.

Read Also: 13 Dos and Don’ts of Affiliate Marketing from a 6-Figure Content Creator


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How much does the Upwork Affiliate Program pay?

At the time of this writing, payout percentages are as follows:

Tracker TypeOnline Sale
Cookie Duration30 days
Payout Schedule1 month and 3 days after the end of the month
Payout Limit$150 per order

But what does this mean in layman’s terms?

Let’s take a look at some sample numbers.

Customer SpendUpwork Payout

You can apply for the Upwork Affiliate Program here. An account is required to participate. An Upwork account is not.

For additional information, or to learn more about the Upwork Affiliate Program, check out my full-length article: The Upwork Affiliate Program: Payout Percentages, How to Apply.”

Read Also: The Upwork Affiliate Program: Payout Percentages, How to Apply

Are you an Upwork freelancer? Have you ever referred another freelancer to your project? Are you a content creator? Have you applied to the Upwork affiliate program? Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to connect with me on social media.

PS: If you’ve found any of the above advice helpful, and you feel so inclined – buy me a coffee (leave a tip) on Kofi!

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Morgan Overholt

Morgan has almost 20 years of professional experience in graphic design and a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. Her successful freelance business has been featured in articles that have appeared on, Refinery29 and Business Insider Prime.

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