2021 at Upwork: New Features and Upgrades to Help You Find the Talent You Need to Get Things Done

Sam Bright
Sam Bright
December 16, 2021
December 16, 2021
2021 at Upwork: New Features and Upgrades to Help You Find the Talent You Need to Get Things Done

This year, we’ve undertaken our most comprehensive upgrades ever to help you build, scale, and manage your hybrid workforce through Upwork. 

You've told us how our work marketplace could work better for you—and we've listened. From introducing entirely new ways for you to find talent to mobile enhancements that help your business move faster, we're committed to making innovations that help fuel your success.

It’s easier than ever to form powerful relationships with talented independent professionals on Upwork. And as you look to hire more freelancers—38% of businesses plan to significantly increase their use of remote freelancers in the next two years—we want to inspire you to think differently about how work gets done.

Take a look at the product lines, features, and upgrades we launched this year!

New hiring options to fit your needs

Upwork’s Talent Marketplace™ has long been an effective way to post a job and hire a professional. In 2021, we introduced a new way to find the expertise you need: Project Catalog.

Project Catalog™

Project Catalog is your go-to destination to get work started fast with ready-to-purchase projects, built by talented pros. You can browse and compare projects side-by-side and leverage ratings and reviews to find the right independent professional for your needs. You can also customize projects by selecting from optional add-ons, such as additional rounds of revision and rush delivery. 

To help you choose the right project, we have curated “Upwork Picks,” showcasing talent that may be able to offer the best service for your needs.

Bring your ideas to life with Project Catalog

Innovations to build and manage your hybrid team

When you realize you can lean on independent talent to move your most important work forward, it can change what you believe is possible. We’ve added a number of upgrades to streamline what it takes to keep a team running smoothly. 

Faster freelancer verification process

We’ve automated portions of the ID verification process for independent talent and made other changes so they can complete the necessary steps more quickly, ensuring Upwork remains a professional, secure marketplace for our clients.

More convenient payment options

We’ve made a number of enhancements so it’s easier for you to make payments. These include:

  • Allowing all clients to use prepaid cards.
  • Starting to roll out bank-based payments for clients in the EU. This feature will be rolled out to all EU customers in the first quarter of 2022.
  • Enabling ACH (Automated Clearing House) transfers for clients using Direct Contracts.
  • Introducing an improved checkout flow, which will continue in 2022.

Onboard outside talent

You’ll find new features and capabilities on the Bring Your Own Talent solution, including improvements to the registration process and an overhaul of the first-time offer experience. 

Bring Your Own Talent enables you to onboard independent professionals who don’t use Upwork onto the Upwork platform. You can take care of all your billing, reporting, and overall contract management in one place. For Enterprise clients: See which professionals have been invited to different projects.

Seamless payroll onboarding

If you determine that a worker should be classified as an employee rather than a contractor, the improvement we have made to our onboarding process allows you to move them through the payroll set up process within the Upwork platform . This significantly reduces onboarding time while providing transparency throughout the onboarding process. For Enterprise clients: This process is automated so you can scale more easily.

For Enterprise clients: New offer approvals

No longer worry about losing sight of project scope or spend among your team. Enterprise-level clients can now assign basic approval capabilities on offers to allow team members to move forward independently while maintaining necessary oversight. You get better control of your budget, can effectively enforce company policies, and mitigate compliance risk.

For Enterprise clients: Expert-Vetted Talent filter

When looking for independent talent, Enterprise-level clients can filter search results for Expert-Vetted Talent. These are among the most-skilled professionals on our platform, whose abilities and certifications have been verified and whose soft skills have been screened by Upwork Talent Managers.

Learn how Enterprise Suite can empower your team to do even more

For Enterprise clients: Military and diversity badges

Upwork’s military and diversity-certified badges help you create a more inclusive workforce by highlighting freelancers who identify as military veterans or U.S.-based talent who meet the following criteria:

  • Minority-owned business
  • Woman-owned business
  • U.S. veteran-owned business
  • Disability-owned business
  • LGBTQ+-owned business

Improved collaboration for better results

The strongest relationships are built on good communication and great results, so we’ve added new features that allow you to work with talent more effectively. 

Virtual Talent Bench 


Virtual Talent Bench is a set of features designed to help you find new talent, connect—or reconnect—with talent your business has worked with or considered in the past, and organize your growing network of independent professionals.

Organize your go-to talent with Virtual Talent Bench

Schedule a meeting

Avoid the flurry of back-and-forth messages and navigating timezones when you’re trying to set up a meeting. Just sync your personal calendar with Upwork to share your availability with potential talent. They can then book or reschedule a meeting, and your calendar will automatically update. Also available for Enterprise clients.

Record with Loom

Loom is an app that allows you to share your thoughts via video and screen recordings so you can communicate rich information asynchronously (i.e., without doing it live). By using Loom right within Messages on Upwork, you can record and share a video to better communicate with talent, like when explaining project details. Also available for Enterprise clients.

Share larger files

Based on feedback from the Upwork Community, we’ve increased the size of supported attachments from 95MB to 1GB.

Faster tools to move your projects forward

We’ve made numerous improvements to help Upwork’s applications fit seamlessly into your day-to-day hustle. 

Advanced search

We’ve more than doubled the size of our knowledge graph of work, making it much easier to connect your needs with an independent professional or agency’s skills and experience. Also available for Enterprise clients.

Personalized talent recommendations

Search results now take your hiring history into consideration in order to surface talent that you are more likely to invite or hire. Also available for Enterprise clients.

Integrated Project Catalog in search

With so many new ways to Upwork, we’ve made it easy for you to find the best and quickest solution for your needs by surfacing relevant projects from Project Catalog when you’re searching talent on Upwork.

Project Catalog pages load even faster

Project Catalog pages can load in less than a second on your mobile device so you can start browsing right away.

Better understanding of why talent are a fit

The talent recommendations in the Invite Freelancers tab of your job posts now highlight the specific skills that match your job requirements. This makes it much easier to find the right talent for your work, and fast!

Biometric authentication

You can now log in to the Upwork app quickly and securely using your device’s biometric authentication—Face ID, Touch ID, Fingerprint ID, or similar—on your iOS or Android phone. Also available for Enterprise clients.

Improvements to mobile messaging

These updates make it easier to read, respond, and interact with messages on your mobile device:

  • Now when you receive an email for a new message, clicking the email will take you directly to the message in the Upwork mobile app.
  • It used to be difficult to preview files on the Android app. Now it’s easy to open them in any application and save them in your Downloads directory.
  • You can now expand the compose screen to full-screen orientation, making it much easier to write long messages.

Also available for Enterprise clients

More messaging composition options

Add bold font, italics, code blocks, and other formatting to your messages—a more user-friendly way to write status reports, outline requirements, or provide detailed feedback. Also available for Enterprise clients.

Stronger connections within the Upwork Community

2021 has marked the first steps in a new direction for the Upwork Community—toward a place that’s more educational and inspirational, more interactive, and designed to help you connect with others. Learn more about the vision we’re working toward. 

Upwork Community


Upwork Community blog

The recently launched Upwork Community blog aims to help independent professionals and clients engage with one another by sharing expertise and learning from shared experiences.

Community text editor updates

The updated text editor that’s used throughout the Upwork Community makes it easier for you to express yourself with the ability to paste images directly into a post, easily resize content/images, and select emojis from a larger library of options.

Improved Community search

We’ve added search functionality to the top of every page in the Upwork Community so you can more easily find the answers you’re looking for.

Improved private messages

The private messaging feature in the Upwork Community has also received a number of improvements that make it easier to track your conversations, such as a new threaded view and the ability to search previous messages.

What will we accomplish together in 2022?

The way we work is constantly evolving and Upwork is committed to helping you and your business keep pace. Watch for regular updates about new features and innovations that can help your business thrive in the coming year!

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Sam Bright
Former Chief Product and Experience Officer

Sam Bright is Upwork’s former Chief Product and Experience Officer, and oversaw everything on the Upwork platform that touches customers. In that role, he led a globally distributed team focused on product management, design, user experience and research, talent success, customer experience, community management, trust and safety, new businesses, and business development.

Want to learn more? Let’s talk talent strategy.

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