Milestones mark a point in time or progress and on Upwork they’re no different: we’ve integrated them into Fixed Price Projects to help you break your next initiative—as well as the project schedule, deliverables, and budget—into smaller and more manageable chunks.
Think of project milestones as a way to help keep things on track! They can help with project management by setting expectations, avoiding misunderstandings, and incorporating feedback as everything moves forward.
How can you incorporate milestones into your next project timeline? Let’s look at what milestones are and how they can help you get the results you’re looking for.
What are milestones?
There are two types of projects on Upwork: Hourly, where you’re invoiced weekly for hours worked, and Fixed Price, which has a set budget. Fixed Price Projects can be ideal when there's a clear and predictable scope of work.
Milestones are a feature of Fixed Price Projects that outline the work to be done by breaking it into smaller segments. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you get started:
- Each milestone needs to have a purpose, completion date, and set payment installment amount. These should be discussed and agreed upon by all project stakeholders.
- Milestones are pre-funded, one at a time, with the funds held in Escrow. Once the work for a particular milestone has been approved (or after 14 days if you don’t respond), the funds will be released to the professional or agency.
- Future milestones can be changed if needed. Even after a project has started, milestones that aren’t active and haven’t been funded already can be adjusted if needed.
- Milestones are sequential. Each milestone needs to be completed before work toward the next one begins.
How to add milestones to your project
1. When you post a new job, select “Pay a fixed price” on the Budget screen
To keep it simple, Upwork has streamlined job posts and contracts to match the type of project you select—you just need to choose the right option for you. Once you select a fixed price project, you’ll be prompted to indicate your budget. You’ll be able to set specific milestones once you’ve started the interview process with an agency or independent professional.
2. Adjust the Terms of your project
As the scope of work is negotiated and agreed to, you can change the Terms of the contract to match. This includes the fixed fee for the work to be completed, the amount to be deposited into Escrow, and the project’s milestones.
3. Set your milestones
You can set milestones during the interview phase or add them once work has started. They can help course-correct before you get too far into a project, make sure important dates are met, feed deliverables into a larger project, keep your project plan on schedule, or keep costs from spiraling—whatever makes sense for your project.
We suggest you be as specific as possible in the milestone description and include details about any expected deliverables.
Here’s an example:
- The Plan, such as an outline or wireframe
- The First Draft, such as a mockup or staging site
- The Deliverable, such as a website that’s nearly ready to launch
- Revisions, which could be a chance to address any issues that may have come up during testing
During the interview phase, either party can add or change project milestones. Once a contract has begun, however, updates can be requested by the agency or professional doing the work, but only the client can confirm changes.
4. Get started!
Once everyone has agreed to the Terms of the project, you can deposit the indicated funds into Escrow and work can begin.
How to edit milestones once the project has started
You can revise milestones after project kickoff, as long as they aren’t active and haven’t been funded already. One important note: An active milestone can’t be edited, you’ll need to discuss and agree to any changes amongst yourselves.
Begin the editing process by going to My Jobs. Then select the appropriate contract and click on (...) to view your options.
1. In the drop-down menu, select “Milestones & Payments." This will show the main contract details.
2. On the main contract screen, click on the button that says “Add or Edit Milestones."
3. On the next screen, you’ll see a list of remaining milestones.
The active milestone will be locked, but any future milestones will have the option to edit or delete.
Before making any changes, we suggest discussing them with the independent professional or agency that’s doing the work to ensure you’re in agreement. You also have the option to include a message with the update notification.
If the contractor wants to adjust an upcoming milestone
The agency or independent professional you’re working with will have a similar option to view “Milestones and Payments," as well as the option to “Add or Edit Milestones."
However, rather than changing the milestone directly, they will only be able to submit a change request. You can then review the potential changes and choose to accept or decline.
Best practices for setting milestones
How you set milestones will vary by project, but there are a few universal tips that can help you create effective breaks for your project.
- Consider the pace and cadence of milestones. Don’t rush your milestones, but don’t let them drag your project on too much, either. Allow the freelancer enough time to complete the work, too.
- Create enough milestones, but not too many. Most projects can be naturally broken up into to-do’s, but be careful not to break it down too much. Don’t make milestones so frequent or granular that progress is slowed. The average project has around three to five milestones.
- Use milestones as incentives. Consider breaking the total project cost across milestones to pay your freelancer incrementally as things progress. For example, you might use a 25/50/25 structure for a four-milestone project with a short outline, a first draft, then a final round of revisions.
To learn more about the ins and outs of creating, reviewing, approving, and releasing milestones with the guides in Upwork’s Help Center. These resources will give you step-by-step information to help you set milestones for your next project.
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