Upwork (UPWK -3.04%) continues to grow at a robust (albeit slightly slower) double-digit rate, the company revealed in its first-quarter results this week. The report marks the third quarterly update from the online marketplace for freelancers since it went public last year.

Some highlights from the first quarter include strong growth in gross services volume, notable client-spend retention, and improving profitability. Here's a closer look at these trends, as well other details investors should know.

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Image source: Getty Images.

Upwork's first-quarter results: The raw numbers


Q1 2019

Q1 2018

Year-Over-Year Growth


$68.9 million

$59.2 million


Non-GAAP net income (loss) 

($4.7 million)

($6.8 million)


Data source: Upwork's first-quarter earnings release.

What happened with Upwork this quarter?

  • Revenue rose 16% year over year -- a deceleration compared with 23% revenue growth in Q4. 
  • Upwork's net income improved from a loss of $6.8 million in the year-ago quarter to a loss of $4.7 million.
  • Upwork's gross services volume (GSV) increased 21% year over year.
  • Core clients, or clients that have spent more than $5,000 since they started using Upwork's platform and have spend activity over the last 12 months, increased 22%.
  • Client-spend retention increased to 107%, up from 103% in the year-ago quarter.

What management had to say

In the company's first-quarter earnings release, CEO Stephane Kasriel called the quarter "a solid start to the year."

Kasriel added: "During the quarter we made significant progress with the launch of several new products, features, and enhancements to support our increasingly diverse and expanding online talent marketplace. We are confident in the strategic initiatives we've set and pleased with our progress against them, as well as the results they're driving."

Looking forward

Upwork left its guidance for full-year adjusted EBITDA the same: between breakeven and 1% of revenue. But management increased the low end of its full-year revenue guidance range, which is now between $299 million and $304 million. Previously, Upwork forecast full-year revenue between $298 million and $304 million. 

For context, Upwork's revenue in 2018 was $253 million. Its adjusted EBITDA was $3.8 million, or about 1% of revenue. 

For its second quarter, Upwork said it expects revenue between $72.5 million and $73.5 million. The midpoint of this range implies 16% year-over-year revenue growth.