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Upwork Capitalizes on the Growing AI Gig Economy

Photo of the Upwork for Freelancers mobile app login page on a smartphone laying on keyboard. Upwork Thrives in the Expanding AI Gig EconomyUpwork Inc. (NASDAQ: UPWK) is the largest online freelancer platform in the world, with over 870,000 active clients. The computer and technology sector giant has been making a concentrated push to become a top artificial intelligence (AI) freelance work hub, partnering with OpenAI, GoDaddy Inc. (NYSE: GDDY), and Constant Contact. It has also been integrating and developing AI applications to match up freelancers and businesses better and growing its enterprise clients like WPP, Ansys, and Unisys. Upwork’s AI and Machine Learning (ML) category saw a 50% YoY growth in gross service volume (GSV).

Upwork competes with other online freelancer and talent solutions sites like Fiverr International Ltd. (NYSE: FVRR), Freelancer Ltd. (ASX: FLN) and Robert Half Inc. (NYSE: RHI).

Uma, the Mindful AI

Upwork unveiled its AI-powered assistant, Uma. Uma is the "mindful, human-centered AI that empowers" its customers to work smarter and get their work done. Uma has more than 20 years of data and insights and can assist both businesses and freelancers in finding better matches. Its Best Match insights can promptly find businesses the top prospects for their job. It systematically identifies relevant insights like skill alignment, top proposals and client reviews. It also improves Proposals, Upwork Chat Pro and Job Post Generator functions.

Chart showing how Upwork is expanding its AI and ML offerings with Uma, the Mindfun AI, which better matches freelancers with businesses.Daily Descending Triangle

UPWK formed a daily descending triangle breakout pattern. Descending triangles are bearish patterns unless a breakout triggers. The descending trendline formed at $12.69 on March 21, 2024, capping bounces with lower highs. The flat-bottom trendline formed at $10.98. However, UPWK triggered a breakout through the falling upper trendline at $11.40 on April 26, 2024, as shares blasted higher on rising volume preceding and following its Q1 2024 earnings report. UPWK peaked at $13.30 in the following days. The daily relative strength index (RSI) bounced to and peaked at the 70-band. Pullback support levels are at $12.69, $12.11, $11.63 and $10.98.

Improved YoY Metrics Across the Board

Upwork reported Q1 2024 EPS of 22 cents, beating consensus estimates by 4 cents. GAAP net income rose to $18.4 million, compared to $17.2 million in the year-ago period. Adjusted EBITDA was $33.3 million compared to an adjusted EBITDA loss of $2.9 million in the year-ago period. Revenues rose 19% YoY to $198.94 million versus $185.87 million. The take rate rose to 17.7% in the quarter compared to 14.7% in the year-ago period. Active clients rose 5% YoY to more than 872,000. Adjusted free cash flow was $15.5 million compared to a loss of $11.6 million last year.

Upside Guidance

Upwork raised its guidance for Q2 2024 with EPS between 21 cents to 23 cents versus 20 cents consensus estimates. Q2 2024 revenues are expected between $190 million to $195 million compared to $191.78 million consensus estimates. Full year 2024 EPS is expected between 88 cents to 92 cents versus 80 cents consensus estimates. Full-year 2024 revenues were raised to between $770 million to $782 million versus $771.58 million consensus estimates.

CEO Insights

Upwork CEO Hayden Brown pointed out that the marketplace had surpassed the $1 billion GSV in the quarter again. This can be attributed to the 5% YoY growth in new clients to 872,000. Product innovations are also igniting GSV, including AI-enabled products and features like Uma. Brown noted that clients who used UMA started spending on Upwork at a 7% higher rate in their first month.

Its AI and ML category is the fastest growing category on Upwork. Its ads and monetization products saw 93% YoY revenue growth and are the company's fastest-growing revenue stream. Its Freelancer plus premium service had 76% YoY revenue growth with over 100,000 active subscriptions.

The company also launched instant consultations, which has already been successful and should continue to grow. Upwork has seen repeat usage rates of regular consultation clients 50% more than clients who start with the standard marketplace engagement.

Upwork analyst ratings and price targets can be found on MarketBeat.

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