Upwork. Inc. (NASDAQ: UPWK) has been pursuing its goal of being the world's preeminent destination for artificial intelligence (AI) related talent and freelance work. The business services sector company is directly capitalizing on the AI trend to help it achieve sustained GAAP profitability. Companies are sparing no expense to ramp up AI integration and offerings.
Upwork is a direct benefactor as the world's largest freelance marketplace to meet enterprise clients' demand for AI talent. Its AI Services hub has seen a 10X increase in average monthly visitors since its launch in Q2 2023. The company launched its Upwork Chat Pro, a generative AI application embedded in Upwork's platform powered by GPT-4.
Build it, and they will come
To meet the growing demand for AI talent, Upwork has established its AI Services hub which better connects clients to freelancers. The hub provides talent and clients with access to generative AI tools. For example, its AI-powered job post generator helps clients accurately describe their needs quickly and efficiently. This enhancement has cut the time to post a job by nearly half. AI-powered proposal tips have indicated that freelancers who use the tool have secured work at a higher rate.
The company had a limited launch of its Upwork Chat Pro, which uses AI to improve talent searched for clients and find jobs for freelancers. Talent that uses Availability Badges has received 50% more proposal invites than those who don't. Clients utilizing Boosted Proposals increase the likelihood for talent to get hired by 24%. Upwork formed a partnership with Microsoft Co. (NASDAQ: MSFT), which partnered with OpenAI to provide pre-vetted talent that is highly experienced with OpenAI platforms.
Revenue streams and flat-rate commissions
Upwork implemented a 10% flat-rate commission schedule along with a $4.95 contract initiation fee in late April 2023. Freelancers can also opt to pay a monthly subscription fee to access premium jobs and priority customer support. It provides companies the option of booking preliminary Consultation sessions to vet potential talent for larger projects.
AI-driven profits and cost cuts
On November 7, 2023, Upwork released Q3 2023 results for the quarter ending September 2023. The company reported a non-GAAP profit of 21 cents per share, more than doubling consensus analyst estimates of 10 cents per share. GAAP net income rose to $16.3 million and adjusted EBITDA was $31.2 million. Margin improvement helped Upwork improve from the year-ago GAAP loss of $24.8 million and adjusted EBITDA loss of $2.9 million.
Cost optimization programs across the business resulted in unit cost improvements in transaction loss, sales and marketing. The company focused on profitable growth, generating $37 million in cash from operating activities. Revenues climbed 10.8% YoY to 175.73 million, beating analyst estimates of $168.19 million. The take rate improved to 17.1%, up from 16.3% in Q2 2023 and 15.9% in the year-ago period.
Raising guidance but adjusted EBITDA peaked
Upwork lifted its full-year 2023 revenue guidance to $680 million to $685 million, indicating 10% to 11% YoY growth with $67 million to $71 million in adjusted EBITDA. Adjusted EBITDA is expected to be between $24 million and $28 million or 16 cents to 18 cents per diluted share. Stock-based compensation is to be less than $20 million in Q4 2023.
However, the company expects Q3 2023 to be the high point for adjusted EBITDA margin for the year as they will continue to invest in near and long-term growth opportunities, including adding features and functionality to the platform to enhance AI-enabled experiences and work to clients and talent. The Board of Directors also approved a $100 million stock buyback program.
Focusing on enterprise clients
Its Land team's performance includes the addition of 23 new Enterprise clients, including IT'SUGAR, Florida State University, Dropbox Inc. (NYSE: DBX) and Moderna Inc. (NASDAQ: MRNA), up 21% QoQ. Upwork grew the number of Enterprise clients spending more than $5 million by 43% QoQ. Active Clients grew 2% YoY to nearly 836,000.
Daily ascending triangle breakout
The daily candlestick chart for UPWK illustrates an ascending triangle pattern with a tightening channel between the trendlines as it nears the apex point. The upper flat-top trendline is at $15.00, indicating upside resistance. The ascending lower trendline commenced at $11.39 on November 7, 2023, indicating rising support and higher lows. The daily market structure low (MSL) buys trigger overlaps with the flat-top trendline at $15.00. The daily relative strength index (RSI) oscillator has flattened just below the overbought 70-band. Pullback support levels are at $13.10, $12.50, $11.39 and $10.57.