Welcome to day 6 of my 12 Days of Freelance Writing series. You can view the whole series here.
I am part of many writer’s groups and financial groups on Facebook. Can you even guess how many times someone has posted that they want to start a freelance writing career only to be met with the advice of, “Have you tried Upwork?”
Just gouge my eyeballs out now, please.
Upwork is a huge well of freelance writing jobs. The only problem is that majority of them just stink. Yes, there are a handful of freelancers who have been able to create a profitable career through Upwork. However, for the majority of new writers, it is a sinkhole.
For the sake of being fair though, I will argue both sides of Upwork, so you can make a clear-headed decision for yourself.
- Upwork is great for outsourcing: I personally have found amazing talent on Upwork for my children’s books. I have also found a great voiceover artist to record my first Blondie McGhee book. Most of the talent I hired was overseas, which was beneficial to both of us. I was able to give them the price they wanted, while feeling like I was getting a good deal too.
- The variety of jobs is fun: Just perusing today for writing work lead me to postings for email copy for a college sports recruiting business, web copy for a real estate course, a holiday-themed newsletter, children’s book copy, and a birthday poem for someone’s husband. Taking on different projects is kind of exciting and can help prevent writer’s block or getting overwhelmed from doing the same articles each day.
- Experience is easy to gain: A lot of the job posters do not care about your lack of experience. They just want quick and cheap work. I don’t recommend this approach to getting samples, but if that fits your immediate needs right now, then go for it.
- Upwork ranks well in Google: Even if you don’t use Upwork to gain clients, you can use the profile section to boost your own name. Write an attention-grabbing profile using SEO-rich terms like “finance writer in California,” and you might have a better chance to show up on Google’s front page.
- Generally, the pay is ridiculous: Ridiculous in a bad way, that is. Any client that thinks they can use someone to get a 1,000-word article for $15-20 should be punched in the stomach. The problem is that someone will take this job and these types of clients expect that work from all freelance talent. If you want someone to work minimum wage, please go to your nearest McDonald’s. Writers are not burger servers. One writer has the ability to write copy or an article that earns a company thousands of dollars, so expecting that kind of service and intellect for less than $20 is an insult.
- The platform is competitive: The best doesn’t always win. Instead, the freelancer that offers the cheapest work and promises the moon is more likely to gain the work. I do think you need a competitive edge as a writer, but not in the sense that you need to beg for clients to give you work – especially underpaid work.
- The extra monthly fee is not worth it: For $10 a month you can upgrade your account and get extra bids and see competitor bids. I tried it out, and I assure you it is not worth your time or money. Not only is the information Upwork provide you on the other bids lackluster, but if you have your idea price set, you shouldn’t be shortchanging yourself to get the job.
- The fees are high: Say you are fine taking on a $100 assignment, well don’t run that $100 bill to the bank just yet. Upwork takes a generous 20% fee off of that, so now you are left with $80. This fee does go down if you continue to earn with that same client through Upwork. However, by the time your fee goes down to 10% and you have done $500 worth of work for client, you are already out $100. To get to the 5% fee, you must earn over $10,000 with that client. Remember, you have to pay taxes on your earning too, which makes your hourly rate smaller by the second.
- Upwork will choose the client over you: I have read many complaints saying that Upwork has favored the client over the freelancer in a dispute. This makes sense because freelancers are easily replaced, a paying client, takes more work. Upwork will always side with the money. Is it fair? No, but it is the business model that gains wealth.
But What About the Upwork Success Stories?
If you are a freelancer who loves Upwork and is making a living on the platform, I am genuinely happy for you. There are no hard and fast rules for writers. It is important to find what works for you. This advice goes for anything that I write about. If you are writer who excels in writing in 10 different niche fields at once, great!
We might all have the love of writing, but how we approach it as a career is going to be different. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach.
Should I Try Upwork?
If you have carefully weighed the pros and cons and still want to give Upwork a try, then by all means, try it out. It can be a great way to gain confidence in your writing skills or test out your cold pitching. However, if you want to earn enough money and turn your love for writing into a scalable business, I think you will have a greater track record for success outside the platform.
Landing freelance writing gigs outside of Upwork allows you to develop deeper relationships with clients without a middle man interfering. You will also have the skills to gain clients and a huge network of clients who love you if Upwork ever changes its business model.
Want to increase your writing productivity? My new freelance writing planner can help you set quarterly and weekly goals to ramp up your output so you can increase your income.