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Can Writers Really Make Money on Upwork?

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One of the most common questions for new freelancer writers is, Where do I find clients? For many new writers, platforms like Upwork make the idea of pitching to clients less intimidating. So, as a freelance writer, should you look for work on Upwork?

Contrary to what you might hear, it’s really not a bad starting place for your writing career. But if you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself writing for pennies just like you would in any other content mill.

Before you decide, let’s look at some of the biggest pros and cons of looking for freelance writing clients on Upwork.

  1. The Pros of Freelance Writing on Upwork
  2. The Cons of Freelance Writing on Upwork
  3. Is Upwork a Good Place to Find Freelance Writing Clients?

The Pros of Freelance Writing on Upwork

1. Different Profiles for Different Specialties

This is a perk that wasn’t always around, anyone who has been on Upwork for years will know what I’m talking about. As far as changes over the years, this is definitely one of the best ones in my own opinion.

As a writer, you know there are various types of writing – and maybe you specialize in more than one. For example, if you offer both copywriting and blog content, this allows you to tailor your resume or profile to that specific type of writing.

This feature is especially useful if you want to offer a separate service. Say you also enjoy graphic design and want to offer both blogging and design services – you could have a profile dedicated to each of these.

When you go to submit a proposal, you get to choose which profile your potential client will see. This is useful for positioning yourself ahead of someone offering their general profile or resume as well.

2. Build a Portfolio and Grow

One of the best reasons to start on a site like Upwork is because there is a lot of room to grow. If you don’t have much in the way of a portfolio, write up some samples, and showcase them on your profile.

Yes, you could do this on your own website – but an Upwork profile is a lot quicker and simpler to set up and the platform has tons of jobs to choose from. As you find clients and get projects, you’ll be able to show off your professional clips and testimonials from your clients.

Over the years, Upwork has added features like your “job success rate” and “top rated” status, which will improve your odds of getting picked by clients. These features are also likely to get you more invitations to apply, saving you time in your client hunt.

3. Work with Major Brands

One of the truest benefits of working on Upwork is that you have a real chance at working with major brands. I’ve personally worked with major CBD and hemp brands through Upwork. Others have reported working with Johnson and Johnson, and Upwork advertises on their homepage companies like Microsoft, General Electric, Bissell, and AirBNB.

Especially once you’ve built up your profile, there’s absolutely a chance of landing your dream client through Upwork if you want to work with major brands like these. The fact that you can find great clients on Upwork is undeniable.

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4. Work Hourly with Ease

When it comes to freelancing, let’s face it, one of the biggest concerns is how you’re getting paid. Most of the time, writers prefer to work on a project rate, rather than an hourly rate. Whether this is a per-blog post or per-word rate, it’s still not going to restrict your earning to a specific hourly wage.

However, some clients truly prefer to pay by the hour and simply can’t be talked out of it. If your client wants to work hourly, Upwork is one of the easiest ways to track those hours and guarantee you’re getting paid for the time you put in.

Personally, I avoid hourly contracts when possible. So far, I’ve only taken one hourly client outside of Upwork and I was working with family in that one instance. If you like the idea of working on an hourly basis, Upwork makes keeping track of hours easy and hourly contracts are paid weekly rather than a milestone that is approved by the client.

The Cons of Freelance Writing on Upwork

1. Connects Aren’t Cheap

As mentioned earlier, a lot has changed over the last few years on the Upwork platform. Changes were expected when oDesk and eLance merged to create Upwork – but one of the most negative changes was the use of connects.

Connects are required to bid on jobs. Entry level to intermediate gigs cost on average 2 connects to apply to while intermediate to expert level gigs cost an average of 4–6 connects. Back when you got 30 connects each month for free, this was no problem, but now the free membership only gets you 10 connects per month.

If you want or need more connects, you have two options – pay $14.99 for the “plus” membership, which comes with 80 connects per month, or buy additional connects at the price of $1.50 per 10 additional connects up to $12 for 80.

Compared to a LinkedIn profile and pitching clients from Indeed or other job boards, this can get costly, especially when you’re just starting out.

2. Your Profile Can Go Inactive

Another one of the downsides to Upwork is if you don’t use the platform consistently, they will inactivate your profile. This means that it no longer shows up in the client searches for freelancers to invite to apply for jobs and your profile is no longer indexed in Google.

But wait – paying for that $14.99 plus membership will guarantee that your profile remains active, even when you’re away from the platform.

This is by far one of my least favorite changes to the Upwork platform over the years. Even when you spent months away from the platform, you were still likely to get invitations in your email if a client felt you met their qualifications – now, you must pay for that perk.

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3. You Need to Skip Junk Job Offers

This is probably the biggest downside when looking for clients on Upwork. Yes, there’s a chance you’ll find an amazing big-name client like Intel or Costco – but you’re going to have to filter through a lot of junk jobs to find those big contracts.

When you go to search through job listings – especially if you’re new and looking at entry level gigs – make sure to read the whole listing. Often, clients on Upwork will create a beautiful listing, promising tons of work even if you have no experience.

Then at the bottom of the page, it says that you must agree to a rate of $0.01 or $0.02 per word to be considered. You’re never going to make a living writing $5-10 blog posts – so skip listings like these, they aren’t worth it even for the “experience” they supposedly offer.

You can find great clients on Upwork – but using filters and working hourly may be your best bet for finding good paying work with little experience.

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4. Upwork Takes a Hefty Share

One of the main reasons that I personally moved away from using the Upwork platform to find clients is because of the money you lose. Yes, having a pool of jobs to bid on at any given moment is convenient. But Upwork takes a lot to pay for that convenience.

If you choose to go with a plus membership to get more connects – or if you had to pay for connects because 10 wasn’t enough – then you’ve already lost money in the realm of $1.50 to $15. Once you get your project, you then pay a percentage of your earnings to Upwork for playing the middleman.

It used to be a standard 10% across the board. But Upwork now charges 20% on your first $500 made with any client. After that first $500, you only pay 10% on the rest up to $10,000. Once you’ve hit $10,000 that fee goes down to 5%.

Chances are, you won’t reach that $10,000 with many clients. So, realistically, you should expect to pay between 10% and 20% on all your contracts through Upwork.

5. Bid to the Bottom

The final problem with finding clients on Upwork is the fact that most of the time, bidding on jobs is a bid to the bottom. This is especially true when you’re searching for “entry level” work. So, even if you don’t have a lot of experience, try applying to intermediate level jobs.

The unfortunate truth is that many companies turn to Upwork because they want to save time and money in hiring their freelancers. The clients pay a fee for using the platform too (so yes, Upwork charges both the client and the freelancer for the convenience of using their platform). Many companies will try to find inexperienced freelancers who will work for far less than the ones pitching them from LinkedIn.

On the other hand, once you’ve got the experience under your belt to feel comfortable applying to expert level jobs the game changes. These are the jobs where you’re likely to bid high, and get the job, as long as you can prove to the client that you’re the best fit for the project.

Is Upwork a Good Place to Find Freelance Writing Clients?

So, what is the verdict? Is Upwork a good place for freelancers to find clients? This really depends on how you work the platform and whether you’re willing to put your money on the line to get the clients you really want.

It takes a lot of patience to filter through the junk jobs, being picky with what jobs you’ll use your precious connects on, and whether you’re okay with losing a percentage of your income to the platform.

If you’re making enough on the platform, the convenience of having all your work in on place may be worth the potential monetary cost to you. It’s also a good place to build a portfolio and you can absolutely find well-paying, big-name clients. But in the end, nothing beats creating a name for yourself with a robust writer website and attractive LinkedIn profile.

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Julia Granowicz-Johnson

Julia Granowicz-Johnson

Freelance Writer

Julia Granowicz-Johnson is a freelance writer from Florida and has been selling her words for a living since 2014. As a staff writer for The Marijuana Times she educates the masses on medical cannabis, legalization and activism efforts. As a freelance copywriter she helps businesses of all sizes succeed in captivating and converting their audience to long-term customers.

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