Mini-masterclass on getting the most out of Upwork as a writer

Here’s the summary of what I presented at today’s Central West Freelance Writers’ Group meeting in Bathurst, Central West NSW.

 

Overview – At the end of this masterclass you will know:

  • If Upwork (upwork.com) is for you
  • How to get Upworking today
  • How to be an informed and strategic Upworker

 

Let’s go: What’s Upwork? www.upwork.com

What Upwork says: Find freelancers and freelance jobs on Upwork – the world’s largest online workplace where savvy businesses and professional freelancers go to work!

What the naysayers say: An exploitative marketplace proving harrowing for freelancers as they accept ridiculously low pay rates such as $US5 to ghost write a 30,000-word ebook.

I say: It’s a global job platform for freelancers and clients that lists tens of thousands of writing jobs each day in US dollars. Each year about $US 1 billion is transacted via this site. My cut of that? I’ve earnt more than $AUS 6,600 over the past year working on 30 different jobs, expanding my writing experience and have ongoing work with several clients. I’ve been paid up to $AUS167 per hour for writing. It’s one of my income streams.

How does it work?

A client registers a task, project or ongoing work on the platform and usually sets the amount they want to pay for it (or ask freelancers to bid a price). Once the client transfers funds into Upwork’s Escrow financial system, their job posting goes live on the platform. There’s no minimum or maximum price for any type of work. It simply negotiated between client and freelancer. Jobs are posted with an hourly or project rate or no rate at all – you suggest your price.

As a freelancer, you create your own profile and can use the platform for free – but Upwork takes a 20% cut of your takings until you earn more than $US1,000 with a client. Then the rate goes down to 10% for that client – only that client. Freelancers search for work, or Upwork might email them suggested jobs that have ‘just been listed’, and/or clients invite them to bid for particular work. Freelancers email a ‘bid’ to connect with a client; you could be interviewed via Upwork’s messaging, video or voice system. If the client wants to hire you, they create an Upwork contract, which you accept or decline. The clock starts ticking and the deadline will be clear – usually you would have negotiated this. No surprises there. Options to be paid include direct to your bank account or via PayPal.

Pros:

  • You can set up your profile in 30 mins to 3 hours, pick up work the same day, and do the work you choose to do anywhere, anytime and earning what you agree to be paid (even bidding above the client’s budget). As six-figure Upworker Danny Marguiles says it’s a “direct path to real paying clients.
  • You won’t waste time cold calling and educating clients about value of writing for their business/organisation because Upwork clients know they need writers and why – they’re ready for business! And there’s 4M clients across the globe!
  • Upwork prohibits clients asking freelancers to write free samples – however, you can attach to your job bids samples of what you’ve written elsewhere (for paying or non-paying clients). You can even see how many bids were made on each job post (pay a premium and you’ll be able to see what your competition wrote in their bids and the rates they’ll do it for).
  • Complete a range of free skills tests in your expertise area – you decide if those results are public on your Upwork profile.
  • Deliver quality writing, keep your clients happy and you’ll regularly get feedback to your work – amassing testimonials that you can use on Upwork and off platform ie on your website. You don’t even need to mention you used Upwork.
  • Top reviews means you’ll become a Top-ranked Upworker so clients will invite you to bid more regularly (you decline jobs that don’t suit you or pay poorly – no issue) and Upwork will email you job matches soon after they’re posted and you’ll be able to hook into Upworks’ freelancer platforms.”
  • If you JUST use Upwork to earn a living, you won’t need to cold call, network, podcast, have a website, develop a presence on social media or LinkedIn or Instagram, for example.

Cons:

  • The Upwork brand is associated with cheap, low quality, third world services – if you let your Aussie clients know you’re an Upworker, it could tarnish your personal brand.
  • You’re not just competing with writers in Australia but across the globe, a total of nine million! How can you stand out?
  • It can be harrowing reading the job posts, particularly those with very low pay offered.
  • Some clients encourage and direct you to go off the Upwork platform, and doing so means you risk not being paid – you lose the security of payment.
  • Upwork takes a 20% cut until you earn $US1,000 with a client, then it takes 10%.
  • You might get the contract, but the client holds the strings – one client ignored my requests for information about him that I needed so I could write his profile as per the contract. There was nothing on the web. I had to cancel that contract.
  • The Australian Fair Work Commission says as a contractor you determine your own fee, so the Upwork rate isn’t in their jurisdiction. However, if an Australian employer post a full-time permanent job on Upwork, legally that employer must pay the minimum wage or higher.

How to set up your profile:

You’ll need to zero in on what you’re offering, your niche areas, summarise your experience, upload examples or links to your writing plus a photo. Tap into free advice from successful Upworkers. Danny Margulies (freelancetowin.com) talks about setting up your “minimum viable portfolio” with one sample of 200 to 400 words – if you have no sample, search for a small job that sparks your writing passion. Write a short piece that’s related to what the client wants, but don’t make it an exact match.

For more advice on setting up a profile:

You could also hook into cheap ($15) Udemy courses, too.

Upwork not for you? Alternatives include:

The Loop, Export 360, Speedlancer (very low rates and you have to file your content within four hours), HypeTap (for bloggers with influence who want to collaborate with organisations/businesses), Fivrr, Skywriter, Blogmutt, Cloudpeeps, Codestrust (teaches you how to code – might come in handy as a freelancer), Crew, Prozely, Article Writers’ Australia, GoLance, Growth Geeks (for top-notch digital marketers),  LinkedIn Provider, PeoplePerHour, WorkWithAnyone.com, TopTal, https://www.reddit.com/r/HireaWriter/ also Expert 360 (https://expert360.com/)

(Source for many of these: Bjarne Viken’s LinkedIn post Why Freelancers Should RUN From Upwork – And Where You Should Go!, http://bit.ly/2kOf2YR, the most shared post about Upwork, according to Buzzsumo).

Other interesting reading:

  1. http://www.theinternationalfreelancer.com/
  2. https://www.freelancersguidebook.com/
  3. https://www.ryrob.com/freelance-writing-client/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=subscriber-email

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