Freelance copywriters don't just write. We put in a lot of extra work to prepare ourselves, perform our research, make solid pitches and snag the best jobs. The cycle of seeking / applying to part-time or temporary projects is standard for the regular freelance copywriter. It's a part of the process.
If you've gone searching for your next writing gig online, you've undoubtedly come across the website Upwork. You're here wondering "What is Upwork?" And, is it worth a try, or is it a waste of time?
Let's start by saying Upwork can be profitable. But you'll need to invest a lot of time and effort into it, and the pay is not always terrific. If you're a new writer looking to gain experience at a low price point, that can be fine. But if you have any experience as a freelance writer — ANY EXPERIENCE AT ALL — you can probably find a much better gig that pays far better than Upwork and doesn't pit you against other freelancers.
How Does Upwork Work?
It seems pretty straightforward at first. You sign up, fill in your credentials, and start job hunting for projects. Well, that's what they'd like you to believe. The truth is tons of filters limit you from seeing jobs, and it takes a while to get the hang of them.
There's also the writer profile issue - which I'll explore with you in a moment. First, let's talk about their testing system.
Why Some Disagree With Upwork's "Testing" System
Upwork allows writers to take tests to determine their level as writers and hopefully match them with the right clients. They'll test you on things like typing speed and writing quality. Those test scores become a part of your writer profile, and prospective clients can see them.
If you're a creative genius but a slower typist, this can give prospective clients the wrong idea about you. Who cares how long it takes for you to type an article! As long as it's outstanding and original work submitted ahead of the deadline, it shouldn't matter. These extra tests take time and effort for you to complete. Those are hours you could be making money, not proving your ability at the keyboard.
Like most freelance writing platforms, Upwork requires you to submit a writing example or two. Okay, that's fair. But if you're new to the world of freelance writing, this means you need to create content on the fly and submit it to compete for jobs.
If you have a portfolio of business already, this is a lot faster. But if you're hoping to branch out beyond your usual media — say, writing brochures rather than blogs — you'll be spending a lot of time creating mock content for no pay.
If your mock content is good enough, you can win some significant jobs. But by the time you do all that mock-up work, do your profile, take the tests...some writers feel they're in a better position to reach clients directly or use other freelance platforms. You'll spend half as much time chasing the same amount of pay.
Freelance Writing Experience Doesn't Count for Much.
Even with decades of industry experience and a portfolio of outstanding work, you won't immediately become a top-rated freelancer on Upwork. You'll need to create a portfolio specifically through the platform if you want prospective clients to see and understand your skills.
In other words, your Upwork profile will list your previous jobs through this platform, how your client ranked your work, and also how much you charge. A less talented writer might earn a bunch of stars by working for nearly nothing. It can make you look less experienced or professional than you are.
Major Pay Problems Built Into the Platform
Know that when you start working on this platform, there are multiple pay tiers. You'll start at the bottom rungs and stay there for a while. While that's typical of many freelancing platforms, this one seems to hold writers down. Here's how:
The lower paying gigs will be listed on your profile when you eventually apply for higher-paying work. So these superior clients, who are eager to pay the bigger bucks for better work, get the impression that you haven't been working on projects of this level.
Think of it like negotiating for a new 9-to-5 salary when your boss thinks you were paid $10,000 a year less at your previous job. It can make it harder to stand your ground and get what you deserve.
How Does One Avoid The Payscale Trap?
Only writers with a well-developed area of niche expertise can avoid the payscale trap. If you're a licensed physician, licensed attorney or insurance agent, for example, you might rise through the ranks quickly. A two-year diploma and zero real-world work experience will not help you there, unlike other freelance writing platforms.
If you have a lot of experience in finance, law, business, medicine, or a second language, then you will have an edge when applying for jobs. Those clients will be looking past the data portion of your Upwork resume to see if you know the subject matter.
The Bottom Line: Do You Get Paid What You're Worth?
The honest answer is: maybe. It is possible, but it isn't easy. UpWork is not the best option for inexperienced freelancers just starting, nor is it ideal for advanced copywriters who will spend more time jumping through hoops than earning. Again, a particular niche experience is preferred.
Are You Saying I Shouldn't Write for Upwork?
There are far better platforms for 90% of freelance writers.
It all depends on your level of experience, the amount of free time you're willing to spend jumping through the hoops of testing and competing while remembering this and other platforms are taking a significant piece of your money. There are better ways to manage your freelance work.