Freelance copywriters don't just write. They have to put in a little extra work to snag those jobs before they get started. The cycle of looking for and applying to part-time or temporary projects is a commonplace experience for the regular freelance copywriter.
More than likely, if you've gone searching for your next writing gig online, you've come across the website Upwork. What is Upwork? Is it worth a try, or is it out to waste your time?
If you have the time and energy for investing in trying Upwork as an income source, it can be very profitable. If not, it can see you feeling paid less than you're worth. Take it from someone who knows.
What's My Story?
I have a BA in writing and I have worked full-time as a lead copywriter for a big, fancy corporate marketing machine. While I was there, I wrote for projects big and small, for clients who paid for the simplest packages and for those that were rolling in the dough.
I wasn't personally seeing as much of this dough at that time, and the fresh student loans were looming, so in the evenings I started looking for temporary freelance writing opportunities online. That's when I found Upwork.
So, How Does Upwork... Work?
It's pretty straightforward. You sign up, fill in your credentials, and start job hunting for projects on Upwork.
Or, at least, it seems that way.
There are certain things you can do for improving the reputation of your profile on the website, in order to recommend you to clients or get your application past certain filters that might limit you from getting better jobs on the site.
The thing is, these extra filters or identifiers can take you some time.
You can take tests built into the website itself to test and assign a level your writing skills, such as your typing speed or your overall writing quality. Your test scores will then become a part of your profile, and clients can see these whenever you apply for jobs. These extra tests take time and effort from you to complete, but they do open up more job opportunities.
Employees usually require you to submit an example or two of articles similar to the one they've ordered to be submitted. I admit, there were a couple of jobs outside my experience that I really wanted to try. For one of these, the pay was great, and it was for creating a series of brochures for some professional window cleaning equipment.
I wrote up fake brochures for a fake HVAC repair company as examples, and submitted them with my very brief cover letter. I ended up getting the job, and making close to $500 from it--not too bad. But the time it took to find the client's job posting, prepare my examples, submit my pitch, and waiting for acceptance, all took time.
You may be coming to the site, like I was, with a decent (or even vast) amount of experience behind you. However, that isn't necessarily enough to be a top-rated freelancer on Upwork. You have to create a portfolio specifically through Upwork for the clients on the platform to really see or pay attention to your credentials properly.
What I mean by this is, your Upwork profile will list your previous jobs, how your client ranked your work on those jobs out of five stars, and also how much you charged for the work. When making pitches for jobs on the site, people will see this information even before they see your resume. Starting out, it can make you look less experienced or professional than you actually are.
The More Jobs, the Better Jobs
If you want to bid for better paying jobs on Upwork, many of these have a minimum requirement of how many previous jobs on the site you have to have already completed for the website before you qualify.
If you're coming to Upwork with plenty of experience and no time to bother with proving yourself all over again, this can be really frustrating. It means you'll have to take lower paying jobs and rack up the credits of jobs completed before you can actually snag freelance work that's in your desired pay range.
As mentioned, there are multiple pay tiers, and you'll have to start at the bottom and stay there a while.
These lower paying gigs will be listed on your profile whenever you eventually apply for higher paying work. This means that these more superior clients will see that you haven't formerly been paid the level of asking price that you're then demanding of them.
This is a bit like negotiating for a new 9-to-5 salary when your boss knows 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 whenever you transition to more challenging work--especially if you're a woman trying to negotiate primarily with older men, which was my standard experience.
How Does One Avoid This Payscale Trap?
It seems like a key exception of this rule is people who have a well-developed area of expertise. As I was a fledgling copywriter in my own right, whenever I began writing on the side for Upwork, I didn't have a niche.
If you have a lot of experience in finance, law, business, medicine, or a second language, then you will absolutely have an edge on Upwork when applying for jobs. Finance writing jobs in particular on the site are very well paying, and those clients will likely be looking past the data portion of your Upwork resume to see if you have the knowledge of the subject matter.
The Bottom Line: Do You Get Paid What You're Worth?
The honest answer is yes and no. There were jobs, like the product brochures I completed, where I felt like the pay was excellent and it gave me the mental space to really focus on making quality copy. Getting into a rhythm of these can be entirely challenging and rewarding, and it's wholly possible to do.
The thing is, I was already copywriting full-time. I didn't have the extra writing energy in me to dedicate to becoming a top-rated freelancer on Upwork, so my credentials never flourished and I eventually quit using it.
Are You Saying I Shouldn't Write for Upwork?
It didn't work out for me, but that doesn't mean it can't work for you.
It really depends on your level of experience, your degree of time and commitment for using this one site to gain and manage clients, and what it is you want to get out of your freelance writing.
When you see how much money others successful bid for and make on the site, you can fall under the spell of how lucrative it can be. There is definitely great money to be made on the site, and a method to getting there.
It's just important to bear in mind that it's the case for all social sites that allow you to make money, like YouTube: some people make a lot of money per time spent, but many people don't.
Are You Looking for Ways of Better Managing Your Freelancing?
If you need help getting your freelancing gig more streamlined and organized, then skip Upwork and check out Tispr. They have a whole toolbox of ways to help you manage and store your work, and to stay connected with clients. If really expanding your freelancing life is the goal, check them out today and find out how.