To Upwork or Not to Upwork

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

In the freelance world, there is one name that little, baby freelancers stumble upon multiple times when looking for their “in.” It’s the name that pops up almost immediately when you Google “freelance writing” or “freelance opportunities.” Talk to older, more experienced freelancers and some will rave about it, while others will literally say that it makes them cry that new freelancers use it.

I’m talking, of course, about the behemoth that looms over the gig economy as a whole, not just freelance writing: Upwork.

My Experience with Upwork

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

I encountered Upwork before it was Upwork, when it went by a different name. The idea was still the same, though, and shortly after I joined that site in 2015, it switched to the Upwork brand.

I was, at the time, just looking for some extra income and some way to make money from writing, as I was working in publishing, but on the marketing side of things, not in editorial. I was fresh out of college and I wanted that easy “in.” So, I joined Upwork and charged $0.01/word to write blogs about things like celeb rumors and skincare.

As someone who can write 1,000 words per hour, easily, I rationalized that I could make $10/hour and that would be me making more than minimum wage, which was good to me. (In all fairness, entry-level publishing jobs pay absolute bologna, so compared to the salary I was making, $10/hour was honestly not that bad.)

I quickly began accumulating good reviews and was able to raise my rates, slowly but surely. I moved from writing about anything and everything, into writing about the topics I actually wanted to write about, travel and food.

I’ve now used Upwork for nearly five years. Some months I’ve only used it to bill a few clients that have stuck around with me for years. Others, I’ve relied on Upwork for nearly my entire monthly income.

In all fairness, I love Upwork. I don’t agree with all of its policies and I think it’s a greedy company that’s out to make a quick buck, freelancers be damned, but it’s making me quite a bit of money and so I, therefore, love it.

Why You Should Consider Using Upwork

This chick knows what’s up. She can afford that fancy office because she’s been making hella cash on Upwork. Photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash

If you’re considering using Upwork, I say give it a try, and here’s why.

1. Upwork does, in fact, offer that easy “in.”

If you’re looking for a way to get into freelancing for the first time and you have no clue what you’re doing and no contacts whatsoever, Upwork can offer you that easy “in.” It can provide you with cheap jobs that will build your portfolio. It can give you things to take to other clients, and say, “Look, I can do this. Here’s what I’ve done in the past.”

2. More and more legitimate vendors are using Upwork to source writers.

Some established freelancers who do not use Upwork will tell you that the only vendors using Upwork are those seeking extremely cheap work for their pet project website or blog.

This simply isn’t the truth anymore. While those people are on Upwork, there are also plenty of vendors that are legitimate and can offer wonderful opportunities. In the last month or so, I’ve seen huge influencers in the travel industry sourcing ghostwriters, airline magazines looking for freelance pitches, large hotel and tour brands seeking blog contributors and major tourism boards asking for social media help. All on Upwork.

3. Money is money is money.

Let’s get right down to it. If you’re freelancing, you need to make money. If you’re freelancing for the fun of it…well, good for you. But I’m not talking to those who can afford to just wait around for work. I’m talking to those who need to make money and who want to make GOOD money. And Upwork can provide money.

The Bad Side of Upwork

Do not expect to have an ally in Upwork. They are not your friend, merely your money-making tool. Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

To be completely honest and frank, there is a bad side to Upwork. There’s much room for improvement.

1. Upwork takes a huge chunk of change.

You cannot go into Upwork charging what you “think you need to charge.” You’ll have to charge more than that. Upwork takes 20% of your money off the top, and then charges you a minimal amount to apply for gigs. You’re going to have to increase your fees. This wasn’t quite the case when I first began using Upwork, and I’ve had to increase my fees to mirror their increasing fees. The good thing is, people will still pay it.

2. Upwork doesn’t care about its freelancers.

Upwork is out to make a quick buck. It does not care about the gig economy or how freelancers are treated. They are not on your side. They are on the side of Upwork and Upwork alone.

If you have an issue with a client or an issue with payment, and you try to contact the freelancer services assistance team, you will find that they are not willing to help you if it means Upwork loses money, no matter how small the amount.

If you’re not okay with this fact, go somewhere else. Luckily, I’ve only had to go to the freelancer services assistance team a few times over the last five years and it’s never resulted in me losing money, in the end, but the team was of absolutely no help.

So, Should You Use Upwork?

It all depends on your freelance goals.

Do you want to make money and get that easy “in”? Are you okay with raising your rates to cover the cost of using the site? Are you fine knowing Upwork is never going to help you in a conflict with a client? Are you okay doing work on occasion for “nobody” sites and clients that aren’t impressive or prestigious, because at the end of the day, their money spends the same? Then, use Upwork.

Are you a freelancer who can’t stand the thought of giving 20% of your earnings to a service that doesn’t care about you? Do you only want to work with your dream clients? Do you only want to work on teams that put freelancers first? Then, probably don’t use Upwork.

Have you used Upwork in the past? What’s been your experience? Let me know; tweet at me, at @TheHollyRiddle.

Holly Riddle is a freelance travel and food journalist who dabbles in fiction. She can be reached at holly.ridd@gmail.com. Her website is hollyriddle.org and her twitter handle is @TheHollyRiddle.

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Content creator, full-time freelancer. Passionate about non-traditional careers. Published thousands of non-fiction articles and not one word of fiction.

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Holly Riddle

Holly Riddle

Content creator, full-time freelancer. Passionate about non-traditional careers. Published thousands of non-fiction articles and not one word of fiction.

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