Most experienced freelancers will tell you to stay away from websites like Upwork. One of the first pieces of advice I give most friends is “Don’t focus on freelance platforms, but pitch clients directly.” However, there are a lot of opportunities on platforms such as Upwork, if you know how to look for them.
Upwork alone boasts over ten million freelancers and about half that number in clients. The numbers alone tell you there is work to be found there. The problem is, it’s an uphill climb for new freelancers and you need to know how to spot good opportunities.
In this article, we’ll talk about why you might consider giving Upwork a chance as a freelance writer. Then we’ll go over four steps to finding work on Upwork the right way. Let’s get to it!
Why Use Upwork Over Other Freelance Platforms
Freelance platforms such as Upwork get a terrible rep because they’re full of low-ball job offers. However, there are a lot of freelancers that make a full-time living out of them. Here’s why it works for them:
- There are thousands of job listings available at any point, so you have plenty of options to choose from.
- Clients can quickly verify your job history, so getting jobs becomes easier the more ‘experienced’ you are.
- They avoid low-paying gigs at all costs.
If you’ve used Upwork before, then you know finding your first few clients is an uphill battle. You’re competing with dozens of applicants for each offer and most clients don’t want to take a chance on new writers.
In practice, that means tons of freelancers spend time applying to Upwork, send in a few pitches, and then give up entirely.
A simple search for freelance writers on Upwork reveals a total of little over half a million workers. Out of those, only about 40,000 have billed at least one hour of work. That number goes all the way down to about 25,000 when you filter out freelancers with fewer than 100 hours billed:
The numbers support our theory – there’s plenty of work on the platform, but most freelancers give up right away. Writers like us, in particular, often command lower rates than other freelance workers, so we face an even more difficult challenge.
4 Steps to Finding Great Freelance Writing Jobs Using Upwork
Before you can start applying to jobs on Upwork, you need to get accepted into the platform. However, that process has gotten more difficult over the years, which brings us to step number one.
Step #1: Apply to Join Upwork
A few years ago, anyone could set up an Upwork profile and start applying to jobs in minutes. However, at some point, the platform got so crowded they began to filter out applicants. Nowadays, Upwork gets over 10,000 new signups per day and not all of them get accepted.
The biggest mistake most people make when it comes to applying to Upwork is not including enough information. These days, the platform is more focused on bringing in freelancers with experience, which means:
- You should have an idea of what your rates should be
- Know what niche you want to work in (i.e. copywriting, SEO, white papers, technical writing, etc.)
- Have multiple skills you can list on your profile and varied experience levels
In my experience, Upwork favors profiles that are open to working across multiple niches and with a broad set of skills. That’s not necessarily a good thing since specialization is key to commanding higher rates. However, listing as many skills as possible and being honest about your experience levels increases your chances of getting in:
Once you get accepted, there’s nothing to stop you from being highly selective with the jobs you take on. For now, however, it’s all about proving to Upwork that you will bring value to clients if they accept you.
Step #2: Flesh Out Your Profile
Your Upwork application will lay the groundwork for your profile on the platform. Once you get accepted, though, you want to flesh out your profile even further, to make a good first impression.
This part of the process is rather simple. Open your Upwork dashboard and click on the Settings option. On the next page, select the Profile Settings tab:
On this page, you have the option to list additional skills, set your experience level, connect social media profiles, and more. Plus, you can preview how your profile will look to the public:
In general, clients favor more fleshed out profiles. If you’re new to Upwork this is particularly important since you’ll be competing for jobs with more experienced users. In short, you need every advantage you can get!
Step #3: Start Looking for Jobs and Filter Out Bad Listings
Finding work on Upwork is simple. As soon as you log in, the platform will show you the newest listings for the categories you chose. These are the ones you want to pay the most attention to since they probably haven’t gotten too many applicants yet:
Now is where the ‘fun’ begins. If you want to make a living on Upwork, you need to be able to spot and ignore offers not worth your time. Luckily for you, lowball gigs are pretty easy to recognize:
Basically, you need to know what your minimum rate per word is. However, there are also plenty of projects that pay hourly, so it’s useful to have an idea of how long it takes you to write a basic blog post.
To give you an example, I can usually write a 1,000-word post in an hour or two if it doesn’t require much research. That, combined with my base per word rate would give me an hourly estimate so I know what types of jobs to apply to on Upwork.
However, before you get too trigger happy with applications, we need to talk about how Upwork’s pitching process works.
Step #4: Apply to Jobs Using Unique Pitches
To save time, what I usually do is open every listing I’m interested in within new tabs. Then, I take my time to go through the job requirements once more, paying attention to the following:
- What requirements they list
- What makes me perfect for that listing
- How I can show I understand what they need
At this stage, it’s essential that you put effort into every pitch you send. This is not only because it increases your odds of getting the job, but because Upwork charges you for every ‘connect’ you make on its platform:
You start with a base number of connects and you can buy more at any time or get them automatically if you subscribe to a premium freelancer plan. Each connect costs $0.15 and applying for a job costs between two and six connects, depending on the client’s budget.
When Upwork introduced connects, it caused quite a big stir. However, since then, the number of applications for every listing has fallen dramatically. In practice, that means that getting jobs has actually become easier, even if it takes money to apply to them.
Once you decide on which listings to spend your connects, you’ll have to submit a budget proposal…
…and a cover letter:
Writing client pitches is an art form in and of itself, so if you’re new to the process, I recommend you check out this article from our archives.
Once you write your first pitch, don’t stop there – keep applying to jobs and shrug it off if you don’t land them. There’s always more work on the platform. Once you get a couple of reviews, the process becomes much easier!
I’ll be the first to tell you Upwork isn’t my favorite platform. In general, it favors low-paid gigs, which are not the kind of jobs you want to apply for. However, Upwork does feature more offers than any other platform on the web. That means if you’re patient and you make an effort to submit great pitches, it can become a reliable source of income.
Overall, finding work on Upwork boils down to a simple four-step process:
- Apply to join the platform (it’s not as easy these days!)
- Flesh out your profile
- Start looking for jobs and filter out bad listings
- Apply to jobs using unique pitches
Do you have any questions about how to find freelance writing jobs on Upwork? Let’s talk about them in the comments section below!