Is Upwork Legit? It Worked For This Six-Figure Freelance Writer

Is Upwork Legit? It Worked For This Six-Figure Freelance Writer

When I decided to give freelance writing a try in 2016, I started off at a pretty big disadvantage. I had never graduated from college, had no network or connections and I didn’t have a single writing sample to send potential clients. 

Fortunately, a friend happened to tell me about the global freelancing platform Upwork and my world was changed forever.

I know that’s a little dramatic but the minute I learned about Upwork, I saw a path to being a writer that I had never seen before. I figured if I just kept pitching potential clients, eventually, someone would have to hire me.

This strategy quickly paid off and I landed lots of freelancing writing jobs, banking roughly $500 during my first full month as a freelancer. Four years later, I’ve earned over $100,000 using Upwork alone.

Why do some freelance writers hate Upwork so much?

Once I started networking with other freelancers, it was a pretty big surprise to learn that most people are not a fan of Upwork. In fact, many freelancers will recommend you avoid it at all costs.

The interesting thing is that many of the people who hate Upwork the most have never tried it. 

But of those who have, here are some of the biggest complaints I’ve heard:

  • Upwork charges high fees: When you start working with a new client, Upwork charges a 20% fee on the first $500 you earn. After that, you’ll be charged a 10% fee until you’ve earned $10,000 from that client. Once you reach $10,000 in earnings, the fee drops to 5%.
  • It’s a race to the bottom: I can’t even count the number of times someone has told me Upwork is a race to the bottom. The theory being that you’ll be forced to charge less for your services to compete with low-bidding freelancers.
  • Upwork never worked for me: Of those who have tried it, the most common argument I hear is that Upwork never worked for them. Usually, this means they joined, sent a few proposals and didn’t get the results they hoped for so they moved on to something else. 

Is Upwork legit? Here’s why I still use Upwork to this day

So given all the supposed disadvantages to being a freelance writer on Upwork, why do I recommend you use it? 

Here are the five biggest reasons why: 

1. It’s an easy marketing strategy

I once heard someone say that anyone who looks for writing work on Upwork is lazy. At first, I felt offended, then I realized they were absolutely right. 

Yes, I choose to make things easier and more convenient for myself whenever possible. Call that lazy if you want, but this strategy is what allows me to earn six-figures as a freelance writer working roughly 25 hours per week.

To this day, I have not found an easier way to drum up new freelance writing work than by using Upwork. I can log into Upwork and immediately find 5-10 writing jobs to apply for. On average, I spend about 30 minutes a day (or less) looking for work. 

2. Great clients use it

Great clients are on Upwork looking to hire writers and that is a fact. Many of my best clients came from Upwork jobs, or as a result of referrals from clients I met on Upwork. 

I’ve landed writing projects with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, PandaDoc and Business Talent Group thanks to Upwork. Those kinds of clients aren’t interested in hiring someone who’s willing to write a $10 blog post because they know that person isn’t a professional.

3. Payment is guaranteed

Many people love to complain about the Upwork fees, but can we take a second to talk about the fact that payment is guaranteed on Upwork? This is true whether you do a fixed rate or hourly contract.

Upwork offers payment protection on hourly work, and you can see if the milestone is funded before you begin a fixed-rate contract. Plus, I receive payment on most of my Upwork jobs within a week of finishing the work.

As someone who regularly works with clients that have invoicing terms of either net 45 or net 60, getting paid that quickly is a huge advantage in my book.

4. Your success builds over time

I think most people give up on Upwork too soon because they are expecting overnight results. But Upwork will work best for you if you use it as a long-term strategy.

I’ve been on Upwork for over four years now so I regularly get invited to apply for new jobs and don’t have to spend much time looking for work. This doesn’t happen overnight, but if you put in the time, you’ll start seeing success a lot sooner than you might think. 

5. Upwork levels the playing field

And finally, the biggest reason I like Upwork is that it levels the playing field for all freelancers. And this is especially important right now when so many people are being forced to start over in their professional lives thanks to COVID-19.

With Upwork, you don’t need a journalism degree or tons of experience to start finding clients. You can start exactly where you’re at right now and raise your rates slowly over time.

The bottom line on Upwork

If you find tons of freelance writing work using LinkedIn or cold emailing, then I’m not here to convince you to switch to Upwork. I wrote this article for the person who finds themselves where I was four years ago — desperate to try something new, but unsure of where to start.

If you want to make money as a freelance writer, then you can do it using Upwork. Just like any other marketing strategy, it “works” based on the level of effort and energy you put into it.  

What are your favorite platforms to use to find freelance writing work? Let us know in the comments.

Photo via franz12 / Shutterstock 

Filed Under: Freelancing

24 comments

  • Jeffrey says:

    I don’t believe a word of this

  • Sally says:

    The title is misleading… the writer made six-figures on Upwork, yes, but after four years!

  • Carol says:

    What I didn’t like about Upwork is that if I didn’t buy “connects” I can only pitch X amount per month. I’m not going to give a company money, if I’m trying to make money.
    I’d rather work on FiverrPro where clients come to me, and I don’t pay for anything

  • Brandy L. says:

    Great article, Jamie!
    I joined Upwork a couple of months ago, and currently have 4 clients I’m working for, and they are mostly long-term jobs. With one client, I already made over $500 for the month.
    I didn’t apply to Upwork to become rich in X amount of days. I have monthly goals, a yearly goal, and building from there. I am putting in bids almost every day and getting responses. Not to sound cliche, but it does work if you work it! Patience does pay off.

  • nyong says:

    I quit Upwork after a year of submitting 12 proposals but no response. I also realized the best jobs go to the US and Europe. I used all my connects and bought another extra but I got nothing.

  • sjjdkfkg says:

    they suck cause they wont tell me why im not being accepted. i also got suspended without breaking the rules at all and when i ask why i got suspended all they say is “your account was suspended there will be no further conversation”

  • Love your article, and I agree with every point. Upwork has been a game-changer for me as a freelance writer. Thanks for writing this!

  • WESLEY MENDES DA COSTA says:

    surely upwork changed my life, the topic about 20% always appears in conversations on discord and I always say that 80% of something is better than 100% of nothing.

  • kechi says:

    My problem with upward is that that charge for connects and still charge you for the work you’ve done.

    If the work was guaranteed, it would make more sense to charge for the connects.

  • Som Nepal says:

    I am continuously trying to work with upwork. My profile got 100% but not approved yet.

  • Ubai says:

    Thanks for the Upwork, upliftment piece.
    After reading so many negative reviews of Upwork, I had put it on the backburner. But your article has ignited new hope, and I will start working on your suggestions.
    Yes, patience will eventually pay off, it always does.
    Thanks for the affirmation.

  • Glad to see someone who agrees! I have spent a long time working on UpWork and getting paid very well, and I now don’t have to lift a finger – clients come to me by reputation. I also have taken my two best clients off UpWork so there are no longer any fees (although to the people that hate fees, I have to point out that an invoice paid directly via PayPal is just about the same as an invoice paid via UpWork, so they’re not as big a deal as some make out). I just add on the percentage to my fee that I need to cover the deduction and I earn what I want to earn.

  • Melody says:

    I agree with everything you said. When I first started freelance writing, nearly every blog I came across told writers to avoid Upwork at all costs. Well, that definitely scared me into avoiding it.

    Several months later, I was struggling a bit to find high-paying clients and getting stuck with low-ball offers. I found another blogger who stated that he earned six-figures on Upwork and I said, what the heck. What do I have to lose?

    Turns out, one of my favorite clients found me via Upwork, and I earned nearly $20K my first year on Upwork. I think it’s all about how you market yourself and what specialty/niche you have to offer. If you specialize, people will find you.

    Like you said, guaranteed, fast payment is a huge plus. I love that I can feel confident in taking on new clients and don’t have to chase people down with an invoice. I highly encourage writers to give Upwork a chance!

  • I am an Socialist freelance writer have my own groups on Facebook love Graphics and Art and Freelance writing for all. Although left-wing Politics is very interesting to me on Facebook and other media set ups

  • Hi, Wendy! Thanks for your comment.

    If you’re interested in learning some more effective strategies on using Upwork, I do have a free webinar on this topic. You can find the link on my website.

  • JB says:

    The author has also left out the fact that it now costs freelancers money to contact potential clients. It is another money-spinner for the company and can be very expensive for novice freelancers who might need to make hundreds of pitches to win one well paying job.

  • Frank says:

    Aren’t you supposed to let your readers know this is a sponsored write up?

    • We were not paid for this blog post, and we always acknowledge when we do partner with a brand or company as an affiliate. Here’s a post where you can see that disclosure as an example: https://thewritelife.com/how-to-start-a-blog/

      This was a guest post submitted to us by a freelance writer who has found success on Upwork. You’ll notice that we do not directly link to Upwork within the piece at all, as well.

      I hope that clears things up a bit.

  • Wendy says:

    I got ONE job thru Upwork (then odesk). I figured it to be a 40-hour job. Turned out to be an 80-hour job, and the client thought it would be a 20-hour. I got paid around $40. It was supposed to be a 3-task contract, but I had to suggest the second task, and my “handler” at the client got changed twice and their account was suspended twice before finally ending the contract (their end). I probably spent the better part of three months spending 2-4 hours a week on filling out proposals, plus unpaid “spec” work. For that, I may as well be doing surveys on mTurk.

    When they became Upwork, I tried again, but it was the same old, same old.

    Maybe if I could do hourly contracts, it might be different, but with my limited internet access (I DON”T “work” when I’m online, and I would have to to get hourly contracts), I’m stuck with fixed-price, and they’re low-ball, high-competition garbage.

  • This article omits a number of key facts about working on Upwork. First you’re a specialist in financial copywriting with credits. That’s a field where clients will pay more for experience. Second, even more important, you joined Upwork four years ago. Newcomers face a different picture today.

    I joined in Upwork in early 2019 and made several thousand dollars fairly quickly. I got off to a fast start and picked up some glowing testimonials. My first six months, I’d have agreed with everything you said.

    I had just enough time to get started on Upwork…but not enough to build relationships before all the changes hit.

    Then a few things happened. First, two clients disappeared mid-project. My ratings dropped, although I’d done nothing wrong. Another client changed their contact person who was looking for something I couldn’t provide; I suggested we part ways, for our mutual benefit, and he left a negative review.

    Even worse, Upwork now charges you to apply for jobs. I’d done well by applying to lots of jobs. I took chances on jobs where I negotiated a higher fee or agreed to a lower fee for a fun job.

    Now you’re paying to apply for jobs and the numbers add up. What’s happened is that people aren’t taking. chances. So you see lots of applicants concentrating on the good jobs — and everyone quickly learns what they are. People aren’t taking chances. A lot of companies don’t bother to say what industry they’re in or they leave out key info. I’ve had situations where the client would follow up with, “We’re really looking for someone who has experience in this very specific area,” not mentioned in their post. So now I’ve spent time and credits for nothing.

    So I’m not keen to send queries to vague postings, although I would have done so earlier.

    At the same time clients are more difficult. I suspect their rules changed too. They seem to resent spending the money. They have no idea what to ask for; a ranget of $20-50 or even $20-$75 shows they’re clueless. There’s a big difference in $20/hour and $50/hour. (I almost always worked fixed price, which also showed me working a small number of hours.) There’s only so much time I want to spend figuring out how to answer questions like, “What job have you done that is most like this one?”

    I’ve given up on Upwork. I think it is important to present a view of Upwork today, which is very, very different from 4 years ago.

  • Thanks for this new perspective, Jamie! I’ve seen a lot of negative comments about Upwork, but I’ve also seen a few positive ones and I’ve been on the fence for a while. I tried Upwork over a year ago, but I didn’t put much effort into it and gave up. I signed up again recently and haven’t invested much time into it because I’m worried it will be a waste of time. Knowing that it is something I have to be patient and persistent with makes me see where I was going wrong, and what I can do to change it. Now I’m feeling motivated to really give it a chance. Thanks!

  • Ian McAllister says:

    I tried to get editor/proofreader gigs from Upwork. After several months of applying to about half a dozen prospects each day, I gave up.
    About fourteen months later, a client in South America approached me, and soon I was doing several jobs each day for her.
    I found that it worked out at $11 per hour, so doubled my fees. The director said I was her best editor. A few weeks later she said she could no longer afford my fees, and that was the end of my experience with Upwork.

  • JK says:

    Hey Jamie
    Right on. I’ve worked on Upwork for many years, and although I do not use it that much at the moment, it’s simply because I have some clients now that work directly with me. While all these objections are true in their own right, the key is to just plot along, being faithful in the little jobs and eventually you will land a big one. It worked for me and has proven to be a solid work platform.

  • Carol Tice says:

    Jamie, recent data I had an Upwork member compile from insight their database suggests that far north of 90 percent of all workers signed up on Upwork as ‘freelance writers’ have never earned a dime on Upwork. Probably one reason so many writers hate Upwork, hm?

    Wondering if you have any tips for those who never seem to catch a break on there? Especially now, when no doubt 100s of newbies are crowding on there because they’re unemployed, and the competition is likely worse than ever.

    Also want to point out that $100,000 in 4 years means just $25,000 a year from Upwork — not exactly a gold mine in the great scheme. Curious how much time and energy you feel went into getting your Upwork clients, bidding-bidding-bidding, compared with marketing outside the platform to get clients?

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