In this podcast episode, I debunk the myth that Upwork is a scam for freelance writers and talk about how you can gain momentum as a new writer by finding your first freelance gig on Upwork.
Table of Contents
Why Some Freelancers Think Upwork is a Scam
There are two main reasons that the myth that Upwork is a scam exists.
- Upwork takes a percentage of the money you make. This is a finders fee.
- A variety of jobs are posted and some are very low paying.
Upwork is a business and to host, maintain their site and more, they need to charge a finder’s fee for those using the platform to find a job. This covers their expenses.
When you encounter a job that is too low paying for the service you offer, remember you do not have to apply to that job! There are plenty of other higher paying jobs to choose from.
How I Found Writing Momentum with Upwork
While I don’t advocate staying on Upwork long term as a freelance writer, I found my first client on Upwork and it gave me both the confidence and momentum to pursue freelance writing full time.
Joining the Upwork community is relatively easy. Sign up for an account, fill out your profile, upload samples of your work and fill out work authorizations. From there, you can start applying to jobs and pitching clients. Upwork is a great place to explore what your rate as a freelance should be and learn how to pitch potential writing clients.
I love that Upwork gave me the momentum to stay on track with my writing career. Winning breeds winning and we all need to start somewhere.
Are You Ready to Start Your Freelance Writing Career?
If you are ready to take the next step and launch your freelance writing career, I would love to help you build momentum!
Schedule a free 20 minute call with me, because if I can do it, you can too!
Michael: 00:00 You are listening to inspire your success podcast, episode number 47 and today’s topic is all about one question, is Upwork a scam coming up? All right, welcome back to inspire your success podcast. This is your host, Michael Leonard, and as always, I appreciate you being here with me today. So this episode is all about Upwork. I get a lot of questions about Upwork. I’ve had a lot of questions on my own when I started a little over two years ago. And if you just type in Upwork on Google and on YouTube, you will have all kinds of results. I mean, you will have people saying it’s the biggest scam in the world. They rip freelancers off and then you’ll have all kinds of other people on the other side that say, Hey, you know this actually pretty good, or this is the only thing you should use.
Michael: 00:54 Personally, I’m in between. I don’t think it’s, it’s definitely not a scam and I’ll, I’ll cover why here in just a minute, but I also don’t think it should be your only way to make money as a writer. So let’s first off, just kind of start as a thought with a 30,000 foot overview of what is Upwork. So Upwork is basically a really big market place where employers can post jobs and then freelancers can bid on jobs. So it is kind of like a content mill, but again, you don’t have to take the job if it’s too low of a rate. So that’s the one thing that will cover a lot, but there’s all kinds of stuff on there. So if you haven’t ever been on Upwork, it’s a huge freelance platform. Um, if you just type in different freelance jobs on Google, it almost always pops up.
Michael: 01:41 Uh, because it is a worldwide site. There is tons and tons of listings. I mean they are by far one of the biggest sites out there. And writing is just a small portion of it. So if you’re someone that does, you know, graphic design or video editing or photography, I mean there’s literally freelancing jobs for all kinds of different areas. It’s not just writing. So again, Facebook ads, um, you know, social media management, like there’s literally so many kinds out there. So that’s kinda the first thing is to understand that it’s a spot that is way more than just for writers. But I actually got my first writing gig ever on there. So that’s kind of why it’s funny to me is that people are like, Oh, it’s a scam. Well, here’s why people think it is a scam. So first off, let’s just debunk those myths real quick.
Michael: 02:28 So people think it’s a scan because Upwork takes a percentage of the money that you make. So for example, let’s say I get hired by a company to write a $200 blog post. It’s the first time I’ve ever worked with them. Uh, you know, they pay me the $200, but I actually only get 80% of that. So Upwork does take a kind of finder’s fee, if you will. So that is one of the things that people really feel like they’re getting scammed on. But again, in my opinion, you can’t really think of it like a scam. It’s like you didn’t have that job to begin with. You went on a website, you posted your profile, and then you were able to connect you, you got paid, you’d maybe built your profile, maybe you just got some money for the gig, maybe a little bit of both.
Michael: 03:13 And maybe it’s a longterm client now. So I think that’s the first thing is like understanding that yes, Upwork does take a fee. It’s, I believe as of the time of this recording. And again guys, it changes. So make sure you always take a look at Upwork and like review their policies and stuff. But I think it’s the first thousand dollars that you make with each client. Each specific client is 20% and then after that it goes down to like 10 or 15% but yes, they are always taking a cut. And again, they are the middleman, right? They’re the place where people posted in there how you got hired. And so it’s really, really important to understand that because a lot of times if you find people on job boards or if you just cold pitch, yeah, you’re not going to have any sort of finder’s fee you have to pay.
Michael: 04:02 But that being said, as a beginner freelance writer, Upwork, you know, helps because you can just go onto one website and find a lot of potential jobs without having to create your writing website and start cold pitching and doing all these things that might be quote unquote scary. So again, a Upwork’s a good like first little thing to get your foot in the door and we’ll talk more about that in a second. The second reason that people think Upwork is a scam is because some of the jobs are super low paying. So again, here’s one thing I always want you to remember. You can say no or not apply to any job you want. For some reason, I don’t know why. There’s a few freelance writers out there that, that are in a similar, uh, niches. Me and they’re, you know, they have their own education and courses and coaching and things like that and they will just tell their, they’re following their students that it is just the worst thing ever.
Michael: 04:58 They’re like, make you do slave labor wages and you’re working for pennies on the dollar. And I laugh. I mean, if you guys just go on YouTube right now, you’ll see that like it is hilarious to me. And the thing is is that you don’t have to take those jobs. You don’t have to accept these wages. It’s not like anyone’s holding a gun to your head and being like, you have to write for 5 cents a word or I’ll say, you know, this is it. So I think that’s just kind of funny to me. So again, just remember that you don’t have to take it if it’s too low of a wage or if they negotiate and it’s just not worth your time. Don’t do it. There’s thousands of other jobs out there. There’s, you know, hundreds of other ways you can get clients and we’ll cover all those on the podcast in future episodes.
Michael: 05:38 But it’s just funny to me. So that’s the, that’s the two main reasons people think Upwork’s a scam is that yes, they take a cut. So again, they handle all the hosting, the transaction fees, all that stuff. And then again that there are some low paying gigs. I’m not going to say that there isn’t, but when you’re first starting out, Upwork is great because you can get the ball rolling. So again, my first job, which I will go into in uh, one of the next episodes actually is that I got it through Upwork. So I don’t want to go through the entire process. But the thing is, uh, as a brand new writer, sometimes it’s a little bit overwhelming, right? You wanna like make money, you want to like start to see some progress, some momentum, and if you’re impatient or you don’t feel like building your website yet or you’re not even sure that writing is the best way to make money online and the best way to spend your time, then sometimes you just need to like get a little taste of it.
Michael: 06:32 And that’s really why I like Upwork because you can go on today, create a profile, upload your picture, write out your description, upload a few samples, and you can start applying for gigs today. I mean, you could literally send 10, 15, 20, however many you want. I believe there’s a certain amount of credits that they take and then if you pay like $10 a month, you get more credits and then you have like more access. So I mean there are some things that you can pay to like do that, but I mean honestly the barrier to entry is low so you can really get started quick. You might get your first gig, you might even get a a longterm client from it, so you just never really know exactly how it’ll work. But that’s what I like is that it helps create that momentum. And I talk about this with like all of my students and people on my one-on-one programs is that you have to build momentum early.
Michael: 07:24 Any online business when you’re first starting, it’s super important to get a quick win. You want to feel like you’re making progress because sometimes it will feel like a slog, right? You’re going to go through these times where it’s really slow, you’re not making progress, you’re down, you want to like quit, but you just, you know that you have to do something else. You don’t want to sit at that nine to five forever. You don’t want to be a broke blogger. You don’t want to just, you know, accept your money as it is, whatever situation you’re in, you know that you need to keep going. But it kinda is hard sometimes. And, and I’ve been there, trust me, but that’s why I like it in the beginning is because you can build that momentum and winning breeds winning. So that’s really why I like it because you can get going and you can just get some, um, you know, instant feedback is my pitch working, you know, am I reaching out to the right people?
Michael: 08:17 What kind of rates am I asking for? Like you have a lot of flexibility. You can see quickly what’s working and what’s not working. So it can quickly get you into a dialogue with potential clients. And then again, from there, you don’t have to stay there forever. You can just build your portfolio up. You can then use all the other methods that we’ll talk about like cold pitching and job boards and social media and all these other ways. But it’s a really cool way. And again, for me, I got paid, I think it was like 100 bucks, maybe not even a hundred bucks, maybe it’s a 80 bucks, something like that. I’ll have to double check. But it was a for a golf writing gig. And I remember I was actually a little over two years ago, I didn’t even have a writing website or anything and I got that and man that was the best money I’d ever made.
Michael: 09:07 Like I was making six figures in my career, but this money, this like 80 or a hundred bucks that I got from this first writing gig was the most rewarding cause like I got it and no one else did it. Like I just felt really proud of it. So again, I can’t say that, you know, Upwork is the worst thing ever. It’s definitely not a scam. But again, there are some things that you need to consider. So for me that was really cool though because it made me realize like, Oh okay, you know, I actually, I can write, I can get clients and it builds some confidence. And then from there I was really able to parlay that and I started to get other gigs on Upwork and then I built my writing website a few months later, started cold pitching, you know, then I was able to 10 X my income and then make up to 20 K in a month.
Michael: 09:51 So all of it started though from getting my first gig on Upwork. So that’s what I like is that you just never know really who you’re going to find on there. Plus the other cool thing is that you know, you can work with people of like that first time and then if you, you know, have a good rapport with them, you can take it offline, you can learn more about them, you can learn more about their brand, things like that. And then you can remove that 20 or 10% fee if the client is willing to do so because then you can invoice them with QuickBooks or FreshBooks, PayPal, whatever you want to use. And then you can do it outside of it. But again, you never want to be on Upwork’s platform and then try and take the client offline because everything’s recorded. If Upwork notices that you’re doing that, they will actually ban you from the site, which I have read about.
Michael: 10:40 So again, you might want to just do one job with someone and let them know, Hey, this is like a trial thing. You know, if you want to work together afterwards, we can always do that. We can discuss it afterwards. But you never want to take people from their platform because again, Upwork is a business. They don’t want freelancers prying people away because that’s how they’re making their money. So again, it’s just something to consider and we’ll have another episode where we cover exactly like what you need on your Upwork profile and how to maximize it for SEO and things like that. But again, just wanted to give you a little kind of overview of what Upwork is. And again, it’s just a marketplace between you and potential jobs. And you can pitch, I mean it’s as simple as that. It’s, it’s all done. You can do it on your phone, you can do it on your desktop, like it’s really easy to use.
Michael: 11:28 And again, there’s tons and tons of jobs out there. So I like it because it’s a great way to kind of dip your foot in the water, feel like, okay, maybe this is for me, maybe it’s not. And again, maybe you have other skills outside of writing that you maybe want to check out and maybe just learn about. And there’s a lot of different opportunities out there. So again, I do like it in some instances. I don’t recommend it to my students for the longterm. But as a beginner, it is crucial to get that momentum, to build that snowball and get that thing rolling because then you can really start to see results in your writing business. So hopefully that gave you a little bit more clarity, you know, as always, let me know if you have any questions on this sort of stuff. Uh, we’ll link to a few resources in the show notes as well. But yes, Upwork is not a scam. It is a business. They do take a percentage and a, again, if it’s too low of a wage, don’t feel like you have to do it. So, uh, we’ll talk more about Upwork, best practices coming up, but hopefully you guys found that helpful. And I will talk to you guys in the next one. As always, I hope you have an Epic.
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