Freelance Online / SEO Writing: What’s the Market for Work Like Since oDesk and Elance Merged?

This past Monday, I received the following email from a subscriber about what the market for online/SEO writing jobs looked like since the merger of oDesk and Elance. He wrote:

Hey Yuwanda, I was just wondering what the seo market looks like since two of the major freelance websites merged together and also if you have an active forum in case any questions arise. Thanks.

In case you don’t know what he’s talking about, oDesk and Elance merged in the spring of 2015 to become what is now known as mega-job site Upwork.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Here’s the site’s affiliate disclosure policy for full details.

Quick Upwork Stats

The site has:

  • 12 Million+ Registered Freelancers
  • 5 Million+ Registered Clients
  • 3 Million+ Jobs Posted
  • $1B+ Worth of Work Done Annually

Whether you love these type of “content mill-like” sites or hate them, they’re not going anywhere. In fact, employers are using these sites more than ever — and so are freelance writers.

5 Reasons Many Freelancers Write for Content Mills

Many freelancers cut their teeth on these sites, for a variety of reason, five of which I outlined in this post, writing:

You might as well know up front that anytime you say “I write for a content mill,” it’s going to cause a ruckus in freelance writing circles, as the comments section of this post prove. However, if you’re a newbie to freelance writing and …

  • Don’t have the confidence (yet) to pursue your own gigs;
  • Don’t have the time or desire to market for your own gigs;
  • Like writing and just want to make some extra money using your skill;
  • Want to learn a new form of online writing (SEO content); and/or
  • Earn a little while you learn a new trade …

Then writing for content mills can fit the bill.

Many freelancers have landed some of their biggest clients using sites like this. Proof? Read on.

Freelance Writers Who’ve Had Success Finding High-Paying Work on Sites Like Upwork

In answer to the freelancer who wrote to me, I responded:

I don’t use freelance writing jobs sites to find jobs normally. However, I did do a test run this past summer just to prove how much work was out there and blogged about it in a four-part series starting here.

Also, [six-figure freelancer] Laura Pennington is an expert on Upwork. She blogs regularly here. Here’s a post she did a few months ago that may shed some light on finding work via these types of sites.

In that linked-to post, Laura divulged that she landed a $50,000 editing contract that stretched out over five months. And she’s not the only one to have this type of success with Upwork. Proof?

Following are links to some first-hand, in-depth posts by freelancers who explain their success with the site, and how they did it.

Even though I don’t use bidding sites to get freelance writing jobs, it’s because of success stories like this that I’m cautiously optimistic about them. More and more companies are turning to them to find freelance talent for the same reasons many freelancers use them – it saves time.

Content Marketing Driving the Need for Freelance Writers Like Never Before

And with the amount of work that’s needed these days thanks to content marketing, it’s no wonder it’s thriving. With three million jobs posted annually, it is the world’s largest freelance marketplace.

So again, while these types of sites are not for everyone, they’re here to stay. Speaking of the demand for content marketing, following are some stats to show you just how much work is out there.

  • Content marketing costs 62% less than outbound marketing and generates more than three times as many leads (this is why companies are so keen on investing in it);
  • Content marketing leaders experience 7.8 times more site traffic than non-leaders;
  • The majority (88%) of B2B marketers use content marketing in their marketing strategies;
  • Email marketing is one of the most effective forms of content marketing: For every $1 spent, email gives back a whopping $38 in ROI;
  • Most B2B marketers use at least 13 content marketing tactics: marketers benefit from creating various content formats (eg, blog posts, infographics, slideshares, case studies, etc.);
  • 73% of major organizations hire someone to manage their content marketing strategy;

From blog posts to infographics and everything in between, creating unique, consistent, and truly useful content is the No. 1 way to connect with a target market effectively. And this is why companies are more willing than ever to shell out big bucks to freelance writers — like you!

All of the above stats are from the Content Marketing Institute.

More Companies are Outsourcing

With so much content creation needed, companies are outsourcing a lot of it like never before. Proof? According to the Entrepreneur post, Why Your Company Should Consider Outsourcing Content Creation:

…the Content Marketing Institute found that, on average, 44 percent of B2B marketers outsource content creation, and up to 57 percent of B2B technology marketers outsource content writing, design, editing, and even distribution efforts when necessary.

This, of course, means more work for freelance writers (and social media consultants, and Virtual Assistants, etc.).

The Most In-Demand Freelance Skills

Why SEO Content Writing Is One of the Most In-Demand Freelance SkillsAccording to a study done by Upwork, content writing is one of the most in-demand freelance skills. But even more interesting, as the graphic to the left highlights, 7 of the top 20 skills are relevant to freelance online writing.

How to Land High-Paying Freelance Writing Jobs – Even as a Newbie

I hope that as an aspiring freelance / SEO writer you see that it’s not a matter of the work NOT being there. The question is, are you prepared to go after it?

Yes, the market is more competitive. But if you define a niche, create some killer writing samples, price your work competitively and market consistently, you can make a full-time living as a freelance / SEO writer. This linked-to post details exactly what you need to do to start making a good living right out of the gate.

SEO Writing Help Forum?

Just wanted to answer this question before wrapping this post up. No, I don’t have one. Unfortunately, I just don’t have time to monitor a forum (those things require a lot, a LOT of work). However, I do answer frequently asked questions about SEO writing in blog posts like this.

In fact, that’s why I started this site’s sister site, SeoWritingJobs.com. There’s a wealth of information on that site going back to 2009, so spend some time there. Nine times out of 10, I’ve answered a question you have in mind, especially if it’s a general or frequently asked one.


As the success stories above illustrate, starting a freelance writing business is not rocket science. The merger of oDesk and Elance hasn’t changed this. In fact, as more employers flock to these sites, the more it underscores just how much work is out there.

And, those freelancers who have proven successes — whether they use Upwork or not — are no more special, talented or in any way different from you. What they did was take action. Are you ready to do the same?

What’s Your Take on the Freelance Writing Market These Days?

Have you gotten work from sites like Upwork? Have you seen an uptick in demand for your services? A downturn? How do you find writing jobs? Would you ever consider using a site like Upwork? Why/why not? Sound off in the comments section below.

P.S.: How One Blogger Earned Almost a Million Dollars in One Year

This is a great way to diversify your freelance writing income so you can take the time necessary to land those high-paying freelance writing gigs on sites like Upwork — without being stressed out.

P.P.S.: Start Your 6-Figure Freelance Writing Business Today!

Learn SEO, then start landing high-paying writing gigs quickly. This bundled course shows you how. It’s taught by experts in their respective niches (Yuwanda, SEO; Laura, Upwork). It truly is the fastest, easiest way to start a high-earning freelance writing career from scratch. BTW, learn how to get started now and pay later.

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    1. Thank you for sharing such a great source of how to become a freelancer writer. I’ve stumbled upon your blog while searching the internet for academic writing tips and the suggestions you have provided are really inspiring. I am looking forward to implement your suggestions in my freelancer writing career. Thank you!


    2. I don’t use Upwork myself, but I do know it works well for some freelancers.

      To add to your list of articles of successful freelancers using the site, I did two interviews with freelancers doing well on Upwork:

      http://www.freelancerfaqs.com/can-find-high-paying-work-upwork-part-1-interview-six-figure-freelancer-danny-margulies/ (you do have a post by Danny listed there as well)


      • Thank you for sharing these resources Deevra. I know of one six-figure freelancer Laura Pennington who I mentioned in the post does really on Upwork too. In fact, she developed and teaches a course on how to get work there.

        I think as content marketing grows, more companies are serious about it and are willing to spend more. While low-payng jobs will aways be part of job sites like Upwork, it’s smart people like Danny and Laura who take the time to learn what it takes to stand out who do well.

        Again, thanks for taking the time to share these stories, and continued success.