Freelance Writing Insight: Is Upwork a Good Place to Find High-Paying Gigs in 2017?

The following is a guest post by Laura Pennington from Six Figure Writing Secrets.

If you want to be uber controversial in the freelancing world, you’ll probably need to say that you land jobs via Upwork and you’ll get all kinds of side eye and nasty remarks about it’s a platform only filled with low-paying jobs.

Don’t get me wrong – there are a lot of freelance writing jobs posted on Upwork that offer to pay you $5 for a thousand words or more. However, if you’re willing to sift through the trash and find the gems, you can find some pretty incredible clients.

Given all the changes that Upwork has gone through in the last year, including transferring their service from Elance over to Upwork, adjusting their service fees, and even only allowing certain numbers of freelancers in individual categories to apply, it’s important to answer the question …

Is Upwork Still Relevant for Freelance Writers in 2017?

As a longtime Elance and Upwork user, I have a personal understanding of the platform and connections with many of the people who work there as full-time employees.

I watched Upwork grow and evolve from Elance and I’ve watched them make some mistakes as well as some smart business decisions about how they choose to handle clients and freelancers.

That being said, I find that Upwork is still extremely beneficial in 2017.

Why Writing Off Upwork Could be a Big Mistake for Today’s Freelance Writer

A lot of people will have one bad experience with Upwork and write (pun intended!) the platform off. That could be a big mistake. Between Upwork and Elance, that would have meant losing $300,000+ in revenue over the past couple of years for me.

But it’s not just me. Other writers and freelancers are finding that when you have the right skills and know how to navigate Upwork, you can quickly and easily close clients and generate leads.

That’s why I put together my course, the Guide to Killing it on Upwork so that you can avoid mistakes and skyrocket to the top.

Upwork Paving the Way for the Online Work Revolution

One of the biggest reasons for this is that more people are open to telecommuting and outsourcing than ever before.

This means that clients who never would even have heard of job places like Elance (now Upwork) are thinking about the prospect of outsourcing because it’s on their minds more. It’s being discussed on podcasts, local news channels and in books.

People are familiar with the benefits of outsourcing and hiring freelancers now more than ever before and when you type freelancers and related terms into Google, Upwork is one of the first pages to show up.

Trust me, I know, because when I googled ‘how to become a freelance writer‘ in 2012, Elance was the first website I found, and therefore the first place I landed jobs. I think Upwork is still relevant in 2017 because it has been a great source of leads for my business.

I don’t rely entirely on Upwork anymore (every freelance writer should diversify their marketing), however, it’s a great place to begin to identify clients and possibly get those first few jobs under your belt.

Another benefit of a workplace like Upwork is that even having a profile there — whether you bid on jobs or not — can be a valuable marketing tool that lands you work. This again, I have experienced personally. While this might seem counterintuitive, let me walk you through exactly what I mean.

How Being on Upwork Can Help You Land Jobs — Even If You’re Not Bidding on Jobs

My profile on Upwork has hundreds of positive feedback comments and indicates how many people I’ve worked with. If somebody googles me, they are probably going to find my Upwork profile first and check it out.

Publisher Note: When I googled Laura, her Upwork profile was in the #2 spot on Google, right after her website. Now, back to Laura.

While they might contact me from my website or over LinkedIn after viewing my profile, that profile has done nothing but cement a positive feeling about me in the client’s mind. So, I encourage you to consider landing jobs on Upwork as an extra establisher of credibility.

Much like a well-written LinkedIn profile or your professional freelance writing website, your Upwork profile can work for you whether you’re bidding on jobs on the site or not.

In fact, I regularly get calls from people who found me elsewhere online first and then checked my Upwork profile to ensure I was the “real deal.” Once they see my feedback on the site, they reach out to me. This happened just last week with someone who became a paying client after a ten-minute phone call.

Upwork Generates Leads for You

One of the most time-consuming tasks for most freelance writers — especially new ones — is coming up with leads. It can take a huge chunk out of your marketing time each week just to find and qualify leads, much less reach out to them.

Some of these leads will never read your message. Others will have no clue what you’re talking about (What the heck is an SEO article?) and delete it. Others will even mark you as spam, forever closing the door on working together.

Your email will get delivered to a gatekeeper who forwards it to the company decision-maker or ignores it, but there’s no introduction to that person created for you.

Simply put, it’s a lot of shots in the dark to take. While yes, you might be able to form some relationships with new clients, it can be a tremendous amount of work before you even get to the sales conversation.

Why? They haven’t asked for your services, so you have to position yourself properly as a needed service. You could easily spend hours nurturing this client and trying to bring them to the stage of signing a contract. And after all that, it just may not pan out.

With Upwork, the client already knows they need your service. In fact, they’ve put a bid on Upwork asking for it! The client is pre-sold (very important) and Upwork is delivering leads ready to close on a freelance writing deal directly to you.

Yes, you’re going to pay a fee to Upwork for bidding on the site. You’re going to pay a fee on the individual project, too. That’s because Upwork did half the work for you by bringing the client to you.

For all of these reasons, and quite a few more I could come up with, Upwork is still extremely relevant for freelancers, and especially new freelancers, in 2017. Until you’ve created a lead-generation system in your business, why not partner with a company who does that for you? That’s Upwork.

Upwork Gives You a Practice Ground

Building a freelance business is about more than just creating and delivering work. It’s:

  • Learning how to connect with clients and have smooth business relationships.
  • Handling contracts.
  • Determining what you’ll do when you have a client who is less than satisfied.
  • Knowing your schedule and quoting your prices properly.
  • And so much more!

Upwork can help you get used to traverse the freelance landscape, in a somewhat controlled environment. Then, as you build your skills — and confidence — you’ll be better prepared to deal with non-Upwork clients.

Upwork Minimizes Payment Woes

Ask any new freelancer if someone has stiffed them on a payment and you’re likely to get a resounding “yes.” That’s because a lot of them might skip a contract or find that the client is non-responsive.

I’ve had hundreds of clients on the Upwork platform and I’ve had to chase down money twice there. Outside of Upwork, I’ve had at least five clients (from a much smaller pool) who became a serious pain to work with.

Don’t get me wrong — private clients who pay your invoice on time in situations where you can avoid other fees are great. However, don’t forget about the extra cost of your administrative time sending the invoice, reminding them to pay it when it’s overdue, etc.

Upwork’s escrow feature gives you peace of mind that the client will pay the project. If they deposit the lump sum for the whole project or the first milestone right away, you know that all that’s required is for you to submit the work and for them to click “approve payment.” If you work hourly, Upwork also has payment protection in place if you use their hourly tracker.

My time spent chasing down money or problems on Upwork has amounted to less than three hours in the past two and a half years. Outside of the site, however, I’ve easily spent at least four times that with private clients. There’s a good faith element of Upwork that encourages clients to follow through on their promise. Of course there are bad eggs in every batch, but I have found that the payment problems on Upwork, if any, are few and far between.

Upwork Fees

I don’t mind paying a company a small monthly fee (I pay $10) and 5-20% of my project (depending on the size) for bringing me the business and handling the payment issues. As a side benefit, I’m also racking up positive reviews on their site, which only helps me to convert future Upwork and non-Upwork clients.

FYI, you might also want to check out: Getting Online Writing Jobs as a Freelancer: Is Knowing SEO Really Necessary? 


Upwork is an excellent place to turn as a new freelance writer, but it also works if you find yourself with the need to generate some cash quickly or drum up some new business. I find that the more you put into Upwork, the more you get back. And that’s the kind of “client” it takes to build a successful  freelance writing career.

Laura PenningtonAuthor Bio: Laura is a former inner city teacher and corporate employee who fled the grind in 2012 to work at home. She specializes in SEO content for law firms and insurance agencies, writing everything from ebooks to blogs to video scripts. She is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, and blogs at SixFigureWritingSecrets.com.

P.S.: The Easiest Way to Start a Freelance Writing Career

Learn, Then Earn: Yuwanda (this site’s publisher) and I have partnered to offer our freelance writing courses as a bundle. As most writing jobs these days require knowledge of SEO, you can get trained by taking her SEO copywriting course, and put that knowledge to use to land jobs quickly via my “Guide to Killing it on Upwork” course.

Please note, the price is introductory; it will be increased.

P.P.S.: Questions? See end of this post. Or, contact me or Yuwanda.

The New Freelance Writer Starter Pack: SEO Copywriting Training / Upwork Class Bundle

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