Is Upwork Right for You? Not if You’re a Freelance Writer

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Earlier today, I decided to give the site Upwork a test drive to see if it’s worth adding it to my list of paying opportunities. After completing the application process and listing my skills, I found the experience to be less than stellar.

The Application Process for Upwork

Applying for Upwork is relatively straight forward. Essentially, you input your skills and work history as you would with any other employer. I found the process to be quite easy to manage in the grand scheme of things.

When applying, you have the ability to add skills based on their list. So if you have a skill that isn’t available, you can’t list it. However, this list is quite extensive and I didn’t have any trouble finding the elements I have experience in.

In total, the application for Upwork took about 30 minutes. This was only because I proofread everything to make sure I had all my ducks in a row. After all, it’s better to look professional from the get-go instead of going back and fixing mistakes later.

Application at Upwork Denied and Why

About 15 minutes after submitting my application, I received an email stating Upwork had denied me. This was the first time I’ve ever been denied from a client brokerage firm. You’d think with my extensive background, I’d be a shoe-in.

Upwork Denial
Upwork Denial

According to the email, there is simply too many writers to accommodate for the workload on the site.

The message essentially stated the company only keeps so many writers on hand to avoid “frustration,” probably from a lack of work. If I wanted to acquire new skills and re-submit the application to Upwork, I was invited to do so.

But I’m not really sure if I want to waste another 30 minutes of my day. And here is why.

Not Enough Work, Really?

I find it difficult to believe Upwork doesn’t have enough content to keep writers busy. Sure, I’ve had my slow days using Textbroker. However, they are few and far between. This leads me to believe the company simply can’t get customers who are willing to pay a high price for talent.

This is where a lot of problems come from, actually. It’s easier to pay someone who is willing to write for poor wages than to spend the extra money to hire someone far more experienced. Even in Textbroker, there is far more work available for Level 4 writers at 1.4 cents per word as opposed to Level 5 at five cents per word.

Many clients are fine with mediocre and cheap as opposed to professional. I’m not saying this is entirely a bad practice. In fact, it makes sense from a business perspective.

It just ruins it for the rest of us who are trying to make a living.

An Expansive Pool

Another reason why it’s difficult to get listed on sites like Upwork is because of the overall pool of authors itself. More and more people are flocking to work from home thanks to the power of the Internet.

Which means the competition for work is getting more expansive.

I’ve seen this affect the workload even at sites like Textbroker. As more writers take to the Internet, the work goes by pretty quick. You have to be fast to get the good jobs, otherwise you have to settle.

In light of this, I can understand why Upwork wants to keep the pool low. This way, they can estimate a workable wage for writers without people giving up on the system after a few weeks.

Proving Diversity Matters

One aspect of the denial process from Upwork demonstrates why diversity in work matters. There are millions of people out there who can write blog content, but how many of them use Photoshop and supply their own screenshots? The more skills are added, the more narrow the pool becomes.

This is one of the reasons why I try to teach people to go outside of their comfort zone and explore what else they can add to the customer experience. One of the selling points to gain my retainer this year was because I can offer screenshots as well as well-written content.

In today’s freelancer market, you need to be like the Swiss Army Knife of your industry. It’s all about how flexible you can be while still offering high-quality workmanship.

What to Do to Get Accepted

Because of the situation, I can only guess at ways to get accepted by Upwork. So, where do we start?

Learn a New Skill
First and foremost, learn a new complementary skill. For example, many clients like that I am able to take my own screenshots and save them using Photoshop to accompany articles. It also doesn’t hurt that I’ve been in graphic design for the past 25 years.

Adding a new skill will also help you find quality clients outside of Upwork. It’s a great way to boost your resume.

Add and Expand the Application
I’m not 100% sure this will do much for Upwork, but be more descriptive and add anything you can possibly think of about your work history, schooling and skills. As Upwork analyzes your abilities, you may inadvertently add that one element which gets you accepted.

Will I Try Again in the Future?

Most likely, I will not apply at Upwork again in the future. Not only did I find it to be a waste of my morning, but I also have hang-ups about denying people who just need a job.

I partially understand their reasoning behind denying me, but it still doesn’t make me feel comfortable knowing you have to be accepted like it’s Harvard.

Textbroker, WriterAccess, HireWriters and many others accept virtually anyone. Of course you’re rated based on your skill, as it should be, but it’s the fact anyone can apply and begin working within a reasonable time frame.

Moving On

I won’t call Upwork a scam as I am unable to give the system a test drive. Unfortunately, it is a waste of time for someone who has nearly six years experience as a freelance ghostwriter who covers almost every topic with glowing reviews from clients.

If you’re looking to break into freelance writing, I would suggest not wasting your time with Upwork when there are sites that pay available right now.

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Michael Brockbank

Michael has been a freelance writer since January of 2012. He has completed more than 6,000 jobs for a variety of clients ranging from animals to travel.

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