More specifically, know when to ditch that freelancing site and strike out on your own with your profession.
There are plenty of freelancers who absolutely damn freelance sites like Upwork and Freelancer. However, I have noticed that many such freelancers are copywriters who started freelancing after leaving another full time job that gave them experience in fields like IT, insurance, and other big business companies. Those freelancers usually specialize in business to business (B2B) copywriting, and they already had a nice basis of experience in their field before they became full-time freelancers.
The truth is lots of people don’t have that luxury. I didn’t. I started freelancing straight out of college. The only experience I had was a single internship and a couple waitressing jobs when I graduated. Not exactly a great basis for charging top dollar for copy writing in any specific field. I suppose I could have written and sold articles on the serving business, but that’s not what I wanted to do. My field is mostly ebook writing and manuscript editing, but I discovered this by joining Upwork.
So, for me, Upwork was a great basis. I got to discover and try out different types of freelancing jobs. I didn’t have to do a crash course on invoices, and I didn’t have to worry about clients not paying their bill. Best of all, I figured out which jobs I liked best and got a good number of jobs under my belt in my chosen field.
The main reason many freelancers hate these sorts of sites is (as I’ve stated a few times on this blog) most of the clients are not professionals in the field and thus do not offer professional rates. You get a lot of low-ballers, and some of them have the audacity to be rude to you while paying you dirt and demanding a quick turn around. I had one such client, and vowed never again. I fielded my clients more carefully, sought out rates that were higher, and laid out my terms before accepting any job. If you do the same, I believe Upwork can be a very rewarding place to start.
However, if you’re any good at writing and editing, you deserve a much larger paycheck than what you will ever get on these freelancing sites. If you want to make writing a rewarding full-time job, you need to know when to walk away, because that is a goal you will never achieve if you only get work through those sites.
I have been on Upwork for just under a year, and, frankly, that is far too long. I would suggest you really only need two to five good jobs under your belt (at least one that is somewhat long term is preferable) before you call it quits with the site. So why didn’t I? Honestly, it’s scary to strike out on your own. When I started out, I had no idea I was being low-balled. Then, when I figured it out, I convinced myself I could just find higher paying jobs on the site. I did find jobs that paid more, but still nothing that paid a truly professional rate.
So why did I stick with it so long? I had no idea what to do next. Everything I read was either vague or applied to people in different writing niches than me. People who work in B2B, business web content, and business product sales writing are the most prominent freelancing advice givers, I have found, but their steps aren’t exactly tailored to what I do. I do not have any business knowledge except in the realm of journalism and public relations (thanks to my communications minor), but those are not fields I really want to enter unless I absolutely have to. I do not have any business experience when it comes to running or marketing a business. I am learning all of this as I go, and so I lollygagged around, telling myself: “This one pays a little more. It’s worth it,” or “Extra experience doesn’t hurt,” or “Maybe I should try and land some entry level jobs in a knew area.”
What changed my mind and gave me the push? My writing only got better and better. My editing only became more and more precise and eagle-eyed, and yet I was still wasn’t getting paid what I knew I really deserved.
Writers, though we do improve through experience, are often good at what we do naturally, and so we tend to feel somehow guilty to charge the rates experienced professionals tell us we should. A few times, after a month or two of using Upwork, I would ask for a higher rate, only to be convinced by a client that what they were paying was indeed a decent price for my experience level. Maybe that was true in the very beginning, but it hasn’t been true for a while. In the past few months, I have grown confident in sticking to my requested rates and turning down clients who don’t comply with them. However, Upwork has a limited supply of decent-paying jobs, so now I am at a point where I can only apply to a few jobs on the site every month or so and the competition for them is fierce.
Don’t let yourself get to that point. Use these sites as an opening platform, milk them for what they are worth, and then ditch them.
I have finally started work on my own business website, and I will not be applying to any more Upwork jobs. I still am not 100% sure on all the steps that need to be taken, but I am learning, and as I learn, I will share with you, so that you don’t have to settle for as long as I did, and maybe you can overcome that fear of striking out on your own sooner than me.