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Re: Just give it to me straight

Active Member
Jeremy Y Member Since: Dec 2, 2018
1 of 28

Veteran freelancers,

 

I joined late last year, and after many proposals, landed and completed 2 jobs by the end of January. Small jobs, so small pay, but I was content, building up my portfolio. Then life hit hard and I had to step back for a few months. During that time, I made a few proposals with some possible client interchanges, but nothing cemented. (At times because I admitted I'd be a bad fit.)

 

I recently returned "for good" a couple of weeks ago, only to find Upwork now charges for connects, and each proposal costs 4-6 connects. Wowza. Big change from the few free ones I had each month, which I wasn't even fully using.

 

So a few questions, and like I said, please just give it to me straight...

 

1) I understand Upwork only wants to keep "serious" freelancers... which I am. However, is part of Upwork's mentality also to squeeze out newcomers to somehow make them look more prestigious? If so, it'll work, as after my last free 60 connects are eaten up, I'll withdraw my meager earnings and move on. If I were established it'd be different, but paying them to simply try and get my foot in the door with no guarantee is not worth my time, as skimming my earnings is enough. Otherwise, fewer free connects each month would make more sense.

 

2) Most of my proposals don't even get a response. While I'm open to accepting that it's a failure on my part to engage the client, is that actually normal? I wonder because it appears many jobs simply seem to vanish and/or the client never looks back at their own job.

 

3) My "gig" is fiction writing. Ideally, it'd be to ghostwrite and/or edit/revise existing manuscripts. (Though I'm open to editing non-fiction if I don't have to fact-check.) However, I won't bother with romance/smut (which is, sadly, highly sought) and I won't write new content for peanuts, such as 0.01 per word, or worse. Given that, am I ultimately barking up the wrong tree? Meaning, is there simply not much work for "non-romance fiction writers asking for semi-decent pay" without lots of Upwork experience, thereby making newcomers like me "a dime a dozen?"

 

Thanks, and your candor is appreciated as I evaluate stepping off this hamster wheel before it starts demanding quarters.

 

- Jeremy

Community Guru
Christine A Member Since: May 4, 2016
2 of 28

Jeremy Y wrote:

 

1) I understand Upwork only wants to keep "serious" freelancers... which I am. However, is part of Upwork's mentality also to squeeze out newcomers to somehow make them look more prestigious? If so, it'll work, as after my last free 60 connects are eaten up, I'll withdraw my meager earnings and move on. If I were established it'd be different, but paying them to simply try and get my foot in the door with no guarantee is not worth my time, as skimming my earnings is enough. Otherwise, fewer free connects each month would make more sense.

 

2) Most of my proposals don't even get a response. While I'm open to accepting that it's a failure on my part to engage the client, is that actually normal? I wonder because it appears many jobs simply seem to vanish and/or the client never looks back at their own job.

 


I can't address your specific questions about writing (I'm sure that one of the freelance writers will respond to that), but I can give you some insights on your first two questions. 

 

1) No, I don't see Upwork making any attempts to "squeeze out" newcomers. (On the contrary, many of us wish that they WOULD make some slight attempt to vet new freelancers.) The new connects policy, as I understand it, was in response to clients saying that they were getting spammed by too many unsuitable candidates. So, in theory, if you're a serious freelancer who only bids on projects that you're well-qualified for, the new policy "should" work in your favour (provided that you're willing to invest a small amount of money in your business). I can't say whether it's working for the majority or not, but it hasn't had any effect on my own business. If I see a job that I want to apply to, I'll pay the 90 cents.

 

2) This question comes up over and over again in the forum, and from my point of view, people are failing to see the bigger picture. When I started working as a freelancer, I knew that I would have to invest time and money in marketing my business; I've always regarded Upwork to be one of my marketing methods, and have never expected nor assumed that they would provide me with a steady monthly income. (If I hadn't been able to accept that, then I would have gotten a "proper" job.) I've tried many different marketing methods over the years - paying for ads (print, Google, Facebook etc.), attending networking events, cold calling and cold emailing, bidding on different platforms - you name it. With all of these methods - some of them quite costly - I only ever got one or two new clients, and sometimes I received no response whatsoever. So yes, it IS normal for your marketing efforts and expenses to only pay off a small percentage of the time, and Upwork is no different. However, I find that I only NEED my marketing efforts to pay off a small percentage of the time. For example: One of the first projects that I ever got (via Elance) was a simple design job for $150 or so. But the client and I hit it off well and he hired me again and again over the years, for bigger and better projects. I also worked with some of his colleagues, and when some of them left the company or started their own businesses, their new businesses hired me as well. They also referred me to several other clients. So I would estimate that from my initial service charge payment 19 years ago, I ended up making close to half a million dollars just from that ONE initial proposal. Obviously, not every project that I've done has had such good results, but my goal is always to seek out clients who have ongoing needs and form great relationships with them, then get their repeat business and referrals. And it's worked out quite well. Therefore, I simply DO NOT CARE if I make 30-40 bids and I "only" get one client out of it; as long as it's a GOOD client, then it's worth staying on Upwork. 

 

So, I guess it comes down to asking yourself what marketing methods you'll use if you leave Upwork, and then proceed accordingly to do what's best for your business.

 

Active Member
Jeremy Y Member Since: Dec 2, 2018
3 of 28

Thanks, Christine, I really appreciate your response.

While 90 cents per proposal may not sound like much to you, it assumes you'll get work to compensate because of your track record. (And I'm glad for you.) But for me, if it takes 50 proposals to get one job that pays $50, after skimming 20%, I'm in the hole for all my dozens of hours of work. I know the idea is to build up your portfolio to get better paying jobs, but for a newcomer, it may not happen.

Not only that, but as a paying newcomer, I'll be far more selective with proposals. And while that sounds good, the two jobs I landed are ones I wouldn't normally have applied for, thereby creating missed opportunities that weren't ideal, but viable.

In the end, seems like a win for Upwork's pocketbook... assuming lots of people play their game... but I can't as it would quickly drain my meager earnings, with no promise of return.

Thanks again, Christine. Looks like a good community, but seems (to me) that Upwork wants to weed out small client jobs and new freelancers, while nickel and diming everyone. (And business-wise, it'll probably work.)

However, much of this ties into my 3rd question, as possibly my angle isn't very sought after and/or pays well. (Or again, maybe my proposals are lacking.)

If I get no response with the 3rd question, I'll re-ask it in a more focused forum. Thanks again.
Community Guru
Tonya P Member Since: Nov 26, 2015
4 of 28

Jeremy Y wrote:

Thanks, Christine, I really appreciate your response.

While 90 cents per proposal may not sound like much to you, it assumes you'll get work to compensate because of your track record. (And I'm glad for you.) But for me, if it takes 50 proposals to get one job that pays $50, after skimming 20%, I'm in the hole for all my dozens of hours of work. I know the idea is to build up your portfolio to get better paying jobs, but for a newcomer, it may not happen.

Not only that, but as a paying newcomer, I'll be far more selective with proposals. And while that sounds good, the two jobs I landed are ones I wouldn't normally have applied for, thereby creating missed opportunities that weren't ideal, but viable.

In the end, seems like a win for Upwork's pocketbook... assuming lots of people play their game... but I can't as it would quickly drain my meager earnings, with no promise of return.

Thanks again, Christine. Looks like a good community, but seems (to me) that Upwork wants to weed out small client jobs and new freelancers, while nickel and diming everyone. (And business-wise, it'll probably work.)

However, much of this ties into my 3rd question, as possibly my angle isn't very sought after and/or pays well. (Or again, maybe my proposals are lacking.)

If I get no response with the 3rd question, I'll re-ask it in a more focused forum. Thanks again.

The $50 bid pool, IMO, is a losing proposition unless you can differentiate yourself. If you have no outstanding qualification for a particular role then it is best not to spend money to send a proposal.

Community Guru
Tiffany S Member Since: Jan 15, 2016
5 of 28

Jeremy Y wrote:

Thanks, Christine, I really appreciate your response.

While 90 cents per proposal may not sound like much to you, it assumes you'll get work to compensate because of your track record. (And I'm glad for you.) But for me, if it takes 50 proposals to get one job that pays $50, after skimming 20%, I'm in the hole for all my dozens of hours of work. I know the idea is to build up your portfolio to get better paying jobs, but for a newcomer, it may not happen.

One thing Upwork DOES seem to be trying to squeeze out is $50 jobs. And $100 jobs. And $250 jobs. At least, if those jobs are one-offs. If your business model revolves around taking on a lot of low dollar jobs with different clients (and that's just the nature of some businesses), then Upwork probably isn't a good place for you. 
For better or worse, the freelancers who are going to be most successful here would never consider bidding on a $50 job unless it looked like a good gateway to a long-term relationship. Upwork doesn't really want you to bid on them, and if paid connects discourage freelancers from pursuing those jobs, that will help clean up the platform. 

Not only that, but as a paying newcomer, I'll be far more selective with proposals. And while that sounds good, the two jobs I landed are ones I wouldn't normally have applied for, thereby creating missed opportunities that weren't ideal, but viable.

Again, what they want. And, while you bidding more broadly may have benefitted YOU in this particular situation, it likely didn't benefit Upwork. Upwork wants (with good reason) fewer bids on jobs. 
In the end, seems like a win for Upwork's pocketbook... assuming lots of people play their game... but I can't as it would quickly drain my meager earnings, with no promise of return.

The win for Upwork's pocketbook is when freelancers are successful. If you were in their shoes, would you be more interested in getting $30 in connect fees from a freelancer each month or hundreds of dollars in fees from a working freelancer?

Thanks again, Christine. Looks like a good community, but seems (to me) that Upwork wants to weed out small client jobs and new freelancers, while nickel and diming everyone. (And business-wise, it'll probably work.)

Small jobs, yes. The freelancers who focus on them, yes. It's not clear why you think they care if a freelancer is new or old. 


 

Active Member
Gail S Member Since: Jun 22, 2015
6 of 28

AGREE!!!!! One solution: get rid of the connects and go back to just having Upwork getting a % of a contract. Another solution: give us X amount of free connects (we originally received 60) per month. As it is now -- with Upwork taking 20% plus $$ from connects or monthly fees -- it is not worth paying for jobs you may or may not get.

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Community Guru
Robin H Member Since: May 28, 2019
7 of 28

3) My "gig" is fiction writing. Ideally, it'd be to ghostwrite and/or edit/revise existing manuscripts. (Though I'm open to editing non-fiction if I don't have to fact-check.) However, I won't bother with romance/smut (which is, sadly, highly sought) and I won't write new content for peanuts, such as 0.01 per word, or worse. Given that, am I ultimately barking up the wrong tree? Meaning, is there simply not much work for "non-romance fiction writers asking for semi-decent pay" without lots of Upwork experience, thereby making newcomers like me "a dime a dozen?"

 


Christine did a fabulous job answering your first 2 questions so I will attempt to tackle the third one.  I am a marketing copywriter which is quite competitive here on Upwork.  I'm losing out to people who are willing to earn about half as much as I do.  But, I come with experience and glowing reviews.  So I try to play them up in my response and customize each proposal.  

 

I've seen a few ghostwriting jobs.  Not too many fiction writing requests.  Definitely have this as your main saved search and blow each proposal out of the park.  I didn't have a chance to look at your profile, but make sure you have a portfolio and attach examples to each submission.  Most clients download and review them.  

 

Be persistent!  Rome wasn't built in a day and neither will be your freelancing business.  Good luck!

Community Guru
Kim F Member Since: Aug 26, 2015
8 of 28

I’ll have a go with 3.

 

There is some fiction ghostwriting that doesn’t pay pennies, but it isn’t highly paid and you really, really have to keep your eyes open for it. I realise ‘not well paid’ doesn’t say much, but between .07 and .10 per word is achievable. With a novel ghostwriting project the clients here often have an attack of the vapours once you go over $5,000. It’s possible to do better, but rare. Easiest tactic is to talk them into a shorter novel. Standard genre word lengths don’t apply here.

 

> I won't bother with romance/smut (which is, sadly, highly sought)

 

A lot of the romance here (I’m ignoring the really low end) is old fashioned romance and not at all smutty. In fact, some of what people call romance isn’t that romantic at all once you get the details. Therefore, you might not want to completely dismiss this.

 

Editing is more financially lucrative when it comes to fiction. And although hordes of people claim to be editors, there’s a much lower number that can do a good job of heavy editing. This can pay well. There’s also a demand for people who can take a rough draft of a novel and kick it into shape – halfway between writing and editing. It takes some practice reading between the lines to find these projects as they’re often called ‘editing’ projects. This can sometimes pay very well. One variety of these projects is from clients who declare themselves dyslexic or have written a novel in English when it’s their second language. Those projects can be lucrative.

 

It helps to promote a few specialised skills. For example, I edit children’s books sometimes because I can write in rhyme in my sleep – it took a long time for me to realise many people can’t. And on the editing front, I’m great at spotting anachronisms. I’m obviously not going to shout all my specials here, but you’ll have your own. Don’t keep them secret when bidding.

 

Eta: Being able to demonstrate past work for fiction writing and editing makes a HUGE difference. More so than for other writing. Links to books you've written (even if self-pubbed) and edited on Amazon are worth their weight in gold.

Community Guru
Tiffany S Member Since: Jan 15, 2016
9 of 28

Jeremy Y wrote:

 

3) My "gig" is fiction writing. Ideally, it'd be to ghostwrite and/or edit/revise existing manuscripts. (Though I'm open to editing non-fiction if I don't have to fact-check.) However, I won't bother with romance/smut (which is, sadly, highly sought) and I won't write new content for peanuts, such as 0.01 per word, or worse. Given that, am I ultimately barking up the wrong tree? Meaning, is there simply not much work for "non-romance fiction writers asking for semi-decent pay" without lots of Upwork experience, thereby making newcomers like me "a dime a dozen?"

Answering this one separately as I noticed that you mentioned not getting satisfactory answers to # 3. 

 

I don't do your type of writing, but I am a writer and see fiction jobs in my feed frequently. My impression has been that they are mostly low-paid and mostly romance, paranormal and sci-fi.

 

There was a Reddit thread a few months back in which a long-time Upwork fiction writer was looking for new places to find work because he said (and this is just one stranger's view, so take it for what it's worth) that it had been possible to make decent money as a fiction writer through Upwork at one time, but was no more. 

 

I don't think being new to Upwork is the obstacle that you think it is, if you have off-platform experience and can demonstrate your skills. But, my far from expert impression is that most of those who post on Upwork looking for fiction ghostwriters fall into one of two categories: super-low-end "publishers" who are cranking out tons of content and making a small return on each (mandating low rates) or individuals who "have a great idea for a novel that will likely be made into a movie because everyone I know says it's great."

Active Member
Jeremy Y Member Since: Dec 2, 2018
10 of 28
Great thoughts from everyone who has also helped answered the 3rd question. Many thanks.

To Tiffany: Why I think it squeezes out new freelancers is I can't imagine anyone hiring me for a $500+ job until I've got several small projects under my belt. So I feel confined to those for now.

I didn't WANT to do 2 little jobs for ~$100 each, but until I do (and do several more) I don't see why any client would select me over someone else. I've tried larger ones, but haven't even gotten responses... and why should they, until I've been proven? Likewise, if smaller jobs are squeezed out, then that also leaves fewer places for me to initially prove myself.

Am I wrong?
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