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These rates are a joke, right? I'm being punk'd?

Active Member
Chris B Member Since: Dec 22, 2016
1 of 24

I left my job at a content marketing agency a few months ago, and I've decided to give freelancing a try. As an editor at the agency, I was responsible for hiring freelance writers for numerous client projects. We paid $1 per word, sometimes $1.50 for topics like medical and finance. I once paid a writer on trial 50-cents per word, and I felt so guilty about paying that low that I paid her $1.50 per word on her second project to make up the difference.



The typical writing rates on Upwork are shocking. Most of the jobs I'm seeing here are pennies per word. So many clients want 1,000- or 2,000-word articles for $10. That's crazy to me. My favorite job postings are the ones set to "Expert Level" (three dollar signs!) for a "well researched article" at $25.


Since I'm new to Upwork, I'm still trying to figure it out. Are the people accepting these $10 projects experienced writers with college degrees? Does Upwork not require any minimum standards for pay? When clients select the writing level, is there anything to enforce that they offer a comparable rate? Is there any way to report unrealistic rates to Upwork?


I'm sure there are many excellent writers here making it work. But I suspect the competition is stiff for those few projects that actually pay what skilled writers deserve.

Community Guru
Nia G Member Since: May 3, 2016
2 of 24

A lot of the rates are appalling. Many clients either don't know what work is worth or are just cheap. While many freelancers take what they can get and accept these low rates, they really don't have to.


There are actually quite a few clients who pay premium rates for skilled writers. They make up the "Hidden Upwork Economy" and often post invitation only jobs. I wouldn't say that competition is stiff because, in the end, those clients create more jobs for other high-quality writers. 


There is a minimum set by Upwork but it is rather low (because pay standards vary so much in other countries). Really it is a waste of time to report low rates. Why?


1) People do accept those jobs happily, so I let them do so. Just know that those aren't the clients for you and figure out how to find/appeal to those who pay what you charge. Freelance to Win is a good resource to help you so this. 

2) If the rate is above the Upwork minimum, Upwork won't take any action. I believe it's $3 or something like that. 


Community Guru
John K Member Since: Feb 17, 2015
3 of 24

@Nia wrote:


2) If the rate is above the Upwork minimum, Upwork won't take any action. I believe it's $3 or something like that. 

It's $3/hr or $5 for fixed price. So at least Upwork has parity with fiverr.

"No good deed goes unpunished." -- Clare Boothe Luce
Community Guru
Kathryn B Member Since: Jul 22, 2015
4 of 24

As Nia and John said, the minimum hourly rate is $3, with a minimum fixed rate of $5.  And there are a LOT of people who take those jobs, however, in their own region, those rates might be acceptable, or possibly BETTER than what they can find outside of the platform.  It is a sad fact, but it is, indeed, a fact.


There are good clients out there, but again, as already stated, you'll have to find them.  


Welcome to the community!  I'm sure with your experience you will have no problem creating an outstanding profile and writing proposals that win good jobs.  Don't get discouraged. Smiley Happy


Edited, because John types faster than I do.  Cat Tongue

~I am only here when I can tolerate having my eyes blasted, my privacy treated like a joke, and my temper pushed to it's limit. For all other times, please request alternate contact methods~
Active Member
Chris B Member Since: Dec 22, 2016
5 of 24

Thanks for your responses. I'm doing some googling on the "Hidden Upwork Economy" and I'm getting a better understanding of how premium clients search for and invite freelancers to jobs rather than posting them for all to see. I may reposition my profile with that in mind.


That said, a lot of the advice I'm seeing is of the hacky "How I Made Six Figures on Upwork With No Formal Training!" variety like you'd see in your spam folder or posted on a telephone pole. It appears that Upwork may be built or has evolved to support those measures rather than to reward actual experience and education. I may just be too old school for Upwork. (Obligatory: Get off my lawn before I turn the sprinklers on.)

Community Guru
Nia G Member Since: May 3, 2016
6 of 24

I totally get what you're saying. As I suggested, Freelance to Win is a great resource. It's not gimmicky like many other sites that speak about the hidden economy. It's not a "get rich quick" kind of a site. It teaches simple psychology that helps you to position/present yourself in a way that attracts only the best clients. This simply gives you more control over your freelancing career and your earnings. 



I wouldn't say that Upwork was built or has evolved to support this. I think that's just the nature of an open platform on the internet, as many others work the same way. Anyhow, Upwork isn't for everyone. But old school isn't a bad thing. Whatever works for you, right? 

Active Member
Chris B Member Since: Dec 22, 2016
7 of 24

I will take a closer look at that site. I did see some solid advice there about tailoring your profile, and I'm sure there's more good stuff. I'll just steer clear of his $697 course.  Smiley Happy

Active Member
Nick B Member Since: Jan 8, 2017
8 of 24

No offense, but you want free advice that is designed to make you money and give you a happy(ier) life, but you complain when clients want to pay low rates for content that is designed to make them money? Seems like a contradiction in terms there. 


On a more helpful note, try to turn your mind away from cheap clients. They are not for you. There's a place - and a freelancer - for them. Why worry about what they're doing? Focus on the good clients. The clients who have higher budgets, and post specific job posts. Make your profile specific and appealing to those clients. If you're good, and you can demonstrate how you can create a positive ROI for them with your services, regardless of the cost, then you're pretty much home dry. 

Ace Contributor
Fanny K Member Since: Dec 10, 2016
9 of 24

Hi Chris,


I'm also fairly new to Upwork and giving freelancing a try. At first, I was going to split my time between copywriting and translating, but now I only search for translation jobs or hourly writing projects. The rates for writing are generally speaking ridiculously low. What I have found is that once I completed a few initial (and not very well paid) jobs, it became easier to get better projects. After just over a month, I am now getting regular invites and think that Upwork could be a long-term option. With your impressive background, I think you will be able to command respectable rates once you get started. But you might have to lower your standards to get there?




Active Member
Chris B Member Since: Dec 22, 2016
10 of 24

Thanks for this advice. This is a strategy I had in mind, so I'm glad to know others have found success doing it.