I’m quitting freelancing on Upwork after 6 years on the platform. Why? Because I haven’t got a job on Upwork in 2022. Well, that’s a lie. I got some jobs on Upwork but in regard to regular, cost-correct jobs, Upwork is simply dead. The only jobs you can find now, as a freelance writer, are 1000-word tasks for $1-5. And rude, unprepared clients who have no idea what they want but demand it from you. All for the price of a cup of coffee. And half a pretzel.
The truth is, I was never reliant on Upwork for my freelancing business. I kept going back to Upwork once a year, in an attempt to find some good work. And since 2021, that actually worked. The last three whales of mine were all from Upwork. Well, I found them there and then we collaborated outside the platform after our initial contact. Yet in 2022, Upwork switched off.
Upwork in 2022 vs. before
Let’s start with the obvious. The problem here is not the platform itself, although it does share part of it. The problem is that Upwork is not what it used to be anymore. In the beginning, Upwork was a reliable platform. You knew you could go on it and start looking for a job at decent pay and, in a few hours, you’d get one. It was a good blend of demand and offer. Simple as that.
Nowadays, Upwork is saturated not only by mediocre freelancers but also by underpaying, overdemanding clients. 90% of the clients I’ve interacted with in 2022 on the platform, about 25, wanted me to work for 10% of the money I should get for my experience and quality of work. The rest were all right. And out of all the clients I’ve chatted with, the majority lacked logic.
I am not blaming clients for the fall of Upwork. Everything that makes a freelancing platform has a saying in its defeat or success. But yes, the way Upwork simply lets anyone post on the platform today, even if they never hire people, or do so for pennies, is a huge part of the issue. From a reliable source of consistent work, the Upwork of today is simply a joke of a website.
My 2022 Upwork jobs
In 2022, my Upwork hiring went from decent compared to 2021 to extremely bad. I scored zero lasting projects on the platform. My revenue from the platform in 2020 and 2021 was around $10.000 in total. This is money that went directly through the platform. In 2022?
Something must’ve happened, right? Maybe I simply failed as a freelance writer?
No. You can’t just forget how to write after doing so every single day for a decade. That’s simply not plausible. Maybe I had a weak performance, maybe I had a bad day or two but no, I’m not the problem. I scored three big clients for the first half of the year outside of the platform, and they brought in work worth tens of thousands of dollars. I’m not the greatest but not that bad.
So what happened? The platform got saturated. It’s full of low-paying jobs demanding high turnovers and in a record-breaking time frame. People from across the globe want to hire freelancers with 10 years of experience to write for them, paying 2 or 3 bucks per 1000 words. And asking for miracles for the money, including unlimited revisions and ridiculous calls at 3 AM.
I’m not up for that. If a client can’t get me paid what I’m worth, I’m done being nice and accepting their pretensions. Life is too short for that, simply put. I’d rather go serve ice cream to people at the mall than waste my time trying to be a freelancer on a site that’s just uninterested in my well-being. Why should I be interested in its growth, if the sentiment isn’t mutual?
Clients, outside the freelancing platforms
Luckily, freelancing is not dead. Upwork is, but Upwork is just a small fraction of the market. In reality, most qualified freelancers, with at least 5 years of experience, are not even on Upwork. Or Fiver, PeoplePerHour, Toptal, or any other site. Working in the business for so long I realised you can never trust another site for your success. It’s the same with Facebook and its reach.
I started this website right after I got my first larger gig in freelance writing. I guess sometime in 2017 or so, by the end of the year, the start of 2018, or something like that. Ever since that moment, I had my own place on the web to send clients to, in order for them to get a grip on what I was doing. My blog, portfolio, testimonials, and everything else that I need as a writer.
With my online presence up and going, I then started to look for better ways to get to my future clients, besides the platforms. It was difficult at first as I still write personalized pitches for every single client that looks like it’s a match to my skills. Yet after the first few, you get the hang of it. So how do you find clients outside these platforms that so many freelancers are depending on?
Well, how would’ve guessed it, right?! Honestly, I think LinkedIn is the only social platform that’s still useful for getting jobs. Sure you can still get some leads on Instagram or Facebook but the dedicated Jobs tab on LinkedIn does a great job at finding those skill-specific proposals that are based on your profile. I got to apply for a few jobs and even got two interviews and a client.
LinkedIn is also great for building relationships with other people in your field. These people are crucial because most of them are looking for you without you even knowing it. You may find another freelancer with too much work who needs a helping hand. Or you might have too much work and need a little helper to get through it. Regardless, LinkedIn is a win-win for both.
Here’s what I did/do on LinkedIn to up my chances of scoring jobs:
-Resume – I just updated my resume to a one-page PDF and I’m finally somewhat happy about it. People don’t usually read these CVs unless they’re HR people. But they are important and, the more compact they look, the better. Here is a link to my current resume. This is what I have on LinkedIn to send out to clients or companies, on Upwork, and everywhere else where my CV is required. Keep it short, simple, and a bit funny but also professional.
-A clear timeline – While the CV is important, another thing to keep in mind is that people go on LinkedIn and review your previous jobs first thing before anything else. This is why it’s important to keep your timeline of jobs up to date. Just make sure you’ve included everything in there, the years are right and your most important job, be it previous or current, is at the top.
-Posting regularly – LinkedIn is sort of a social media platform… but not really. The main rule of it is that it has to do with jobs, work, being professional and staying away for as much as possible from banter, politics and nonsense. Are you struggling with work? Post about it. Are you doing extremely well at work? Post about that. Are you simply grateful to have a job and can pay the bills? That’s a great topic! I usually post about once per week, talking about my writing and making it a tad personal, linking it with my hobbies or fun facts about freelancing. I also interact by leaving comments on those posts that are attractive to me.
-Message people – If I find a job description on LinkedIn or a post about some work that’s a fit for my skills, I message the creator directly. This has proven to be the best way for me to get actual paid work, not just companies sending out test over test and then telling me that although I have the required creative skills, I’m not a match. Really, it feels like Tinder. I simply message people telling them about my skills and that I can help them with whatever they need to do.
-Be consistent – I check LinkedIn at least twice a day especially when I’m looking for new clients. Facebook and Instagram are simply useless when it comes to finding work opportunities. LinkedIn really comes through and can get you hired “for real”, pardon my slang. What I mean by being consistent is, don’t just check the site but also interact, message people, update your profile, post, take care of your resume, and so on. Consistency is key!
A good way to get new clients is just to email the right words to the right people. I use a combo of job platforms, LinkedIn, and sometimes Facebook or Instagram to find companies, small or medium ones, that could benefit from a new website, some great blog articles, and even some social media content. When I find companies that are within my set of skills, I do some research on who’s working behind the curtains.
Once I find the person in charge, I craft a pitch that I’d like to read if I were them. If they’re into travel, I speak their language by letting them know I’ve been to this or that place like they did, and what I loved about it. If they love a certain type of book, I go over my favourite in a few words. I personalize the pitch as much as possible. I don’t go overboard to make it creepy but just enough so that they feel a connection.
Connections sell. Not your resume, experience, testimonials, or portfolio. Human connections.
I don’t have many friends. I have like, three. Yet I do know a lot of people who I’m in good to great relationships with. Those people are mostly working in fields related to my experience, areas in which writing can be quite helpful from time to time. When nothing else works, sending friends a message might get you out of the slum. It doesn’t take much, the relationship is already there, so it just makes sense to tell them about your services once in a while.
… Upwork again!
If the system is against you, cheat. At this time, the only way Upwork is valuable to me is thanks to 1% of its clients who post jobs with private details in the proposals. Which is sort of illegal on the platform, okay?! Well, by this, I mean those clients who write about who they are outside of Upwork. As they should! Whenever I see a proposal with more information on the company or anything that could lead me to an email address, I take the chance and cold email.
I will cancel my Upwork account
Upwork is not something I’m going to focus on anymore starting this fall. I tried my best throughout the year, with no measurable results. I’m still waiting for responses to proposals from 7 months ago, while clients simply do not even check out the responses from us freelancers. And Upwork is totally fine with it. Taking zero measures to combat spam, fraud, or literal abuse.
What abuse? The one happening to freelancers from third-world countries working for pennies, being paid a dollar for 1000 words, not even covering the internet cost. Upwork, they stopped caring. So why should decent freelancers stay on a platform that gives very little funks about the core of their business, the self-employed? Cancelling my account is a must, truthfully.
Hi! Just a quick thing before you leave:
First, nice of you to read thus far, it means that you’ve enjoyed my writing!
I’m not here to ask you for any likes, shares, or comments, although that would be cool of you! Instead, I’m offering you a chance to have an even better piece, sort of like this one, but better, written for you by a content creator. That would be me!
Check out my Services, Portfolio and Testimonials pages for details. And then shoot me an email at the address you’ll find on the Contact page.