Upwork: How I earned $10 in my first month.
My journey into the freelance world began in 2020. It was the start of the coronavirus pandemic and like most people, I had just lost my job. With a lot of free time, yet with little cash, I began to search for jobs.
Hence came the concept of working remotely.
Remote jobs were not as popular as they are now as they were reserved for certain industries, mainly the tech industry. So when I stumbled on a Youtube video that talked about different remote jobs that were not tech-inclined, I was skeptical but still very interested.
Here I shared in-depth the different jobs anyone can do remotely with little to no experience, but some remote jobs available are, Virtual Assistance services, content writing, voice-overs, etc.
These jobs come with the advantage of being beginner-friendly and you can start earning money immediately.
Who is Freelancer?
A Freelancer is similar to a contract worker, you offer your services for a rate you decide. This removes the option of having a boss or having defined work hours, 9-5. You decide when and how you work.
Pretty cool right?
The downside, however, is you handle everything that has to do with your business. Such as, how many hours you will work for, possible expenses incurred, with no employment benefits. You are your own boss in all areas.
Among the various remote options available, I picked been a Virtual assistant. It offered the opportunity to provide a wide range of services and the earning potential seemed really cool.
The next hurdle I had was, where do I find freelance jobs? A further google search brought up 10 different freelance platforms where you can pitch your services and get clients. A couple of them are Fiverr, Upwork, Freelancer etc.
I selected Upwork to start with.
What is Upwork?
According to Upwork, they are an organization that connects businesses with freelancers, independent talent, and agencies around the globe. This simply means they are the middlemen between you, a freelancer, and a person or business who may need your services.
How does this work?
First, you sign up to Upwork(or any platform of your choice) and create a profile of the services you want to render, just like creating a regular Facebook account, but this would be tailored to searching for a job.
Once this is complete, you go through the available job vacancies and apply to the job you feel matches your skills match. You do this by sending a proposal.
You might be wondering this sounds really simple and why then would I have a problem with Upwork.?
How I started.
As I had explained I created an account, which was accepted by Upwork. Yes, Upwork has the right to reject your profile if they believe it doesn’t meet their standards. I then began to search through the available Job sections and settled on what I wanted which was Freelance Writing.
Well, luckily I got my break, It was for a 500-word article on reviewing movies in detail. I wrote a proposal and sent it to the client, ignoring the prior proposals that had already been sent. A day after I got a response. The deadline was in 2 hours for $10. I completed the job, got a good review, and waited to get paid.
Bidding for a Job
What Upwork calls bidding is applying for a job, it’s similar to how you bid in an auction. Someone is in need of your service, you want the job, you send an application (a bid), in the form of a proposal for it.
Your proposal is like a cover letter, where you are explaining to the buyer who you are and why they should give you the job. Doing this is not easy as each proposal has to be personalized to fit the job you are applying for. Sending the same proposal to different clients not only won’t get you the job but you might get flagged by Upwork for spamming.
Before you can send a proposal to a client, you need to purchase what is called a Connect.
Connects are like virtual currencies, nope not bitcoin, where you pay Upwork to give you a specified number of tokens, which allows you to send your proposal.
This means before you can send out your beautifully crafted proposal, you must have the required number of connects. The amount varies from job to job. You can get connects by buying it, earning it, or getting it free each month.
The downside to this is, if you use up your monthly connects, which you definitely will, you are stuck with either buying some more or waiting till the next month to get some free connects.
For a freelancer just starting out, that can be a problem as you are already spending money for a job you are not sure you will get. Plus the non-refundable nature of these connects, means that if you do not get the job, you will still lose your connects.
Indians and Filipinos are highly skilled, more dedicated, and spend 18 hours a day on this site bidding for literally every single job that comes up. What’s more, they offer to do this work for $1 an hour. You simply cannot compete. Forget about it.”
One thing you will quickly realize about Upwork is the endless availability of cheap labor, not affordable, cheap!.
You want an article of 5000 words done in an hour for $2?, there is someone on Upwork that will do this. This favors you as a buyer on a budget but, if you are a seller of services things might be tricky.
Hence one of my problems with Upwork. Most of the job listings had outrageous demands that realistically you will feel no one should consider it.
You click on the job description and find 10+ proposals already sent to the client.
You are left with two options, cut down your rates, especially at the beginning of your freelancing, to give you a competitive advantage or you keep your rate at what you believe is fair and provide a good service when you are given a job.
20% Service fee
An advantage of getting a job through Upwork is the assurance that you will get paid, as Upwork ensures that the client puts the money in Escrow while the job is been done.
Also if for some reason the client does not pay, Upwork pays you after 14days, But at what cost?
If the job is successful and the client fulfills his/her part of the contract, Upwork collects a service fee of 20% of your earnings. This charge they say decreases as you get long-standing clients and earn higher.
However, let us be realistic, what are the chances that a client who comes to Upwork looking for cheap labor will want to pay higher? Well, Upwork seems to think so.
If you earn between $0-$500, you are charged 20%. If you earn between $500.01-$10,000 you are charged 10%. Then for payments of $10,000.01 or more, simply 5%. Should it not be the other way round?
Well like I said most of the jobs available are within $0 to $500, so having a service fee of 5% for that range won’t be profitable for them. Therefore after getting a review from my client and getting paid $10, Upwork took 20%, leaving me with $7 for my work.
These are the basics of getting started on Upwork. After this first job, I have continued to use this platform and here are some of the lessons I have learnt so far:
It is tailored to help the client and not the freelancer
Despite it been advertised as a Freelancing platform, some of the policies are more favorable to the client and not the freelancer. More scrutiny on freelancers, compared to clients, as anyone can create an account and claim they have a job vacancy with little to no checks been done.
Charging the freelancer not the client the 20% service charge on each payment can be a problem especially when most of your jobs are one-off jobs. Unless you have clients who opt to retain you, expect a constant 20% deduction on your fee.
The Rat Race.
Upwork is open for everyone around the world. This means people from low-income countries, who can do the job for cheaper rates, will have a higher chance of getting the job. Therefore unless you decide to lower your rates to compete, this might not be a realistic option for you.
There are a lot of bad clients.
Not every client you met will be nice or would want to pay you. Most will make unreasonable demands for the lowest prices.
The other group of clients you might encounter will take your article and refuse to pay. Luckily Upwork gives the option of holding the payment before your work is submitted or of paying you should the client ghost you afterward.
Upwork and other freelancing platforms are good for starting a career in freelancing or if you simply want to earn money on the side, but it should not be your sole means of making money as a freelancer.
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