If you’re looking to level up your writing career by taking on some freelance writing gigs on the side, or if you’re looking to make freelance writing your main income, it’s definitely possible on Upwork. Upwork is a freelance platform where you can search for hundreds of freelance writing gigs, submit proposals, and get paid without ever having to deal with contracts or risk that your client won’t pay.
What Are the Benefits of Upwork?
Upwork is a freelancing platform that connects freelancers with the right gigs so both parties can win. With Upwork, you can display your portfolio, a bio, headshot, and you can collect reviews from previous clients on or off the platform. One of the best parts about Upwork is that you don’t have to worry about the legal side of contracts or worry about whether your clients will pay you. Upwork handles the legalities of the contracts, and they ensure that your clients have verified payment methods or hold money in escrow for your protection.
Beyond all the features and protections Upwork offers freelancers, the most important benefit is that it provides you the ability to make an income no matter where you are in the world. If you’re someone looking to work from home or travel the world while still making a living, Upwork provides a way to find work and do it from home or anywhere. Instead of being limited to the job opportunities in your direct vicinity, Upwork opens the door to writing gigs from everywhere!
What Kind of Freelance Writing Gigs are on Upwork?
The possibilities are endless when it comes to finding freelance writing gigs on Upwork. I’ve been hired to write anything from website copy, blogs, and email copy. With a few simple searches, you can find so much more available including editing and proofreading projects, article writing, ghostwriting, book formatting, screenwriting, and more!
Whether you’re just breaking into a writing career for the first time and need to build your portfolio, or whether you’ve been in the game and want to expand your horizons, you’ll certainly find many freelance writing opportunities on Upwork.
How to Make Your First $1,000 Freelance Writing On Upwork
I’ve only used Upwork to earn some extra side money during slow points with my other freelancing projects, but the results have still been great! On my profile, I’ve only worked 9 total jobs and earned nearly $5,000. I billed some of my projects at an hourly rate, while others were billed at a fixed rate. When I break down actual hours worked on Upwork between all my projects and the total amount earned, it means I was making anywhere from $60 to $80 an hour on most freelance gigs. That’s not too shabby for part-time freelance work!
If you’re looking to get started on Upwork, you can most certainly dedicate more time to the platform and make it your full-time job. I’ve got a few friends who do just that and make anywhere from $80k to $100k per year on the platform.
But how can you make your first $1,000 on Upwork? Getting started can be a bit challenging if you’re not familiar with the platform or how to go about applying to projects. Lucky for you, I’m laying out the exact steps to success that I used to earn my first $1,000 on the platform and then some! These tips are also what I use to land writing and marketing retainers in my day job, so you can rest assured that they can work for you too on Upwork!
Narrow Your Niche Down to A Few Key Offerings
You can’t be an expert at everything, so you need to narrow your focus on Upwork to 1 or 3 key offerings that you know for sure you’ll excel in. Upwork acts as a search engine and ranks profiles based on a few important factors: Keywords mentioned in your profile, your freelancer success rating, your experience level, and your total earnings.
Upwork allows you to have up to three niche profiles. I only use two of these profiles, and I only focus on writing and WordPress website development. Those are the two niche items I enjoy the most, and they are the ones where I’ve seen the most need. You will also want to choose the offerings you’re best at, and be sure to mention keywords related to your niche in multiple places throughout your profile.
If you list out too many services that you claim you’re an expert in, you might appear disingenuous on Upwork, or you might end up doing a bunch of busy work that you don’t care about. Quality work comes partly from skill and partly from enjoyment, so make sure you’re choosing the work that has that combination.
Fill Out Your Entire Profile
Upwork can provide you the chance to work entirely remotely or add a great deal of flexible, extra income into your household, so be sure to take it seriously! The best quality projects come to the best quality freelancers, so make sure your profile looks professional.
Upwork Profile Tips:
- Take a professional profile photo. This doesn’t have to be from an actual photographer, but it at least should be well-lit, clear, and with an uncluttered background. Be sure to wear something professional in your photo and smile! No one wants to work with a freelancer who looks angry or depressed, so lighten up!
- Use keywords in your profile title. Remember that your profile is triggered by search terms. If you’re a writer, blogger, or copy editor, be sure to use those keywords in your profile title.
- Add brief bio information and why you’re a qualified candidate. Don’t get too crazy with this section. Be brief, be honest, and keep your copy clear and concise. Feel free to use a bulleted list to make the text easier to scan.
- Add previous projects to your portfolio. Even if you’ve never had a project on Upwork, you can still add a few outside gigs to your portfolio. This will add credibility to you as a freelancer.
- Add your work experience. Remember, you are applying for a job, so use work experience that’s related to the kind of gigs you’re looking for. The work experience you list could be free work, paid work, volunteer work, or work you did during an internship. It doesn’t matter how you obtained the experience as long as you have it!
- Get testimonials! If you’ve never done any projects on Upwork, the platform recently created the ability to ask for reviews off of Upwork. So, if you’ve done any work related to your profile, request reviews through Upwork so that you can add even more credibility to yourself as a freelancer.
- Add a video. The video you add to your profile should be you introducing yourself and also elaborating on a few of your previous projects that relate to the gigs you’re trying to land on Upwork. Keep it at no more than a minute and a half.
Create a Proposal that Stands Out
Submitting to a job on Upwork isn’t quite the same as applying to a job in the traditional sense. Rather than submitting a formal cover letter and resume, you’ll want to submit something that looks more like a pitch deck. This can be formatted any way you wish as long as it’s well-organized, clean, and professional-looking.
Your pitch deck should include the following:
- A brief snapshot of who you are as a freelancer, your experience, your education, and your key qualifications.
- A list of relevant experience. This is where you’ll elaborate on experience such as what companies/brands you’ve worked with and what you did for them. Only provide the experience that relates to the gigs you’re trying to get on Upwork.
- Show project success stories. Detail out at least 3 successful projects you’ve done in the past. You’ll want to describe why the project needed to happen, what you did, and then the result.
- Display your best reviews on their own slide. Whether you’ve cultivated a bunch of reviews on Upwork, Google My Business, a personal website, or on LinkedIn, you can screenshot your favorites and list them on this page.
When you go to submit your proposal on Upwork, you may be required by the business to answer some additional questions. Do so as honestly and briefly as you can. Also, you’ll almost always be asked to paste in a cover letter in addition to your resume. This should be casual, exciting, and brief as well. Describe why you’re the right candidate, detail some of your experience, and mention why you’re excited to work on the project.
Set the Right Rate
When you start on Upwork, it’s important to land your first few gigs as soon as possible so that you can obtain positive reviews. Don’t set out to make top dollar on your first few gigs. Instead, expect to work at a very discounted rate to gain reviews quickly so that you can level up fast.
I started on Upwork doing my first few gigs for next to nothing in exchange for honest and, hopefully, positive feedback. It worked well! Those first initial 5-star reviews and projects helped me land some great freelance writing gigs and design gigs. After you have at least five successful gigs and reviews on your profile, you can begin increasing your rate.
My recommendation is to search for freelancers in your niche to see what top-rated profiles are charging per hour. If you’re newer on Upwork, you might want to consider charging about half what they charge and then gradually move up to the same rate as you gain more experience on the platform.
What’s a Good Rate for Freelance Writing Gigs?
Remember that when you first start, you might have to do some gigs for a low rate. When I started, I did some projects for next to nothing and others for as low as $25 per hour. Once you’ve built up your Upwork credibility, you can then increase your rate to something more competitive like the rates listed below.
- Website Copywriting: $40 – $70 per hour
- Blog Writing: $50 -$100 per hour
- Sales Copywriting: $40 – $60 per hour
- Copy Editing or Proofreading: $40 – $80 per hour
- Ghost Writing (books/novels): $60 – $100 per hour
- Article Writing: $100 – $150 per hour
- Press Release Writing: $80 – $100 per hour
Submit A Winning Cover Letter
The cover letter attached to your proposal on freelance writing gigs should be short, concise, engaging, and unique. Don’t just copy and paste the same cover letter with every single proposal. Those hiring you on Upwork can also only see a preview of the first two lines of your cover letter, so the first couple sentences should be the most intriguing. It’s okay to copy and paste the experience portion of the cover letter, but the first few sentences and the last should be unique to the job you’re applying to.
It’s a good idea to mention a few details about the project and why you’re a great fit so that the hiring person knows you care about the freelance gig you’re applying to. Your cover letter shouldn’t be more than about 250 to 350 words, so make it count!
Read the entire job description to make sure that you can tackle the project you’re applying for. Some jobs might request that you follow specific instructions when applying, and you don’t want to miss that in your proposal. As always, take your proposals seriously.
Apply to the Right Gigs
Not every project is the right one for you. Not every client is the right client for you. No matter the price tag, some projects and clients can turn out to be nightmares, so make sure you’re applying to the right jobs. Upwork provides a few essential details about projects and clients so that you know you’re working with the best of the best.
Here are a few tips to choosing the right freelance writing gigs on Upwork:
- Choose gigs with reasonable expectations. Read the description carefully. If someone is asking you to write a novel in 2 days, that’s not a setup for success. Your first few gigs will be at a low rate, so find gigs that are simple, easy, and at a fixed bid. Make sure the terms are clear and written down so that the client can’t keep you tied into endless revisions.
- Choose gigs that are within your wheelhouse. Again, you’re trying to land gigs that lead to positive experiences and reviews. If you’re applying to something that you’re not that good at, my advice is don’t. You need to excel on your first few projects to obtain good feedback. Pick projects that are a breeze for you.
- Choose freelance writing gigs that are recent. If you see a proposal that has been lingering on the platform for months or even just weeks, I recommend not applying. This could be a job that isn’t even being reviewed by the client regularly. You can also click the job to see the last time the client reviewed the listing. Don’t waste your time on ghosted gigs because the client might not ever check your proposal. Save yourself time by only applying to recent job postings that are checked regularly.
- Only apply to payment verified accounts. If you don’t see a payment verified blue check mark, it could mean that you’re about to get scammed or that the client isn’t serious about Upwork. I never apply to gigs if the client hasn’t added their payment method to their profile.
- Only apply to gigs if the client has positive reviews. No reviews might indeed be a good thing, but I don’t like to take those kinds of risks. I only work with clients that have a history on Upwork and who have good reviews from freelancers overall. Remember that a bad review can really damage your success on Upwork, so you should only work with reasonable and sane clients.
Upwork is no doubt a fantastic avenue to find freelance writing gigs. With Upwork, you’re able to truly take ownership of your writing career, have a limitless income, and work from anywhere! If those are benefits you’re looking for in a freelance writing career, then I highly recommend that you try Upwork yourself! Good luck!
Mel Beasley has a bachelor’s in creative writing and journalism from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. He brings 9+ years of digital marketing and writing experience to the table by writing for publications such as Lumina News and Encore Magazine. He spent 2 years as a college-level writing tutor, and is a certified writing tutor through the CRLA, which is a prestigious cert recognized by the Association for the Coaching & Tutoring Profession. He is a professional SEO blogger with experience writing for brands such as Boardworks Education and The Greater Wilmington Business Journal. One of his latest website and marketing projects has been building the website for the now New York Times Bestselling author, Nina de Gramont.