The day I was laid off from my job as an apprentice electrician I decided to really crack the code on how to get freelance writing jobs for beginners. I had time on my hands so I started with how to get work on upwork. Long story short, I built a business on Upwork but decided that freelancing on my own is better (read on to learn why.)
Why Upwork? If there is low hanging fruit, I’ll eat it. Right now, the only thing that gets me copywriting clients is Upwork with its repeat clients and a resume on Indeed for new clients.
I’ve been copywriting for my own business since 2002 but when I lost the day job and experienced a huge dent into my income I decided to go all in on this freelance writing business.
I like making money with words. So at 40, I applied myself more to what I enjoyed doing, than what I didn’t.
The goal was to make a minimum of $40,000 that year from copywriting. I did not succeed, but you will be able to skip my mistakes and take action on only what DID work, and save yourself some time.
First thing my brain did was go into damage control. I had been doing research on how to get work on Upwork for a while and thought, “Well, it’s now or never.”
I purchased two books from Bob Bly that I used to increase my offline copywriting clients. These books were:
- The Copywriter’s Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Copy That Sells
- Secrets of a Freelance Writer: How to Make $100,000 a Year or More
Setting Rates As A Beginner Writer
I decided right from the beginning that since I’ve been blogging for 15 years that I have writing experience. It just wasn’t specific to freelance writing and getting paid.
I decided that with a little specific study into copywriting and writing white papers, perhaps I could be a third as good as Bob Bly.
So I copied out his rate sheet (price schedule) and then divided everything by three. Those were my rates.
This helps immensely when you bid on a project or someone offers you a job. Just stick to your guns and turn down any freelance writing jobs if they don’t match or exceed your rates. Unless you don’t have a single job yet. If that’s the case, you need to get at least a few so you can afford Mac and Cheese.
Freelance Writing Jobs For Beginners On Upwork
I was on the verge of buying a $475 Upwork course taught by someone when I first started out. I thought it would show me how to get work on Upwork faster. I held back on pulling the trigger because they never responded to my email or when I tweeted them a question. Both were a response to a question they asked in thier newsletter welcome email. It must have been an automated tweet and autoresponder.
Lesson 1: As a self-employed business owner, do what you say you will and do it when you say you will. This will put you ahead of the hucksters and fly by night people. You will eventually stand above the crowd by standing on the shoulders of this one principle.
I also noticed after the initial launch of their Upwork course, they stopped doing podcasts and new articles on their blog. It’s a good thing I didn’t buy the Upwork course right away. I would have mourned that loss of cash after getting laid off.
Because of this, everything I will share with you will be from free things I learned online and I will provide it to you for free as well.
I’m Sharing This How To Get Work On Upwork Journal For A Couple Of Reasons:
- To keep track of what works and what doesn’t as I try different things. I can forget sometimes that I’ve already cracked a code… only to realize later that I already knew it.
- I’m pretty pissed about all the people that say they know how to get work on Upwork and I can’t separate the fact from the fiction. I really want to find out the truth about how to make money on Upwork
- You may be in the same situation. If so I hope this helps you short cut the process so you can feed your family.
- I consider it my #1 task/mission to write my way out of debt as a freelanceer and leave the 9-5 grind. Then show others how to live free as well.
How I Started On Upwork Doing Copywriting
My first client was right after I opened an account. I had my friend hire me through Upwork to do a simple email opt in form on their anti-aging spa website. I did this instead of having them pay me personally. It was worth the hassle just to get on the Upwork client radar and get a review in the system.
Next thing I knew, I was invited to a job by a non-profit organization to design a landing page, lead magnet and series of follow up emails. I did the work and then the client went silent and wouldn’t respond to any communication. After enough time, the Upwork default payment protection kicked in and I was paid out by Upwork automatically. (Coincidently as I write this over a month later from getting the initial job, the client messaged and wants to talk. There was a family emergency on their end.)
I was over the moon and couldn’t figure out why everyone thought this Upwork thing was so hard. I decided to tweak my profile and see if I could attract even more clients… and I heard crickets. I didn’t get a new job until a month later.
Getting More Freelance Writing Jobs For Beginners: The Action Plan
I was doing a couple proposals a day and wasn’t hearing back from anyone. So I tweaked my profile again and kept submitting proposals. Finally, I heard back from someone to edit and smooth out their “About Page” for them. I completed the work on Upwork, did some edits in response to their messages and returned the final work. I waited on them to read over my completed work and release the payment.
While waiting, I fired out as many proposals as I could. At the end of the day, after 8 hours of working on proposals, I completed TWO. That shows you how long I took on each and the quality I put into them. Looking around at other posts, I realized this was not nearly enough. If that was the case, I realized proposals take a lot of time which is better off spent doing other forms of marketing to get clients.
What You Should Do To Get Freelance Writing Jobs On Upwork
Instead of wasting time with a lot of proposals, I suggest:
- Filling out your profile 100% with examples of your best work
- Have 3-4 examples of what you do best in your portfolio
- Have a half decent head shot. You can have people rate your picture for professionalism and competence at https://www.photofeeler.com (Everyone hated mine but I still use it)
- Make sure you include the keywords of what you are good at in your title and profile. The Upwork search engine will display this in a list of “specific freelancers” to clients searching for what they need.
- This is all I did to get jobs. It was all the strength of my profile and invitations to work. A very small amount of work came in due to proposals and it was not worth the time spent writing them.
Upwork Update January 31 2017 I believe I started looking for freelance writing jobs in September of 2016. That’s when I set up my Upwork profile. Writing this four months later. I just received Top Rated Status as a freelance writer on Upwork. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t proud of this. I also received an email from a past client that has more work for me again. Looks like Upwork is one side hustle that is paying off for me.
Setting Rates On Freelance Writing Jobs For Beginners
One important note here on setting your rates on freelance writing jobs for beginners. I took a second look at my rates when this client came back because of the excellent job I did. Instead of blindly using a third of Bob Bly’s rates, I looked at my time carefully. I make $27/hour as an electrician. When I get an electrician job again there would be no point in writing if it didn’t make the same amount. If writing made less, I’d be better off doing electrician overtime work if I wanted to get out of debt quicker.
At any rate the clients job was a very technical white paper. I needed at least 4-7 days to research and then write. Multiplying 4 days x 8 hours x $27/hour I came up with $864. Holding my breath I quoted $750. The first white paper freelance writing job I did was $450.
As simple as that, I gave myself my first raise.
Choosing Freelance Writing Jobs For Beginners: Be Picky
I don’t take low paying freelance jobs anymore at 4 months in. If I get a weird vibe from a job invitation I simply decline it. This has allowed me to work less but make the same money. I’ve also been able to work with high quality clientele instead of bargain shoppers. The thing about bargain shoppers on Upwork is that they usually offer no concrete parameters to work with, pay a low rate, then expect a lot of revisions.
How does that differ from a good quality copywriting client?
A good copywriting client on Upwork has a specific job for you and a result that they want from it. For example, “I need a health and fitness sales page to sell *this* product to *this* audience and I need it by Tuesday. Can you do that for $1200?” That would be an easy client.
A bad freelancing client is vague despite your attempts at getting clarification of expectations. The thing about Upwork is that if you get a bad client right off the bat who gives you a low star rating, it will affect you for a long time. It pays to be choosy about what jobs you take on there.
All Done With Upwork
Update: 13th November 2017
I’m all done with upwork now. Nothing drastic happened but I feel it is much better to be 100% control of my freelance writing business then worry about Upwork policy changes. A good example would be this guys run in with Upwork support.
I built a business that relied on Google Adsense years ago and I should heed the lessons learned there. You should not build a business that can be wiped out overnight by someone else making a decision. It is better to put in the legwork and do all the accounting, sales and marketing and customer relations yourself if you want to run a real freelance writing business.
If you take 100% responsibility you also keep 100% of the money and don’t have to pay out 20% of it to upwork. If you desire, you can pass these savings onto long term clients as thank yous.
You can read the full story about how I made the full change myself here.