Choosing your battleground: Upwork, Freelancer, and Fiverr

A miner searches for a writing job online

You need to know how to pick your battles. It’s a far-flung idiom, seemingly a stretch to apply it to the world of freelance writing. But if battles are the projects you’re working on, you need to know how to pick your projects. For military men, the terrain of the battlefield is an important concern. For online writers, you should put think about where you are sourcing your projects.

This brings us to some of the biggest websites in the world of online writing. When you want to find a writing job, you’re likely to come across one of the following names:

These sites provide a service, acting as a marketplace for clients and freelancers to work together on projects. In this article, we’ll be considering these websites from the point of view of the freelancer and how they can affect your work. Should you pick any of the above to help fight your battle?

 

Finding Writing Jobs with These Sites

The websites listed above function in a similar fashion for freelance writers (and those with other skills). You have a profile, which typically lists your skills alongside a short bio, giving you access to a large number of available projects. After browsing through these projects, you’re able to place a bid and offer your services to a client.

Let’s say a client wants 20 web articles of 500 words each, with the topics and titles provided, and they need the project finished within a week. You can sit down, perform an estimate of the time it will take you, and provide a quote to the client. Maybe you’ll bid $500. This bid is lodged on the site and the client can then review it, as well as all the other bids they receive, and decide whether to accept it or not.

So far, so simple. Everything seems ideal, especially if you’re new to the world of freelancing. However, there are drawbacks.

 

What are the disadvantages?

Firstly, these are global websites. That means that you will be competing against many thousands of writers on each and every project. If you’ve sat down and worked out how much your services are worth – perhaps with regards to your rent, your expenses, and your need to be paid a certain amount – another writer might consider their services as being worth less. A lot less. Given how different the cost of living can be between countries, those in the more expensive nations might find themselves quickly priced out of the market. It can seem like a race to the bottom and means you’ll barely break even.

Secondly, there’s the sites themselves. Upwork, Freelancer, and the other sites function as a portal for clients and freelancers. They make their money by taking a cut of the project. This can vary from 10% to 30%, depending on certain factors. Given how these sites often favour the lowest price possible, this can drastically cut into the potential profits you can make from a project. Offer to move outside the confines of the site and you might find yourself banned. While the rates will often decrease the longer you work on projects and work with clients, this approach often costs far more than finding clients independently.

Thirdly, there’s the nature of the work. For those who want to break into the world of freelance writing for a rewarding, satisfying career, these sites can prove demoralising. Typically, the work required is high volume and low quality. Old school SEO practices, word stuffing, and poorly-handled research are the name of the game. Furthermore, quality standards between clients can vary dramatically. It can be impossible to stay consistent with such wildly different standards, which in turn affects your rating and ability to find future work.

Finally, there’s the issue of the problem client. When dealing with problematic clients – such as one who doesn’t want to pay – these sites will often side with the client, leaving the freelancer without anything to show for their work. You might well find yourself entering into disputes with clients who won’t pay, who have backed out of the project, and who demand far too much for tiny sums of money. Often, you’re fighting a losing battle.

 

But Are There Some Advantages?

Going through the above points might make it seems as though these sites are nothing but Victorian workhouses, churning out exploitative projects at a monstrous pace. But that’s unfair. Sure, it doesn’t take much effort to find innumerable complaints about any of the mentioned sites with a cursory Google search, but there are success stories and there are advantages to working with these sites.

Once such advantage is security. Many of the above sites will be able to offer escrow and mediation functionality, as well as an ability to review clients’ previous projects and evaluate whether you might be able to work with them. If something does go wrong, there is some degree of recourse available to a writer who might otherwise be out of luck.

Additionally, it would be disingenuous to overlook the sheer number of job listings which are on these sites. Though we don’t list these projects in our daily jobs updates, curious writers may wish to spend a few hours browsing the available projects. Every now and then, there is a wonderful opportunity with a dream client. It’s rare, but the huge volume of available work means that these projects are available to those who wish to put the time into searching.

We should also mention the ease of communication, the video chat/document sharing/online storage available to users, and the varied payment options that exist on many of these websites. There are definitely advantages.

 

Conclusion

However, if you go into an online writing forum and ask about Upwork or similar sites, then you’re likely to be met with disdain. There’s no question that these websites are looked down upon by many writers and often with good reason. They’re cheap and often not very cheerful. A quick and dirty way of making a bit of money when you’re starting out, one which many writers feel they outgrow rather quickly.

If you want to find a writing job, it’s definitely possible to do so with these sites. But you should be aware of their limitations and disadvantages, issues which often outweigh the benefits of finding writing work in this manner.

Of course, it would be ridiculous to simply declare these sites to be worthless. They have their uses. For part-time users, beginners, and those with a low cost of living, many of these websites are ideal. For many writers, however, the platforms are far too limited.

We began this article by mentioning how important it was to pick your battles. If you’re considering a career as a freelance writer, taking a job on Upwork (for example) could be the first step in a long and prosperous journey. As long as you are aware of the site’s problems, there’s nothing to say that you can’t capitalise on the work as and when you need to.

In summation, you need to pick your battles. Sometimes, this might even mean picking a battle you’re not too fond of, while attempting to win a war. But maybe that’s stretching the metaphor too far. Why not have a look at the sites for yourself in order to get a better feel for the available work? If you see something you like, you might end up quite literally picking your next battle.

 

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