Upwork is Not the Business. Here's Why.
I had been hearing tons of freelancers raving about websites like Upwork to boost their freelance business, and as a person who loves to grow business and do freelance style writing, I thought I would check it out.
I started out by creating a profile, nothing too crazy, but the setup process I thought was odd, simply because I was there more out of curiosity than actual career moves so it didn't make sense to upload my entire EA profile for the freelance writing gigs that I was mainly interested in. But I went with it.
Once it was all said and done I jumped into my first searches for basic Admin/EA gigs since they were the first things to pop up and be recommended based on my profile.
I was shook.
People were literally offering their services for $4-$8 PER HOUR! I would read through proposals and job descriptions and was completely astounded that so many talented people would offer EA services for $4 an hour.
I understand the concept of getting proposals and experience under your belt but cutting yourself so low just to get a quick contract job is baffling.
I stifled my sobbing soul and continued to dig. Not only did I find that freelancers were lowballing, but the job posters were lowballing right back! It was a sick game of chicken, who could go the longest asking for top level work with bottom of the barrel rates before everyone jumped off the road.
I cannot repeat enough how shocked I was, however, I pushed through and began my hunt for freelance writing gigs and surprise surprise, lowball central.
I clearly understand that for a new EA or writer that it does take time to build a repertoire and be able to charge higher rates, but as someone who knows both writing and EA work, please do not stoop this low.
If you don't value your time and energy no one else will. As much as I hear about success stories on Upwork, I feel like those are far and few between and building from a measly $3 to your target range of $15-$20 is going to be far more wasteful than useful.
Why waste quality time and quality service for someone who clearly doesn't respect your craft right out of the gate. They clearly could not do it or they would have, but they can't, so why let them be the one to dictate what your time is worth when we clearly know they would not accept that pay themselves?
It's a sick trick to get top level work for pennies on the dollar. The same scam companies use for entry level positions but require a Masters and ten years of experience. This is a scam. Stop falling for it.
I am a strong believer that you should never lower your rates and never settle for less. This is not to say that I don't negotiate with my current company clients to suit their budget but I enforce all professional boundaries and never compromise quality work just to get a contract.
Ex) Client A wanted part time 20-30 hours per week, full operational support to brand, build and market the company with contract negotiations/writing and review, full EA support including email filtration, calendaring and personal support, as well as administrative support including reception, scheduling and billing.
My price point for that much work for 20-30 hours per week was more than triple their budget for the full month let alone a single week.
I was willing to compromise but I would not budge on hourly rate for operational support and contract review. That type of service is top tier, top qualified work and unfortunately if I made that exception, I would be bankrupt of time and money.
So we worked out a deal they could afford for administrative work for 4 hours per week at my admin support rate and compromised on assisting with certain higher level tasks but not taking them on with full autonomy and advise as necessary. Once we got rolling they were shocked at how much work went into company operations and realized why their price point was so low compared to my rates. And compared to others, I am on the cheap side!
They were so grateful that I didn’t give them the boot and now we have a phenomenal working relationship and as we grow I do throw in freebies here and there when they are in a bind which keeps them as a faithful client. Now they have grown triple in size and can afford the higher level work they initially wanted and we have restructured our service agreement and to this day the CEO personally thanks me.
The right company will see your worth and be willing to pay what you deserve. Get small stuff under your belt, make sure you have solid references for the big boys, but never ever sell yourself short.
I see the culture of undervaluing oneself on Upwork very detrimental to the growth of young entrepreneurs and freelancers trying to make it on their own without a traditional 9-5 job. I did it and it was worth it, just don't start or rely solely on a place like Upwork.
Just like the supermodels of the Victoria Secret era were seen as bad role models for kids because they reinforced the idea that in order to be pretty, important or taken seriously you had to weigh ten pounds... well, Upwork reinforces that the only way to grow is to grovel your way up the food chain, trying to undercut the undercutter and to never charge your true worth if you want anyone to hire you.
I was on this site for exactly five minutes and saw it for what it was: A scam. It's a sad scam that so many struggling people are falling for because of the lack of jobs in the current pandemic. I immediately deleted my account and ran as far in the other direction as possible.
Though it may be a great way to make a living if you are that one lucky person that gets that one lucky gig that goes viral in your bank account or you are from a country where $4 an hour is a livable wage, but unfortunately in America, with millions vying for one job, it just does not work.
I hope anyone undercutting themselves on any site, reads this and knows that you are valued and do not let anyone tell you otherwise. Never settle for less money, less work, or less happiness. You can have all three, you just have to believe you do first.