Get the FREE Freelancer’s ToolkitGet the free toolkit!

Why Freelance Writers Should Avoid UpWork at All Costs (+ Where to Find Work Instead)

I have a confession to make.

I spend a ton of time creeping in freelance writer Facebook groups and the freelance writing subreddit.

And almost every day I see writers say stuff like this:

“How can I ever hope to find clients who respect me and are willing to pay more than $5 per hour?”

9 times out of 10, these writers are using Upwork – the armpit of the freelance writing world – to find clients. More often than not, they’re doing it because they aren’t sure how to find freelance writing work independently.

Why you should't use Upwork or other 3rd party freelance sites for your freelance business.

If that situation sounds familiar, it’s time to make a change, my friend.

Let’s talk about why you should avoid Upwork at all costs and go over a few better ways you can quickly find work.

Why Upwork Sucks for Freelance Writers

Upwork strips you of control of your career

Think about it like this. If you build a website for yourself and market your freelance writing services independently, no one can take your site away from you.

And no one can randomly decide to change your fee structure in a way that costs you money.

Compare this to Upwork, where the head honchos have the power to change the fee structure at any time and the site could even shut down at any given moment.

What would happen then?

You’d probably be out of work. Not good.

The people who run Upwork don’t care about you

Okay – I know this one sounds a little rant-y. But it’s true.

Know how I mentioned above that Upwork can change their fee structure at any time? Well, they actually did it recently, and it’s already had a negative effect on tons of freelancers.

Now, the first $500 you bill your client across all contracts is charged with a 20% fee (instead of the previous 10% fee).

They’ve dressed it up to make it seem like a positive change that rewards freelancers who work with long-term clients.

But I’m calling bullshit.

What’s really happening is that they’re collecting more money by taking away double the amount they were previously charging many freelancers.

Do you really want to be associated with a company like that?

I know I don’t.

Platforms like Upwork devalue freelance writers

When clients think they can get away with paying $5 for 500-words and an “expert content writer,” they’ll never be willing to pay more than that.

Instead, they start to perceive writing as work that isn’t valuable and doesn’t require enough skill to warrant good (or even fair) pay.

Pissed off yet?

I am, because I want my fellow freelance writers to be paid well for their work.

Bottom line:

Using Upwork is no way to build a long-term career as a freelance writer.

But let’s move on to some good news:

There are much better ways to find freelance writing gigs than desperately bidding for jobs on Upwork.

Here are 3 of them.

3 Better Ways to Find Freelance Writing Work

Use a high-quality platform like Clearvoice

If you’re going to use a platform to find freelance writing work, try Clearvoice. Not only do they offer fair pay – they work with high-quality clients who respect writers.

One of the best things about Clearvoice is that you don’t have to bid for work when you sign up. Instead, they notify you when an assignment that fits your qualifications becomes available to you. Then, you can decide whether or not to take on the job.

I’ve had some pretty awesome opportunities sent my way through Clearvoice, so it’s definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already.

Send some cold emails

This is one of the best ways to find clients fast – especially if you’re just starting out and don’t have a ton of experience. In fact, cold emailing helped me land over $800 worth of work in my first ever month working as a full-time freelance writer.

But how can you make this marketing strategy work for you?

Start by using LimeLeads or a similar service to find and download your potential clients’ contact info. Then pitch your services like crazy,making sure to keep the emails short and relevant to the reader.

Also, realize that you can’t send 5 cold emails a day and expect amazing results. Try sending 25+ customized cold emails every day, and see what happens.

Make the most of your LinkedIn presence

If you’re not using the shit out of LinkedIn, now’s the time to start.

LinkedIn landed me one of my biggest clients ever – a client who contributed majorly to the fact that I made over $5,000 in my fourth month as a freelance writer.

The best part?

I never pitched that client. I didn’t have to.

Since I had my niche (which was B2B/tech at the time) in my profile summary and headline, she was able to find me using LinkedIn’s search feature.

So, make sure you’ve got your niche clearly defined in your profile so your target clients can easily find you. You’ll also want to use keywords based on what those clients are searching for when they need to hire a writer like you.

And that’s all there is to it.

If you use these 3 alternatives to Upwork, you should be able to land some new clients pretty soon. No bidding necessary.

Not only that — you’ll be well on your way to building a profitable freelance writing business independent of a platform that doesn’t care about your success.

Jorden Roper Jorden Roper is a fuchsia-haired freelancer and the founder of Writing Revolt, where she shares no-bullshit advice for freelance writers and bloggers. Want to start attracting high-paying freelance writing clients? Get a copy of How I Turned My Freelance Writer Website Into a Client-generating Machine (A Case Study) today!

+ get the FREE Freelancer’s Toolkit including:
✓ From Last Corporate Day to a Month of 5k
✓ How to Get to Steady
✓ 4 Steps to your First (or next!) Passive Income Stream Workbook
✓ Daily advice, tips & inspiration

Yes, please!

{ 28 comments… add one }
  • Jorden, You are awesome! Thanks

  • Thanks for this article! I spent a bit of time exploring Upwork and even bidding on a few projects so it sounds like it was for the best that none of them worked out! I agree, marketing yourself through your own website is the best approach unless you want to compete for the lowest rate…

  • Yeah upwork sucks. Currently they are charging 20% fee. Recently they changed. But they don’t know how hard we work for earning some little bucks. For making carrier upwork is not good field for freelancers. Really Totally bullshit. Thanks for article. Miss. JORDEN ROPER.

    • Thanks for the feedback, Sanjaya! Always glad to hear from another freelancer who doesn’t recommend Upwork 🙂

  • Great article! Thanks for the tips and specific recommendations.

  • Wendy

    This article could not have come at a better time, thank you! I thought I was going crazy all alone, imagining I wasn’t using UpWork correctly, or maybe I just wasn’t searching hard enough.
    But you really nailed it with the new fee structure (20%?!?!) and the way companies put such an incredibly low value on our services (degrading).

    I found one long-term client there that I hope to stay with, but otherwise, I plan to look elsewhere, and so I really appreciate your tips.

    • Yesssss! Their new fee structure is awful, and the whole platform is degrading in general.

      I’m so glad you’re moving off of UpWork and looking for work elsewhere though! 🙂

  • I found your site from google search, and I agree with you.

    These not about writers only, but for programmers also.
    We get low cost to build bunch difficult programs and must be send it perfectly 20% of fees.

    I’ve ever been suspended with “Absurd Reason” by upwork just because :
    “Too much Proposals & Did not getting a JOB” #WTH

    just 8 proposals & declined just 2 ( choose another freelancer), and the others are the clients does not response anything untill the job has been closed ( Just wait & wait ).

    And on 8 proposal, I have been choose as candidate, and client want to know my skill, and then? after creating mockup and show the result, they have been closed his job and no one being hired.

    We know the upwork is a business that making & wanting much of money even though ignore who make their business grow up!

    So …? Better to use Linkedin or Hunting our self client than :

    “Working in a place that does not humanize us” – #Reality
    We are only considered like a slave on their business.
    Choose another & Better.

  • Ryan

    Thanks for the great information, Jorden. I was seriously thinking about signing up for UpWork, then decided to do a little more research to be on the safe side, after discovering another freelance writing scam (Master Writing Jobs). Your article came up in a Google search, saving me from another pitfall and offering legitimate alternatives to UpWork. I really appreciate it!

  • Jorg

    I also have bad experience with upwork and I agree with the main thesis this article, especially with so, that you lose control of your career. I would like yet added, that it is refers not only to writers and also to another professions.

  • JR

    Upwork truly is the Ebay of freelance sites. I’ve managed to fare better than some using their platform, but I certainly haven’t enjoyed my time wandering that particular labyrinth. People use the word ‘degrading’; that’s accurate. I’d add that their corporate decision making is absolutely ruthless, their freelancer assessment algorithm is an embarrassment, and that the site in general is a clumsy, disorganized behemoth that swallows freelancer ambitions raw with beer. Don’t depend on it as a primary source of income.

  • Eliud Sibuor

    Very true, and thanks for the article. Upwork made me doubt myself if I could ever make any living from Audio transcriptions. Clients take advantage of bidding and some would even wish to pay $5 per audio hour, of which fuckin Upwork would still demand 20% of that. I’ve got some pretty amazing websites now.

  • Alexus

    Thanks for this, I thought it was just me. Glad to see it’s not! 🙂

  • Jeff

    I have very little experience writing, but in college, my one prof. always told me to explore this avenue as a career because I am apparently good at it…
    Anyways, point being, I was literally just on the verge of joining Upwork, so you just saved me 🙂
    Thank you!!!!

  • Nav

    Thank you Jorden. I had just joined UpWork and saw this page when doing a due diligence check. I believe you’ve saved me a lot of time and money.

  • Lauren


  • Mandy

    Great article!

  • I know people have a lot against Upwork, but I think it really boils down to not knowing how to find the right clients on the platform. I make $80/hr+ on the platform. I’ve expanded to other sources for clients since I don’t want to have all of my eggs in one basket, but it has been a reliable source of income for me. Once I knew what I was doing, I was able to get over that $500/20% hump pretty quick for each client.

  • naomi

    ugh, can’t even begin to attest to how bad I needed this pep talk.
    thank you loads.

  • I dislike all the fees on upwork and they are taking a ridiculously large cut for what is essentially Craigslist with escrow.

    However, I don’t agree that it’s to be avoided. If you can get established there, the pay off is worth it (I think it’s much harder to become established now than it was when I started though).

    The benefits are that I never have to look for clients, I’m invited to almsot every job. The review system also gives me some degree of screening (just some, it’s not that helpful, just helps you avoid the nightmare clients). There are a ton of really well paying clients there but I think you have to pick your niche carefully and never talk about hourly rate; charge for quality and stick to fixed fees.

    So, there are definitely a lot of negatives to upwork but if you can get established, it works very well.

  • Thomas Henry Horan

    Thanks, Loren! I will try these tips (assuming they haven’t gone out of date) and let y’all know how it went.

    I used to do okay on eLance, but Upwork bought them out and now it’s ALL about Upwork, NOT about freelancers. The single biggest problem with Upwork is, 99 percent of their “clients” have no idea what they’re doing, and Upwork doesn’t care. For example, you can no longer ask an inexperienced “client” a question about a “job” unless you spend “connects” to do it. And most
    “clients” on Upwork simply have no clue what they’re doing.

Leave a Comment