How to become a freelancer on Upwork (and why you probably shouldn’t).

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Let’s not beat around the damn bush.

You’re here because you want to know how to become a freelancer on Upwork (and I’m obviously here to talk you out of it). If you’re already sold on the platform, this is probably not the article for you.

However, if you want to explore other options like building your own freelance business, you should certainly keep reading…

Don’t build your house on someone else’s land.

A year or so back, Instagram made some major changes to its algorithm which massively cut the number of views, likes and comments that users were getting on their pictures.

Brands and influencers who relied heavily on Instagram for sales suddenly found themselves going from sitting with a Dyson Vacuum underneath a big fat money tree to treading water in steel toe boots.

The mistake these brands and influencers made wasn’t in “using” the platform but “relying” on the platform.

I see this same issue with Upwork.

While the platform is obviously “global”, it is at the end of the day someone else’s land…

If they want to kick you off, you’re fucked.

If they go bankrupt, you’re fucked.

If they want a fatter cut, you’re fucked.

When you build your house on someone else’s land, there’s a lot of shit that’s out of your control.

While freelancers on Upwork can make some decent pocket change, I think a lot of them are one algorithm update away from finding themselves in the same boat as the Instagram Influencer… up shit creek without a paddle.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

The reason Upwork hasn’t perished is because they take a nice fatty cut out of what freelancers are making on the platform.

No. They’re not villainous for doing this. They are supplying the clients, after all. But, this cut does eventually add up.

  • For the first $500 you make, they keep 20%.
  • For the next $9,500 you make, they keep 10%.
  • For anything in excess of $10,000, they keep 5%.

Let’s say you’re lucky enough to be one of the handful of people who can figure out a way to make $10,000 on Upwork.

What you’re really making is… $8,950. If you’re charging $20 an hour, this means you’re literally working 50+ of those hours for free.

Why not just cut out the middleman and reach out to brands directly? I can teach you how to do this in my guide… Freelancing your way to $100,000.

You need a smaller pond.

When I’m not writing articles about why you shouldn’t freelance on Upwork, I’m running a six-figure freelance copywriting business called Honey Copy.

Something I do differently than most is that I don’t hang out with many other copywriters.

I’m not in copywriting groups. I don’t attend copywriting conferences. And, I stay away from copywriting podcasts.

This isn’t because I have anything against other copywriters. I’ve just always found it silly to linger where my competition is.

While other copywriters are at their conferences enjoying their circle jerks, I go find a smaller pond where I can be the biggest baddest fish in the water.

This is one of my many problems with Upwork. I just went over to their site and searched the word “copywriter”…

Do you know how many copywriters showed up?

I don’t know… by the time I got to page 37 with each page being filled with nearly a dozen copywriters looking for work, I quit counting.

While Upwork is a very big pound, you’re one of a hundred fish fighting for food.

Why not just find a smaller pound with more food, less competition and build your own freelance business there?

It’s a race to the bottom.

Final rant against Upwork (I promise).

In business, differentiating yourself on the basis of price is dangerous; it’s a race to the bottom.

Let me explain.

You’re a badass graphic designer in a small town that designs logos and you charge $1,000 a logo.

Your arch-nemesis moves to town and starts selling his logo design services at $750 a pop, undercutting you by $250.

Pissed (and damn scared you’ll lose clients), you come back with a killer deal… $250 per logo… the cheapest in town.

But, your arch-nemesis strikes again with a $100 per logo deal… a price you simply can’t compete with.

So, you go out of business.

Being the cheapest, in anything, is a race to the bottom.

Why? Because there is always someone out there that can do something cheaper than you, always.

When I was on Upwork earlier, I saw copywriters charging $6 hour… six fucking dollars an hour.

I will never in a million years be able to compete with that kind of price. So, instead, I must compete in other ways… like on the basis of quality.

Upwork is a bunch of freelancers clustered together with price tags taped to their foreheads and because of this, it will forever be a race to the bottom.

But, I digress.

I imagine I just crushed your dreams of making a million dollars on Upwork.

If so, I’m sorry.

But, all is not lost.

I’ve created a super badass guide for folks like you interested in building a freelance business outside of Upwork.

By Cole Schafer.

You gotta check this out — Sticky Notes is my email list reserved strictly for entrepreneurs and creatives looking to sell like a Florida Snow Cone Vendor on the hottest day of the year.

Originally published at on April 1, 2020.

Written by

I write pretty words and sometimes sell things.

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