Can You Earn $100 Per Hour as an Upwork Freelancer? This Writer Does

How to Earn $100 per Hour on Upwork.I manage to find long-term, higher-paying freelance writing clients as an Upwork freelancer. Crazy, right?

Upwork.com (the new combined brand that’s the result of the oDesk-Elance merger) really is one of the best places to go if you want to be severely underpaid as a freelancer. But it also can be a great location for finding good prospects who are lost and confused in the never-ending search for quality writers — if you know how.

I’ve pulled clients who pay $100 per hour (and up) from this bidding site, and regularly use it to find strong new prospects. That’s despite the fact that I only check in once or twice a week, for a few minutes at a time.

You can find great pay on UpWork, too, by changing the way you approach a few elements of the site. These elements can help you avoid cheapskates and save you the time and frustration that usually goes along with navigating bid sites.

Here’s how I became a successful Upwork freelancer:

Shift your perspective

Put yourself in the shoes of a company that’s probably new to hiring freelancers online. They don’t know where to go, so they Google “hire freelancers” and bam … there’s UpWork. They create an account, post a job, and wait.

Your job as a successful Upwork freelancer is to find these prospects — the higher-paying, focused organizations that know they need to hire someone, but don’t know where to look.

To be clear, don’t even entertain low- or mid-range clients on UpWork. You don’t want to waste your time and energy on anyone who isn’t willing to offer higher levels of compensation.

Set your standards

The key to finding these companies (and scaring away the ones that will waste your time) is setting standards on your profile.

Be explicit in your Upwork freelancer profile. If you won’t work for less than $150 per hour, then list that as your rate. This alone wards off a lot of the lower-end companies looking for someone to write a 10,000-word white paper for $7.35.

Second, limit who you communicate with. Do NOT communicate with any job poster that has fewer than three dollar signs next to the description.

Yes, this eliminates the project-based listings (I tend to steer clear of those) and most of the jobs on the site. But that’s OK, because you’re looking to connect with potential clients with a specific mindset: “I am willing to pay higher rates for the most experienced freelancers.”

I primarily work with B2B healthcare companies, so I only look at offers from businesses in that niche. This is a higher-paying field, so that effectively cuts out a lot of the bargain basement companies.

This standard keeps you from wasting time sifting through low-paying jobs.

Vet the prospect

Once you zero in on a prospect that has potential, you still want to be selective.

Good clients usually know what they want done and who they want to do it. The higher-quality posts read more like full job listings, explicitly stating the desire for someone experienced in either their industry, the type of work they need completed, or both.

When it comes time to apply, keep things short and let your work speak for itself. I don’t write long letters of intent for these jobs — usually just a few sentences demonstrating that I actually read their full description. I’ve found that what gets the most attention is my asking to discuss their company goals (not just project specs) right out of the gate. Believe me, this will set you apart from lower-end Upwork freelancers.

I also include links to my portfolio and credentials, along with a phone number after my signature. Many of these clients are medium-sized businesses looking to connect quickly, and the back-and-forth of UpWork’s messaging system can put them off.

Here’s a sample I’ve used:

I’d love to talk with you more to find out what XXX’s goals are. As a healthcare B2B content strategy consultant and freelance writer, I can meet your needs in this job, but can also recommend other, possibly more effective methods for growing your business. I am a Copyblogger certified content marketer, so I have been trained in the proper use of headings, story-telling, language, and problem-solving in the online content creation process.

You can read some of my writing on different healthcare topics here (http://www.bsminfo.com/author/megan-williams) and also view my work and portfolio at LocutusHealth.com. Below is information on my practical experience in B2B health, my current work, and my overall outlook.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to give me a call at XXX-XXX-XXXX. Have a great week.

Megan Williams
Content Strategy Consultant, MBA

My Experience
I have 10 years experience in revenue cycle/IT consulting for hospitals, an MBA, and I run Locutus Health Communications, a content strategy company dedicated to the B2B healthcare space. I’ve also been certified in online content marketing by Copyblogger Media and have been creating online content for over a decade.

My Work
I write on healthcare IT (EHR, data analytics, security, cloud storage, MU/HIPPA, etc.) at BSM Info. I also create in-depth content for my clients ranging from blogs and articles, to website content and white papers.

My understanding of the culture of the industry and constant contact with advancements and trends allows me to create work that is connected, in-depth, and engaging. I specialize in revenue cycle, healthcare IT, and startup content.

My Outlook
Most importantly though, I believe B2B content in healthcare will benefit from a shift in tone…a shift to one that is rooted in the seriousness and formality of the industry, but that still understands the need for humanity and a more editorial feel.

Suggest further projects

Each job started as a small piece, a blog post here and some web content there. But by targeting the right companies, positioning myself as a highly skilled and strategic freelancer, and starting the discussion about bigger projects from the get-go, I’ve used those initial projects as a springboard to bigger projects that earn me $100 to $175 per hour.

For instance, one company asked me to rewrite their About page. I agreed, and made sure to mention case studies in our early conversations about goals. And guess what I just finished earlier this week? A case study for that company.

So if you’ve completely abandoned bidding sites, consider reconsidering. The high search rankings of these sites can work in your favor, if you’re willing to be selective and specific in the types of opportunities you entertain. You, too, can earn $100 per hour as an Upwork freelancer.

Need help getting out of the low-paid rut? Join our writer community for training and networking.

Megan Williams is a B2B Healthcare Content Strategist and owner of Locutus Health Communications. Follow her on Twitter @LocutusHealth.

 

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51 comments on “Can You Earn $100 Per Hour as an Upwork Freelancer? This Writer Does
  1. Tryphena Maria says:

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. noman Nazir says:

    i”m sick of the extremely low paying jobs at upWork.

    but I dont understand how ppl claim to make $3000 monthly on upwork? i went through a job asking to write 200-300 articles of 500 words each for $150 🙁

    • Carol Tice says:

      Every advice post I’ve ever had about working on these mass platforms hast he same advice, Noman — you’ve got to IGNORE the vast majority of the offers and only respond to ones that pay professional rates. If you waste time applying to lowball offers, it’s nearly impossible to make a living.

  3. Andre says:

    My experience with Upwork has been mostly negative. Many clients I’ve interviewed with balked when I mentioned my rates. What you say about “lost lambs” stands to reason so I’ll definitely be trying this out.

    • Andre says:

      UPDATE:

      I’ve found that Upwork actually has a really nifty feature that allows you to eliminate entry level and intermediate level from your searches. At the moment, I’m trying to look for prospects who are ready to pay at expert level and don’t have an Upwork history. My reasoning is, if they don’t have a history it’s likely they’re “lost lambs” whilst if they have a history they know full well that bidding on Upwork can be a race to the bottom. I’ve made a few bids these past few days but no-one has caught on so far. We’ll see.

  4. Wayne says:

    Hi there, fellow writers. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    I always love popping in to compare my experiences to what is being said. Carol, you’re an inspiration to many of us newbies!

    Today I decided to comment, and I followed a few links to end up here. It might not be the perfect thread, so please excuse that. I feel it’s important, though.

    I likewise had mixed experiences on Elance / upWork, working hard to improve my portfolio and ratings. I had just started to earn a livable wage with these kinds of jobs when Elance suddenly pulled the rug out from under me.

    They just closed my account. I had all 5 star ratings, except for one client who was a tough nut, but even that client re-hired me and still gives me work regularly. I have followed all the regulations and guides to the letter. I really worked hard to satisfy all my clients. Next thing I know, Elance sends an automated message notifying me of account closure, claiming “poor client satisfaction”. I immediately responded, requesting more information, but since then I’ve only received automated replies.

    Naturally I was upset. I’ve been following the advice of seasoned freelancers, like the great comments here (I’ve scoured your site, Carol), and I am working hard to get those top paying clients, and keep them.

    In other words, my advice is: even if you do everything right, don’t depend on just one platform (especially Elance/UpWork – in my opinion they are outright thieves, since they refuse to release my last payment.) I also had an experience like the one you wrote about, Carol, where someone copied my profile details and bid on jobs using my portfolio samples!

    So this is just a warning. I’m honestly not the ranting type, and very seldom bother to complain about things. I believe positive words are more powerful than negative ones. But I feel that I need to share this.

    Beware of Elance / Upwork. I have been researching this phenomenon, and found hundreds more like me, that have similar tales of woe. Elance seems to be weeding out freelancers, either because they don’t have enough account activity, or for some other mysterious mathematical / financial reason. I will never look for work there again.

    You might be doing everything right, maintaining a great reputation, but one day they will kick you off the platform for no good reason.So be wise – Spread your eggs to more than one basket!

    To return to the positive: I will survive the experience, and find new hunting grounds. A new writer’s number one weapon is tenacity.

    I have worked my way up in six months from taking my first $25 gig for a ridiculous amount of work (on Elance) and I am just starting to breathe again, financially. This setback will not stop me.

    To be fair, Elance gave me a kick-start, helped me gain confidence, and it was a tool to dissolve the mental blocks I had against earning a living writing. Even so, they have utterly disappointed me, and I will never deal with them again. Take heart, but beware.

    • Patricia says:

      I’m sorry to hear about your Elance experience. I think that what happened to you is terrible. I also think that it’s horrid that people would bid on jobs using your portfolio samples!

      Best of luck on your future projects!!

      • Wayne says:

        Thanks for that, Patricia.

        I can laugh about it now, and move on. Unfortunately my landlord wasn’t so relaxed when I had to explain why the rent was late!

        Funny old world we live in. 🙂

    • Carol Tice says:

      Thanks for sharing your sad story, Wayne. I wish this was the only time I’ve heard it, but in fact it seems fairly routine that these platforms toss people off, often with what seems no to be no cause. I’ve heard this tale time and again.

      It’s just another reminder that NO freelancer should have all their eggs in one basket — or tied to a single online platform. That means you’ve given Elance as much power over your life as a full-time employer — except they didn’t give you paid vacation, sick, 401k, etc. And that’s just wrong.

      You’re as much at risk of losing 100% of your income as you are if you had a day job, but without any of the fringe benefits that might go with that!

      • Wayne says:

        You’re absolutely on the money, Carol. As freelancers we need to take responsibility for our own destinies, get smarter, more efficient, and hedge our own bets. There’s always more to learn.

  5. Kayla says:

    Great tips! I have heard of a few freelancers having success with these types of sites so I might need to give it a try to increase my income.

    Thanks!

  6. Laurie Stone says:

    Carol,
    Your posts are always interesting and helpful. I blog more than I freelance, but good information is good information. You make me want to push more in the freelancing direction.

  7. For the past twelve years, I’ve made a fulltime living on Elance ($70 an hour/ranked by Elance as one of its top-three book editors) using tips like Megan has shared. I, too, work only with the better-paying buyers. With Elance’s change to Upwork, I’m migrating over but have also started my own website and blog and am learning to use social media to promote them. I no longer feel safe relying on just one resource – no matter how great and how popular– for getting all my business. For me, the merger was a wake-up call.

    I can share a couple of thoughts on how I win the great-paying clients on these sites … rather than list my hourly rate, which can be confusing to authors who have no idea how many hours it might take to edit their book, I indicate I’m a high-end provider by including sentences like this in the profile: “I’m not a bargain-basement provider.” “If you’re willing to invest in your book to make it the best it can be, I’m here to help you do it.” You want to discourage the buyers not willing to pay what you charge from sending you invitations to bid, as they’ll only waste your time.

    Another tip … never accept new clients who make a practice of giving stingy feedback ratings. It’s important to maintain a 100%-satisfied client feedback score, which won’t happen if you work for buyers who think high scores should be the exception rather than the rule. The better providers care about feedback ratings, so keep yours impeccable. If you accept a job from a client who in the first couple of hours gives hints they’ll be hard to work with, politely tell them you don’t think you’re a good fit for the project after all. Cancel the job immediately, and refund any money they paid. On Elance, clients can’t leave feedback unless they’ve paid you something, and I assume Upwork works the same way. If a buyer is difficult in the beginning, they’re going to get worse as the project progresses, and difficult people love to leave stingy feedback. So cancel the job and get out of there.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Interesting tips on the feedback, Jessi!

      And you’re definitely smart to diversify your sources of clients. 😉 You never know when a platform will close up shop, as we’re now seeing with Elance and oDesk becoming one platform.

    • Vivinne says:

      Great tips Jessi! I saw this as Carol linked from another post’s comments. I actually was saying too- money can be made on Elance (I have not fully transitioned to Upworks interface, so no comment their.)
      But, the tips you and the author give are THE WAY! And so most diss the platforms as they basically swim in the shark infested, dirty muck of $5 for 1,000 words, “impeccably done!” Yeah right! I agree on ratings and now have had to terminate clients early in process who were clearly going to be disagreeable. I learned that the hard way after allowing two very demanding & negative clients to get away with that behavior.
      Once I cleared my mindset of low self-esteem and fear, things have gotten better.
      Aim high, create a sharp profile, great portfolio and take the tests on the platforms!

  8. Charlotte Hamilton says:

    I don’t have any writing experience which I think would be appealing to clients looking for freelance writers to do work for them. My question is how do I get the experience needed to apply and bid for these higher paying freelance jobs?

    Thanking you in advance for your help.

    Charlotte Hamilton

    • Carol Tice says:

      I’ve met lots of writers who think that, Charlotte…but most people know about something. They’ve worked for lawyers, or dentists, or in retail…there’s some industry they know something about. That’s going to be the easiest place to start.

      If you’re starting from scratch, you need a few initial pro-bono gigs to build your portfolio. My e-bookThe Step by Step Guide to Freelance Writing Success walks you through the process of quickly building expertise and getting better-paying clients in detail.

  9. I’ve been hating on bid sites so long, I don’t know if even after this great success story I’m willing to go back. But anything is possible.

  10. Missy says:

    I apply similar criteria and have found a couple jobs for which I was paid $100-150/hour. I’ve stopped searching for jobs, but now wait for clients to invite me to bid. Often they’ve only invited a few freelancers which increases my chances, and I already know I have the skill set they’re looking for.

    I also check for multiple dollar signs and I look to see that they’ve assigned multiple previous jobs and have both given and received excellent feedback.

    Good article!

  11. Amy Butcher says:

    Hey Megan (and fellow Copyblogger Certified Content Marketer),

    Great post! I’ve actually found some good clients in Elance using this similar method, and it’s great to learn some of your concrete tips, they’re really spot on. I love the idea of just being short and sweet and getting to the “connect” part.

    Looking forward to your Copyblogger webinar this afternoon!

    Amy

  12. Patricia says:

    Hmmm… interesting. I haven’t checked Upwork in a long time because I know that most of the jobs there are really low-paying. Some clients expect outstanding work plus impeccable revisions for a dollar. Literally. Megan’s approach is smart. Immediately eliminate those who aren’t willing to offer more than a few bucks for quality work. I just might revisit my Upwork profile again. Thanks a lot for these insights, Megan!

  13. Jonathan says:

    Reading this article makes me realize why I’m not winning any bids on UpWork – this writer is highly educated and talented, I never thought a business owner would be pitching for work on UpWork. After reading this article, I interpreted the title to mean ‘This writer does think you can’t make $100 per hour on UpWork’, because she’s taking all the best clients!

    • Carol Tice says:

      Jonathan, I’m quite sure one single writer isn’t sucking up all the better job ads on a vast platform like UpWork.

      • Megan says:

        Definitely not. I either reject, or get rejected from good jobs quite regularly, so I know they’re out there…and that’s just in my small specialization.

  14. kate says:

    Doesn’t Elance (and Upwork too, I presume) specifically forbid you from putting contact information in your proposal? I seem to remember watching an introductory webinar where it was stated that this was against the rules. Doing so could get you kicked off the site.

    • Megan says:

      Hi Kate!

      I did a quick search on Upwork’s terms and it prohibits contact information from being posted on job listings and profiles, but I didn’t see anything about the proposal/interview stage.

      To be sure, I shot them a message and this is what they said…

      Megan: I know it’s not allowed (for us freelancers) on profiles, but what’s the policy on proposals and interviews?
      Renel: That’s a good question, Megan.
      Renel: When it comes to proposals, you’re allowed to include your contact information.
      Renel: The same thing during the interview.

  15. Fred says:

    Thanks for the good advice! I too managed to find a few quality long-term jobs on Elance among the huge pile of time wasters but they’ve been few and far between. I was planning on letting my Elance account lapse when they transition to Odesk but based on this advice I might reconsider 🙂

  16. Joyce says:

    Great post! I have several clients from these two sites, and my newest ones pay upwards of $50 to $150 an hour. I focus only on projects where I have experience either in writing or in my previous life before writing. I liked your example message, and I think I can incorporate some of the tips to help me earn even more.

  17. Holly Bowne says:

    This is awesome, Megan! I’ve never even looked on oDesk or Elance, but I LOVE your strategy. I may just have to give it a try. Thanks so much for sharing your great tips on how to go about it.

  18. Hello Carol,
    This is really a very fabulous post. I created an account with Odesk about 9 months ago, applied for a few jobs there and got disappointed because i wasn’t taken for any of the jobs and this made me to just overlook the entire site.

    I think i have about $12 on my account right now but also, don’t know if i will still remember my password.

    However, i believe its possible to get those high paying clients if you position yourself very well but what i want to know is…… What if its someone that has not already gotten many social proof?

    You mentioned that you’re a Copyblogger certified content marketer which is actually a huge bonus but, what if its someone without such social proof, how will he present himself as the right candidate for the job?

    Thank you.

    Theodore

    • Megan says:

      Honestly, I don’t think the Copyblogger name is the biggest seller for my freelance work. (Different story for content strategy.)

      My biggest selling points are specialization and asking questions that prove I’m mentally connected to their goals and expectations. They want someone who cares in real ways, and can prove they can product quality more than anything. That alone is a huge differentiator, and what my clients always mention without being prompted.

      Megan

  19. Excellent break down and examples, thank you for sharing! My fellow freelance writer friend found a high paying and regular client on a similar site. I may give it another shot, although I’ve found networking and Letters of Intro to be the most effective ways to get clients.

  20. Rohi says:

    Thanks for the detailed strategy, Megan.
    I’ll try it out and see how it goes.

  21. Megan says:

    Hi Rhonda!

    Glad you found some projects! It really is easy to forget where clients are coming from sometimes.

    Megan

  22. Ronda Swaney says:

    Thanks, Megan! Like the others who commented, I thought of UpWork as only a spot for the bottom feeders. Your post inspired me to go try them out this morning. I also work in a fairly good niche—B2B writing for IT and tech-based firms. I sent proposals out to 6 projects. We’ll see if anything comes of it. Thanks for the great marketing idea.

    • Vivinne says:

      I think I sent out about 12 or more proposals to get my first one but then it built from there. Initially I recommend start a bit lower than you intend to stay- meaning the “system” works on rankings and your rating, so you do need an intial burst of work, then once ranked well you can be more choosy.

      It’s like a starlet-you may take a few crappy roles to get your big break. BUT stay focused on the long term role & commensurate salary you really want!

  23. lindsey says:

    I’ve steered away from UpWork, and its predecessors, but this might get me to check it out…thanks for sharing!

  24. Daryl says:

    I have managed to find a few decent gigs on freelance bid sites.

    How did I find it?

    I guess I was “lucky” in having a particular knowledge set that my client wanted that only a handful of people on the site had.

    I agree that the vast majority of jobs listed (probably something like 95%) aren’t worth the time to even thing about sending an application to.

    That being said, if you’re a qualified and experienced freelance writer, those other 5% can be extremely lucrative.

    The trick is, to bid for jobs that need a SPECIFIC skill or knowledge set, to qualify your clients, and to make a case for why they should hire YOU over everyone else.

    • Carol Tice says:

      Right on, Darryl. I call the kind of clients Megan looks for “lost lambs” — they don’t realize UpWork is a cesspit of low-paid junk jobs, they just wander on, and don’t know how to find a writer, really. Love her strategy! It’s similar to what I used to use trolling Craigslist ads, long ago. Be very picky and look for people who don’t belong here, they’re not a typical poster and they seem to have sophisticated needs, and are a real, researchable company.

    • Megan says:

      “The trick is, to bid for jobs that need a SPECIFIC skill or knowledge set, to qualify your clients, and to make a case for why they should hire YOU over everyone else.”

      100% true. Highly specialized organizations get lost there a lot.