Is Upwork Good for Beginners? The Good and the Bad (Mostly Bad)
When it comes to finding freelance work, Upwork is one of the first places people turn. If you’re a writer, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Upwork. In fact, many people found their first online job on Upwork.
It’s one of the most popular freelance platforms online, but is Upwork good for beginners? Well, there are plenty of Upwork jobs for beginners, but the short answer is yes, but I don’t recommend it.
But many people find it easier to start their freelance career on a platform like Upwork when they don’t have much experience. That’s because jobs on Upwork let you start finding clients and building build your confidence over time.
If you want to know is Upwork worth it, this article is a beginner’s guide to getting started on Upwork and will give you some tips for finding clients on the platform.
I’ll also share some secrets that no one tells you about finding a job on Upwork and whether or not I think it’s good for freelancers with no experience.
What is Upwork?
To tell you what it’s like working on Upwork as a beginner, you need to know the basics.
Upwork is a freelance platform that connects freelancers with businesses. And I admit that it is easier to find jobs on Upwork because the platform is huge but that works against you too. There’s too much competition.
It’s one of the most popular platforms online, and it has millions of users. Of all the freelance sites, Upwork and Fiverr are the most well-known.
As we saw during the pandemic, the number of people working from home has increased significantly, so freelance platforms like Upwork and Fiverr will likely only get more popular.
People began taking their real-world skills like data entry and customer service and applying them to the online world. And you can find plenty of jobs on Upwork where you can use your traditional work skills to make money.
And businesses have discovered that outsourcing work to freelancers saves them time, and money, and increases productivity. They also know that they can advertise jobs on Upwork and find people to help them with a minimal investment.
That’s because the system forces freelancers to bid lower to beat out other ones which is how you end up getting paid peanuts on the platform.
Upwork has two subscription plans, the free Basic plan and the Plus plan, which is $14.99 a month.
The Basic plan includes:
- 10 Connects/month
- Buy Connects as you need them for $0.15 + Tax each*
- Unused Connects rollover up to 200
- Hourly protection to ensure you’re paid for each hour worked
- Fixed-price payments are secured through milestones
- Limited reports and functionality
The Plus plan includes everything in Basic and:
- 80 Connects/month
- Your profile will never be set to hidden due to inactivity
- Setting to keep your earnings confidential
- View competitor bids for any job
- Customize your profile URL
- Extended reports and functionality, including grouping and sorting
You may not feel like you should have to pay to find jobs on Upwork and I kind of agree because you don’t have to on LinkedIn! But I get it, that is how they make their money and you’re paying for convenience.
One of the pros of using this platform to find jobs for beginners is that there’s a wide range of freelancing jobs to choose from.
While Upwork can connect you with millions of potential clients, there are much better ways you can use your time looking for jobs – ones that pay better for sure.
I always teach people to avoid looking for any job on Upwork and other content mills because clients on these platforms don’t value good content and you’ll burn yourself out quickly working more hours for less money.
The same goes for other freelance jobs like data entry, transcription, proofreading, etc. You will find plenty of freelancing jobs on Upwork.
So, if you do decide to try to find your first job on Upwork, make sure you leave time for finding better-paying clients on LinkedIn. Referrals and cold pitching on LinkedIn are the best ways to find clients and make money online. And it’s the best way to scale your business.
You’ll work less time for more money! Who doesn’t want that?
With all the Upwork jobs for beginners, you will work more for less money guaranteed.
What Kinds of Jobs Can I do on Upwork?
There are three main types of jobs on Upwork.
Fixed-rate projects have a set rate for one-time projects. Setting a fixed fee for each project is usually better for writers than hourly rates because you get penalized for being quick.
Plus, the hourly rates keep you trapped in the mindset of trading dollars for time instead of value. It’s also difficult to determine your hourly rate, so you can lose thousands of dollars over time by charging hourly.
An example of a fixed-rate project would be getting paid $500 to write a case study or $200 for designing 50 Pinterest graphics.
Per word is another way freelance writers charge for writing projects that may vary in length, like blog posts.
Many jobs on Upwork pay hourly on Upwork.
As I mentioned above, I don’t think it’s the best way for some freelancers to charge because it’s hard to calculate a rate that includes your overhead, time, experience level, and other components.
One of the most challenging things for new freelancers is knowing how long it will take you to do something. So, it’s up to you. Some freelancers LOVE hourly rates, which many people are used to.
A couple of jobs for beginners actually do work better with hourly pay, such as virtual assistants, online proofreading jobs, or bookkeeping jobs. But you can actually do monthly retainers for ongoing jobs like these, ensuring you have reliable pay every month.
Milestone projects are a mix of hourly and fixed price projects. This type of project allows you to offer a flat rate, but you can use it for long-term jobs versus a one-off project.
If you get paid $100 a week to write one blog post, the client creates milestones, so every week or month, you submit the work for the milestone, and the client approves it and pays you.
The issue is that some clients can be slow to approve and pay you for jobs which can be an issue.
But there are many Upwork jobs for beginners such as:
- Freelance writing
- Logo design
- Creating spreadsheets
- Data entry
- Proofreading and editing
- Virtual assistant
- Transcription work
- Web and App Tester
- Customer service
- Miscellaneous tasks
- Voice recordings
Is Upwork Worth it?
I don’t think making money on Upwork is worth it and that is coming from someone who found their first freelance writing job there.
Upwork is good for finding clients, but it’s not the best way to find freelance jobs that pay well.
There are better ways to use your time, like finding clients on LinkedIn where you can cold pitch potential clients or get referrals from connections and other people you know.
Plus, many of the jobs on Upwork are low-paying, and the clients don’t value quality content or just how a good freelance writer can enhance their marketing strategy.
You will work more hours for less money, and it’s hard to find time to look for new clients elsewhere. Plus, we start our businesses for more freedom, time with family and friends, and flexibility, and working more hours will not help you have a better work-life balance.
However, if you decide to try to find a job on Upwork, make sure you leave time for finding better-paying clients elsewhere.
Is the Pay Good for a Beginner on Upwork?
This is a question I get asked a lot, and you already know I don’t think it pays well as a long-term solution to finding prospective clients. It’s hard to answer because it depends on the Upwork job and level of expertise.
Experienced freelancers with positive Upwork reviews will make more money from Upwork jobs than beginner freelancers. So, as I mentioned earlier, the Upwork jobs for beginners won’t pay well.
If your previous work experience is related to the type of freelance job you want to do, you can justify charging more money.
But, there are successful freelancers that make six figures on Upwork and Fiverr because they learn this freelancing platform well and approach their job search strategically. Also, some clients do appreciate the value of a good freelancer.
If you want to learn how to be successful on Upwork, use the tips below, and focus on going above and beyond for your clients.
Also, work on keeping your Upwork job success score high, and delivering your work on time, you can see your freelance business grow on this freelancing platform.
Things No One Tells You About Finding Jobs on Upwork
As a freelance writer, you’ve heard me talk about writing for clients on the platform, but the same goes for any freelancing business. I’m clearly opinionated about Upwork, but there’s a reason.
I got my first freelance writing client on the platform when I was just looking to make extra money to supplement my disability income. They paid me a whopping $9 to $10 for 800 or 1,000-word blog posts.
And when I left them to write for Cannabis magazines that paid a whopping $0.05 a word, they told me they had never heard of anyone getting paid that much to write blog posts AND that it was the most I would EVER make freelance writing.
That is not true at all. I’ve made much more, so don’t let other people tell you that you can’t make a lot of money working from home.
And one of the reasons I got frustrated with Upwork is there are things no one tells you that I think anyone using the platform should know. That’s one of the many reasons I don’t recommend people look for Upwork jobs to make money online.
I’m not saying that you’re going to get amazing pay for jobs for newbie freelancers off the platform. You just have a lot more control over your rates than you do with Upwork jobs for beginners.
On a side note, read this post if you want to learn the different ways you can get paid to write online.
You Need to Bid Consistently and Frequently
So, you may be wondering what a bid is. A bid is how much you ask to be paid for a job when you send a proposal on Upwork.
Getting clients on Upwork is a numbers game. And honestly, it’s a numbers game whether you’re bidding for clients on Upwork or sending cold pitch emails to potential clients you found on LinkedIn.
I know, I know – this is not what you want to hear, but it’s true. The more jobs you apply for, the better your chances of getting jobs.
With lots of 5-star reviews and a high Upwork job success score, you’ll have clients coming to you.
So, don’t give up if this is really something you want to do. Bidding consistently and often is the key to getting your first job on Upwork and any after.
You Need to Buy Lots of Connects
First, what is a connect? Connects are what you use to bid on jobs on Upwork.
As of December 2020, Upwork says you get ten connects for each interview you win for a total of up to 50 connects every seven days.
When you first sign up for Upwork, you automatically receive 40 connects with a chance to win 40 more once you pass an Upwork Readiness Test.
On the Freelancer Plus Plan, you get 80 connects each month. If you have any connects left over at the end of the month on either plan, they roll over to the next month, but that tops out at 200.
Since Upwork is a numbers game, you’ll be sending lots of proposals for Upwork jobs which means you will need to buy many because you only get ten per month on the free account, but that changed from 0, so that’s nice.
The number of connects you need to apply for each job varies, and that range is from 1 to 6. So, how do they decide how many connects are required for each project?
This question was answered in the Upwork forum. Quick freelance jobs worth $50 or less require one to two connects, while short-term jobs lasting less than a week with a budget between $50 – $600 require three or four.
If you’re applying for long-term jobs that pay over $600, you’ll need five or six connects. So, as you can see, the number of connects you need adds up the more jobs you apply for.
As a beginner on Upwork, dealing with connects can be confusing at first. So, be prepared to invest in connects if you want to work on Upwork as a beginner and make money.
It’s Hard to Find Decent Jobs that Pay Well
The Upwork bidding system rewards the freelancers who bid the lowest on a job, and you’re competing against people in other countries where the cost of living is less expensive.
This is why many other writers (like me) say it’s a fast race to the bottom because you end up working yourself to death for less than minimum wage. Again, this isn’t going to help you make money and find a better work-life balance.
And the main reason we leave our day jobs is for a better work-life balance. So, while you may be able to find easy jobs on Upwork, it’s not worth it in the long run.
Your Experience Off the Platform Matters
When you start with no reviews or Upwork job history, it can feel hopeless and frustrating, but your experience off of the platform counts as work experience you can add to your profile under the various sections of your profile.
Plus, it’s a good idea to mention in your description that while you’re new to Upwork, you have experience outside the platform.
Please don’t get discouraged because every new freelancer on Upwork starts with an empty profile. Like any job, it gets better the more jobs you land and the more positive reviews you get.
If Your Rates are Too Low, You May Get Ignored
Setting your rates on Upwork can be tricky because you want to win the bid, and often the person who bids the lowest wins. But if you set your rates too low, clients won’t hire you because your work quality is usually reflected in the price.
So, there must be a happy medium between the two. If you bid too low, you can come off looking spammy, and often clients won’t even look at your proposal.
As someone who has hired people on Fiverr, I steer clear of them if I see really low bids. A beginner should charge no less than $10 an hour, and this allows you to bid low but not so low that potential clients don’t take you seriously.
It’s Hard When You First Start
Getting used to Upwork can be hard at first because there is so much to learn. But the more proposals you submit, the easier it gets.
So many people see little success on the platform because they give up, so the most successful freelancers say that there is less competition among experienced Upworkers.
So, if you’re serious about being successful and making six figures on a platform like Upwork, you’ll need to be persistent and keep going even if it feels you’re just spinning your wheels. Consistency is key.
You Should Continually Improve Your Proposal
Like your website or social media profile, a proposal is continually evolving. You learn through experience and testing what works, so each proposal you send is better than the last.
If you continue to send proposals without winning any jobs, you need to re-evaluate it and change things up. Is your proposal generic or personalized to each position? Are you making your’s stand out from all the rest or giving the potential client a compelling reason to hire you?
If you don’t have samples to send, you can create them. This is harder to do for certain freelance positions like Virtual Assistants as opposed to freelance writers or graphic designers.
Test different things to see what works, and then adapt your pitch, proposal, or samples based on the results. Trust me; you will continue to revise your pitches and proposals throughout your freelance career.
Can You Get Scammed on Upwork?
Like any other platform, when you work on Upwork, you may run into scams.
One nice thing is that Upwork does its best to vet clients, but scammers are tricky. So, you need to always be careful when looking for freelance jobs on Upwork or anywhere else online.
One of the issues you can run into is payment scans. That’s why it’s essential to ensure the client has a verified form of payment; otherwise, you may not get paid. It’s also one of the reasons Upwork doesn’t recommend you go off the platform because their processes and regulations significantly reduce the number of scams.
Some things to look out for include:
- If someone asks for credit card or bank account information
- If someone asks you to pay a processing fee
- If a client asks you to work without a contract
I use a freelance contract with all my clients as it protects both of us. I can legally recoup any money owed to me if I have it in writing. I think all freelancers need to use contracts, especially when you don’t use platforms that provide a paper trail.
Which Freelancing Job is Best for Beginners?
One of the best Upwork jobs for beginners is freelance writing, specifically blog posts because you can start without any experience. It’s the first content I started writing, and many freelance writers I know did the same.
You can also do beginner tasks like data entry or VA work on Upwork. Many businesses need help transferring data from one spreadsheet to another or from one platform to another.
How Hard Is Upwork for Beginners?
Upwork can be confusing because there is a lot to learn. So, when you’re trying to find easy jobs on Upwork – learning the platform is important to your success.
There are many things beginners don’t know like you have to buy connects and send proposals to clients where you can end up being one of hundreds of applicants. Just learning the platform can be stressful, but that can be an issue with any freelance platform.
Can You Work on Upwork with No Experience?
Absolutely, and although I teach to avoid it, many beginners feel more comfortable building their business on Upwork and getting writing samples there.
You’ll find many ways to make money on Upwork like doing data entry, virtual assistant work, writing, and more.
How Much Can a Beginner Make on Upwork?
It’s no secret that the pay for beginners is abysmal on Upwork. I got paid $9 or $10 per blog post with my first job there, and that was before they took 20 percent of my profits.
So, when you set your rates, make sure to factor in that 20 percent because if you charge $20 an hour for data entry, for instance, you’re only going to make $16 an hour after Upwork takes its cut.
Are Upwork projects worth it?
In my opinion, Upwork is not worth it.
While Upwork has some advantages like a free account, it takes a 20 percent cut from every order until you make $500 with a client. From $500.01 to $10,000 with a client, the fee is 10 percent; after that, Upwork takes 5 percent.
Why I am not getting any project on Upwork?
It’s likely because of one of two things: you’re not standing out from other applicants or applying for the wrong jobs. It’s essential to set yourself apart from everyone else and only apply for jobs that you are qualified for.
Final Thoughts on Is Upwork Good for Beginners
Now you know the ins and outs of making money on Upwork as well as my feelings on the subject as someone who has been there. I feel like you can make a lot more money applying to jobs on job boards and cold pitching than wasting time on this freelance marketplace.
But I understand that sometimes your confidence is low, and finding jobs on Upwork is a way to gain more confidence the more jobs you have under your belts. And I also know that sometimes you just need jobs to get by.
The nice thing is that there are so many freelance jobs on Upwork for beginners like data entry, graphic design, writing projects, and much more.
But if you do choose to work on Upwork, please make sure to find time to look for better-paying clients on LinkedIn or Twitter.
When you can make more money for less work, wasting your time on platforms like Fiverr and Upwork doesn’t help you escape the feast or famine cycle.
Do you have any Upwork tips to share? Let me know in the comments below.
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