There are many writers out there who will encourage you to never give Upwork and Fiverr a second thought. I hear you. Race-to-the-bottom platforms are not places where you will find your ideal client. However, as someone who started out freelancing at the end of last year and now makes a decent living from these platforms, I can tell you that I’ve learned plenty of lessons on these platforms to enabled me to consistently work toward my earning goals month after month.
Here are the reasons that I will stay on these platforms for as long as I can.
Know Your Marketplace
I write in a niche. Sometimes, my writing can seem almost too niche to pitch to clients. I didn’t pitch for a long time on Gig platforms because I simply did not see the type of work that fit my writing.
Eventually, I pitched clients even when my writing didn’t fit. Then, I realized what writing jobs are actually out there. If you are writing in certain niches, then you may need certain samples of writing to gain the client’s interest.
Through browsing through job ads, you can gauge what samples your clients are looking for. Then, you can create these portfolio pieces to send to them.
Know Your Rate
In the beginning, I despised the platform’s algorithms that were mostly based on reviews. If you have one bad client who didn’t communicate with you, you potentially can have a huge performance rating dip in the beginning. At one point, I thought the system was completely against me. I thought I would never be successful. Eventually, it turns out that it takes a couple of months of commitment and delivery for you to be successful on a platform.
If you are writing for pennies on Medium, you might as well write for $5 for a couple of weeks on Fiverr. The payoff will be consistent jobs that may pay a lot more soon down the line. These clients will be rolling in without you having to make too much effort pitching.
Your mindset should be working toward your ideal rate. You don’t necessarily start out with your ideal rate but you will get there quickly if you deliver.
Critique From Fussy Clients
If you are someone who only likes to hear that your writing is good, then working in the Gig economy may not be right for you. There’s a difference between the client intentionally giving you a hard time and your writing wasn’t up to par.
Very quickly, you will be able to distinguish between the two. I don’t take things personally if my writing voice didn’t fit what the client envisioned or if the client did not leave enough directions.
However, if the job had good requirements and I didn’t deliver, then I take the critique personally. I take it to heart and make the necessary improvements.
Even though it may seem harsh in the beginning, the constant improvement allows your writing to improve drastically.
Create A Relevant Portfolio
In the beginning, when you are working for very low wages, you are essentially creating your portfolio and gaining reviews. Each job that’s delivered well will allow you to step into the next stage. You will also learn what kind of writer you are.
You can refine your branding.
I’ve learned that I simply can’t write certain types of pieces. That’s why I never pitch for those jobs. Once you start to get consistent jobs from a certain category of writing, then you have an “in” on a platform. All you need to do is to consistently perform up to par and slowly raise your prices up to your ideal wage.
Understand Who Your Ideal Client Should Be
At the beginning of your freelancing career, it’s difficult to understand who your client should be. After working for a few clients and pitching to a few types of clients, you will understand who you should be working with and who you should not.
The learning is in the doing.
If you want to gain clients through cold emailing, you need to be able to draw a client list to pitch to. You won’t know what that list is supposed to look like unless you’ve worked for a few clients.
Learn To Communicate With Clients
If you are just starting out, it’s often difficult to gauge the client’s expectations. You can spend hours on something that is not useful for the client. Experienced writers get paid a lot per hour because they spend two hours on something that an inexperienced writer can spend a day on.
You learn shortcuts. You learn to write compact and concise emails to communicate with clients. You learn to only take calls when it’s necessary. You learn to ask the right questions from the beginning so that you only take on clients who you can work well with.
Learn About Your Competitors
One of the most useful pieces of information you can gain from a gig freelancing platform is that your competitor’s information is right alongside of you. You can see who is successful in the marketplace. You can understand why they are successful.
The objective is not to copy, emulate but to understand what it takes to be successful so that you can define your own path.
Standing out in the marketplace means constantly pivot at the beginning of your career so that you can define your unique brand.
The faster you iterate through what doesn’t work will allow you to see what works for you.
Gain Confidence About Your Performance
After a few successful clients and a few unsuccessful ones, you can quickly understand your own productivity and your own performance. It’s useful to have other people critique your work but it’s also useful to have your own internal critic.
For a long time, I underestimated my work and pitched the wrong clients. I saw how working with those clients didn’t drive me to write more. So, I stopped taking on those clients. As a writer, passion means a lot. It means the difference between unleashing your creativity and writing bland copy.
After rejecting a few offers, I realized that I can only work at the intersection of my passion. I will go all out for clients who value my skill and who I love to work for. I won’t even take work from clients whose work I do not believe in.
Payment is Subjective
People will tell you that there’s a market rate for writing and other freelancing services. In truth, there’s such a huge range of that the market rate is, it’s virtually non-existent.
It’s about pitching to the right clients so that your work is valued. It’s about understanding the value that your writing provides your client. It’s about being able to communicate your value in pitches and in all your communications with your clients.
Persistence in the Marketplace
If you write in a niche, it can be a long time before you figure out where you fit in the marketplace. It really pays to stick to your niche and be persistent at delivering quality products.
At the beginning of my freelance writing career, people told me that it was impossible to make money in the niche I wrote in. But, I did it anyway.
I did it because I had no other choice. After writing in other niches, I realized that I’m only passionate about this niche. I can only write certain types of articles in this niche.
So, I embarked on the journey of finding the “right” clients who can appreciate my skills. I didn’t undersell myself. I spent copious amounts of time marketing myself in different outlets.
Eventually, with persistence, people took notice.
Things don’t just happen overnight. But, good things happen if you stick to what you are good at and continue to evolve your skills.
Freelancing on gig platforms may not be your ideal career. But, it is one stepping stone toward something much greater. It doesn’t matter what complaints you may have from bad experiences. At the end of the day, there’s always the other side of the coin: things that you can learn even from those bad experiences.
So, survive the ups and downs before you can thrive. The experience will literally make your career.
My freelancing career now pays my monthly bills after a few months. But, I’ve been building my portfolio, pitches, working with publications and marketing myself since last year. I’ve also been writing technical documentation in my previous decade long corporate IT career.
So, things don’t happen overnight. The right expectation to set for yourself should be to try for at least 6 months to a year.
You may discover like I did that you can keep working on these platforms because the experiences that you gain out-ways the complaints that you may have.