3 Counterintuitive Reasons Why Every Freelancer Should Try Upwork

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

If you‘ve ever looked into the world of online freelancing, you’ve probably heard of Upwork

And you’ve probably heard it sucks.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do understand what all the gurus are saying and I’ve witnessed the same problems myself, but I’ve also learned how to turn these obstacles into positives…

And once you do that, Upwork actually becomes an amazing platform that every freelancer is looking for.

Counterintuitive Reason #1: They Charge a 20% Fee

Okay, in all fairness to Upwork, that 20% fee only applies to the first $500 you earn with a client, then goes down to 10% after that…

But even if it was 20% the whole time, it’s still more than worth it.


Because even though I do understand how scary this fee is at first, watching somebody take 20% of your hard-earned revenue…

What most people forget is that freelancing is a business, and I don’t care what form of marketing you do, you’re never going to have a true” 100% net profit.

Now I say true” as a lot of haters always come back at me, saying how they blog or do cold email outreach, two things that doesn’t cost them any overhead…

And again, I get it, but I also know this method takes a lot longer to find clients — so that alone is cutting down on your revenue right away, putting less money in your pocket.

That’s bad enough, but it seems like once most freelancers start to notice this, they try out “faster” forms of marketing (such as Facebook Ads)…

And even though it can work, it also takes a few dollars to get everything optimized and running, which easily takes up 20% of your revenue…

So that’s another thing to consider.

Alright, so that’s the marketing aspect of it, which is why, in my (not so) humble opinion — I think Upwork’s fee is worth it already…

But there’s also some hidden expenses that most gurus overlook as well.

Heck, to be honest, I’m sure there’s some I’m missing — but the main 3 I always think about are:

  1. Insurance — Upwork has a guarantee where they cover any hours you work and don’t get paid for. This is extremely helpful in the rare situation where your client is a fraud or goes bankrupt and can’t pay
  2. Payment processing — So to be 100% honest, the client pays payment processing fees on their end…but hey, that’s a lot better than the traditional 2.9% + 30 cents (the standard) coming out of your pocket
  3. Website — If you’re going to try the “traditional” form of freelancing, where you get clients without the help of marketplaces — then you’re probably going to need a website. Now the cost of websites are all over the place anymore, and I understand they’re not near as expensive as they used to be, but it’s still an expense that Upwork eliminates for you

Long story short: As a recovering accountant who really geeks out on numbers, I can assure you that Upwork’s 20% is a lot more favorable to your bottom line than the other methods…

You just have to know what to look for.

Counterintuitive Reason #2: There’s a lot of competition

Yep, you read that correctly, I think the insane amount of competition is a good thing.

Again, don’t get me wrong, I’m not hatin on this as I fell into the same trap when I first started…

But like 99% of other freelancers, I was always under the impression that I had to practically give my business away at first, get some reviews, then charge decent rates after I became “established”.

I talk about this in full detail over at this article, but to sum it up — that’s a terrible idea and one that every freelancer should avoid.

Not only does it create extreme burnout as you’re working 80 hours to get by, but it also lumps you in with the rest of the crowd and makes it very hard to find jobs.

On the other hand, since 99% of other freelancers are offering cutthroat pricing and going for the bottom dollar…

It’s very easy to raise your rates, stand out, and get jobs pretty quick.

That alone is why I love Upwork’s competition, but then you can also take this one step further and stand out with strategic positioning…

Which in all honesty, is not that hard to do, you just have to find your unique niche.

And you can’t tell me you don’t have one either, as I’ve worked with a lot of people over the years and been able to find a unique skill for everybody…

Then once you find this, it’s very easy to standout from the 99% of freelancers who are “generalists”.

Now the easiest way to find your niche is by simply combining a certain skill (that you either have or want to learn) with a certain industry (that you understand, or want to understand, well)…

And to give you an example of how you could do this, I started (well, revamped) my freelance career by becoming a Copywriter (skill I wanted to learn) who specialized in Tax (IRS Enrolled Agent).

This might have eliminated a lot of opportunities for me, but at the same time, I landed 90% of the tax writing jobs that I applied for…

Which allowed me to get my freelance career off the ground faster that I ever thought possible, especially in a field (Copywriting) where I had zero experience in.

Long story short: 99% of freelancers suffer from herd mentality and blend in with the crowd, making it very easy to stand out…with a few simple tweaks.

Counterintuitive Reason #3: It’s easy to fail

Like most freelancers, one of the biggest challenges I had to overcome was simply figuring out what I wanted to do.

I was always worried how I would pick the wrong skill and either get stuck in something I hated or even worse, something that wasn’t in demand/profitable…

Which is a real concern for the “traditional” freelancers that invest a lot of time and money upfront, but when you leverage the power of Upwork — it’s easy to experiment and get this figured out.

What do I mean?

Well let’s take my story for example, where I started off as a Bookkeeper and after a few weeks of working in this field, I realized how boring it was and that’s when I decided to try out Copywriting (for CPA firms).

A few hours later I’d changed my profile around and started applying to these jobs, which actually turned out to be something I enjoyed, so I stuck with it for awhile…

$75 per blog

Until a few months later when I got bored with it, and decided to change things up and become a Sales Copywriter.

$750 for sales letter

Then after doing sales copywriting for awhile, I realized I couldn’t do this week-in and week-out, which is when I decided to become a landing page designer/copywriter — and I hate to brag, but I was able to get conversion rates that were 8x higher than the “pros”…

3.5 hours of work

So I created a lot of happy clients along the way.

Then after that I decided to leverage my knowledge of Copywriting and start doing Facebook advertising that were followed up with email funnels, another field that I was able to excel in right away…

$110 per email
1 hour of work

And after that I combined all these skills to start an online business of my own, all because Upwork allowed me to quickly “pivot” and change industries with little resistance.

Long story short: At a bare minimum, I think everybody should start with Upwork to at least experiment and make sure their freelance career is something they enjoy. It’s a lot better to figure this out after a few hours of setting up a profile (with little to no financial investment) than it is to waste weeks (if not months) getting the “essentials” (like business cards, websites, etc.) ready, only to realize it’s something you don’t enjoy.

See what I’m saying?

Upwork does have some downsides if you don’t use it properly, but guess what, so does everything else in life.

Don’t let some disgruntled guru scare you away from leveraging this amazing marketplace, and if you’d like a primer that tells you all about the world of online freelancing…I’ve created a free course for you, found here.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by 277,994+ people.

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