Freelancing WritingBiz

How to Find Great Writing Clients on Upwork

Upwork hosts more than 14 million users in 180 countries with more than USD$1 Billion in annual freelancer revenue. It's a great place to find freelance writing clients.

As a freelance writing professional, your writing time is valuable. This little post will quickly help you sift through the mountain of writing jobs on Upwork and concentrate on those worthy of your efforts.

Searching for writing jobs on Upwork

There are literally hundreds of writing jobs posted every day on Upwork and you can browse and search across a range of categories. Here is an up-to-date list:-

  • creative writing
  • technical writing
  • copywriting
  • editing and proofreading
  • article and blog writing
  • web content
  • grant writing
  • academic writing and research
  • other writing

Quickly create your own job feed by selecting up to 10 writing categories (see above), or save a ‘job search’ using filters based on keywords, how much you want to be paid, and the location of the client. You can also create an RSS feed so your saved job search feeds live into your browser.

Browsing your Upwork job feed

Once you’ve selected your categories and filters, scroll through your job feed. Each job displays the first three lines of the job outline, the budget, the type of freelancer required (entry level, intermediate, expert) , the location, and the client’s overall rating based on feedback from previous freelancers.

You can quickly screen jobs using the ‘thumbs-down’ or ‘heart’ icon — either removing them from your feed or saving them to view later.

browsing your upwork job feed
See how I have clicked on the ‘thumbs-down’ icon and a drop-down menu has opened up. Remove jobs from your feed and improve your overall job search results.

Choosing good writing jobs

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1. Jobs that have a clear project brief

First look for job advertisments that clearly describe what they want or include a project brief in the description. Job advertisements with clear descriptions usually indicate a client who is experienced working with freelancers and knows exactly what they want. If you land their contract you can usually get to work right away with minimal questions.

good job on upwork
Here’s an example of good job ad on Upwork. The client has a clear project brief, you know exactly how much writing you have to do, and you could most likely get to work right away if awarded the contract.

Alternately there are loads of advertisements for writing jobs with vague or unclear expectations. Either the client is unsure of what they need or doesn’t know how to explain themselves. Jobs like these require a lot of ‘unpaid time’ to get going because you need to ask loads of questions.

vague job ad on upwork
This advertisement for a writing job is quite vague. They may simply want an ‘About Us’ page for their website but it could also be an entire website rewrite, or a company portfolio for print media. A job like this would require a lot of questioning to work out a realistic price to charge.

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2. Jobs that have an easy application process

Remember that every moment spent negotiating a contract or applying for a job is unpaid and eats into your billable writing time. Some jobs on Upwork have an exhaustive application process, which usually indicates a lack of experience by the client  and waste of your time. Leave them alone.

Let’s look again at the job in section 1 (project brief) asking for product descriptions.

good job on upwork

Can you see how the client gives clear instructions on how to apply. Follow the link and then write a two sentence product description from the list. While it’s not a high paying job the client at least demonstrates a professional work approach.

Let’s contrast this now against another job, this time to review a Linked in profile. To apply for this job you have to send an application letter as well as provide detailed answers to four generic questions. By generic questions, I mean pre-written questions created by Upwork rather than the client themselves. Something else to note is the client’s request for an ‘expert’ but  no indication of their budget.

I looked at that job ad and instantly thought … ‘nope, time waster‘. How about you?

Of course there are high budget jobs where a complex application process is justified, but don’t waste your time applying for jobs that want you to complete 5 full written answers + a cover letter and only pays $50.

Here are a few jobs to ignore:-

  • Clients who ask you to rewrite significant pieces of their material as part of the application process. Basically they’re asking you to work for free.
  • Clients who ask you to explain all your work methods and writing techniques but haven’t given you any information about themselves. Sometimes other freelancers post dummy job advertisements just to know how to do a similar job themselves.
  • Clients with short and sloppy job advertisements.

getting Upwork clients by Melinda J. Irvine

3. Jobs with a realistic price

Many clients indicate they are “willing to pay higher rates for the most experienced freelancers” but think $5 an hour is acceptable. When evaluating a prospective job check the overall client history and see how much they’ve paid other freelancers. If they have completed hundreds of jobs and the average payout rate is $6 per hour, chances are they aren’t going to pay you much more either. The Article and Blog Writing category is particularly notorious for this type of client.

avoid jobs with a low hourly rate
The right hand side of the job advertisement lists the clients overall feedback rating and average hourly rate paid to freelancers.

Also here are a few jobs to ignore immediately …

  1. Any job advertisement that says “we’re a startup and only have a limited budget, but this could lead to longterm work” or “we can’t pay much but guarantee you a 5 star rating“.
  2. A job with a reasonable budget (say $1,000) budget but the client wants to hire multiple freelancers (say 15 or more).
  3. A job with a modest budget (say $250) but wants you to write 20 pages of website copy.
  4. A job for a blog post for say ($50) but they want 3,000-5,000 words, SEO keyword research and meta data, content research and unlimited reviews.
market research job on upwork
A job to avoid. Hours of research then a written report for $50.

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4. Jobs in your time zone

Most jobs require a few questions back and forth between you and the client. It can be really annoying and also unproductive to set the alarm for 3am to chat with a client. Unless it’s a dream job, concentrate on projects where your location makes communication very easy.

check your client's time zone
It’s 5.29pm my time and 10.29am in Nigeria. Check your client’s current time on the right hand side of the job advertisement and see if it works in with your own.

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5. Clients with a steady employment history

While there are plenty of great clients out there who haven’t used Upwork yet, proven experience does mean something (just sayin’). Check their overall feedback score, how long they’ve been working on Upwork, average amounts paid to freelancers, and their hire rate.

Check the column on the far right hand of the job advertisement to learn more about the client.

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6. Clients with a nice review history

It’s good form for a client to leave a nice review for their freelance writer.  We all want to work with shiny, happy people so dedicate your marketing time to applying for Upwork jobs with reputable clients who clearly indicate what they want, pay realistic rates, and take the time to leave a favourable review at the end of the job.

© 2018 Melinda J. Irvine


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