Daniel Schwarz

Upwork Sucks—Here's How to Really Find Paid Writing Jobs

One question that writers often ask, is "Where can I find paid writing jobs?".

Countless so-called writing "opportunities" pay a ridiculously low rate, and a fair few don't pay at all, so it's no wonder this question appears in Facebook Groups daily.

Often enough the answer is Upwork or Freelancer, or for bloggers, editors, writers, and copywriters specifically, Contently. Oh, and then there's the legendary Fiverr, which in it's own name highlights why it's such a shit stain on the gig economy.

What all of these have in common is that they take a pretty hefty commission from your earnings. Upwork starts at 20% (yeah, seriously…), and the work is usually low-pay thanks to horrendous competition. And what are you really gaining from them?

You're gaining client discovery, and that's it.

You can find clients yourself. You can find better ones, and keep all of the earnings to yourself. Great clients fulfil two criteria, regular and high-paying, and whether you're a blogger, content creator or copywriter, the trick to finding them is largely the same. Let's take a look at tip #1, being an expert writer in your field.

P.S. my claims about Upwork (and other related services) are my opinions based on my usage of said service and comments I've read from writers and bloggers from the gig-writing industry (mostly Facebook Groups), and may not be factually correct.

1. Find Your Niché

You need to be an expert. By becoming an expert in a field (or a niché writer, as they say), you can attract the best companies in that industry. As an expert, you can even approach those companies directly and they'll be super-impressed with your work.

And the result of this is…

  • Higher-paying/more satisfying work
  • You'll be more desirable to big companies
  • Better relationships (hence…more work/less hustling)

What's the alternative? Hustling everyday, for unreliable pay? Not fun.

Imagine striking up a conversation with National Geographic about an article that you'd love to write on Tigers, and them saying "yes" because they loved the work that you did at WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature). That conversation might go in a whole other direction if your best work was on a dentistry blog. Plus, researching topics you don't know anything about is a complete waste of your time.

It might seem impressive to be able to research and write about virtually any topic in record time, but all it really implies is that you're not an expert on anything.

Stick to what you know and love. Time is money.

But how do we even begin to talk to big companies?

2. Start with Blogs That Pay

Blogging is a brilliant way to brand yourself as an expert, especially since your work is literally attributed by name; and, to be fair, top blogs do pay well if you're brave enough to approach them. They're rarely intimidating (no matter how "big" they are), they rarely require experience, and as long as you're an epic writer and an amazing storyteller, you can start freelance blogging today. Publications and blogs will always be looking for content creators. All you need is to be an expert at something.

Believe me when I say that there are blogs that pay $150+/article.

Google "write for us"

A quick way to see who pays bloggers (and how much), is to Google "write for us".

Publishers and blogs tend to have these "write for us" webpages as a way of publicly declaring their rate of pay, explaining what they expect from writers in terms of writing quality, making it clear what the blog is about, and listing the blog categories.

Here's *all* the blogs that pay

Not all blogs publicly declare their rate though. Luckily, there are some awesome folks who compile lists of which blogs pay (and how much). Here's my favourite example, which includes magazines as well. I've also *started* to compile my own list over at World of Writers, where there's a Google Sheet of blogs that pay.

You can find this sheet in the #looking-for-work channel, which is also updated with writing gigs 24/7, collected via multiple RSS feeds that I've set up. Pretty cool actually, quite a few members have said that they've found steady work in there.

3. Pitching to Big Companies

In 2017, most companies understand the true value of content. Content is king. All companies are running a corporate blog nowadays, and some of them are even releasing free cheatsheets, ebooks, email courses and so on, in order to gain more subscribers and/or customers. Where can you fit into that? First, ask yourself…

How does this company make money? Products? Advertising? What's their primary goal? How can a free ebook or email course help the company reach that goal?

Be an entrepreneur. Don't ask companies where you might fit in, don't sell your services like a cheap salesman—find out their goal, and make it your goal. Come up with a creative solution to achieve that goal, and strike up a conversation about it. If they're a huge toy company (for example), mention that you're an expert in toys, that you've written for, say, LEGO. Writers are a dime a dozen, but experts are rare.

Here's a design book that I wrote for design company InVision, for example. People had to sign up to the InVision newsletter to receive it (which they did). I suggested this book idea after I wrote about them on the SitePoint blog, which they loved.

Blogging is a terrific gateway to relationships, and those relationships can lead to amazing gigs, lifelong clients, free stuff and more authority in your field.

Competitors won't be wary of you either. In fact, they'll absolutely love what you've done for their competition and will even try to steal you away. This is what it's like to be an expert. You make clients for life, you build lifelong business relationships with stable companies that always need your services, and best of all, the pay is good.

TL;DR: relationships, not jobs.

Copywriting vs. Content Creation

Copywriting is harder to break into. Being hired as a copywriter requires an opportunity to apply for, and when that happens, others are applying for it too.

It's tough. If you're an expert, it's not as tough, but it's still tough.

You need to keep a look out, sell yourself as an expert, and aim your services at companies within your niché, using your impressive resumé as bragging rights.

No resumé? Like I said, brand yourself as an expert by blogging. If you want to write the copy for a big tech company, write for The Next Web or TechCrunch.


TL;DR: find your niché, reach out to companies only within that niché, and sell not only your services, but what your services can do for their audience/customers. May that be writing a book for them, writing for their blog, running an email course—whatever. There are so many ways to carve your slice of the writing industry today.

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Next up: Being a Freelance Blogger is Terrific—Here's 3 Reasons Why