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Why Upwork SUCKS (And What to Do About It)

July 24, 2017


You’ve Googled it. You’ve heard the horror stories. You’ve had other freelancers and virtual assistants tell you it’s a scam. And you’ve probably been told you can’t compete with the freelancers charging $2 an hour. Chances are, you pulled up the site at least once. But after staring at it for 10 minutes, you x-ed out of it, determined to find another way.


I’m talking, of course, about Upwork.


But if you’re here for yet another post that simply trash talks the site, I’m sorry to say you’re in the wrong place. You see, I don’t believe in identifying a problem unless I have a solution. And in this case, I have several.


Interested in learning more?


Keep reading to find out what you can do to make your experience on Upwork worth it.





What is Upwork?

If you’re new to freelancing or being a virtual assistant, you might not know what  everyone is talking about when they bring up Upwork. So let’s start with a crash course.


Upwork is the largest freelance job platform on the planet. Projects are added here daily and I don’t mean just one or two. Depending on the niche you work in, you could see hundreds of new projects posted ever day. Quite a change from the 9-5 jobs sites you’ve been searching on, right?


On Upwork, you can register as a freelancer, create a profile, and start connecting with potential clients for free. It’s a job marketplace and it’s fast-paced. There’s always something new on Upwork.


So What’s Wrong with Upwork?

That depends on who you ask. But here are the most common complaints I hear about from my students and new freelancers.


“There’s Too Much Competition”

I won’t sugar coat this fact for you. Upwork has around 10 million registered users.


Talk about competition, right?


Because of this competition and the rush to start making money as fast as possible, new freelancers end up making a lot of mistakes on Upwork. And those mistakes cost them money. Believe me when I say understand needing to pay bills and make a living. But those mistakes will end up pushing clients away instead of bringing them to you.


“All The Other Freelancers Bid Too Low”

It’s true, you will find other freelancers and virtual assistants charging very low for their services. This discourages so many newcomers because they believe they can’t compete with lower prices.


That doesn't mean you can’t charge a living wage on Upwork. It just means you have to find the right client in the right niche and package your services the right way. When all of these things line up, you can charge a higher hourly rate and clients will be happy to hire you.


Remember: the clients you want to work with are concerned with value and not cheap prices.


If you can solve their problems, they will pay you the big bucks!


“Upwork is a Scam”

No. There are scammers on Upwork but the platform itself is not a scam. You do have to be careful when you’re engaging on this platform because not everyone there has your best intentions at heart. But the same can be said for the 9-5 jobs, as well. Scamming is not unique to Upwork.


Some people throw this accusation out because of Upwork’s commission scale. Although the platform is free to use, they take a small percentage of your earnings. It decreases the more you earn with one particular client.


Others throw the scam accusation around because clients aren’t willing to pay a lot of money for services. Do the clients who come to Upwork have a limited budget? Some do, yes. But not all. It’s just a matter of looking in the right places for those clients who focus on value rather than price.


Here’s How to Make Upwork Suck Less for You

Now that we’ve debunked the most popular Upwork myths, let’s talk about what you can do to make Upwork a better experience for you. I’m only going to focus on actionable steps you can take to create a steady income and at higher rates.




1)Find Your Niche

This is extremely important when you’re starting out as a virtual assistant or freelancer. Being a generalist will not get you high paying clients. You need to focus on one particular skill and master it. You need to become an expert in your niche.


Don’t believe me when I say clients will pay higher prices for your expertise?


Look at it this way.


Let’s say you need open heart surgery. I’m sure you trust your primary physician but do you trust them to cut you open and work on your heart? Would you want to risk it in a life or death situation? Or would you rather have cardiologist who spends their days studying and working on the human heart do your surgery?


It’s the same approach many entrepreneurs and small business owners have when they’re looking for a freelancer or virtual assistant. They want to work with the best. And if you’re offering 12 different niches, that doesn't tell potential clients that you’re the best. It tells them you have a broad knowledge on a lot of subjects. But it doesn’t tell them you’re an expert. And if you’re not an expert, why would they pay a higher prices to work with you?


The other part of this is that not all niches are created equal. There are definitely some niches that are worth more than others. Being an expert in something like data entry will not get you a lot high paying clients. But specializing in a software like MailChimp or InfusionSoft will.


Does that mean you can’t offer more services to your clients? No. But you should hold off on presenting these other services until you’ve established a relationship with them and prove you’re a hard worker.


Which brings me to my next point:


2)Do Good Work

You land your first client. Or just a client you’ve wanted for a while. What’s your first move?


If your answer is “blow off all the work until the last minute,” “make excuses for why the work isn't done on time so you can charge more hours,” or “just throw something together to get paid,” then you’re wasting your client’s time.


It is so important that you put your best work forward for the following reasons:


  • You are creating a reputation for yourself and your business. To keep getting good clients, you need a good reputation.

  • Your clients leave feedback that is visible to everyone who views your Upwork profile. Their feedback influences your Job Success Score and potential clients who investigate your profile.

  • Your client’s business depends on the quality of your work. By not putting your best work forward, you are damaging and endangering their livelihood and yours.


This is so simple and so important. Some new freelancers and virtual assistants make the mistake of focusing only on getting a client. But after they get one, they don’t know what to do with them. And this can lead to their freelance efforts failing.


Work hard and the rest will follow.


3)   Charge Your Worth

When new freelancers and virtual assistants join Upwork, they come with the belief that because they are new, they have to charge a low rate. And that is a belief we need to stop right here, right now!


I’m not saying you should start charging hundreds of dollars an hour when you have very little experience in your niche. But you don’t need to charge so little that you’re not making a living wage.


Here’s what I want you to consider.


There are businesses that come to you with a smaller budget. You get to build up your portfolio and gain experience. Your client gets to expand their business and make more money.


Sounds good so far, right?


Here’s where it gets better: when you do good work for a client, they will hire you again. You get a regular client and a steady stream of income. And then you get another. And another.


What comes next is where the magic really happens!


You’re able to start raising your rates and turn down clients at your old rate. This means you can make more money doing specialized, getting you closer to your goal of working from wherever.


So how do fixed-price projects fall into this?


When a client has a fixed-price project, they will look at what your hourly rate is to determine how long you will need to complete the project. So if your hourly rate is really low and their budget is very high, they will decline your proposal because it looks like you’re going to take too much time.


Make sure when you’re bidding on fixed-price projects that your hourly rate and their budget make sense. You will have to make some adjustments from time to time but you’ll look like a serious candidate.


So, Now What?

These are just some of the building blocks you need to create a successful freelance or virtual assistant business. Upwork sucks — but only if you don't know how to use it correctly. I know you can do this. And I’m so excited for your success.


After years of hiring freelancers online and working with my students, I developed a proven, step-by-step strategy to succeeding on Upwork. And if you’ve made it to this blog post, then you owe it to yourself to invest in your freelance or virtual assistant career. Check out the Ultimate Upwork e-book! You’ll learn my exclusive step-by-step strategy to turn Upwork into a mini-goldmine. Click here to get your copy today.




Not sure if you’re ready to strike out on your own? Do you have everything you need to be successful on your own? I created this free 4 part training series that teaches you how to create your own virtual assistant business. You’ll also learn how to scale your business so you're making $5K a month. Interested? You can reserve your seat for it here.


Don’t forget to join the Work from Wherever Lifestyle Society on Facebook! We’re the perfect group for new virtual assistants just like you. Click here to join us today.





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