How to Start Using Upwork to Earn the Experience You Need to Upscale Your Writing Career

Freelancing platforms like Upwork can help aspiring writers turn their passion into a career.


“How do I get [paid] experience as a writer/blogger? How do I get my name out there?”

Over the last six months, several of you have asked similar questions as I have begun to blog more about my experience as a freelance writer. I call myself a professional not because I necessarily know it all – successful writers never truly stop learning – but because I have spent the past few years slowly building up my portfolio and expertise, both through writing and studying communications at the graduate level (ALMOST DONE).

How have I managed to do this? Many months of writing and blogging for free, at the start. But as a short answer to this question, specifically, I use Upwork as a platform to gain experience, build relationships with clients and, yes, earn some $$$ to pay back all those student loans.

For those interested in learning more about how this service works and why it’s worth looking into for gaining writing experience and slowly building up your career, here are a few things, from the perspective of someone who uses the platform daily, you can do to get started.

I am promoting Upwork’s services in this post as a member who has found great success and continues to gain experience as a freelance writer, and nothing more. What you will find below is all based on my professional experience with the platform. Upwork has not asked me to say all the nice things I have written: that’s of my own accord. :)

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Create a profile all about you and your writing

You can try linking people to your LinkedIn profile and your website and your blog – etcetera, etcetera – but when it comes to writing experience, and trying to build some kind of professional brand that’s still all about you, it’s much easier to have one profile that focuses on just you as a writer, without any interference or distractions. You get one picture. You get to list your education and experience, just like any other online resume profile. But it’s all there for the specific purpose of showing potential clients who you are and showing them exactly why you are the best fit for the work they need done.

Specify your area of ‘expertise’

If you spend enough time searching on these kinds of freelancing platforms, you will find there is a lot of work that needs doing, in many different niches. It can be overwhelming if you do not know exactly what kind of writing you want to do and therefore which jobs you will submit proposals for. My profile says I am an expert health, fitness and nutrition writer and editor. Does that seem like a mouthful? That’s because it’s specific. It tells potential clients exactly what I’m interested in writing/qualified to write about. Potential clients are less likely to ask me to write for their fashion websites (which has happened before) and more likely to approach me if they need an experienced health writer or editor for their website. The rest of my profile – my experience and past work – also reflects that as best it can.

House your portfolio, or start building one

As you may or may not yet know, when it comes to hiring freelance writers, clients usually want to see writing samples to determine whether or not your writing style and level of expertise are a good fit for their work/company. Sometimes it’s better to be able to provide a portfolio, or a collection of writing samples that relate to your preferred niche. Upwork has a space on your profile just for this purpose. The more projects you complete, the more you can add to your collection of writing samples.

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Start clocking hours/completing jobs

There are two kinds of freelance writing jobs available on Upwork: fixed-price jobs, and hourly jobs. Fixed-priced jobs are usually project-by-project jobs, in which a client specifies the rate they are willing to pay you to complete the job in full. Hourly jobs use the hourly rate you specify as part of creating your profile to determine how much you will make based on how many hours you log each week. The more jobs you complete and/or the more in-progress hourly jobs you have, the better – as long as you are capable of juggling multiple jobs at once.

Do top work, get top ratings

Each client, at the end of a project, will rate you on the quality of your experience based on areas such as communication and reliability. The more projects you complete, the more ratings you will have displayed on your profile. From these ratings, Upwork generates a job success score, which is displayed on your profile. Maintain a consistent score of at least 90 percent for several weeks, and you might get a Top Rated badge – meaning clients are more likely to hire you, relevant jobs are easier to find, and more professional development opportunities become available to you as part of an exclusive top rated freelancers’ network.

Focus on experience before you focus on earnings

Clients using Upwork to post jobs and hire freelancers cannot (at least they are not supposed to) ask for any work for free. You do set an hourly rate as part of your profile based on your experience, but some fixed-price projects are based on the client’s budget. (If you want a separate post about negotiating rates, I can either provide that here or find someone with more experience to write up a post to give you more information – let me know if you are interested.) While Upwork is a way to earn money for writing, often what matters more, especially in the beginning, is your quality and quantity of work completed.

That being said, here are a few things to keep in mind as you start writing through Upwork:
  • You should not expect to be able to make large amounts of money fast. Many clients hire based on your level of experience. Everyone starts out as a beginner. Do good work, maybe for a little less than is ideal, find clients who value you and your writing and earn the experience often required to earn larger paychecks.
  • However, know the value of your own experience. I was told, through some searching, that charging $0.02-0.03/word is a reasonable rate for beginning freelancers, and that was what I stuck with for the first few months. That comes out to about $10.00 per 500 word article or blog post, which isn’t much. But you have to start somewhere. I would not recommend settling for anything less than that, but others in the field may have different opinions. Look around and see what others recommend as well.
  • Never take on more work than you can handle. Ask specific questions as clients are interviewing you (figuring out whether you are a good fit for their job, whether it is a more structured interview or not). How many articles do they expect per week? What is the word count minimum for these articles? How do they want you to submit work? The best you can, know what you’re getting into before you agree to a contract.
  • Expect to ghostwrite more often than you’d expect. The majority of clients I have worked with have either specified directly or have simply assumed that they or their company would take credit for the blog posts and articles I provide. This is common in the health space, as health information often needs to appear as reliable as possible. It may also be common in other niches; I cannot confirm that. The point is, it’s likely going to be the case for a large portion of the work you do. You either need to learn to live with that or steer your career away from freelancing – that’s just the reality of modern online publishing. Remember: not having your name on something doesn’t mean it’s worthless.

If you have any further questions about anything I’ve covered here, leave a comment and I’ll either elaborate there or create an entirely new post to follow this one up and answer your query in more detail. Keep in mind that I’m not an Upwork expert: I just use it for my own professional work. But there are definitely things I didn’t have room to cover here that you may be interested in learning more about.

Turning your passion for writing into a career is a job within itself. Always remember that every successful writer starts with nothing – no experience, no clients, likely little or no income (from writing) – and works their way up article by article (or post by post; story by story; whatever kinds of writing projects you work on professionally or personally). It’s not always glamorous or fun or fair. But it’s writing. You like it enough to want to try and do it for a living. That’s something, right?

Have you ever used Upwork, or another freelance writing platform as a means for gaining more writing experience? Did you find this or other sites helpful? What advice would you give to someone who wants to start freelance writing?

This post was written as part of the Problogger: 7 Days to Getting Back Your Blogging Groove challenge. If you have been struggling to write the engaging, well-thought-out posts your blog is known for, or have abandoned your blog completely but are ready to get back into posting more regularly, consider joining the challenge today.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

My Life Is About to Be Completely Consumed By Writing … I Don’t Know How to Feel?

What if I hate it?


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Tomorrow I will finish four more credits toward my graduate degree. Having been in school for pretty much 20 years straight, I’m ready to call it quits for awhile. I’m not finished yet, though. I have two more classes. They just both happen to be writing classes.

Writing. You know, that thing I do sometimes.

So not only will I be freelancing not quite full time (but getting closer), running this blog, working on extra writing projects and HOPEFULLY closing out some things so I can start some new ones, but I will also be training to write better. For health care purposes, technically, but still.

This has never really happened to me before. I have always been the typical young aspiring writer, balancing school with friends and extracurricular activities and somehow still managing to get a ton of writing done anyway.

BUT NOW? SOON? Writing will be my WHOLE life.

Well, not technically. I do have other projects that don’t have anything to do with writing, because I am a #humanVenndiagram and proud of it. But all the professional areas of my life, work and education, will all involve writing. And I don’t know whether to be excited or terrified about that.

The whole reason I ditched the life of a bored English major in pursuit of more knowledge is because I realized I didn’t want to “just” be a writer. There are a lot of things I want to do (I won’t go into the details, the list is very long). And yet here I am, approaching at least four solid months of all writing basically all the time. As much as I am aware that this doesn’t have to, and probably won’t, last forever, I’ve never been one to sprint open-armed toward the deep dark depths of the unknown.

What if I hate it?

That’s the same question I asked myself when I signed my first client contract as a freelance writer, though, and so far it’s not so bad. There are good days and bad days, as there will be with any job throughout your career.  The fact that I won’t be writing about fashion (don’t ask), or marketing, or the AHCS, gives me a little hope. I hope this means I will have a little more time and energy to spend making some improvements to Novelty … like making it easier to find helpful posts, since the navigation bar is currently a mess. I know. I’m going to fix it.

I’m excited. And scared. But mostly, I’m just ready to never have to take another marketing class ever again. JUST BECAUSE I’M GOOD AT IT DOESN’T MEAN I LIKE IT.

Thanks for reading! Get back to writing. Or studying. Or whatever it is you should be doing that you clearly aren’t.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Image courtesy of

5 Additional Skills You’ll Need to Launch a Successful Writing Career

A successful writer can write for a specific audience … and a whole lot of other stuff, too.


Think writers only need to know how to write to make a living? Think again.

Launching and maintaining a successful writing career these days means you have to know at least a little bit about a lot of different things. Whether you aspire to be a journalist, novelist or any other kind of writer out there, there are specific skills, besides writing, you’ll need to develop and consistently refine.

Here are five areas you should start studying, and how to learn enough of the basics to make it in this competitive industry.

1. Photography and graphic design

You will be much more marketable as a journalist if you can provide your own original photos to supplement your articles. You will be much more marketable as a blogger if you can show off some basic design skills both in your website’s layout and in the photos and graphics you use to add visual effects to your posts and other content.

Stock photos are easy to find and very commonly used across publishing platforms. The featured image for this post came from Flickr’s creative commons filter. But when you can, authenticity is always the better option. Original work will always trump borrowed content, even if you cite it appropriately.

How to learn it: This is one of those skills you will learn best by doing. You don’t have to be an expert. But the more you do it, the more confident you will be in your ability to improve and do it successfully. We all get better the more we practice.

2. Marketing and PR

To make it in this industry, you need to know the proper way to market your work and promote your accomplishments (professionally). You don’t have to go to school for it or even take a class, but knowing how to appeal to audiences without getting on their nerves or sounding self-absorbed (which many writers have yet to learn, and understandably so).

How to learn it: Trial and error. Experiment with what works and what doesn’t. Do not tweet five hundred times in one day. Do not send unsolicited emails only about yourself and your work and, please, be proud of what you do and unapologetic about your self-promotion, but don’t be a jerk.

3. Social media

You probably think you already know everything you need to know about social media, but strategic social media use – something you might use to promote your blog, published articles or a brand-new book you wrote all by yourself – is about much more than hitting social share buttons on a web page and coming up with a catchy tagline.

How to learn it: Watch what companies in your industry are doing. Observe how they interact with their followers and promote their content. If you’re in college or a recent graduate, see if you can snag a social media internship to get some hands-on experience. It’s a little marketing and PR, a little Hootsuite and a whole lot of paying attention to what other people are saying and doing on the internet.

4. Basic HTML and CSS

Most editing and content producing jobs want you to have at least a basic knowledge of this skill. The basics are not as scary or complicated as they might first appear. If you’re going to be spending a lot of your time in any portion of the publishing field, it’s a good idea to know how all this web nonsense works. At least somewhat.

How to learn it: Honestly, Googling basic HTML and CSS how-tos or enrolling in a basic online course in your free time is the best first step you can take here. Even looking up simple things one at a time, like how to add a hyperlinked picture onto your blog’s sidebar, will help you start to master some of the basics.

5. Multiple online publishing platforms

Learning how to use WordPress is an absolute must. It’s simple to learn and built so that anyone can master its basic functions. All the websites and magazines I currently work with, to my knowledge, use WordPress as their internal publishing platform (to actually publish articles). But not every publication will. Some might use an Adobe product like Dreamweaver.

How to learn it: It’s not enough to be an “expert” at navigating one platform. Practice using different ones for different writing projects, almost like your own personal experiment. If it’s not free, see if you can download a free trial.

Don’t ever fall into the trap of thinking there will always be someone else assigned to do these things for you. Chances are, there won’t be. By taking charge of your basic knowledge of these skills, you are making yourself more marketable not only as a writer, but as a valuable asset to organizations who might not consider hiring you otherwise.

Image courtesy of Mike Goren/

How to Take Your Writing More Seriously (and Still Enjoy Writing)


Of the many writing obstacles we’ve discussed this year, one of the harder roadblocks to bypass is learning how to balance work and play.

When you spend your life as a writer only writing for fun (nothing wrong with that!), and then all of a sudden you’re asked to write on deadline or write consistently about one topic in particular over an extended period of time, it can be a rough adjustment.

As much as we would all love to launch an actual career in writing, there’s always that small fear deep down that as soon as we start writing for work, we won’t enjoy it anymore.

If you want to ‘be a writer,’ it does require getting a little more serious about your day-to-day writing activities. But that doesn’t have to suck the fun out of the hobby. Here’s how to find that balance every aspiring writer hopes for.

Have a mission

As we’ve mentioned plenty of times before, wanting to be a writer isn’t quite enough. You need a ‘backup’ reason to give both yourself and future employers/editors/agents/publishers when you’re trying to move your career forward. Know exactly what you want to do and why you want to do it. The what makes your goals clear and achievable. The why serves as a constant self-reminder that no one is forcing you to do this: deep down, you want to. Your passion is your ultimate fuel.

Have a plan

One you know what you’re trying to accomplish, you need to figure out how you’re going to get there in smaller steps. If no one is giving you a deadline, create your own. Figure out what you want to accomplish and when you want to get it done. Know exactly what you’re getting into before you dive in, so that no matter how much work you end up doing, you can still allow yourself moments to sit back and enjoy it.

Be consistent

If you’ve assigned yourself a goal to write every day, write every day. The second you free yourself of that responsibility, you’re in big trouble. Likewise, if you tell someone you’re going to finish something by a certain date – do it. Find an accountability partner if you have to. Treat your goals seriously. And in the same way, be consistent with the amount of time you spend resting and working on just-for-fun projects. The key to balance is to form habits and keep both writing and relaxing at the forefront of your task list.

Forming our own paths in the professional writing world (whether you’re trying to publish fiction or nonfiction) requires a lot of skills and steps. There’s a time for seriousness and a time to let your creative thinking take the reigns. If you plan carefully and allow equal amounts of time for productivity and unplugging, you will be able to accomplish so much more – and enjoy doing it, too.

Check out more tips for how to take a productive break from writing.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

How to Write a Lot (without Burning Out)


In the professional writing world, it pays—sometimes literally—to be able to write a lot in a short period of time without completely melting your brain.

Every once in awhile, it is important to take breaks and let your mind recoup. But there are a few ways you can work toward getting better at writing more without feeling brain dead at the end of the day, and we’re here to share some of them with you.

We’re going to focus on professional writing in this post—online publishing, articles, blogging—but some of these concepts can also be applied to some areas of creative writing, too.

Draw inspiration from your experiences, knowledge and/or expertise 

If you’re pursuing a professional writing career, there will be times you’ll have to write about topics you’re not completely familiar with—which yes, means you’ll have to do a lot of research to give your project credibility. But outside of work, you have the freedom to write about what you know best. Always take advantage of the opportunity, even when writing seems to be wearing you down.

It’s easy to ramble on and on and on about your so-called field of expertise, and sometimes that can be a good thing. When we write more, we train ourselves to lay out our points and arguments in an organized manner before trimming them down to a much more appealing 500 words or less. 

Write about things that interest you, when you can

There’s a good reason anyone and everyone can start their own blog. Not just because it’s easy, but because it allows people to write about whatever they want, whenever they want. This is why starting a blog is an excellent starting point for writers interested in making headway in a specific field. If you can practice writing more often by writing about things you really like writing about, you’ll find yourself writing more, at pretty decent quality, without feeling completely drained afterward.

When you write about what you know, which you can easily balance with learning more about what you don’t know so well in order to be able to write about that, too, it feels a lot less like work. Your “I’m writing this because I have to” attitude gets to go take a much-needed nap for a few hours.

Diversify your publishing mediums 

Publishing often on your blog is an effective strategy; consistency is one of many keys to writing success. But sometimes even that can start to feel a bit tedious after awhile, even if you genuinely enjoy doing it. It’s important to expand your horizons if you want to show you can write a lot and still write well.

Keep publishing on your blog, but also be on the lookout for other writing opportunities, even small ones. If you have some professional advice, LinkedIn is a nice way to self-publish. Is there a magazine looking for how-to articles on subjects you like? Are there blogs in your niche you can apply to guest post on?

Sometimes, the more work you give yourself, the more productive, and prolific, you’ll be. Just start small, and don’t commit to more than you can handle. Start off with your own blog and maybe another outlet, and grow your audiences there, then see where you can go from there, and if you have room in your schedule to fit it in.

The key to writing a lot, generally, is to make it a priority. But always remember that taking time to rest is still important. As you get more and more used to writing in large quantities (while still paying attention to quality, of course), you might have to schedule time to not write, instead of the other way around.

This is a good thing. If you take some time to practice how to best make it work for your life and schedule.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.