Just say no to bad freelance writing gigs

My freelancing career started with a bang. I have been busy nonstop since I wrote the first entry here last week. Within hours of creating a profile on Upwork, I landed two high-quality jobs. I’ve been working hard and earning money ever since. More on that later this week.

I took the weekend off, but couldn’t stay away from my laptop. I spent quite a bit of time sorting through gigs on Upwork, and I have to admit my initial experience was skewed. At times, the site almost seems like the seedy underbelly of the freelance world. Cheating abounds, with offers left and right from high school and college students desperate to avoid doing their own work. Bloggers want free sample posts from every freelancer applying to ghost write, and with so many applicants for each gig, they won’t need to pay for writing for a long time. Business owners have ego trips as they describe all they ways they can harass the assistant they plan to hire for $2/hour. I’ve seen people offering $5 for a 2,000-word essay due in 12 hours, and $10 for five articles, each requiring research. It’s definitely not all sunshine and high-paying gigs.

Still, there are an unbelievable number of writing jobs that do pay well. I’ve applied to about ten so far. It takes a lot of time┬ábecause I write a proposal from scratch for each one. Most people have a template, and I will admit to copying a few boilerplate sentences to provide contact options. But, I have read over and over that business owners can tell when someone has a form, and I don’t want to lose a gig because I couldn’t take a few extra minutes to write something unique. I make sure the extra time I spend is worthwhile by only applying to the jobs I feel I’m suited for, that I could happily do as described and at the rate offered.

My effort paid off this evening, and I got a response from someone looking for two 1,000-word articles. My nerves took over, and my stomach leapt into my throat as I began to go back and forth with this potential client. Soon, though, it became clear that they were… Let’s go with strange. Part of this was a language barrier, but there was also something odd about the way they presented themselves. They were too aggressive for my liking, and I knew I’d end up resenting the way they treated me. I was getting aggravated before I even had the job.

During a lull in the conversation, I searched this person’s name on Google. The results made it seem that they were who they claimed to be. Their Upwork profile, too, showed that they had spent quite a bit of money on freelancers. I was making a good impression and felt if I pushed, I could probably get the work. But instead, I wrote a note saying I was not the right person for the job and I wished them success in the future.

It was hard to walk away from the chance to earn a chunk of money. But all I could see was trouble looming ahead. First, the person was pushy, slightly rude and insulting, and altogether not pleasant even via instant message. Second, the job they described was nothing like the job they posted. Rather than writing a few articles, it looked like I was going to be writing content for an entire website. I knew it would take weeks. And, while the person was probably quite intelligent and capable, I had a hard time understanding their written English. Even worse, they couldn’t quite understand me, and clearly misunderstood two very simple questions.

As a lawyer, I had my share of bad clients. Usually, the money they paid in legal fees made up for all the abuse they dealt. But Upwork is a race to the bottom when it comes to both cost and quality, and I knew this individual wouldn’t be paying me enough to make the trouble worthwhile. The person looking for help comes from a country much-maligned around Upwork for the low cost and low skills of the local freelancers. This is one situation where I think they will be better served by paying the low rates charged by their fellow citizens, simply because they need someone who speaks their native language rather than English.

I am too new to the field to start knowingly taking on nightmares. I don’t want stress and insults on a job that won’t even pay my electric bill for the month┬ábut will probably take a significant chunk of my time. I don’t want a job that takes hours of unpaid time to negotiate when I could spend those hours doing so many other things. In fact, while I was going back and forth with the first person, another offer came in: an already-funded contract with no negotiation whatsoever, from a reputable employer based in the USA.

I hit accept and sat back from the computer for the evening.

What makes you want to say yes or no to a gig? How much negotiation will you do for a tiny one-off gig? Let me know what you think in the comment section below.

Just say no to bad freelance writing gigs