I’d like to share my numbers from working on Upwork. Hopefully they will save someone the time and hassle of trying the platform for themselves. I will follow this with a brief discussion of my experience.
Background: I’m an audio professional working primarily as a mixing engineer. I’ve been mixing since 2001 and getting paid for it since 2013. Over 90% of my work is offline. But how about getting some work online?
Let’s start with the numbers.
Archived proposals: 107
Submitted proposals: 34
Active proposals: 3
Jobs I’ve been hired on: 3
So for every 48 proposals I got one job.
That’s a 2.08% success rate.
(You might argue that some of those proposals are still active. Can they be counted out? Yes! Those “active proposals” are all at least 2 months old. Over 90% of the “submitted proposals” are over 2 weeks old. )
This occurred over a 9 month period from 4/5/2019 until today (12/25/19) when I cancelled my paid membership.
Now let’s look at my “earnings”. I mean my real earnings. How much time have I spent doing work, searching for work, and writing proposals? And how much have I made in that time?
I conservatively estimate my time writing proposals at 15 minutes each. For a total of 36 hours. I conservatively estimate my search for relative jobs at 5 minutes each. A total of 12 hours. My time spent doing work for 3 jobs was 21 hours conservatively. A grand total of 69 hours.
My total made was $462 minus the 20% Upwork takes. A total of $369.6.
But I forget to consider fees!
My total fees were: $14.99 * 4 = $59.96. Four months of freelancer plus membership.
$18 for buying connects (before I was freelancer plus). Grand total of $77.96
My actual hourly rate:
($369.6 – $77.96) / 69hrs = $4.23/hr
My profile hourly rate on Upwork is $38/hr.
You might be thinking…”You probably spammed a bunch of jobs you weren’t qualified for” or “Maybe you just aren’t skilled” or “You don’t understand how to submit proposals” or “You need to be a premium member to be visible on quality client searches” or “Your portfolio/profile is bad”
Ok, let’s take a look at these.
I never cut and pasted a single proposal. For every job I read the description, told them how I could help, linked to my portfolio, answered whatever questions they asked. If they provided audio I listened to it. This was my intuition. I imagined that clients we’re getting a flood of generic proposals. I wanted them to know my skills were relevant to their post.
I also had over 20 finished audio pieces demonstrating my skills for clients. Here: https://soundcloud.com/cporro/sets/soundbetter I had examples in various genres. I had before and afters. I had examples of voice over work, podcast work, production work, and of course mixing. Most of the examples were for mixing. Upwork recommends you find a niche. Mixing was mine.
My profile is completely filled out. It has links to all my audio work and four case studies. The client that bothered reviewing me gave me 5 stars and a glowing review. He was actually in San Francisco at the time so we worked face-to-face for a day.
My research for writing better proposals went beyond a basic Google search. I attended one of the meetups that Upwork puts on. This is where some seasoned Freelancers meet with you to exchange information and tips. Based on that meeting I decided to pay for the premium membership. There are some nice perks to this that I’m not going to go into right now. But the bottom line is it was negligible in terms of getting me more work. I also registered and attended an Upwork webinar on how to write better proposals.
I could go on about a race to the bottom, how Upwork is littered with low quality clients and job posts…But I think I’ll let the numbers above tell the story.
It’s too bad. Obviously I had way too much optimism about Upwork. I should have quit months ago. I hear stories about people making decent money on Upwork. Maybe they don’t do audio work? Maybe they got established years ago before it went downhill. I’m convinced these are the exceptions.
If you decide to give Upwork a try keep a record of your numbers. I wish I had looked at mine after the first 3 months.