The gig economy is in full gear, and most Americans have experience with a side-hustle or moonlighting job. If you are considering working part-time or full-time at home, freelance writing is a great place to start side-hustling as you get used to the work and test its pros and cons. The best part about work-at-home jobs is they remove a lot of the hassles of a regular job: no commute, no fancy wardrobe, no early morning meetings. There are downsides, however, and we’ll provide an Upwork review in the context of close competitors who offer similar online writing platforms.
What Is Upwork?
Upwork is a software platform that connects paying clients (who need writing done) with freelance writers. In this Upwork review, we’ll focus on content writing, but Upwork also connects other professionals. Clients pay Upwork a fee and have access to a job board of talent; the client writes a job description for what they need done. Writers join, either for free or for a small monthly fee, and scan the job board to look for paying writing gigs. The interface requires that writers buy “connects” for a small fee in order to apply for writing jobs in their niche. These range from short, simple editing to long term employment.
Upwork has plenty of advantages for both beginning writers and veterans. If you are just getting started, Upwork allows you to choose jobs that are shorter, are within your niche, and allow the use of a platform with which you, the writer, are familiar. Although Upwork takes a percentage of every dollar earned, for someone just getting into the freelance writing biz, it’s a worthwhile place to start. But what about those who are more experienced? This Upwork review shows how online freelance platforms easily link areas where your expertise pays off. This Upwork review includes Fivver, Toptal, and Jobtomic for comparison.
Why Freelance Writing Platforms Exist
Before getting into the nitty-gritty, some freelance writers may wonder: why shouldn’t I just find my own clients? This is a valid perspective, but there are some major barriers to finding clients. If you write in a specialized niche—for example, “camping equipment” or “automotive reviews”—it may take months to develop a client base. Since most of freelance writing happens remotely, having a national pool to draw from is a big plus. In addition, Upwork makes searching for jobs quick and simple. In this Upwork review, we cover pricing, ease of applying, and quality of the service.
Learning Technical Aspects
Using writing platforms is a great way to earn exposure to new software interfaces. If you’ve never tried WordPress, you will find many clients use it and turning out an article in your niche will help you build skills in WP and other software. Software programs are often a great way to write quickly, helping with headers, meta tags, and general SEO techniques. The Upwork review below, in which we compare different platforms, highlights the skills you can develop through different content writing software platforms.
Upwork, Fivver and other freelance platforms take a fee for every job you, the writer, complete. This fee ranges from 25% down to 10%, depending on how much money you’ve earned with the client. All “pricing” we’ve supplied below refers to how much the writer is paid, not the client. For job boards that simply list available jobs (locally or internationally), the fee can be non-existent; for example, Jobtomic is an app that is downloadable for free, or users can upgrade for a nominal fee.
How Online Platforms Compare
We picked a few similar platforms popular on the freelance market to see how they compare with Upwork. We did a quick search and found three other companies that help connect freelancers with work. Our Upwork review honestly compares the plusses and minuses of each platform; there is work to be found for any writer online, whether brand new to the trade and still developing skills, or highly experienced in a variety of niches and writing styles. The companies we’ve listed in this Upwork review include freelance writing, freelance writing with technical skills, and general online “gig” opportunities.
This Upwork review reveals a company that has proven its integrity over the years, mainly because it works for both brand new writers and veterans. The staff at Upwork are diligent about problem-solving. Just like other platforms, writers need good ratings to attract clients, but Upwork will help resolve issues to the best of their ability. The platform allows for efficient emailing between client and writer, pays writers hourly, or by project or milestone, and provides an easy system for proposal bidding, cover letters, and attaching writing samples. Recently, Upwork has switched to charging per “connect.”
Ease of Applying *****
Upwork makes application a breeze. The writer opens an account and gives some basic information. After being accepted (almost all writers are), a small monthly fee will allow the writer to apply for jobs. Once the application is complete, the freelance writer uploads a profile picture and attaches a resume and writing samples (if applicable). After a writer creates an account, she purchases “connects” that get used up each time she puts in a job proposal. There is also a simple two-step requirement for an identity badge that verifies the writer is legitimate.
Quality of Services *****
Upwork provides support for writers with customer service, either via email or telephone. The staff responds to issues writers have; for example, a low rating from a client could derail a writer’s “star rating” and push the writer to under 90%, affecting gaining future clientele. Upwork customer service will help the writer understand the process and will respond to problems. By the same token, the Upwork platform is easy to use, provides an area for a writer “profile,” and has an excellent reputation; hence, Upwork provides a wide variety of clients who pay market rates, in a wide variety of niches.
Fiverr is another well-known platform used by freelance writers around the world, but especially in the US. We are including Fiverr in this Upwork review because this platform allows freelance writers to choose from a wide range of topics and niches. Writers go through an application process and can upgrade their profiles by passing tests (e.g. office knowledge, software, etc.). Fiverr works with large corporate interests and jobs can pay well here. As a result, and because of its stability in a market with churn, Fiverr has maintained a solid overall reputation.
Price $ – $$
Ease of Applying *****
Fiverr requires little vetting of new writing talent, so the application process is similar to Upwork. Since Fiverr operates by setting up what is essentially a “writer meat market” or, in nicer terms, a “bidding floor,” any writer can apply here and be accepted. But as a writer, you want to set yourself apart from the crowd. You do this by building a reputation, or star rating. Freelance writers set up profiles in their niche(s) and are referred to as “sellers” of their niche or creative expertise. Work depends on rating, so getting started can be slower than with other platforms like Upwork.
Quality of Services ****
Fiverr offers customer service for its writers, but in general, is less engaged than Upwork. This is because the Fiverr system is a meeting area between clients and writers, and not much more. Fiverr will help resolve problems that come up between clients and writers, but since so much depends on the writer’s rating, it is up to the freelance writer to vet new clients. A bad client and poor review can have devastating consequences on this platform.
Toptal focuses on the “top talent” so that clients can have a worry-free, hassle-free experience. This works great for experienced writers, particularly those in technical fields such as development and digital marketing. For new writers, Toptal is not a good choice. Additionally, this site is heavily weighted towards software development and interfaces, and is slight on writing jobs outside of those fields. If you are an experienced writer with expertise in these areas, Toptal is a great choice; in fact, it may be the best choice if you are experienced but new to freelancing. But for newbies, this company is a bust.
Ease of Applying ***
Toptal bills itself as taking the “top 3%” of freelancers. For this reason, the Toptal company must thoroughly vet its talent. It does so through a series of tests, including a separate application process. Applying at Toptal is more onerous than at Fiverr, and more complicated than applying at Upwork. Toptal only accepts Product Managers, Developers, Finance Experts, and Designers, but we’ve included them in this Upwork review because it is the same basic platform. Many designers don’t write well or aren’t interested in writers, and this could give you a huge advantage if you have the technical chops.
Quality of Services ****
Once on board, Toptal provides solid services to its freelancers. Like the other sites, freelancers live and die by their ratings, but it is easier to gain access to jobs even if you are relatively inexperienced using Toptal. Are you good at taking tests? If so, Toptal may be your dream platform! Even if you have decades of experience, if you can’t prove it, Toptal won’t accept you. The company works with successful clients such as Hewlett-Packard and AirBnB, so they will provide work that pays decently. This site, however, isn’t a good fit for all freelance writers but for freelancers with technical (especially software) knowledge and skills.
This Scottsdale company has been in business for eight years, and is popular as rated by Alexa users; however, it is unclear as to where the actual platform lives, or what the country of origin is. We’ve included this company as part of our Upwork review but we cannot fully endorse Jobtomic (although it does provide work) because the owner hides his or her identity. Especially for U.S. writers, other platforms are more appropriate. However, Jobtomic is an app that allows individuals to search for jobs — including freelance writer jobs. From this perspective, it does what is intended, but the services are limited.
Ease of Applying ****
Since it is an app that simply posts jobs — similar to Craigslist — this platform does not have an application process. It requires no purchase, but users download the app to a computer or mobile device. Unlike the other services in our Upwork review such as Fivver or Toptal, there is less competition from highly experienced writers and technical professionals. Since this company’s biggest advantage is an app, it is much easier to use but doesn’t provide the same range of professional opportunities as others found in this Upwork review.
Quality of Services **
This app will provide actual, paying jobs but it is not geared toward freelance writers. While it is possible to locate gig jobs, including freelance writing, the services are limited. The owner of the company has not made his physical location transparent, and for this reason, users should be careful when submitting any personal information to this site. As a means to see available jobs and connect with clients, it is better than having nothing, but we don’t recommend Jobtomic as a go-to for freelance employment without independent verification of the online job being offered.
Among the four companies we’ve reviewed, we still prefer Upwork, although Fiverr has adherents for good reason. Jobtomic should be avoided, as there are plenty of high-quality job boards where you can find freelance work and even Craigslist (which doesn’t require an app) offers gigs. Upwork has the advantage of posting jobs from all over the world in a huge variety of niches, and their customer service is top-rate. Additionally, Upwork helps the writer get set up (taking a hefty 20%) but once the writer-client relationship establishes itself, the fees drop to 10%. Fiverr also provides solid customer service, but it is more limited.