If you’re looking to break into freelance writing and find writing jobs online, Upwork is a great tool. You can find plenty of high-paying writing jobs, and you can manage your own time. You can work while you’re at home with your kids.

What’s not to love?

The thing is… Upwork has a dark side. Scary, right? Well, it doesn’t have to scare you away, as long as you know what to look for.

Remember, even though Upwork is a great platform for getting high-paying freelance writing jobs, you do need to be careful. Upwork doesn’t vet clients for you — just because you found a job on Upwork doesn’t mean that you will automatically get paid for it.

Working with clients on Upwork doesn't have to be scary.

Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.

But working with clients on Upwork can be a super-positive experience, if you do it the right way.

Never Work for Free

When you’re a new freelancer — or an established freelancer who is new to the Upwork platform, people can tell, They can check the date you joined Upwork, they can see that you don’t have an established work history on the platform, or that you don’t have any reviews yet.

They know you’re new, and they might try to take advantage of you.

Some seriously icky people will offer you the chance to work for free in exchange for 5-star feedback.

The answer is ALWAYS no.

First of all, you never, ever work for free, because doing so devalues you and your work. If a client comes to you and says, “I just need you to do this ONE THING for free and then I have SO MUCH SO MUCH SO MUCHY-MUCH paid work,” the answer is STILL no.


Have I made this clear?

By the way, providing free work is actually a violation of Upwork’s terms of service. It’s totally against their rules, and you can lose your account if you work for free.

Do not work for free.

Several important notes:

  • I feel that working for $5 is the same as working for free, so don’t do that, either.
  • Don’t provide free samples. If the client wants an article on baking cakes and your sample is on baking muffins and the client insists that he needs to see how you would write about cakes, you say: I would be happy to show you what I can write about cakes. It will cost you $X.
  • You are allowed to write guest posts for blogs that YOU have approached, and you are allowed to submit work to places such as Medium if you want to publish there, even though you won’t get paid. You are still benefitting from this work, because YOU have chosen to publicize it, or you are getting traffic to your site AT YOUR CHOICE.


Ready to get PAID for your writing?

Watch 5 Steps to YOUR Successful Freelance Writing Business!

Never Agree to A Meeting on Yahoo Chat

Once you have an awesome Upwork profile with lots of great samples in your portfolio, you’ll probably get invitations from clients asking you to apply to their jobs.

This is super exciting, and it makes you want to jump up and down and clap your hands. I fully support these instincts.

When you’re new to Upwork, and you apply to a job or someone invites you to a job, and you get a response, it’s exciting.

But if the response says

We saw your profile or your application, and you seem AMAZING. We just need to confirm with you a few things. Let’s use Yahoo chat.

Then you need to temper your excitement, because Yahoo Chat is a BIG HUGE RED FLAG.

It is 2017. Do you actually know any people, particularly people from real companies, that use Yahoo Chat? No, you don’t.

Upwork has a chat system built right into the site. You can do back and forth messages, and it can even handle voice and video calls.

Some legitimate clients still prefer Skype, Google Hangouts, or, you know, THE PHONE. Those are all okay. You can communicate via those methods as long as you are careful.

Working with clients on Upwork sometimes means talking on the phone

Do your kids even know what this is?

Yahoo Chat is ONLY for scammers. A legitimate employer will NOT use Yahoo Chat.

Never Pay to Work With Clients on Upwork

At least once a day, someone posts to the forum for new Upwork users saying they think that maybe, it is just possible, that perhaps they have been scammed.

They were offered a job after an interview (on Yahoo Chat, natch), and the employer is SUPER excited to get things going. So they sent a check in the mail for the person to go out and buy computers and printers and routers and other goodies.

I know you are smarter than this. I know that YOU would NEVER, EVER spend money in order to work. But JUST IN CASE, I want to know that I told you, in no uncertain terms, THIS IS A SCAM.

By the way, when you work on Upwork, ALL MONEY IS HANDLED THROUGH UPWORK. Accepting or offering any kind of payment outside of Upwork is also a violation of the terms of service.

It’s against the rules. Don’t do it.

Also, as a freelancer, you should only RECEIVE money. You should never SPEND it.

What to Check Before You Accept a Job on Upwork

When you find freelance writing work through Upwork, you pay a fee to Upwork. There is a reason that fee is in place, and part of what you GET for that fee? Is protection.

Upwork has systems in place to protect you and help ensure that you always get paid for the work that you do — but you have to understand how the system works and use it properly.

Anytime you look at a job posting on Upwork, there are six important things you need to check:

  • Is the client’s payment method verified? Look for the green checkmark, which lets you know that Upwork has verified the client’s credit card or bank account.
Be smart when you work with clients on Upwork.

See the green checkmark? That's a good sign.


  • Is the job fixed price or hourly? Both are acceptable, but you need to know how you’ll be paid. With a fixed-price job, you’ll want to be sure that the client funds each milestone before you start working.
  • Has the client worked on Upwork before? It’s okay to work with clients who are new to the platform, but if you see that a client has posted over 100 jobs and only has a 1% hire rate, something’s up. In the image above, you can see that the client has posted 15 jobs and has made 11 hires.
  • How much has the client spent on Upwork? If the client has posted dozens of jobs, but has only paid $100 total, that’s not a great sign. In the image above, the client has only paid out $315 over those 11 jobs….
  • Does the client have reviews? What do they say? Take a look so that you know what it’s like to work with this person. You can see that this client has a 4-star rating, and you can drill down to see what freelancers say about him, too. 
  • Where is the client from? You can work with clients from all over the world — I’ve had successful projects with clients from Singapore, China, and Ukraine but it’s nice to know what you’re getting into. Consider time zones, politics, and anything else that might be important to you to know. You can see in the image above that this client is based in the US. 

As long as you’re careful and take the time to do your research, you can earn a great income as a freelance writer on Upwork — and you can totally avoid the dark side.


Ready to get PAID for your writing?

Watch 5 Steps to YOUR Successful Freelance Writing Business!