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21 reasons not to hire writers through UpWork, Fiverr, or any other farm

Do a Google search for “Hire a copywriter near me” or, as I did earlier out of morbid curiosity, “Hire a copywriter Indianapolis” and you’ll find the first page is full of contract farms. UpWork, Indeed, Fiverr, and other job boards dominate the top.

If you were looking to hire a freelance writer full or part-time, Indeed makes some sense, I guess. But if you were hoping to find an individual, qualified freelance writer, editor, or copywriter, you’re out of luck until about page two or three of a search.

My experience hiring freelance writers

I assume these job boards and job post sites are at the top because they’re popular. I’ve used UpWork and Fiverr in the past and can see why since it makes the hiring part look so easy, and it’s the managing part that falls apart.

  • I managed several contractors through UpWork for over a year.
  • I’ve tried Fiverr and Constant Content and a bunch of others I’ve already forgotten the names of.
  • I’ve managed over 36 clients at once using a mix of contractors and other freelance platforms.
  • Hiring freelance writers has and was always the most challenging position to fill.
  • Skills are hard to measure on most of these services, and I’ve even gone through them myself to see what the sign-up process is like and test its rigor.

Many freelancers are on those platforms. Many of those freelancers are lovely and talented and are worth every penny. But I learned never to use them for anything but the most straightforward project.

21 reasons not to hire a freelance writer through UpWork, et. al.

  1. You won’t get consistency across multiple freelancers. Sites that open your project to bids each time may not get you the same writer time after time. This could be a benefit if you’re running a blog and want lots of voices. But if not, it could be a jarring change in tone and style from one page to the next on a website.
  2. American freelancers cost more and are hard to hire on all but the highest rates. This is because UpWork’s take is as high as 30%.
  3. Project details are hard to manage in UpWork. You set your request and they can message you, but my experience is few are interested in a phone call or Zoom chat.
  4. For platforms that specialize in hiring freelance writers, they sometimes test worker’s language skills. WriterAccess had the most rigorous exam, but it was designed to weed out non-native speakers by testing the basics like there, their, and they’re.
  5. Time zones can be challenging if you’re not on top of your project with true asynchronous project management. Some freelancers will shift their entire lives to operate on U.S. time zones, though.
  6. You probably won’t save time. You might save some money but I had an experience just last week where a client tried for a month to get one blog post out of Constant Content, and each time was an ever-worsening draft.
  7. Cultural considerations in the writing experience matter. Even hiring in the U.S. can be challenging for people who aren’t familiar with niche subjects or geographies. I routinely write a lot about policy and law in Indiana. It’s jarring for someone anywhere else to know things like, “How many counties are there in Indiana?” (92). When you’re on an hourly rate, that slows them down and adds up.
  8. A client who needs a case study or an interview with another person is unlikely to find someone on UpWork who can do that comfortably.
  9. Freelancers come in all sorts of capacities. But UpWork and others are a numbers game. “Spray and pray” is the tactic that works best because it’s the only way to acquire clients for the writer. This is why you get so many pre-fab cover letter submissions that sound weirdly generic except for one line or a few words.
  10. It’s rare anything comes error-free from anyone. Still, I kept track of back-and-forth revisions on projects sourced out to UpWork contractors, usually in other countries, and the number of revisions was 4.7x higher than with internal staff.
  11. UpWork, Fiverr, and so on make it really easy to hire and fire people. But no one’s arguing finding the right person should be a game of chance.
  12. A freelance platform that requires freelancers to spend just as much time finding work as they are doing the work usually means less time focused on you and more time focused on getting to the next job.
  13. Writing skills matter, but so does personality. Having someone you can embed in your team for long-term writing projects means better copy, better results, and more business for you.
  14. Freelance writers stuck in other platforms mean you’ll need to communicate entirely through those platforms. I always find this annoying since I was already stuck in email, Slack, texts, calls, and Zooms. Adding another tab to the mix always bothered me.
  15. Clients that use UpWork automatically make themselves look cheap. If that’s you and you’re cool with that, fine. But if you don’t want to be cheap and expect a little craft and polish to everything you do, look elsewhere.
  16. UpWork shuts down accounts due to inactivity. This means if you try to bring a good freelancer into your team, this puts them at risk of losing all their earned momentum there. And if you’re not paying them enough to live on, that’s a problem for both parties.
  17. I contend UpWork has made freelancers a little soft. Before UpWork, we competed on quality and got noticed for exceptional work either in an industry. UpWork more or less rewards people for being able to pump up the volume of work the fastest, not the best or most interesting.
  18. For just about everyone on all sides, client loyalty is extremely low, pay is low, and jobs are almost exclusively awarded on price. There’s almost too much competition (if such a thing can exist), and control over contractual terms are hard to control.
  19. UpWork took up the mantle from Odesk and Elance before them and cut service costs by assuming the client is almost always right. This might sound good for clients, but the best-case scenario is still an army of freelancers who assume pay, Upwork charges, skill, expertise, talent, and experience are worthless, which in turn makes them feel inherently worthless. That’s not okay.
  20. In over a year of managing projects on UpWork, I never once figured out how to successfully manage a “milestone”. Those were for design jobs, not copywriting, but I imagine it’d only be harder to manage writing work with milestones for some projects.
  21. UpWork and Fiverr folks are not doing market research or trying to understand your business, brand, market, or service like a relationship with a single professional will.

Getting the best freelance writing

Some people do not want or think they do not need the best however they define “best”. That’s okay!

But for anyone interested in long-term, organic growth in their search rankings by writing material that solves real problems, contact me.


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About JUSTIN HARTER

Justin has been around the Internet long enough to remember when people started saying “content is king”.

He has worked for some of Indiana’s largest companies, state government, taught college-level courses, and about 1.1M people see his work every year.

You’ll probably see him around Indianapolis on a bicycle.

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