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Freelance Writing: Worth the Time? (And a List of Jobs That Are Not!)

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Freelance Writing:  Worth the Time?  (And a List of Jobs That Are Not!)

Recently I decided to get into the freelance writing world. There are thousands of blogs and websites out there needing to be updated with unique content on a regular basis. There are (apparently) thousands of people out there wanting to self-publish e-books but not wanting to bother actually writing the books themselves. And, of course, there is a seemingly-insatiable need for click-bait listicles. In other words, our online world has created a need for writers, and I figured I could make some extra money by being one of them.

There are lots of places to find freelance writing work – craigslist, Freelance Writing Jobs, ProBlogger Job Board, Erika Dreifus’s very excellent blog – but on the advice of a friend I decided to spend some time on a site called Upwork.

I figured I’d scan the postings every now and then, and if I saw a job that seemed interesting and worth my time, I’d apply for it.

My very first time on Upwork, I found a posting that sounded right up my alley. For $500, all I had to do was come up with 365 original creative writing prompts. I contacted the client, and she hired me. I wrote the prompts, submitted them through Upwork, and got $500 deposited into my bank account. Sweet!

Turns out, it was beginner’s luck.

Because gigs like that – well-paying and fun – don’t come around often on Upwork.


It takes luck to find good freelance writing jobs.  (Photo by Umberto Salvagnin)


Next I got paid $18 to edit a short article. It took me less than an hour, so, okay, not bad. If I had a steady stream of one or two of those a day I’d be onto something, but it was the only Upwork job I found that week. Good thing I’m not relying on freelancing as my only source of income.

Last week I got paid $60 to write an article about DC neighborhoods for a real estate website. It was pretty easy. Soulless, but something I could do in the afternoon, after I’d used up my creative energy working on my novel. It took me 2 hours total. $30 an hour isn’t great, but it’s not bad either, especially considering I didn’t have to spend time driving anywhere.

But. Consider all the time I’ve spent this past month browsing the Upwork postings and applying to jobs (several of which I haven’t gotten). Is it worth it? I don’t know.


Is it worth it??


It’s been interesting. I’ll say that. It’s been interesting (and often disheartening) to read some of the job postings. So many of them are simply not worth my time, while others are downright sketchy. I’m often amazed at the ridiculously low prices clients are offering, but I’ve heard that there are people doing these jobs overseas where U.S. currency is worth more. Of course, that’s why so many of the posts specify “native English speakers.”

Here is a small sampling of some of the ridiculous, hilarious, and sketchy Upwork jobs I’ve seen recently — for which I will NOT be applying.


Need Native Speaking Ghost Writer for 7000 word book ($70)

I need an author that does not mind taking on a somewhat  technical topic. This will be a how-to-guide and tips

There is just so much so much wrong with this post. First of all, 7,000 words does not a book make. Second of all, $70 hardly seems like an appropriate amount to pay someone to write a (albeit tiny) book. Third of all, might we want to know the topic on which we will be giving how-to tips?


5 Inspirational phrases for boys, ages 7-10 ($5)

I am looking for a good Creative Writer who can craft 5 short phrases that will be added to a poster for a little boy’s room.

Weird, but intriguing. Still, for only $5 it hardly seems worth the time it would take to apply for this job.


Ghostwriter For Poetry Project ($25)

Looking for someone who is willing to help ghostwrite who also likes poetry.

I really need to get this done tonight

Tonight, huh? Why? Is it due tomorrow for 11th Grade English class?


I need a ghost writer to write fiction books in the genre of erotica ($100)

I am looking for a ghost writer to write a short book in the category of fiction in the erotica genre. I would like to see what work you have previously done in the genre. I would also like you to read some free books on kindle in the genre which are best sellers so you can get a flavour of what I want. Initially this is a first short book of around 6,000 words. However I would like to publish a series.

Let me get this straight. First I need to read a bunch of self-published erotica, then I need to write a 6,000 word “book.” (An adult novel is rarely less than 80,000 words, btw.) And for all that I will get $100? I say nope to that.


20 long Article Writing Job – $5 per article

What I’m looking for is a decent article writer who can write well researched/engaging content for my websites.

The articles will need to be around 1800-2200  word long ( so somewhere around 2000 on average each).

You think you’re gonna get well-researched articles for $5 each?!?


Online dating message (icebreaker) writer needed

We run a small online dating profile writing service.  We currently have about 300 clients but will be doing some significant expansion for 2016 to the US and beyond.

As a side part of the business, we also write our clients’ initial ice breaker messages for them to send.

I’ve written about this sort of thing before (see here). It’s CREEPY!!


Article Rephrasing Expert Wanted ($150)

We are looking for a writer who is good at rephrasing articles. The text is mostly easy to read fluff content for the web.

I don’t know, guys. This seems sketchy, too.


letters ($100)

I need someone to prepare 4 recommendation letters based on the information template we will provide. The content should reflect outstanding language to flash the importance of the person and his work.

OMG, seriously?  Note to employers:  beware of glowing letters of recommendation.  They might have been bought.  So sketchy.  Also, “flash the importance”?  Whaaaa?


Write 1000+ words of Premium Bedroom Decor Content ($6)

I will give you one topic to write about in the bedroom decor niche.

If I am satisfied with your work, you’ll get additional work.

Six dollars? Bedroom Décor Content? No. Just no.


How to Break in and Burglarize any Residence ($50)

I am looking for a ghostwriter to write a humorous, yet true guide on how to break in and burglarize homes. I am asking for around 5,000-6,000 words of *high quality content* in exchange for $50.

Humorous, yet true? What IS this?  I don’t know, but I don’t want to be involved.


Are you EXPERTLY familiar with the American T.V. Show House M.D. ($50)

Hi… My ex-wife said I remind her of House M.D. though I have seen the show and in many instances totally understand him (when others dont) I am looking for a freelancer to help me understand who he is and why he is.  Obviously someone with background in Philosophy, Psychology or Literature is the optimal person.  Not just a fan of T.V. but someone who understands archetypes/conditions/philosophies etc…   If this is YOU… I could use your help.  Though I am unsure how much I can devote to this, it really depends on your writing ability, your articulation and creativity.    I would suggest a small job initially (500-1000 words) to make sure we are both on the same page, THEN we can discuss more work relative to this.  I STRONGLY PREFER NATIVE ENGLISH SPEAKERS.

Okay, this is just plain strange.  Moving on…


Create a children’s book based around the honey badger from youtube ($80)

Looking for a talented, native english speaker to create a children’s ebook of 20-25 microsoft word pages. This book should be based around honey badger from you tube and integrate grumpy cat from youtube in a fun and creative way!

OMG, this is hilarious. I’m not going to write it, but I do hope this book gets made!


In short, I will continue trying my hand at some freelance writing, but I am going to be very selective about which jobs I take.


And beware of sketchy writing jobs!  (Illustration by Edward Gorey.)


About evalangston

Eva Langston is a writer, among other things.

2 responses »

  1. Eva—I am having better luck on Zerys than Upwork. Not making great money on Zerys (3.5 cents a word), but still it is money to help the budget. On Upwork: despite having a masters degree, having good scores on 16 Upwork tests, I have only gotten 1 job on Upwork. I was thinking maybe my rate was too high so I lowered it to $16 an hour. Upwork does have this great variety of projects, but not sure why I am not landing more jobs there.


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