oDesk (which became Upwork in May 2015) and Elance merged together in 2014, so it comes as no surprise that their platforms are very similar. They still operate separately, but if you are familiar with one, then you should have no trouble navigating the other.
Both platforms are relatively easy to navigate, and guide you through the process of signing up when you first start on their sites. Elance has a few more requirements and is a little harder to get started on than Upwork. You can go through an identity verification process that involves e-mailing a copy of your photo ID, and a Skype call, to validate that your face matches the photo on your ID.
Elance has a section on your profile for you to add portfolio samples for potential clients to review. You can also add your credentials, such as relevant degrees, or previous experience. Both sites have skill tests you can take and have the results visible on your profile to demonstrate your mastery of the English language (or any other skill you would like to list).
How to Find Proofreading Work on Upwork
Upwork Case Study – Bethany
Upwork has what they call freelancers and clients. The clients post jobs for the freelancers to bid on, such as “Proofread my eBook of 4,320 words.” You, the freelancer, apply to the job with a brief cover letter. As part of the job posting, the client specifies if he wants an entry, intermediate or expert level person for the job; the posting also includes the pay details, which is either a fixed price that the client sets, or an hourly price which you (the freelancer) determine.
After the client evaluates the responses to the job posting, he usually interviews a few applicants before picking the one he wants to hire. A contract is offered to you (maybe), the terms are accepted, and BANG – you’re on your way to earning some bucks.
Or are you?
Some Hard Facts About Getting Hired For a Job:
- Upwork pay is usually quite low – anywhere from $3 up to $12/hour (if you have an outstanding track record). You compete with people from overseas who give low bids, like three or four dollars per hour. Clients love low bids more than they love good work.
- You compete with people who were editors for newspapers, or who are published authors or university level English teachers. Some are good; others are awful, like the freelancer who called himself “The Proffessional [sic] Proofreader.”
- You compete with people who have earned hundreds of Upwork hours (as compared to my measly 96 hours). Clients give a lot of weight to the number of hours you’ve earned (even though most proofreading/editing jobs are fixed price, not hourly – go figure).
How Much Time and Effort Does It Take to Get Hired?
- On average, I apply for 15 to 20 jobs before I even get an offer to interview. Even so, getting an interview does not guarantee getting the job. I spend about 5 hours per week looking for jobs on Upwork and applying for them. This is a chunk of wasted time.
- I ran some numbers on my job applications. Out of the last 12 jobs I applied for, only 5 clients actually hired someone. So the hire rate for the editing/proofreading jobs I’ve applied for is about 42%. That’s not encouraging.
What Do I Earn on Upwork? I’ve been using Upwork for a little over a year. My earnings are roughly $124.00/month. Keep in mind that I also have a part time job, so Upwork is something I do on the side. Even so, it takes me a lot of time and effort to earn such a small amount of money.
Definite Cons – My Experience
- Most clients who want editing/proofreading do not have a good command of English. They wouldn’t know good proofreading if it bit them in the arse. That’s why they hire people who, although they claim they proofread, don’t have English as a native language and don’t understand a lot of the subtleties of English – but they are cheap!
- Most clients don’t know the difference between editing and proofreading. They will advertise for a proofreader, but after you’ve accepted the job, what they really want is editing, proofreading and rewriting – all for the same low price!
- On many projects you will end up working more hours than you committed for. This is because clients give confusing, incomplete, and poorly written job specifications.
- Clients who have PDF documents and they want you to write out EVERY change, like: page 1, sentence 5, put comma after “cat”, remove space after “then”.
- Clients who miss their own start dates three times! But they don’t give you much leeway on the completion date.
I’ve worked for a lot of interesting, talented, funny, kind, knowledgeable, serious, inspired, driven and brilliant clients.
Editorial update on Bethany: A few weeks after we asked Bethany to write this case study, she ended up enrolling in the course Transcript Proofreading: Theory and Practice™ on ProofreadAnywhere.com. After the experience she’s had on Upwork, she’s optimistic the investment in training for a more lucrative niche will help increase her earnings — and decrease the headaches.
Upwork is so easy to use, but as a result, it seems like perhaps too many people are using it. Here at PA, we’ve found Upwork pretty easy to find people to help us do various tasks around the office — even proofreading! Thing is, the competition is so high, especially with applicants from other countries bidding so low on jobs.
We think Upwork could be worthwhile if you’re not in too big of a hurry to make a solid income.
In a hurry? Ashley Hoard was in more of a hurry to make an income — ’cause she’s getting married! She lives in the UK with her fiancé, and we just published her success story + some real feedback from her actual clients (!!). She made $1300 in her first month! You can check out her story here.