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How I started freelancing on Upwork and my cents of advice....

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Let me start by giving you some basic details about myself. I am Ogundiran Ayodeji, a Nigerian. I stay in the southwestern part of the country. My native language is Yoruba, but I speak and write English language fluently.
I have been freelancing for over 3 years now (since 2018). I started freelancing after graduating from college. I wanted a job that was flexible. You know all that working from home BS you see online, I soon found out that freelancing is not exactly as it is painted to be online.
Basically, I freelance as an SEO content developer, SEO means Search Engine Optimization and also work as a Virtual Assistant occasionally. I started out my freelancing career working with a friend, Fidelis. He got bulk writing jobs from a client in Pakistan. And, as you can guess, the pay was very ridiculous. I was at the very bottom of the value chain, and only got stipends for the hard work done. I was paid about $3 to write 1500-word articles. But, I really appreciated the opportunity he gave me. It was a learning curve for me. I worked with him for almost a year. During this period, I knew close to nothing about SEO content development.

Towards the end of my first year of writing, I started looking for ways I could get jobs directly from clients. This way, I was going to keep a larger share of the profit and, at least, climb a step higher on the value chain of the industry. This goal has always been my business drive – climbing higher on the value chain in whatever I do. I guess it’s my entrepreneurship or business mindset that is responsible for this.

Fidelis also wanted to grow, he knew his client was not paying him well, hence, he couldn’t afford to pay us what is due. A friend of his introduced him to Upwork. He decided to create an account for himself, and benevolently, one for me likewise. The freedom I had always wanted just got handed to me. Now, I could get jobs directly from clients. Before starting on Upwork, there was this nasty experience myself and a friend, Ife, had. Ife also wanted to be his own boss. He registered on this popular freelancing platform ‘Freelancer.com’. He meets a client that started communicating with him outside the ‘freelancer.com’ platform, on Skype. The client was sending in a lot of task requests so he brought me in.
The plan was that after 2 weeks, he was going to pay us for the work done. The payment was going to be made outside the Freelancer.com platform. This way, the platform will not take any cut from our money. The agreed payment was $1/100 words. It was like a dream come true. We worked ourselves to the bone turning in well-researched and quality articles to this mysterious client. We wanted to make enough money to retire and go on vacation within these 2 weeks. Smile, maybe not retire, but we wanted to squeeze out all the juice that we could. To cut a long story short, the client stopped communicating with us when we asked for payment after two weeks of hard work. It was quite devastating. I narrated this story so that you can understand some of the tragic experiences freelancers go through. There was no one to report to or any way to trace the client. Even though he was online on Skype, there was really nothing we could do.

So, coming to Upwork armed with this experience, I always ensured that contracts initiated on Upwork stay on Upwork. So far, I have had great work experience on Upwork, despite my fair share of the good, bad and ugly clients. I mean, after putting all your efforts to deliver the best result, doing several editing, some clients will still give you bad reviews that affect your job success score. The goal of every freelancer on Upwork is achieving the ‘Top Rated’ badge (This badge is given to freelancers who can maintain a job success score of 90% and above for 13 consecutive weeks). As at the time of writing this, I am a week away from getting this badge. I hope the badge opens my profile up for better work opportunities. 100% of my freelancing job is handled remotely. I communicate with my clients via Skype, Whatsapp, and freelancing platforms. I connect with most of my clients online, and sometimes, through referrals from friends and previous clients.
Beyond all the struggles, and ups and downs, I really enjoy the flexibility that freelancing brings. My work schedule as a freelancer can be quite erratic. There are occasions when I have lots of requests from clients and there are downtimes likewise. Regardless of the influx of requests, I try as much as possible to keep deadlines and do a great job. I have my integrity to maintain so, I never deliver a messy job. I let my clients know that I am always available for reviews and editing. At points when the workload is much, I skip my night sleep to meet deadlines. During some other periods, I am almost begging clients to send tasks. I understand that little or no work for the month means no or little pay at the end of the month.
This is another challenge with freelancing, there is no fixed earning. And, of course, the health bill is on you. What I do personally is that I invest and save up emergency cash. I know, there is no one to cover for me in the case of any emergencies. A universal basic income might look good on the surface, but I don’t think that is the solution. If anyone is not satisfied with what they are earning currently, they should work more on their hustles and get multiple streams of income. The government is not directly responsible for anyone. They just need to create an enabling environment that allows for human creativity to find free expression and fair playing ground for everyone that wants to start a business. Like I said earlier, I love climbing higher on the value chain of whatever industry I am in. After about six months of getting jobs directly from clients, I soon found out that a larger percentage of my clients were affiliate marketers. Gradually, I started understanding sales funnel, digital marketing, and my understanding of SEO was broadened.
I took courses on affiliate marketing, I took a course by Google on, ‘Digital Marketing For Africans’, and several other related courses. As at the time of writing this, one of my websites ( http://Thenatureguard.net ) is ready, though, I am yet to publish an article on it. I intend to set up two websites before the middle of the year. The first goal is to build steady traffic on the website before I start monetizing the traffic. Hopefully, this goes well. Freelancing has close to zero job security. Software is being turned out daily which automates most of the services that freelancers are selling to the client. I mean, I was surprised some months ago when Facebook showed me an advert for an AI software that could help me generate web articles. I had to do some research online and found out that there are quite a handful of AI driven software systems that could perform this function. Although from reviews, the A.I is not perfect yet, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done on it. But, imagine waking tomorrow and a genius has coded an AI that writes perfectly like an expert and definitely, faster. My job is gone. So, for a freelancer, the need for multiple streams of income can never be overemphasized. One other thing I would love to mention as I conclude is the issues of the charges that freelancers have to pay on the platforms that they work. For example, Upwork takes a particular percentage from every payment I get from a client.
20% for payment less than $500, 10% once the payment from that same client on the same contract crosses the threshold of $500.

P.S. Most contracts are usually less than $500, especially for a writer, so Upwork basically takes 20% of all my contracts. I also purchase connects to submit job proposals on Upwork. The fee that freelancers are paying is quite high. Though, I understand that these fees are required to keep the platform running efficiently, but, a little adjustment will be good for everyone. Thank you for taking out time to read my story, Torsten. I will really love to see what others have to say and the end result of this project. In case you need me to do anything, I am always available.
Author: Ayodeji Ogundiran