Yi Xiang

A Young Writer in Search of His Voice

What I Have Learned from My Successes and Failures of Freelancing

Freelance in a home officeI made $600 in my first month freelancing, I won my first job in my first bidding, without connections, without even prior experience, from only Upwork, with the help of this great post.

Then I got bored out of my mind after one month. Last month, I finally made up my mind to do freelancing again due to financial problems. This time, I didn’t get a single job. But today I might get a job. Someone replied!

Yesterday I finally figured out why I failed and what changes I need to make, but you will have to read to the last to find out.

Follow Good Advice

I mentioned the post oDesk cover letters that work by Robert Koch at the start of this post because it helps me greatly. Without it I wouldn’t have a clue as to how to apply for jobs on Upwork, or that such a site exists.

Good information helps and there are much good information around the web. I feel I’m talking about the elephant in the room, but sometimes people really are blind. Go to Amazon Kindle Store and search Tarot, you will find none of the top books are masterpieces written by experts. (I can tell because I’m an expert.)

Some crappy books sell

Some crappy books sell

A surprisingly large amount of people don’t do research before spending money or making money, don’t be one of them.

Things Are Hard Doesn’t Mean They Aren’t Doable

Freelancing sites like Upwork are filled with Indians who are willing to do any work for pennies so you can’t ever compete with them or make any good money. Or so you believe.

But this argument is flawed, it simply means you will face competition and it might be hard for you to make decent income from there, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. In fact it might even be easy for you.

My rate is higher than most of my competitions, but I still got jobs in my first month, some good ones too. I have taken about two jobs translating around 1,000 words into Chinese for about $50, and both clients love my work.

There are dozens of people willing to translate the same amount of words for $10, just like there are hordes of people willing to write a 1,000 words post for $5.

If I believe I have to charge $10 to get any jobs, I probably won’t get these two jobs.

Yes it’s hard. But hard doesn’t mean impossible.

You Have to Play by the Rules

I stumbled upon a site called iWriter where anyone could register an account and then begin writing immediately. Yeah, immediately. You don’t need to submit your writing samples for review. You don’t need to bid. You don’t even need to upload your photo and complete your profile. Just start writing and make money.

The catch? The client can reject you and your earning is $2.43 for a 500 words article.

You can write 30 articles and get good feedbacks to raise to Premium Writer so that you can make $4.46 for 500 words.

There are higher levels and you can also pay $147 to level up immediately (after they reviewed 3 of your writing samples).

Terrible rules and you can imagine what kinds of clients and writers hang around this site.

But my point is not how bad this site is, my point is that rules are everywhere. Sometimes you don’t realize these rules because they seems reasonable, they seems like they’re how things should be done.

Upwork has its rules too. It welcomes freelancers from worldwide so cheap writers can write broken English for $5. Its bidding system ensures the competition of prices.

I’m not saying these rules are bad, I’m just saying that they are there and as long as you are bidding on Upwork, you have to play by them.

Now imagine if there is a freelance site that doesn’t allow bidding, and doesn’t allow jobs that pay less than $50 for writing an article. You can immediately see that this rule will allow only the best clients and best freelancers. To play by this rule and survive in this site, you have to be good.

You Have to Win the Competition or Escape the Competition

A realization came to me yesterday. On Upwork, or any freelancing sites, there are thousands of me. I’m no longer a unique person, I’m just another one in the army of faceless freelancers begging for that one job. If I don’t get this job, someone else does.

To the clients, we are all the same. All of us are reduced from a human being to a cover letter made of the same 24 letters. He can’t care about who we are, he can only care about who is the best.

When you are in the faceless army of freelancers

When you are in the faceless army of freelancers

So the first way to get a deal is to win the competition. That’s also every freelancer on bidding sites does. But how do you win the competition? By having relevant experience.

The best to tell a strange you can do something is to tell him that you have done similar things in the past.

I figured this out by think about why some hired me and others didn’t.

For example, I have been hired to do translation works related to WordPress which I have experience working with. And almost all my rejected biddings are for jobs I don’t have relevant experience with, like medical translation.

This also explains why I didn’t get any WordPress jobs. How can I compete against people who spent years doing WordPress development fulltime? Though maybe I can compete in developing Chinese WordPress sites.

Of course my conclusion is flawed. I don’t have much data to analyze. But one thing is for sure, that competition is fierce.

On Upwork, number of people competing for one English to Chinese Translation job could easily reach 20. This is a small niche. Some WordPress jobs, on the other hand, seem to get more than 100 biddings quickly.

Sure it wouldn’t be easy to be one in 20, let alone one in 100.

I grow sick of it and I don’t like fighting it by applying to more jobs.

So I decide to try escaping it while still applying for jobs. (Because I’m still broke.)

What I Think I Need to Do to Escape the Competition

First of all, this is from the top of my head, instead of my experience, so I don’t really know if it works.

From what I have read and seen, relationship sells. Only after people can’t get find a friend to do one job do they start to ask for referrals. If that fails, they may try the internet.

I got my first job by the referral of my friend. And I helped another friend to join that company when they need more programmers. When we were considering hiring a web designer, we were also asking ourselves, did we know any friends who can do this?

Build good relationships and you bypass competition.

Unfortunately I’m terminally introvert and don’t network well.

My best way to connect to people is through my writings.

So I figure I will build this blog. Since the many personal blogs that I enjoy are really about some brilliant ideas or personal ideals, I will put forth mine in this blog.

I will write about how to live a life by choice, instead of by default.

These are the same ideas that I wrote about in 2014 in my second blog in Chinese. I wrote about it for a year and didn’t build an audience.

I’ll try again.

How do I make money from these writings? Well, I will find out.

Or maybe I’ll give up after a few days. Who knows? I have abandoned many projects.