The other day I was drying my hands in a public restroom. I was using one of those automatic dryers, the kind that blows warm air onto your hands.
The directions on those things tell you that if you rub your hands together, they’ll dry faster.
But it’s not true.
Rubbing your hands together actually keeps them wet longer.
It makes sense when you think about it since you’re actually blocking the warm air from hitting the wettest spots.
But here’s the amazing thing: Even though it obviously doesn’t work, for 20+ years I still obeyed the instructions on the machine. (Maybe the people who make the machine want you to use it more so it breaks faster and they sell more units.)
There’s a part of all of us that thinks: If something is written down, it must be true.
A few weeks ago I wrote about bogus Upwork tips some people blindly follow, even though they work against you.
Today I want to do something similar-but-different.
It’s time to bust up some Upwork myths I’ve been hearing about for years. If I had listened to these when I first started freelancing, I’d probably be broke now. I definitely wouldn’t have made $115,000 in a single year on Upwork.
Let’s kill them once and for all.
Myth #1: There’s a “Glass Ceiling” to how much you can earn on Upwork
I get a lot of emails from people who want to know how to raise their rate on Upwork. Depending on my mood, sometimes I’ll reply back and say “go to your Upwork account settings, click on your rate, and change the number.” (For more serious answers, see this post.)
It might sound sarcastic but there’s actually a lot of truth to it. If you drive an Uber then you’re stuck with the price Uber quotes to customers. But on Upwork you get to charge as much as you want. They don’t limit you. You get to just do it.
Now at this point some people say, “Sure, technically Upwork doesn’t limit you to charging a certain amount. But are there really people who are willing to pay freelancers a lot of money?”
When I charged $50/hr on Upwork people said I’d hit the “glass ceiling.” Then at $100/hr they said “this is really the most you can make.” Now I’m charging (and getting) $250/hr. I say this not to brag, but to show you what is really possible. If I don’t, who will?
If it is then it’s still a pretty sweet deal.
But historically, all the naysayers have been wrong. I’m pretty sure they’ll be wrong this time, too, especially as more of the clients on Upwork continue to grow their businesses and increase their budgets.
Myth #2: Upwork is a great place to start freelancing
This one is a half-truth.
Upwork is a great place to start your freelancing career.
But it’s also a great place to GROW your freelancing career. Indefinitely.
I’ve been using Upwork since the first day I started freelancing. And even after 4 years I see no reason to stop now.
James Altucher often talks about why owning a house has all the qualities of a bad investment. I want to talk about why Upwork has all the qualities of a great method for building and growing your freelancing career.
- THEY SOLVE THE #1 CHALLENGE OF FREELANCING — finding clients (if I cloned myself 1,000x I wouldn’t be able to handle a fraction of the work I can find there on any given day)
- THEY SOLVE THE #2 CHALLENGE OF FREELANCING — getting paid (if you use Upwork properly you are virtually guaranteed to get paid every time with zero hassles or delays)
- THEY SOLVE THE #3 CHALLENGE OF FREELANCING — building a reputation (you get reviews from clients that are 100x more powerful than anything you can write on your own website. In fact, if you use Upwork you don’t even need a website.)
Historically, these have been the biggest drawbacks to the entire business of freelancing.
Before Upwork there were no good solutions (sorry, pitching random businesses is not a good way to find clients).
Now Upwork hands it all to you on a silver platter. Welcome to the connection economy, baby.
So this is why I still find all my clients on Upwork.
Myth #3: Clients come to Upwork looking for cheap work
I’m not sure what to say about this other than it’s not true.
Sure, some people are looking for cheap work. You know what else? Some of the shows on Netflix are horrible.
But I focus on great ones like The Office and Orange Is The New Black. One of the biggest secrets to life is that you get more of what you focus on. (Another related one is that — to a surprising degree — you get what you expect.)
This isn’t just my experience either. Check out this $100/hr job my friend Steven just got as a marketing consultant:
Myth #4: When you’re getting started, take any job you can get
This might be the natural thing to do. But if you fall prey to this instinct then you’ve got it totally backwards.
Think about what you’re saying when you take whatever you can get: You’re a beggar. Willing to take any scraps someone is “nice enough” to throw at you.
It’s a position of weakness.
You don’t become a successful freelancer by being weak.
It’s not a fraternity… You don’t spend a couple of weeks getting hazed and then magically become a respected member.
You need to develop a mindset of strength before you can succeed on Upwork.
Trying to get to strength through weakness is like trying to get to Florida by driving to Maine. Can’t work.
Luckily, there’s a better way. And it’s something that anyone can do.
Instead of looking at Upwork jobs with the intention of taking whatever you can get, think about what you can GIVE.
This is much more powerful, because when you give you are always in a position of strength. Even if it’s your first day freelancing.
Look at my first Upwork job. It was writing children’s stories. I’d never written any story before.
If I thought “Will they give me this job?” I would have answered “No” and not even applied for it.
But instead I said to myself, “I can give them more effort and energy and enthusiasm and initiative than anyone else here.” And that’s how I made my first $340 on Upwork. (And it was awesome.)
Myth #5: There’s too much competition
People keep telling me this and I know it isn’t true.
I’ll prove it to you.
One day my mother called me up and told me I should teach my brother how to be a copywriter on Upwork.
When I mentioned the idea to my brother, he said, “Thanks, but I don’t want to compete with you.”
I said, “There are 4 million clients on Upwork. It’s enough for both of us.”
He laughed, which was an appropriate reaction because he realized how ridiculous the whole thing sounded.
Here’s where it gets really interesting: Once he started rocking and rolling, I started making more money, not less, even though he was technically my “competition.”
He did very well too btw:
Let me explain to you how this really works.
If my brother and I are both oral surgeons, and one of us pulls out Dale’s wisdom teeth, then the other one is out of luck — Dale doesn’t have any wisdom teeth left to pull.
But if you’re a designer, a writer, a web developer, a blogger, or pretty much any other type of online freelancer, then that’s not what happens. Not at all.
One of my best Upwork clients is a company that makes short animated videos. They hired me to write the scripts for their videos. I did a good job for them, and their business grew. Because of that they hired…more writers!
They also hired project managers, artists, and other people to help, too. Today they have 5 or 6 writers working for them, and that number will continue to grow.
What I’m getting at is that, if a freelancer does a good job, they CREATE THE NEED FOR CLIENTS TO HIRE EVEN MORE FREELANCERS.
Another example: A web designer creates a great website for a client. Now they need someone to write their blog, set up a Facebook page, manage their social media accounts, advertise on Google, come up with a tagline, help them get leads for their business, do customer service, etc., etc., etc.
It never ends.
There is no limit to the number of jobs you can create as a freelancer.
So unlike many traditional jobs, online freelancing is not a pie that we all need to try to grab our piece of. When you do good work you’re actually making the pie bigger.
Which means your competition is mostly an illusion.
Myth #6: “You can only succeed if you’re from [insert country here]
I get hundreds of emails from freelancers every week. And there’s something fascinating that happens all the time. It goes like this…
People from the US email me and say they can’t compete with people from non-U.S. countries because they charge too little.
Then people from non-U.S. countries email me and say they can’t compete with people from the US because clients only want to hire Americans.
Obviously they can’t both be right.
Yes, there are certain advantages to being from the US. And it’s also true that there are parts of the world where people can charge much less due to economic factors that are beyond your control.
The key is to not focus on any of this. Find clients who you can help. Show them you can help them. When you focus on that then the amount that you charge and the country you live in both become much less important.
I know people all around the world who are charging solid healthy rates — just like I know tons of US freelancers who are undercharging. Geography matters less than you think.
Myth #7: Some months you’ll be busy, other months not so much
The entire point of Upwork is that it’s a “client store.” It’s open 24/7. It’s unlimited in size (because it’s virtual and global).
This is what makes Upwork so much better than the old ways of finding clients which were — and are — totally unreliable (e.g. giving out your business card to strangers or cold calling. Cold calling is the worst thing ever).
If you are good at what you do (or if you’re willing to get good at something, like copywriting), you can hop on there any time you want and find people who are happy to pay you to do some work for them.
There are tens of thousands of jobs posted on Upwork right now, and you only need a handful.
So if you’re having slow months then you can definitely turn it around.
You can improve, and you can get to the point where it’s easy to get hired by new clients at a good rate any time you want to. (A good way to start is by reading all of my blog posts and signing up for my Free Upwork Hacks.)
Myth #8: You need years of experience to make money on Upwork
This is a nasty lie invented by insecure Old Pros who want to keep you from playing in their sandbox.
They think you’ll take all the sand for yourself and there won’t be any left for them (see Myth #5).
One of my first Upwork jobs was to rewrite some job advertisements, adding some fun and creativity to them.
Do you think the client cared I’d never done it before? It’s not like flying a plane where previous experience can really make or break things.
When you really think about it, there’s no such thing as an expert on “fun job descriptions.” There’s no degree for it, no career path, no rule book — you just DO it. So I just did it. The client didn’t ask me if I studied “fun job descriptions” in college.
If you want more proof, look at the people I’ve paid on Upwork to help me with this website you’re reading right now. Steven, Radhika, and Mike. When I hired them, none of them had years of experience at anything. But they’re smart, caring, and they figure things out, so I kept paying them to do more cool stuff.
Since we had such an awesome conversation in the comments on my post about bogus Upwork tips, I’d love to get another one going here.
So tell me: What’s an Upwork myth or half-truth you’ve noticed that just doesn’t seem to be true? Bust it up for us in the comments below. Or, tell me which of the above myths you believed in yourself.
It’ll help other freelancers (and aspiring freelancers). Plus, it’s just fun.
But whether you participate or not, I hope you’ll walk away from this post remembering this: Never rub your hands together when using an automatic hand dryer. Seriously–just don’t do it.
(Flickr Creative Commons image via Nik Stanbridge)