Top 10 Technical Writers Hacks for Upwork

New to Upwork? This blog post will uncover the 10 technical writers hacks for Upwork to win more clients and make more money!

Upwork is the largest freelance community in the world. Like any enormous community, it has its pitfalls. Why does Upwork get a bad rap among writers? One of the main reasons is that writers new to Upwork fail to navigate its hazards. This article hopes to help you avoid those hazards and earn more money.

technical writers hacks
She’s a smart searcher

1. Search Smartly

It might be obvious, but match your search to your goals. If you’re getting started, and looking to build a portfolio, then choose “Entry level” jobs. If you’re experienced, choose “Expert.” (In between? Choose “Intermediate.”)

Hacks for tech writers on Upwork
Look for letters above after numbered headings (below)

2. (a) Look at when it was posted (and where)

The screen capture above was taken ten minutes after the job was posted. If you apply for this job, you might be the first. This “primacy” can give you an edge over the competition. (Read more about primacy.)

If you’re in the U.S., start with U.S.-only searches. You generally earn more and have less competition for US jobs.

3. (b) Consider Budget

It’s either fixed price or an hourly rate. Tell them why you’re asking for more if you exceed their budget.

4. (c) See a client new to upwork? Rejoice!

They might not be price shoppers who see writing as commodity products from the lowest bidder (especially if they’re looking for an “Expert”).

The biggest misconception about Upwork is that it is ONLY a price-shoppers’ paradise for commodity writing. There ARE plenty of price shoppers, but they’re easy to spot. I’ve made up to $150/hour on Upwork. And I’m not alone.

Red flag: If this client has a payment history (see #7 below) and is paying a low average rate (e.g., less than $10/hr.), skip them unless you’re a beginner.

5. (d) Review Activity On this Job

This was posted minutes before this screen capture, so it’s not surprising that there are “Less than 5” Proposals. If this was posted a few days ago, you could see how engaged the client is in how many freelancers they’re interviewing (along with “Invites sent”).

6. (e) Look at Bid Rates

Viewing bid rates requires a higher-paid subscription, but it’ll pay to know how much the competition is bidding.

7. Look at the reviews

Client History
Check out their history (if they have one)

Scroll down to the bottom of the page to the “Client’s Recent History” section (only listed if the client has had jobs completed). If there are two or more negative reviews from freelancers, I’d consider not applying, no matter how sweet the job looks. Either the client lacks judgment in who they’ve chosen, or the freelancers have found the client to be sorely lacking in some area.

8. Reconsider placeholder rates

Sometimes a low rate is a placeholder. Usually a client will write something like “Price is just a number because I haven’t determined number yet.” Sometimes the client forgets to add this note and they look like the greatest of the great price shoppers (“$10 for 300-page User Guide”).

These jobs can be GOLDEN when the price discourages freelancers from applying (only because the client forgot to add the explanation).

9. Don’t jump on every offer!

It’s cool to get an alert on your phone when you’re out on a date and you want to accept an offer that pops up from the mobile app. I’ve found it pays to scroll back to your bid and review the terms and decide. You may have applied to the job a month ago and it might not be a great move now.

10. Danny still rules

Sign up for Danny Margulies’ hacks via email on his site at:

He’s been at this for years and his tips helped me tremendously. His advice about proposals is especially good.

Danny recommends becoming a client and posting a job for a few dollars to see how the competition writes proposal. You can have them edit a few paragraphs. I’ve done it; it’s worth seeing real proposals so you learn what to avoid. This exercise will underline how important it is to empathize with the client’s situation and to frame it for them and their needs.

Use these 10 technical writers hacks to navigate Upwork and avoid the hazards that so many unsuspecting writers encounter.