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Airtasker and Upwork are two platforms that have become key components of the gig economy. Upwork is by far the better platform from a writing perspective, whereas Airtasker tends to cater for a range of needs from lawn mowing to high-level technical functions.

As a freelance writer, I got my first serious paying gigs on Airtasker. I got in in the early days when they were “paying it forward” to establish their place in the market. There were no commissions payable. As a writer, I’d developed more than a working knowledge of WordPress and was capable of performing basic SEO tasks. In those early days, it was relatively easy to bid for writing tasks, Worpress tasks or SEO tasks and do reasonably well. At one stage Airtasker, forwarded my name to Melbourne’s major newspaper to demonstrate what could be done on their platform. The Age even sent a photographer up to Ararat to take my photo which they presumably decided that their readers weren’t ready for.

Now I rarely bid for work on Airtasker and only a little more so on Upwork.

What changed?

First off, Airtasker got greedy. I understand that nothing comes for free and that Airtasker needs to make a profit as much as I do, but when they’re taking as much as 22% off of what I earn, then I really have to ask myself is this worth it?

Secondly, as the platform has gotten larger, it has attracted a lot of people who are prepared to work for a pittance. Let’s be clear about how much time writing your 1000 word article is going to take. There may be an hour or two’s research involved. Then, even using text to speech software the article will take another two hours to “write.” (Editing text to speech takes time). If you want a good job done, I’m going to give you the courtesy of reading and rereading my work to ensure that it is grammatically accurate and is engaging enough for someone to want to read it. That’s conservatively 4-5 hours of my time. I charge 10c per word. I’m hardly making a killing at those rates.

Yet I regularly find people prepared to pay no more than $40 for 1000 words. I don’t bother bidding. I’m not going to fight for work that people don’t value. Occasionally, I’ll leave a comment pointing out that the rate of pay for a job like this is less than slave labour rates. If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. You get what you pay for.

It is what it is. Almost certainly the content will be plagiarized or spun. There’s no quality control.

Yet, as part of my daily routine, I regularly peruse Airtasker and Upwork for work that might satisfy me and help me to grow my business.

I look for people who want work done in areas that actually interest me. Finance, cryptocurrency, music, politics, art, literature, self-help, mental health. That’s about it really. If I find something in that area, I may bid if there’s the prospect of ongoing work and if the pay rate is reasonable. If I’m interested in something I can massage my rates – there’s always the prospect of writing spin-off articles to publish on HIve or Medium. Just don’t expect me to work for nothing.

if you’ve asked me to bid on Airtasker or Upwork and I’ve declined your offer, you now know why.

When you value your business, you get people who can do the job properly.

I see that the Victorian government is moving to regulate the gig economy. Good luck with that. MIcro business owners will always compete aggressively for business. That’s what our system is built on. By the same token, you get what you pay for. Remember that.

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By Mark