This grad student used an online freelancing marketplace to find academic writing jobs that paid her a nice hourly rate. She shares a great thought at the end about valuing your own work.
Name: Vicki Johnson
University: Massey University (New Zealand)
Department/Program: PhD, School of Psychology
1. What was your side or temporary job?
I was a freelancer for academic writing on Upwork (formerly Elance). I did short to long-term projects editing journal articles, analyzing qualitative data and preparing literature reviews for academic and corporate clients.
2. How much did you earn?
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3. How do/did you balance your job with your graduate work?
The beauty of Upwork is that you can apply to jobs when you are available to work, and you can choose projects of different time frames. Most of the academic writing jobs that I received were short-term – a few weeks at a time. I was careful not to take on too much work when had deadlines for my graduate work.
4. Did your job complement your graduate work or advance your career?
Absolutely! It was a great opportunity to fine tune my writing and research skills. Also, almost all of the projects I took on were outside my own discipline, so I had the opportunity to contribute to research in areas such as entrepreneurship, education, change management, and international relations.
5. How did you get started with your job?
I created a profile on Upwork with my resume, some writing samples and a professional photo. When I had no track record of experience on Upwork, I applied to many jobs with no response. Finally, I bid on a writing job for a flat fee of $200. It took more time than I preferred for the amount I was paid, but it was the perfect opportunity to get a good review on my profile and learn the ins and outs of the system. Once I got my first 5-star review, other jobs came much more easily.
6. Is there anything else you would like to share about your experience?
When working as a freelancer online it’s important to carefully choose jobs with clients who have a track record of paying money on the platform and working well with other freelancers (e.g., giving other freelancers good reviews). This is to avoid working with clients who might have unrealistic expectations or want more work than they are willing to fairly pay for. Also, do not be put off by the fact there are many other freelancers on the site bidding for the same jobs for a much lower hourly wage. I was concerned I would never land a job due to the competition, but I found there were many clients who valued quality over low costs and wanted someone with my particular academic background. Therefore I stood by my proposed price and did not waver, and I found this to be a successful strategy for winning jobs.
Vicki Johnson graduated with her PhD from Massey University in 2014 and is now a Policy & Government Affairs Manager for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. While a PhD student, she founded ProFellow, the go-to source of information on professional and academic fellowships, which now has more than 22,000 members.
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