Kaisa E. A. Crawford-Taylor
A summer of underpaid freelancing Kaisa E A Crawford Taylor

I worked for ¼ of minimum wage in Wisconsin as an Upwork freelancer. For an entire summer of ㉍ hour weeks, I earned 1559.35 USD. However, after steep service fees my bank account saw only 1,299.55 USD. Seizing the opportunity to supplement my meagre income blinded my judgement.

Freelancing earned me under 2 USD an hour. Ouch.

That’s me! A top-rated freelancer that picked up any gig she would with a 96% job success rate. My reviews were incredible. I had long-term clients and always had at least two projects concurrently the entire summer.

I dabbled in everything: Android app development, online course instructing, drawing tutorials, 3D modelling and animation, German copywriting, English proof reading and transcription, and game development.

Confidence and selling a client on why I was the best choice for their vision was what led me to the gold mine. I only needed to do some hard work, and my dream of being a freelancing techie-artist would be realised. Sweet!

⚠ Warning: Over ambition and poor time management ahead ⚠

I was hired…

…yet woefully unprepared to deliver high quality products. Selling yourself is phenomenal. However, similar to how an animal inflates itself to appear a formidable creature, it was all hot air.

Given enough time, I would be able to birth their concepts. However, time is money, and the more time I took, the less money I received.

While I had hourly wages for some projects, for most clients I suggested a fixed price. This was intended to lower the stress on me to perform perfectly (as your desktop screen was recorded when on the clock). Time-crunch anxiety is why I only play strategy games and RPGs. So, I took my time to deliver beautiful finished products. Oh dear.

I took any offer.

Self-worth was bled out of me in middle school, so, naturally, I would take any compensation offered. Typically the offer was too low for what they were asking but bigger numbers than I had personally seen before. For example, 500 USD for a 5 hour Java tutorial sounded like 10 hours work and thus 50 USD per hour to me (honestly I saw it as 100K a year if full-time, despite it being a one-off project). That gave me 5 hours to record and 5 hours to prepare or edit. However, technical difficulties turned this 10 hour job into 50 hours. But, hey, compared to my other earnings, I’ll take it!

Unsurprisingly, I ended up with a lot on my plate at once: too many projects to do and still enjoy my summer break from university. However, that did not discourage me!

Note: Punctuality and perfectionism leads to poor sleep. I will always meet a deadline. I will always sacrifice sleep and social time to do so.

So perhaps if I was less charismatic in my proposals, I would have came out a champion. But instead I was able to pay rent and buy groceries for a month. Sigh.

Did I say I had experience in everything I applied for?

Well that was almost true. I had the skills to do at least half of every project I undertook and I figured I could learn the rest on the fly.

But practice makes perfect and practice takes time… didn’t think of that part. Oof.

Some clients were rude. Some clients changed their minds abruptly — often to dip out on payment. Some clients offered non-monetary payments such as an end screen credit. Most clients expected too much for their budget. This is to be expected of any freelancing. For the most part, we treated each other professionally.

As mentioned, I used the freelancing management company, Upwork, to search listings and for receiving payment. However, Upwork shall not take any responsibility for my own naivety. Accountability is my middle name.

Commissions are open! Let me design something beautiful for you. 🤡

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