What It’s Like to Work as a Freelance Writer in Ukraine Right Now

By Taras Bereza

While I am sharing these lines today with you, my country is in a state of war. While all domains of life and public infrastructure have been hit tremendously, most Ukrainians take freelancing as the only opportunity to earn a living here.

Obviously, the war has left us all in limbo. While many are actively volunteering now, others have turned to their current jobs, as far as it is possible under the circumstances. After the primary period of volunteering, I consider active pitching to US publications about the events in Ukraine as the most feasible solution.

While the war has come as a devastating disaster to all of us here, the best-fit advice is to seek new markets and expand writing skills. I am currently enrolled in the ‘No B.S. Course on Freelance Writing’ kindly offered by Jacob and Ian from Writing Launch. Together, we have worked on the pitch to Noah Michelson, Head editor of “Huffpost Personal,” entitled:  “How the SOS from the Two Refugee Families Has Changed Me a Lot?” This week, I have also pitched Irish Times, LA Times, and Bricks, spotted in Writing Launch Paid Publishers Database, all eager to receive first-hand accounts on the current state of affairs in Ukraine.

After years of working as a ghost writer, my path is to pursue active pitching and embrace Western media. My first reason is to establish myself as a reputable contributing writer. The second reason is to share the Ukrainian perspective with the world. These days, I am working on my initial pitch to HuffPost, which covers firsthand accounts of the dramatic wartime developments in Ukraine.

I remember the warmth of springtime of 2006 when the opportunity knocked on my door to join the “Fundamentals of Academic Writing Course” within the framework of the Oregon-Lviv Partnership Program at the City University.

While I had already completed a few paid freelance assignments by then, the Course came much of a sheer theory to me. Still, I reaped much fruit from learning English Academic Writing (EAW) essentials and was able to compare the theory with my writing experience.

A Change Maker

My first assignment came as a five-page article (275 words per page) on philosophy, for which I earned $35 tax-free. The order came from the Ukrainian intermediary company hiring freelance writers. The sum then seemed like a great hit compared to the average translation rates I received on the local market. And so that was how I started my journey to freelance writing and subsequently quit working as an in-house translator.

Lifetime Opportunity vs. Challenge 

The freelance market for English as a Second Language (ESL) Ukrainian writers comes as both a splendid opportunity and a challenge. There are, of course, many myths about the freelance writing business here. First, Ukrainians, just as freelance ESL writers from other countries, feel a share of an inherent discomfort compared to their native counterparts. There is almost a persistent feeling that you cannot provide a piece of writing of top-notch quality, just as a native can.

Benefiting from ESL Freelancers

Ukrainian writers are generally excellent writers, with a sound command of English. Writing mechanics and mastery come through the years of daily writing practice. This is to say that there are no domestic freelancers who would opt for freelance writing without proper knowledge of English grammar and sound preparation.

With that, the intermediary companies understand that ESLs can write to the highest standard and would charge less compared to native freelancers. In case there are any issues, their corporate rules entail free-of-charge revisions.

Freelance Writing as It Is

My second observation is that freelance writers are predominantly students, working on popular freelance platforms like ‘Upwork’ to earn extra cash. While such platforms are overwhelmingly competitive, many writers pursue their freelance careers through intermediaries that take a lion’s share of their earnings. Nonetheless, earning $6-12 per page, depending on complexity and urgency, per 250-300-word page on a regular basis still sounds good.

Eventually, the earnings from freelance writing amount to $1000-1500 a month, which is above average on the domestic market. At that, the intermediaries earn up to 60 percent from each order, which is their absolute revenue. Even though such amounts seem cheap from the Western perspective, these are just okay here compared to the rates paid to local translators, editors, proofreaders, and other performers in the niche.

It’s All About Persistence

The major problem is that only a mere 5 percent of freelancers here are ready to write persistently. Most fellows combine freelance writing with their regular jobs, which is why 2-5 orders (up to twelve 300-word pages a day) turns into a real challenge. Furthermore, there are always other writers ready to take the same order. Therefore, the overwhelming majority of freelance writers quit the pursuit within six-to-twelve months.

Up to the New Avenues

With an average rate for a freelance writer of $22.22 per hour according to Indeed (Inouye, 2020), this sounds like a splendid opportunity for most freelance writers here. The rate also indicates the freelance writing dynamic market growth.

Unfortunately, due to the lack of persistence and experimentation with the new prospects and insights, the majority of local freelancers end up as ghostwriters. That makes $1-per-word or $50 per-page offers sound like a fairy tale.

Indeed, few freelancers from Ukraine ever quit their intermediaries or abundantly competitive platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, PeoplePerHour, Guru, Hubstaff Talent, Freelancer.com, etc., they have well settled on.

Not to Upset the Apple Cart

My final comment is on mistreating ESL writers who are seeking wider opportunities in the western markets beyond the named platforms and underpaying intermediaries. As far as I know, few instances of cooperation with the writers from Africa have upset the apple cart. There is a major discussion of the issue on Carol Tice’s ‘Make a Living with Writing.’ However, that does not  mean that every freelancer should be painted with the same brush.

Major Takeaway

This is also a call to action for ESL writers with a sound command of English to establish themselves as guest contributors across western media. Active pitching is a real-life opportunity to make your voice heard and uncover local contexts in times of booming globalization.

Advised by Jacob McMillen, active daily pitching teaches you far more effectively than a sheer theory of freelance writing. If the pitch adheres to editor’s guidelines and resonates with the source’s readership, the chances of approval are high. This week, Noah Michelson from “Huffpost Personal” was the first one to respond right away and request the initial draft of my guest story.

Taras Bereza is a freelance writer working out of Lviv, Ukraine. You can learn more on his website.


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