Chances are, if you’ve searched Google and other major search engines in the hopes of finding freelance work, you’ve probably come across Upwork at the top of the list for freelancing platforms.
With over 12-million freelancers and 5 million clients worldwide, this is a great starting place if you’re new to freelancing.
Building a Winning Profile that Captures Attention
Your profile is your first impression. Would you walk into an interview with wrinkled clothes, wild hair, and a crappy resume? Hopefully not. So just the same, when it comes to Upwork you don’t want to neglect your profile just to skip to the process of applying. This will render you virtually invisible to potential clients, and bury you in a sea of competing applicants.
Here’s how to create a killer profile that stands out and captures attention.
Services and Skills
After you create and verify your account, you will be asked to provide information regarding the main services you offer.
Keep in mind that whatever you choose in this step will drive your range of job choices and categorize you for potential client searches. So, you want to choose the category that fits you best (you can manipulate this in searches later on).
When it comes to entering your skills, the minimum is 3 and the maximum is 10. Think of these as keywords. These are what will pull up your profile in client searches—so, of course, you want 10! The broader the words, the bigger the filter.
So rather than “scientific research” simply use “research,” rather than “mathematical data entry,” just input “data entry.”
In terms of work level, keep it honest. The free version of Upwork gives you 60 connects a month to apply for work. If you waste these on jobs you are not qualified for, or you are overbidding because of experience, you will never get a message in your inbox.
Notice how the work experience is also associated with dollar signs? More often than not, as a newcomer to the site, you may find yourself bidding on the entry level jobs— regardless of whether or not you are a professional.
This is how important it is to build your profile on Upwork. It almost provides more value than just your resume or work samples, and can certainly be a defining factor in a client’s decision making process.
Your profile MUST include:
- Picture: Make sure you upload a picture that is professional and smiling. Too often freelancers will use photos that are more of a selfie than anything else. Show that you are upbeat, and happy to work.
- Title: Your professional title line should be short and to the point of exactly what you do. This is the byline that sits right next to your pic at the top of your profile, so make sure it is catchy and informative.
- Professional Overview: When a client looks at your profile, your actual resume and work experience is located under this overview, so their eyes will go to this summary first.
Make sure you briefly describe your skills, experience, and interests. Think of your professional overview as a condensed bio of the entire profile.
- Education: This is only applicable for anything over a GED. If you have ever attended post-secondary education such as colleges, University, enter it here.In addition, if you have completed any sort of training that is relevant to the jobs that you plan to accept, make sure to include it.
- Employment History: Even though you will be sending your resume as an attachment whenever you are interested in a proposal, it is important to copy all the information thoroughly to your employment history on your profile as well.
- English Proficiency: A major mistake many freelancers make is to mark themselves as “fluent” in English when they are actually “native.”Many clients will narrow their searches based on these fields. If you were raised speaking English, always mark “native,” lest you cheat yourself from a variety of jobs.
- Rate: Setting your hourly rate depends on you. It can’t hurt to do a little market research to determine what others are averaging who have similar work experience.
Keep in mind the Upwork fee is 20% initially, so you may want to set it a little higher than what you normally would, to compensate for the fees. Take your time with this .
- Hours: Make sure you set your hours to “as needed” for the most amount of work. Of course, if you are only looking for part-time, you can set it to less than 30 hours/wk.
- Additional Contact Info: Make sure you enter the correct address and phone number. Just like any other job, they will need this information for taxation purposes.
Once you have filled out your profile, double check it and submit it to the Upwork team for review. They will e-mail you within 24 hours to approve your account and then you can start the bidding!
The Winning Bidder
When you first begin your job hunt for remote freelance work, keep in mind that the more specific you are when searching, the fewer jobs you will see in the search results.
Sometimes the best searches are those without any filter at all. Once you have found a job title that looks appealing, click through and evaluate the offer closely before responding.
Pay close attention to the following:
- Hourly or Fixed-Price: Depending on the type of work you are doing and your availability, you will want to consider how the job pays.Many freelancers are open to both types of payment methods when they first start because this can lead to more job opportunities.
- Work Experience: If you are just starting out, you will want to filter out the Expert Level jobs. Even if you are a pro, Upwork is an environment where you have to work your way up and the majority of “$$$” jobs are going to people with established profiles.
- Posted: In order not to waste any of your available “connects”, it is crucial that you pay attention to when an ad was posted. Your best chances lie within the first hour— so when job hunting, be prepared to refresh often and check for new listings throughout the day.
Data entry and other types of jobs that are more competitive to a global market, fill up even faster than those requiring a higher set of skills.
- Budget: If you are open to a fixed-price job, pay attention to their overall budget and the job description.Think in terms of hourly and calculate how long the job will take. Then divide that into their estimated budget. If it is too low, skip that job.
Once you have clicked on the job post, there are a few things to look at prior to placing your bid.
Inside the Ad
- Number of Freelancers: Most of the time people are only looking for 1 freelancer, but sometimes they may be looking for 2 or even 10.
THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR:
You should also be cautious of any job offers that offer too-good-to-be-true rates, and especially those looking for a high number of freelance workers.
The job poster collects dozens of content pieces and never makes a hire. Meanwhile you’re out time and money and they have a collection of unique content they can use however they wish.
- About the Client: On the right-hand side is vital information about the potential client. It’s important to pay attention to things like the time zone, total amount of money spent, and Avg Hourly Rate.
- Additional Questions: Pay attention to the extra questions a client is asking. You may not know how to answer them, or they may be asking too much of your time. Weigh this into whether you choose to bid or not.
- Preferred Qualifications: Not all of these are set in stone, but it is a good measure to avoid applying to anything in which you do not meet the qualifications (exceptions: you are super qualified for the job and can write a remarkable cover letter).
Many clients will be looking for a job success score of 90% or more. Your score can be affected by a variety of conditions, including client satisfaction and rating.
People are also looking for freelancers living in specific countries. Most of the time it is for English speaking countries, like the US, Canada, and the UK, but sometimes there will be ads specifically looking for workers in the Philippines and India.
Lastly, you want to look at required Upwork hours. If you are first starting out, you’ll want to bid on jobs that don’t require a high amount of Upwork hours to apply. If someone is looking for a freelancer with 1,000 hours under their belt, your proposal will simply be denied and you will lose a few connects for the month.
- Activities on this Job: It is critical that you look at the amount of proposals on the job before bidding. Less than 5 is like hitting the holy grail (thus it is important to look at how long ago the job was posted).
If the job has 20-50 proposals by the time you get to it, your chances are incredibly slim that your proposal will even be seen, let alone rejected.
- Client’s Work History and Feedback: The last thing you want to check prior to placing your bid, is the client’s history. A pattern of 1 stars and bad reviews is a major red flag that should make you seriously reconsider your bid.
If everything checks out, it’s time to place your bid by submitting a proposal to the client. Your hourly rate will automatically populate into the form, but you can change it to anything you want, according to what you think the job will require.
Your hourly rate on your profile is mostly just a placeholder. If a job seems fun or easy, you can use this opportunity to quote a little lower than what your profile states, just to snag the job.
Proper Proposal Content
If you skimp on this part of the job process, you are truly cheating yourself. Generic cover letters often yield mediocre results.
Many clients will feel like if you don’t take the time during the application process, why would you during the work? Therefore, it is crucial that you thoroughly read the job listing and construct a cover letter that is relevant and personal to each proposal you make.
If you need to, open the job listing in another tab and toggle between your proposal and the listing to make sure you are on point. Many savvy job posters will hide a goose egg in the job ad to weed out spam and serial applicants (i.e. people who blindly apply to jobs without even reading the full ad). Usually, this will look something like:
“To show you’re reading this ad, put the word “gorilla” in the beginning of your application.”
It is also important to take time on the extra questions. On rare occasions, a potential client may ask you to perform test or samples. Be careful with this.
It’s also a great idea to create a website or blog of your own that showcases the different types of content you have created as well as the niches you are most experienced with. Then, you can provide a link to your website when discussing work with potential clients.
Not only will that keep your content and services organized, but you can create an “About Me” page on your website that gives insight as to who you are, your skills and experiences and what you can do for potential clients. This will eliminate a lot of back-and-forth during initial discussions.
If you want to land the highest paying jobs and long-term clients, you should consider positioning yourself as an expert in specific niches rather than a freelancer who tries to be the “jack of all trades”.
For example, when I decided that I would focus on B2C clients, I further narrowed my niche down to writing content for Internet marketers, since that is where I had the most experience and passion.
The more specific you are with the type of services you are offering, as well as the industries, genres or niches that you are most experienced with, the easier it will be to attract long-term clients who will be anxious to hire you full-time.
Lastly, always attach a fresh and properly formatted resume or other document related to your application.
If you are applying to any writing positions, attaching relevant samples along with your linked portfolio is much more effective. Once you submit your proposal and get your first job, you can start building relationships with your own clients.
Upwork’s pay structure operates on a sliding scale based on the amount you are earning from each client. That’s because they want to encourage people to build long-term relationships with their clients, rather than sporadic job stints. The following is how the pay is structured:
Therefore, the longer you work with the same clients, the more money you make. One of the smartest moves as a freelancer is to slightly lower your rates to initiate a relationship, and then build it up once you have proven your work.
More often than not, clients are also new to the platform and may not know how to properly set their budget. In this case, you can request the client open a milestone for their project as a means for you to prove yourself by performing a small task.
You can then have more freedom to negotiate a price that works for the both of you.
It is critical that you communicate with your clients throughout the job, and turn projects in by their deadlines. This type of behavior will earn you high ratings on your profile and will encourage people to work with you again.
After all, most clients are looking to form relationships as well, and would prefer to hire people who they already know do good work and are reliable.
Additionally, when you continue to work with the same people, the amount you earn will increase. After $500, the percent of fees you pay decreases by 50%. After $10,000 it decreases again at the same rate.
Therefore, if you get a full-time position through Upwork and are making a decent minimum wage, you should reach the highest earning potential by at least the 3rd quarter.
And finally, once you’ve completed a few jobs for clients it’s not uncommon for the company to offer payment outside of Upwork. Only do this with clients you trust as once you submit work outside of Upwork, they no longer offer any guarantee of payment.
One strategy for ensuring payment, especially if you are a content developer, is to invoice clients via Paypal and then deliver content only after the payment has been made.
This is something I’ve done many times with new clients. After I’ve developed a trusting relationship with them and I feel I can trust them, I’m more comfortable delivering content even before the invoice is paid.
Extra Tips for a Quick Start
Although Upwork is structured to be incredibly user-friendly and intuitive, there are a few tweaks and tricks that can give you a better head-start. The following are a few extra tips to help you hit the ground running:
- Always read the entire job ad. If it is long, read it twice. Many times, clients quote their budget wrong, and the ad may give more insight into what the client is willing to pay as well as their overall expectations.
- Search during non-peak hours. After using the site for awhile, you may find that it is slow, or even clogs (you’ll see an error message claiming an overload of traffic) during peak hours. Right after the work day is over is a prime example.
Searching late night and on weekends can give you the competitive edge and earn you that first job over your peers.
- Always answer invitations to interview. If you happen to receive an invitation to interview, make sure you answer it one way or another. Leaving people hanging will have a negative impact on your account.
- Search using key terms. If you are looking to start a project ASAP, why not search the term “ASAP” or “Urgent” to see if there are any job listings that fit your skill-set and experience? Many times, freelancers can score a new contact and a long-term working relationship when they help someone in desperate need and prove that they are reliable and can work under tight deadlines.
- Change categories. Despite the fact you must narrow it down and choose a category when you initially sign up, it’s no-holds-barred when it comes to the actual job search.You can switch the categories, or even switch it to “all” to get a steady feed of every job listed on the Upwork market.
Expanding the job search filters can prove advantageous when clients accidentally mislabel their jobs (which happens quite frequently).In fact, you could be the only one applying if the job has been categorized incorrectly, so always keep an eye out for these opportunities.
Additional Freelancer Resources
Any savvy freelancer will tell you that you do not have to limit yourself to one platform, nor should you.
Keep in mind that while Upwork is a great place to launch your freelance career, I don’t recommend sticking with it long-term. Use it as a way to connect with new clients, to build a reputation within your chosen niche, and to secure long-term work with reputable clients.
Then, move away from Upwork and work towards forming personal relationships with your clients outside of the community.
Not only will you make more money by eliminating Upwork fees, but you’ll ensure that your clients are focused on sending you more work rather than being solicited by other freelancers.
Here are a few other resources worth exploring when looking for freelance opportunities: