How To Get Started On Upwork (And Be Top Rated)
When I told fellow freelancers that I’m getting jobs at Upwork, I was often met with skepticism. Some claims that it is a scam, while others doubt that you could make a decent earning at Upwork.
Well, I’ve decided to create this article to help fellow freelancers to get started on Upwork and dispell all doubts about the platform.
What Is Upwork
Upwork is an online portal where freelancers can bid jobs from potential clients. It is, in fact, one of the largest freelance portals around. And Upwork’s homepage stated that it had been connected with over 5 million businesses.
That means that you’ll have no shortage of jobs to choose from, and with it having arguably the largest pool of freelancers, it’s an equally attractive talent marketplace for clients.
You’ll find clients from all over the world posting their jobs at Upwork, or stand a chance of being invited for an interview. Being an international platform, expect some competition but you’ll find it worthwhile when you’ve established yourself.
Is Upwork Free?
Joining Upwork as a freelancer is free when you sign up for the Basic plan. And bidding for jobs are limited to 60 free connects for non-paying members. Connects are tokens used for bidding a project and it takes 2 connects per bid.
But this will change in May 2019, where Upwork will impose a fee of $0.15 per connects for freelancers. That means freelancers no longer enjoy FREE connects from May 2019 onwards.
As Upwork has an unimaginably huge pool of freelancer, this move is aimed to prevent mass-bidding by freelancers and help clients to filter out the best candidate easier.
Here’s the link to Upwork’s update on the connect fees.
Upwork also has a Plus package for freelancers that cost $10,00 per month. (This will be increased to $14.99 in May 2019). By signing up to this plan, freelancers are entitled up to 70 connects.
The Plus plan also allows you to carry over unused connects (up to 140), purchase additional ones and viewing what competitors are bidding for a project.
Getting Started On Upwork
I’ve always asked my fellow freelancers to sign up for Upwork, because of the tremendous opportunities on the platform. For instance, I’ve landed a few long-term clients that have been pivotal in providing constant income.
Anyway, let’s get on with signing up for an Upwork account.
1. Creating an account
Signing up with Upwork as a freelancer is easy.
Here’s the link to create an account on Upwork.
After filling in your name and email, you’ll be brought to a sequence of dialog where you’ll be guided to fill up the needed details.
NOTE: Choose “Work As A Freelancer” to set up a freelancing account.
The entire process should take less than 5 minutes.
2. Setting Up Your Profile
After getting your account at Upwork, you’ll want to set up a profile before bidding for your first job.
To create your profile, search for the “Find Work” tab and click on the “Profile” item. You’ll be brought to your profile page.
It’s essential that you spend some time creating a professional profile as it could boost your chance of getting hired.
The first thing that you’ll want to do is to set up an overview of your profile. You’ll need a professional photo, a relevant title and a brief description of what you do.
Here’s what mine looks like. To make changes in any fields, you’ll just need to hover on it and click on the ‘pencil’ icon. If you’re a fan of making videos, you can upload one where you’re pitching to your potential clients. After getting the overview done, you’ll need to fill up the following sections
- Portfolio – You’ll want to showcase some of your works here. If you’re a graphic designer, fill them with the most impressive visuals you’ve done. As a writer, I uploaded snapshots of some articles and blogs. It helps potential clients to have an idea of what you’ve done.
- Skills – Think of every skill that is relevant to your profession. You’ll want to be filled up as much as possible as these may help your name to pop up when clients are searching for freelancers.
- Tests – There are various tests that could verify your skills at Upwork. Taking the test allows you to know where you place amongst others. It’s also proof of your capability as you claimed.
- Certification – If you have any official credentials that are relevant, feel free to upload them.
- Employment History – Are you always a freelancer or you’re an employed professional before you became one? Either way, providing your employment history offers a glimpse into your professional background.
- Education – You may want to state your highest education level if it gives a boost to your profile.
How To Bid Jobs At Upwork
Before you start bidding for jobs at Upwork, you’ll want to edit the categories of the job that are relevant to you. You don’t want your feed to be flooded with graphic design jobs when you’re a writer.
You can do so by clicking the edit icon on the left panel, under the ‘My Categories’. Once you’re done, you’re ready to start bidding your first job at Upwork.
1. Types Of Contract At Upwork
When you’re scrolling the job feed, you’ll notice that there are fixed-price and hourly contracts. As the name implied, fixed-price jobs are where you paid after completing an assignment.
The hourly contract allows you to propose an hourly rate, and when accepted, you’ll need to download the Upwork TimeTracker on your computer. Unless manual time submission is allowed, you’ll be required to turn on the time tracker for hours to be billed.
2. Using Upwork Credits
There are two ways that you can bid for a job at Upwork. The first method involves searching for the job feed and submitting a proposal. This will deduct your Upwork credits.
The second method is where clients sent you an invitation to interview. You’ll then submit a proposal and you rate. When you’re being invited for a job, no Upwork credits will be deducted.
Each active bidding will take 2 Upwork credits per bid. But this is bound to change after May 2019. The upcoming changes will see a single bid costing between 1-6 Upwork credits, depending on the nature of the project.
3. Crafting The Perfect Cover Letter
Let’s get real. You’ll be competing with millions of freelancers at Upwork. To be an optimist, let’s narrow that down to tens of thousands in your particular niche.
Here’s the thing. The number of freelancers is more than twice the number of clients.
Therefore, you’ll want to stand out from other candidates, and the cover letter is the perfect chance to do so. Never use a generic copy and paste template. Your chance of landing a job is almost nil if you’re doing that.
Try to be personal and creative with your cover letter, and you may catch the attention of the client.
Here’s an example of a template-like cover letter.
Writing a generic cover letter only gives me less than 10 responses in 25 bids.
Here’s one that is highly personalized and relevant to the client’s job post.
The second cover letter is a lot more attention-grabbing from the first. And when I started writing a cover letter like these, the response rate goes up to 80%.
So, use your Upwork credit wisely and don’t waste it with an uninspiring cover letter.
Getting Paid At Upwork
Have you ever had a client that just gone off the radar after you’ve delivered the work? You’re left with an unpaid invoice after spending hours to craft the perfect article.
You won’t get that at Upwork with the Escrow feature. The Upwork Escrow is where clients would deposit their fund and release only when they are satisfied with their job. As long as you’ve done your work and the Escrow is funded, you’ll be protected for your work.
As for hourlies contract, you’ll be protected when you use the Time Tracker to log your work.
I’ve had cases where the client’s account got suspended, but I still received payment for my hourlies contract.
About Upwork Fee
Don’t be surprised if you’ve billed $50 but only see $40 in your earnings report. That’s because Upwork charges a fee on every earning paid by the clients.
When you work with a new client, the Upwork fee is at 20%. But when your lifetime earning of a particular client hit $500, the Upwork fee is reduced to 10%. The next reduction is when the lifetime earning hits $10,000 for a single client.
Some may feel the fee excessive, but I think it is fair as I don’t need to hunt for clients all over the internet.
At the end of the contract, you’ll want to always ask for feedback, particularly when you’re sure you’ve delivered a good job. A series of positive feedbacks help to increase your trust at Upwork.
Being A Top Rated Freelancer At Upwork (Pro Tips)
After getting started at Upwork, you’ll want to be a Top Rated Freelancer. It’s a program that recognizes your quality as a freelancer that comes with various perks.
For instance, you’ll get a reduced Upwork Fee (10%) on jobs listed as Featured Jobs. Occasionally, you’ll find yourself contacted by Upwork talent specialists for interviews with potential clients.
There are many incentives to build yourself towards being a Top Rated freelancer at Upwork. There are a series of requirements to get recognized as a Top Rated freelancer, but I would like to stress on the importance of Job Success score.
If every job is completed successfully, you’ll maintain a 100% job success score. But if you have a few jobs that the clients are dissatisfied, you’ll risk having the contract canceled, or refund requested. These will affect the score.
You’ll want to maintain a higher success score rate as this would put you above the fold when clients are browsing through candidates that applied for their job. To be a top-rated freelancer, you’ll want to ensure that you truly understand the requirements of the clients and deliver exceptional results.
How Much Can You Earn At Upwork?
I wish I have a rags-to-riches story with Upwork, but I don’t. Upwork is a freelance platform that brings both clients and freelancers together. It is a profit-driven business model that makes money off both clients and freelancers.
I’ve been using Upwork since 2016, and it wasn’t until early 2018 that I actively grow my profile at Upwork. Upwork isn’t my sole revenue from freelancing either. I’ve some clients that are paying me out of Upwork, and that means no deduction of service fee.
In recent months, I can comfortably make $500 at Upwork per month, and I’m only working a 4-6 hours a day. That and my other source of online passive income helps me to sustain my freelancing lifestyle.
If you’re in an industry that pays more, you can expect to earn a higher income at Upwork, but you’ll have to establish your profile on the platform first.
Upwork is a decent platform for you to kickstart your freelance career online. But if you’re hoping to make a comfortable living from it, you’ll have to work very hard and compete with freelancers worldwide.
If you’re a freelance writer, I suggest diversifying on your source of income instead. Read this article to find out other feasible ways for a freelance writer to make money online.