How To Make Your First $1,000 On Upwork

When I was asked how did I get my clients by fellow freelancers, I answered — Upwork. Guess what?

I got the same response every single time.

  • “Isn’t clients on Upwork paying peanuts?”
  • ”But there are too many competitions…”
  • “Upwork is charging 20% of commission fees” (Not necessarily true, more on this later)

or

  • You can’t possibly pay bills by getting gigs on Upwork.

When I first signed up on Upwork years ago, that was exactly the mindset I had. Afterall, Upwork is arguably the largest freelance marketplace in the world.

Competition is stiff as you’re bidding against fellow freelancers from all over the world. (But hey, it also means there’s a huge pool of clients and jobs for you.)

My first gig on Upwork is a $5 article of about 500 words. Back then, I wasn’t proficient in writing and I had the mindset that non-native English writers are paid far lesser than their peers.

As a new freelancer, I was kind of intimidated and started cutting my already low prices. Projects are few and far in between until I started making huge changes on my mindset, Upwork profile, and the way I pitched for the jobs.

Here’s My Result For April 2020

I brought home $825.37 from Upwork from writing gigs in April. I only spent an average of 4 hours, 3-4 days per week working with clients on Upwork.

It was a month that I’m actually quite worried, as the entire world is shutting down because of the coronavirus.

On my other days, I was working with clients on private channels and affiliate marketing. I’m digressing.

The point is, it is possible to make $1,000 on Upwork, or even more. There isn’t any limit on your earning limits, except for the mindset that you’ve set for yourself.

With that said, making money at Upwork isn’t a walk in the park. Remember, the competition is real and you’re against possibly tens of thousands of freelancers in your profession.

So, how do you launch your freelancing career at Upwork and start making money on the platform?

Start Small

First of all, you need to sign up for an Upwork freelancing account. If you haven’t done so, check out this article of mine, which guides you through creating an account at Upwork and setting up your portfolio.

I’ve also covered how you need to be writing personalized cover letter in that article. Robot-like, copy and paste templates have very low success rate, so you’ll want to be really hands on with that.

Now, let’s head over to actual strategies.

You don’t want to undervalue your worth, but it’s a necessary evil when you’re a new freelancer at Upwork. With no proven track records, sometimes you have no choice but to stick with offering low rates.

But, remember you’re going low to build your portfolio. This means getting 5-star reviews from clients. 5-star reviews are important on Upwork, because it affects your reputation and also affects how you turn up on employer’s search results.

Regardless of what your niche is, go for smaller projects that you can complete quickly and get feedback. Here’s an example.

It’s a $5 job, which means it’s probably a one-off project. So you can quickly finish off the project and get a review.

Remember, you’ll need to give your very best and ensure that you have a happy client before asking for a review. Yes, you’ll need to ask for a review, just in case the client has forgotten about it.

You can also check the client’s generosity in giving ‘5-star’ review by clicking into the job posting and scrolling to the bottom. Apparently, this client is quite happy to give positive reviews.

For your first 4-5 jobs, the 5-star ratings are more important than money.

Here’s one that could also be a potentially good project when you’re starting out. Th

The low number of proposals mean your chance of getting hired is higher. Despite being a relatively new employeer, the client has given a couple of freelancers 5-stars in feedback.

Increase Your Rate

Once you’ve got a few solid reviews for your work, you’ll want to start increasing your rate. If you’ve been charging $10 /hour, maybe you’ll want to go for $20/ hour.

There isn’t a strict rule about that.

Or if you’re extremely confident of ramping up to $50/hour, feel free to do so.

But I’ll suggest to get a feel of how Upwork freelancers are charging by joining the community forum.

People always have the impression that Upwork clients are looking for dirt-cheap freelancers. That couldn’t further from the truth. There are clients who have tight budgets and there are also clients who pay well for experts.

Many of the high-paying clients do not post their jobs on the public feeds. Some hires by ‘invite-only’. Once you’ve had a solid portfolio (completed jobs, good reviews, high ratings), you’ll start to receive job invitations frequently.

You’ll WANT to be getting invitations, because applying through invitations doesn’t cost you any Connects. (Connects are token-like credit used to bid for jobs. )

So, don’t be afraid of testing out your new rate. I’ve been stuck with my starting rate for wayyyy too long. You may feel setting a higher rate may result in lower job offers.

That’s a false and costly assumption.

If you can back up what you’re charging with quality results, you’ll be attracting clients who are happy to pay more.

You could be charging your existing clients with a lower rate from the past. If you’ve been delivering consistent and high-quality results, don’t be shy to ask for a raise.

I just did for a client whom I’m working with for almost 3 years.

Work With Good Long-Term Clients

Freelancers often have to deal with the uncertainty of getting projects regardless of whether it’s Upwork or direct clients. Upwork solves the marketing part of freelancing by getting a large pool of ready-clients.

Still, if you want a long-term and steady income from Upwork, you’ll want to start choosing projects carefully. You’ll want to go for long-term projects instead of a one-off job.

Afterall, the effort of pitching, personalizing cover letter and the Connects spent are the same.

So, how do you spot a potential long term client? Look for projects that pay hourly. Although there are exceptions, most projects with hourly pay tend to be longer terms. However, some fixed-price projects may also be recurring ones.

The best thing to do is to check out the project history of the clients and how much they have spent.

For example, this client has been giving recurring works to the same project, even if it’s a fixed-price project.

Based on my experience, most clients will engage you on a long term basis, if you’re delivering great results.

Another perk about working with long term clients is that the commission fee deducted by Upwork drops from 20% to 10% when the lifelong amount billing of the client goes above $500. The next drop in the commission(5%) is when the total amount hits $10,000.

The 10% reduction results in more earnings at the end of the day. This is why I’m all out for getting long term clients at this point of my career at Upwork.

Polishing Your Portfolio… Again

Let me say this again. Your Upwork portfolio is important. Period.

A profile for someone who’s charging $10 per hour and one who’s billing $50 per hour has to be different. You may have taken up some interesting jobs with excellent results.

Update your profile with sample of your best works.

Create a better introduction of what you’re bringing to the table. Leave your potential clients with no doubt why they are making the right choice in hiring you.

If you’re offering more than one skillsets, you’ll want to take advantage of the specialized profile on Upwork. For example, I’m marketing myself as a SEO Copywriter | Technical Writer, but I have a specialized profile for On-page SEO Specialist.

This profile has landed me more than $2,000 worth of contracts.

Always Complete Your Jobs

Just like freelancing elsewhere, you may encounter clients in all colors at Upwork. Some may demand for a few revisions while others may start giving unwarranted criticism of what you’ve done.

It’s tempting to just cancel the contract and focus on getting better clients.

Don’t.

It’s frustrating and sometimes demeaning, but I’ll suggest just finish off the one assignment before ending the contract. The reason for bearing with fussy or unprofessional clients is for the sake of getting a Top Rated badge like this.

One of the criteria for being a Top Rated freelancer at Upwork is having 90% of job success score. If you’re new, each job that results in cancellation will affect the rating drastically.

You can check out other requirements for getting Top Rated here.

Of course, the badge isn’t only for show. Getting Top Rated can mean access to privileges that are not available to usual members. For example, you’ll get 10% commission cut instead of 20% on Featured job postings.

A Top Rated freelancer with a high score of job success automatically get listed on the pool of applicants when bidding for a job. Here’s what it looks like from a client’s dashboard.

Once you’ve got a shining profile, you’ll be getting more interviews invitation from clients. Some of the best clients only hire by invitation.

Applying to these job invitations doesn’t cost any Connects and doing so increases your chance of landing a good client.

Stay In The Game

Whether it’s Upwork or you’re starting your freelance career in your neighbourhood, it can take a while before getting traction. Most freelancers gave up on the platform too early.

It’s unrealistic to expect landing your first mega project on Upwork, after starting up an account. Remember that there are thousands or more professionals competing for the attention of high-paying clients.

Getting Top-Rated, having a group of long term premium clients just doesn’t happen overnight. The same goes for consistent job invitations in your mailbox.

Bottom Line

Making money at Upwork is not a myth. It’s a platform where many freelancers thrive on it. With the approach that I’ve mentioned, you could avoid the heartbreaks suffered by many others.

Are you ready to launch your freelancing at Upwork?

Leave a comment below if you’re hungry for more tips. Share this article if it’s been helpful to you.

In case you’ve missed it, read

16 thoughts on “How To Make Your First $1,000 On Upwork”

  1. This is the first time I have heard of Upwork for freelancers, but the reason for this probably is I have never looked into freelance work before. This is a good tip for anyone interested in entering the freelance business world, and I thank you for sharing this with me and all your other readers.

    I am going to bookmark your site for the future
    Jeff

    1. Hi Jeff,

      Thanks for checking it out. Do share it with other freelancers who may be struggling.

      Cheers,
      Kenny

  2. Hey,

    This is a really important article due to the way of the world at the moment. There are a lot of people who have been furloughed or even lost their jobs due to the pandemic and will need to make extra income.

    Upwork sounds like a really interesting and quite simple to set up venture. Your examples of your success is really inspiring. My sister-in-law is furloughed at the moment, and with her talent she could use Upwork to her advantage.

    I have passed your article on to her and encouraged her to get in touch if she has any questions.

    Thank you for sharing and keep up the great work.

    All the best,

    Tom

    1. Hi Tom,

      Yes, your sis-in-law can easily start setting up an account there. I’m hoping more would join the platform. With the current situation, more employers are turning to portals like Upwork.

      Cheers,
      Kenny

  3. Wow this article was written so well! Thank you for explaining the process of how to start making money on Upwork. It can be discouraging to feel like you aren’t making much when you first start out but I definitely can understand how sticking with it is so important! I appreciate you sharing your personal experiences as well because it shows that you truly can make money with Upwork if you are persistent enough and ensure that you do a good job!

    1. Hi Marlena,

      Good jobs are always appreciated whether it’s on Upwork or not. 🙂 Starting from a clean slate is always the toughest.

      Cheers,
      Kenny

  4. thanks for this. I’ve been looking on getting involved more and more with freelancing gigs as a way to supplement my income / get low hanging fruit clients and turn them into bigger contracts as you mentioned, but I guess I’ve fallen victim to the trap that you said in this article – thinking that only low paying clients are on sites like UpWork.
    Thanks for this, and good idea with starting gigs at bottom barrel prices to build a portfolio and get ratings.

    1. Hi Seth,

      Thanks for checking out the article. If you’re positioning yourself for lower-paying clients, naturally you’ll get them. Once you’ve kinda built your profile, you need to start increasing your rate and value.

      Good luck.
      Kenny

  5. Hi Kenny, this was a great article. It is very useful to know how to write your profile at Upwork as this has been an obstacle for me.

    I am not planning to do freelance work in the immediate future, but I need an account set up in order to activate the ability to send money in my Payoneer account, which appears to be cheaper than Paypal when sending payments internationally. I am planning to hire someone on Fiverr and so I need the Payoneer set up right.

    I will probably start doing some freelance work when I get my existing businesses off the ground, but they take a lot of time.

    It is good to know that you can get long-term business relationships through Upwork also.

    1. Hi Bryce,

      Thanks for checking out the article. Upwork is not a hop-on hop-off solution like most freelancers thought. You definitely can grow your freelance career long term with it.

      Kenny

  6. Thank you for sharing this. I joined Upwork some while ago but haven’t done anything with it. I think it’s a lack of confidence, even though I’ve already been writing for low paid content mills. You’ve helped me realise that you can make money with freelancing even with little experience. Is it ok to create your own samples if you don’t have any to show?

    1. Hi Kathy,

      If you don’t have any samples, you can write a few articles on a doc and send it over. They don’t need to be something that you’ve delivered to your clients. Just show how passionate you are in writing.
      Good luck!

      Kenny

  7. wonderful article, it has explained everything I need to know about Upwork, I use to think I cant find a place in Upwork because of the crowd of professional writers, but just like you rightly said, it is all about our mindset.
    with this I think I will go back into the website to create an account and gradually see how I move from there. thanks for the article

    1. Hi Ibrahim,

      Mindset is really important at Upwork, else you’ll be trapped with low-paying jobs.

      All the best.

      Kenny

  8. Such great thoughts! I used Upwork for quite a while and got a steady transcription gig out of it. I also started out charging way less than I normally would have until I had built up some 5-star reviews, and then increased my rate. I made quite a bit transcribing podcasts from home, and would highly recommend it, even though I also hear all the time that you can’t make any money on Upwork. That’s simply not true!

    1. Hi Rachel,

      Thanks for sharing your experience. I think most freelancers gave up too soon before they are established at Upwork. It may take longer as the competition is massive. Considering the perks that come later, Upwork is worth the effort.

      Cheers,
      Kenny

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