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)
- 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?
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.
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.
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.
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Hey, it’s Kenny here. I’m a single dad, freelance writer, an affiliate marketer. I have been making a living online since 2016, after quitting a 10-years engineering profession. When I’m not on the laptop, I’ll be in the kitchen experimenting with new cuisines.