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Upwork Tips for New Freelancers (from an Upwork Pro)

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So, when I first started freelancing, Upwork (then called Elance and Odesk) was my go-to spot for finding jobs and making money. Equally as important, Upwork was a good place for me as a new freelancer because I could find clients who were okay with me learning as I went (aka getting paid to learn new stuff). It’s been several years since I was a regular Upwork provider, so I reached out to April to have her give you ladies some actionable Upwork tips. She’s going to give us the rundown on how she’s been able to land more than 1,000 jobs, earn more than $300K 🤯 on the platform, and even start her own content agency! 💕-Sorilbran


Penned by April Ann Q

If you have skills in writing, web design, web development, translation, transcription, or even data entry, there’s a plethora of opportunities that you can grab on a number of different gig platforms. Perhaps the most well-known platform for freelancers – and especially new freelancers – is Upwork. 

I have been on Upwork since 2014 (way back when it was still oDesk), and it’s been more than enough to not just feed my family but build wealth as well. Today, I’m going to share with you my experience with Upwork, how I reached over 300,000 USD in total earnings over the years, and how you can, too.   

upwork profile example for freelancer April Ann

How to Set Up Your Profile on Upwork

Sign Up – Just register and add your personal information until your account is ready.

Create a captivating profile- Before you can start applying for jobs, your profile should be at least 60% complete. The basic requirements include:

  • A picture of yourself
  • Your title
  • Your profile overview
  • Work History
  • Add a minimum of 1 skill tag (choose many skill tags relevant to your actual skillset for better results getting found on the platforms by employers/clients looking to hire someone with your skills)

If you want to start off great, strive to complete your profile 100%. Upwork has a really great interface, and it’s very easy to use and navigate. 

Completing your profile should look something like this:

Expertise section of Upwork profile

Submit winning proposals – Now, once your profile is at least 60% complete, you can now start submitting proposals or applying to projects you are interested in. Just go to the home page and you can readily see the job posts available relevant to the skills you’ve tagged. 

How Connects Work on Upwork

To apply for jobs, you need to spend “connects”. Free accounts get 10 free Connects each month. Every job costs 2 to 6 connects depending on the nature of the job. If you run out of Connects or you want to apply to many jobs to increase your chances of scoring big or many projects, you can subscribe to Upwork’s Freelance Plus accounts that costs $14.99 per month. You can also buy connects at $0.15 each.

My best advice for using your Connects wise is to apply for jobs that are:

  1. Ongoing- Freelance projects come and go, but there are certain freelancing jobs that are more consistent, and you want to score such gigs. Some clients will state in the job post whether the job is ongoing or not. Some clients will also mention straight off the bat that it’s just a one-off task. 
  2. Doable according to your skillset- Make sure that you only accept projects that you actually can pull off. If not, your profile, completion score, and Upwork reputation will get tarnished. Build your Upwork credibility well by only sticking to tasks that you can complete successfully.

Landing Your First Client on Upwork

At this point, you should have a complete profile that includes searchable tags to help potential clients find you by your skillset. These tags will also help Upwork find you so the algorithm can recommend you as a Rising Talent when clients are looking for freelancers with your skillset and have indicated that they’re willing to hire new freelancers.

Personalize Your Proposal

Crafting your proposal is about more than just sending your freelancer resume and writing a cover letter once that introduces you. Each time you respond to a job posting, you need to tailor your cover letter or introductory message to the job you seek. Below is a screenshot of the short job posting Sorilbran published seeking a writer for this particular article.

Upwork job post example

When bidding on the job, Upwork provides freelancers with information about the client as well as an approximation of how much competition there is for the job. For this post, there were already between 5 and 10 proposals submitted before I sent my bid, the first part of which you can see below.

Upwork proposal example

It’s important to note that most employers will make their decision on whether to shortlist you as a candidate based on the first few words they see in your cover letter because they would have to click your proposal to see the rest of your cover letter.

You will notice that in my response to Sorilbran (above, the section with the pink bracket), I used the first paragraph of my response to address her needs. Doing this let her know that I read and understood her proposal and I also provided proof that I have the skills needed to deliver on the job.

Wait Patiently, but Be Ready for the Client Follow-Up

In general, after submitting a few proposals, wait for clients to reach out to you, and if a client does respond to your proposal, make sure to get ready for the interview either via call or via chat. Be responsive and help clients meet their needs the best way possible.

Don’t Forget to Set a Competitive Hourly Rate

Make sure that before you submit proposals, you have set your hourly or fixed-rate pricing model. Research online about the going rate of your freelance services, so you can have a benchmark.

** If you are just starting out, you may do what I did—offer really affordable services. I offered a super-low rate because I wanted to get clients fast and build my profile fast. If you want this approach too, I suggest you apply for one-off or short projects initially. That way, you finish them fast and you get the review or rating fast to quickly start establishing your profile and reputation on Upwork. 

Upwork Tips for Freelancers Looking to Build a Business on the Platform

Depending on your needs and goals, you can experiment with your approach until you start gaining traction. The key is consistency, reliability, and quality. Especially for moms with little kids and with little to no help at home, it’s best to avoid biting off more than you can chew. Make sure to only accept projects that you can commit to completing successfully.

You Must Complete Every Project Successfully

Doing a job successfully doesn’t have to mean you’re already an expert. It does mean that even as a beginner you’ll deliver a really high quality of work. Manage your time well, create your own freelancing routine, and find a way to strike the balance between growing your freelancing career and taking care of yourself and the family.

Wait Until An Official Hire Has Been Made Before You Start

If clients are ready to hire you, they will send you an offer. Never ever start working on projects without an offer or a contract in place. On Upwork, contracts can be either Hourly or Fixed-rate. 

For hourly, you can immediately get started working on the client’s project by logging time with Upwork Desktop App after you’re hired. You just have to download this app and click “on” when you’re ready to work and click “off” when you want to take a break or sign off.

The hourly app will take random screenshots, so make sure you are focused and not opening irrelevant tabs because those screenshots go to the client as part of their weekly report and they can refuse to pay for blocks of time where it looks like you’re not working on their project. 

For Fixed-rate, before the client sends the offer, the fixed-rate price for the whole scope should be mutually agreed. Usually, clients tell you what they need and you can send them a quote for the whole scope, or clients tell you the scope and their budget and you can choose to accept the work within the given budget or decline the project. If you accept the project, wait for the client to send the fixed-rate offer before you start working. 

Here’s a sample fixed-rate offer: 

sample Upwork job scope

The part highlighted in red is an important part. Escrow is the amount the client already paid toward the job. There should always be money in escrow for flat-rate jobs!!

The amount reflected there should be the amount you and the client agreed. If it’s not, just ask the client or you can agree to work on a certain part or chunk of the project that the “amount in escrow” can cover.

For example, if the client is hiring your to ghostwrite a book for $15,000, the client may not set the full amount in escrow, but instead, agree to put $1000 in escrow for each chapter of the book.

(If you click “View Details” link below that red line above, you would be able to see the milestones that the client has set up. It could be divided into multiple chunks and deliverables. Just complete fixed-rate projects according to the milestone set. )

Deliver What is Expected When It’s Expected

Make sure to agree with the budget, the scope, and the deadlines before accepting the offer. And if you do accept the offer, make sure that you deliver on time, on budget, and on point. Each new client you encounter is not just a one-off interaction. Your goal is to foster repeat purchases, so you would want every client experience to be perfect or satisfactory.

Be professional, accept feedback, learn how to handle criticism, master negotiation, and hone your skills or your services every time to make your Upwork account strong and reputable. 

Upwork has Talent Badges. My profile is now Top Rated Plus, and while those badges don’t matter a lot, they do impact the decision-making process for clients who are looking for providers. That means earning Talent Badges can help you to achieve your goal of earning extra income, better work flexibility, and hopefully, great job satisfaction.

(Click here to find out how the Talent Badges work.)

Conclusion

There are other platforms similar to Upwork, but Upwork really is the leading one. There are over 5 million clients from all over the world who use Upwork to outsource all types of freelancing jobs such as writing, web development, web design, payroll management, marketing, accounting, customer support, and more.

It’s indeed a promising way to start, and it’s never too late. You don’t even have to start full-time. You can start booking a few projects and just scale as you go.

Right now, I don’t do all writing jobs myself anymore. I have set up my Upwork content writing agency and built my content writing website Articlemarket.io. I’m a mom like you, and I made it this far because:

  • I didn’t hesitate to ask for help
  • I structured my day well
  • I delegated all the delegatable tasks
  • I focused on listening to clients and giving them what they need, and
  • I focused on expanding the business so that I don’t necessarily have to work in it but on it. 

It can get overwhelming if you look at the destination you want to reach, but the important thing right now is you get started. If you have the skills and the work ethic, you’ll soon join the many freelancing moms on Upwork who are now enjoying both momming and freelancing to the fullest. 


If you found this guide helpful, we’ve also published guides on PeoplePerHour and Fiverr penned by top-performers on those platforms.