Are you a freelancer looking to get started on Upwork? Trust me, you're far from alone. Just a few years ago, I was once like you, looking for a head start in the world of freelancing. More and more people are getting on the freelance train — and they're all flourishing, well, maybe not all! I am a prime example of the former. 

 Who Am I to Give Advice About Getting Started on Upwork? 

I started my freelance journey in January 2018, surprisingly, not Upwork. I was hired by a client, a Nigerian, who runs an agric news site and blog, he’s based in Stockholm, Sweden, however, I was hired as a content writer who updates blog posts consistently on the website. I started actively freelancing on Upwork, in March 2019. Although I feel uncomfortable sharing my personal earnings and profile, I have so far completely supported myself by working on Upwork projects over a few years. Yes, Upwork can be a big source of income for you.

(These tips are also transferable to other freelance websites (perhaps not exactly) such as Freelancer and Fiverr)

Tips for Getting Started on Upwork

 What’s Your Skill?

 Upwork is an online freelancing platform. Trust me, you need to bring a skill or two to the table to be of interest to this market. However, you don't have to be a master of all trades — it's easier to be an expert in one or two areas. So, what's it going to be like? UI/UX design, huh? Data analytics? Software development? Writing?

 Now that you've figured your skills out, take a spot down. On Upwork, it is better to streamline your skills to increase your chances of being hired. For example, writing is a common skill and quite competitive, so if you're based on a specific niche, you're more valuable. Right now, for example, B2b, B2c copywriters are gold on Upwork. The same applies to all other skills.

Create a Winning Profile

You know what your skills are, but now it's time to help potential clients understand that ability. Getting started depends a lot on a good profile. One thing helped me, I painstakingly read a bunch of top-rated freelancer profiles. I actually wanted to work with them after reading their profiles. That's what your profile should do to the person who reads it. However, what are you supposed to include in your profile?

  • Single-line Summary: Competent Virtual Assistant / Professional Copywriter / B2B Content Strategist, etc.
  • An attractive profile: I've seen varying lengths; some short, others long. It's up to you. But the trick is to let your personality and knowledge be obvious to your clients. Tell your future client what you're doing, what experience you've had in the industry, and why you think you are the best fit for his project.
  • Include your educational history: Upwork actually recognizes your educational background, particularly if it is related to the service you provide. You could easily be labeled "Rising Talent" if you have/are trained for a degree — relevant or not.
  • Add your professional experience: This is so important to clients. If you don't have a website, start with one! Getting started with Upwork without experience is easier when you have a body of work. So, link your website or your online portfolio. Even if all you've got is a medium account or content you've contributed to other people's sites. Link it all. This way, clients know that you're a real person and not a robot and that you are worth the investment. 

 Start Small

I know you want to make your first $1k in your first month — it's possible! But is it going to happen for everyone? I don’t think so. I earned about $300 by the end of my first month. However, I've done a variety of work, from ghostwriting e-books to writing several blog posts. Sure, I did that. The thing is, I wasn't sure what my niche was going to be, but I got sick of writing things that I didn't care much about. As I was working on projects, I ensured I was developing myself in the area of copywriting. I finally landed my first long-term copywriting job with a glass tint automobile firm in South Korea.

The idea is to start a little, and then push yourself to grow. Take lessons, read books, do the work that scares you — even if you feel under-qualified. Remember, the idea is to GROW.

 Identify high performing clients

Okay, this is where a lot of new freelancers starting on Upwork or other freelancing sites begin to lose their way. Upwork, Guru, Fiverr, and all other gig websites are currently overrun by more low-quality clients than the clients you actually want. Who is a low-quality client? The client who wants to pay you one dollar for a thousand word article — yes, they exist! Or those content mills always looking for 20 freelancers to hire in one job. Those clients who don't have a niche and want you to write about anything under the sun like a zombie. Yeah, they surely exist.

I could detect a great client from the first paragraph of their job posting when I started on Upwork. Good grammar, check. Precise requirement, check. Clear budget — whether daily or on a project basis, CHECK. Once you get started on Upwork, you're going to work with bad clients. Often, since you're a newbie, sometimes you're desperate for money. But I quickly realized that they weren't worth the fight. Here’s the hack, when you read a job posting, look out for the following:

  • "Payment verified." See how much they've spent on Upwork.
  • Client’s review
  • Clear guidelines and specifications.
  • Client’s country (Yes, I have my personal bias)

Write Killer Proposal

Your proposal is everything on Upwork, Now that you've found your dream client, it's time to write a winning proposal! You can't afford to waste your connect, especially now that Upwork connects cost money, it's so important to give each proposal your best shot. Read the job description in depth. Include any keywords that the client needs. Be confident, but do not be arrogant. Tell the client why you're the best match for the job. Don’t tell clients what you can do for them, SHOW them what you can do. Talk about your related background and clarify how you have made a difference to your previous clients.

LINK your previous experience, particularly if it relates to the current job posting. Confirm that you can work on their terms! Check out the TYPOS! How horrible would it be if you applied for a proofreading job and a typo or grammatical error was seen in your proposal? Hey. That’s pretty bad you know. It's going to take time before you land your first gig. It took me the longest two weeks ever, burned several connects — and even more. But, trust me, you will surely land your first gig if you stay and don’t give up. Freelancing isn’t a get quick rich scheme. It is WORK. The truth about Upwork, freelancing, life and everything else is that you get out of it, what you put into it.

 Be Professional

So, you've landed your first client! Okay, What next? Correspond as professionally as possible. You shouldn’t agree with unreasonable deadlines. Ensure you give yourself enough time. Finally, ALWAYS DELIVER. Make sure your client is happy, particularly in the first five or so jobs. And ask for reviews! Never be ashamed to say, "I'm glad you're happy about my work. “Can you leave me with a 5-star rating, please?” Most of the clients who are happy with your work will do that — even if all they say is, like my first client," Excellent job, thank you! "Oh, better than" no reviews, "huh?

 Link up and Learn from Experienced Freelancers

The best thing I've done since I started freelancing is to interact with other experienced freelancers. Several paid masterclasses. Yes, I paid or a whole lot to get a hack of Upwork. Those payments were an investment that is now beginning to pay off. I was glad I found experienced freelancers who could hold me by the hand and lead me on this crazy journey. Community trumps competition. You can't take all the clients with you, believe me. So you need someone you can trust to lead you.

 Repeat after me:

My work is valuable

My time is valuable

I am valuable

I am the only one who can do the work I do, in the way I do it, with the feeling and emotion I bring to it.

I am generous with my work, and I will find my footing on Upwork and other freelance platforms.

Am…..Nah…Get to work.

I hope you found this blog post helpful, and you learned one or two things? Let me know in the comment section. Whilst accessing the blog post is free, SHARING with others is MANDATORY. I’d love to reach a larger audience that would glean one or two and advance their freelance journey. My job is to see you grow and become better. 

I'll be sharing more Upwork and freelance tips — from step-by-step proposal writing guides to finding a niche, how to optimize your profile, and more!

Do you have any questions about freelancing? I’m happy to help. 

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