How to Get Your First Upwork Job

How to Get Your First Upwork Job

Wondering how to get your first job on Upwork? You’ve come to the right place.

Like most freelancers, I struggled to get my first job on Upwork. No matter how many prospects I would reach out to, I would always get passed over. Eventually, after doing some testing, I managed to get my first job. The strategy I used to get that first job went on to get me hundreds more.

Read on and learn everything you need to know about getting your first job on Upwork.

How to Get Your First Upwork Job

Upwork features a lot of high-quality clients with big budgets. Since this is the case, there are plenty of opportunities for freelancers to find good clients. However, clients expect freelancers to be just as professional as they are. So, freelancers must correctly present themselves.

Here’s how to get your first Upwork job:

  1. Create an attractive profile
  2. Search for relevant jobs
  3. Submit personalized proposals
  4. Be fast
  5. Prioritize professionalism

Let’s go over this process in more detail.

1. Create an Attractive Profile

When you’re a new freelancer on Upwork, you have no reviews or testimonials. Meaning, you do not have an existing job success score (JSS), which is one of the metrics clients look at to determine the quality of a freelancer.

Since you do not have an existing JSS, you must do everything you can to attract the attention of clients in other areas. One of the best ways to do this is to create an attractive profile page, as most freelancers speed through this process and have low-quality profiles.

Here are the steps you must follow to create an attractive profile.

1. Use a Good Photo

Having a good photo featured on your profile will allow you to make a good first impression with clients. Low-quality photos can scare clients away, as they can be a sign of a low-quality freelancer.

Since photos on Upwork are small, you should ensure your head, neck, and shoulders are the only body parts showing in your photo. Clients want to see your face- not your legs. Ensure your profile photo is close-cropped so the main areas of focus can be seen easily.

2. Write an Optimized Job Title and Description

No matter who you are, you should always do your best to make it easy for clients to find your profile. The easiest way to do this is to write an optimized job title and description that contains keywords and relevant information.

Think about what your target clients would search for if they wanted your services. Then, place these phrases in your job title and description. One of the best ways to do this is to use Upwork’s search suggestions.

Your job title should be relevant but also attention-grabbing. You aren’t just a provider of Facebook advertising services, you’re a provider of “Facebook Advertising Services That Increase ROI and Low Ad Costs.”

Also, it’s important to keep in mind that the first few lines of your profile description are visible. So, you should use these lines to reinforce your job title. Again, the information you include must be relevant to your target clients.

3. Add an Introductory Video

Since most of the jobs on Upwork are done remotely, working relationships tend to lack the personal touch in-person relationships have. One of the ways that this issue can be lessened, however, is through the use of an introductory video.

In your introductory video, you should introduce yourself to potential clients. Tell them who you are, what you do, and how you can help them. Keep things short and sweet- clients don’t want to watch a webinar to learn about you and the services you provide.

4. Display Relevant “Skills” on Your Profile

On your Upwork profile, you’re able to display up to 10 “skills” that describe your abilities. The skills you decide to display should be relevant to the service you want to provide. It doesn’t matter if you have graphic design skills if you offer SEO services.

Skills you list on your profile will make it easier for potential clients to find you. So, focus on displaying the most relevant skills available. The selectable skills are predefined, so select the skills closest to the services you provide, even if they aren’t a perfect match.

Think of the qualities and attributes that your potential clients will value. Remember, they’re the ones who will be paying you. You might want to feature certain skills, but if they aren’t relevant to potential clients, listing them won’t benefit you.

5. Upload Work Samples

One of the best ways to show clients what you can do is to show them samples of the work you’ve done in the past. The portfolio section on your profile page is one of the most important sections, so don’t ignore it.

If you don’t have any work samples, create some for imaginary projects. The goal of a portfolio is to show what you can do. For example, if you want to edit videos, show some videos you’ve edited in the past.

With this said, it’s a good idea to tell clients when a work sample is just a sample. You don’t want clients to ask for a link to a project that was never published, after all. This transparency will save you a lot of headaches and awkward conversations.

6. Add Past Work Experiences and Education

Similar to a job application for a traditional job, clients like to be made aware of past work experiences and education. This helps you further legitimize yourself as a professional and someone who can be trusted.

Remember, you aren’t applying to traditional jobs on Upwork. So, feel free to list an online course as part of your education. Clients don’t care about the name of the school you went to, they care about your applicable skills.

7. Add a Project

In recent years, Upwork gave freelancers the ability to add projects to their profile pages. Projects are essentially fixed-price jobs with pre-defined parameters. Meaning, they’re less personalized but easily purchased.

Featuring projects on your profile can help give clients a rough idea of your prices and the work you can provide per project. Sometimes, this can help convince clients to work with you, as fixed-price projects can be easier to budget for.

2. Search for Relevant Jobs

A big mistake new freelancers make on Upwork is applying for every job they see that is semi-relevant to the services they provide. They do this to gain some job experience, but this is the wrong way to do things.

Even as a new freelancer, you should still be selective when it comes to applying for jobs. There’s no reason to have a scarcity mindset- new jobs are posted every single day. Burning through your “connects” won’t result in getting work if you apply to irrelevant jobs.

Instead of applying for every job under the sun, apply to jobs you know you have the skills to complete. Also, ensure that the jobs you’re applying to match your hourly or project rate. Don’t devalue your work by taking on low-paying jobs to get experience.

One other thing to keep in mind is the client’s rating. A big mistake new freelancers make is working with poor clients to get reviews. The last thing you want to do is get a negative review from a client that displayed red flags before you started working with them.

3. Submit Personalized Proposals

One of the easiest ways to “wow” clients is to submit personalized proposals. Submitting personalized proposals immediately makes your proposals stand out from the various template-style responses clients receive to their job postings.

Here’s how to you craft personalized proposals.

1. Address the Job Description

You’d be amazed at how many freelancers submit proposals to jobs without looking at job descriptions. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of these proposals get ignored by clients. To help your proposals stand out, you must do the opposite.

A quick and easy way to grab the attention of a potential client is to comment on something they wrote in the job description. For example, you could write something along the lines of, “I see you’re looking for someone to design a Shopify store for your fitness brand.”

You want to look for details that are specific to the job posting. Don’t just offer to design a Shopify store, offer to do it for their brand specifically, for example. Doing this will show the client that you’re detail-oriented.

2. Tell Them How You Can Help Them

Similarly, you need to tell clients exactly how you can help them achieve their desired results. The more specific you can be, the better. You don’t need to give them a step-by-step guide, but walk them through the process you’ll be performing and how it will help them.

For example, if you’re providing SEO services, tell the client that the first thing you will do is search for specifically low-competition keywords. Why? Well, their website is brand new and lacks authority, so targeting competitive keywords will give them poor results.

The more transparent you can be with clients, the better. Remember, they’re spending their money and trusting that you know what you’re doing. Being transparent with regards to the work you’ll be doing and how it will impact their project will help them trust you better.

3. Provide Examples of Related Projects

Clients don’t hire freelancers to be nice- they do it because they need a job done. Since this is the case, you must be able to prove you can get the job done if you’re hired. A great way to show this is to provide examples of related projects you worked on in the past in proposals.

Yes, clients can view your portfolio on your Upwork profile. But, many clients will not think to go to your profile to look at your past projects. Also, showing clients published work legitimizes it more than a text document or file does.

If you can, provide examples of projects similar to the project the client needs work done on. Meaning, if the client needs a fitness website designed, show them a fitness website you designed in the past- not just a generic website.

4. Suggest the Best Way to Proceed

At the end of every proposal you submit, you should include a call to action. Specifically, you should suggest the best way to move forward with the project. Taking the initiative to suggest the next steps to take will help you get hired faster.

Along the same lines, consider asking a relevant question to a client in your proposal if you need more information from them. Often, clients will be inclined to respond to a comment that is relevant to their project.

4. Be Fast

While new job postings are published every single day on Upwork, it’s still important to respond to them promptly. The faster you can respond to postings, the better, as many clients forget about their postings if they don’t receive responses quickly.

Consider making it a routine to check for new job postings multiple times throughout the day. Check in the morning, in the afternoon, and the evening for new postings.

Also, ensure that you respond to messages from potential clients fast. Often, clients will ask if you can go on a voice or video call with them at a certain time. You don’t want to see their message late and miss the chance to go on a call with them.

Something to keep in mind is that many clients go to Upwork to get help on their projects fast. If they were willing to be more patient, they’d hire traditional, in-person workers. Don’t leave a client you want to work with in the dark, or they’ll move on to another freelancer.

5. Prioritize Professionalism

Put simply, if you appear to be a low-quality freelancer, high-quality clients will not work with you. For this reason, you must prioritize professionalism when you design your profile page, write proposals, and communicate with clients.

Before you write anything, for example, make sure it doesn’t contain any spelling or grammar issues. Taking the time to ensure that things are written perfectly will help clients view you as a freelancer who is serious about what they do.

Your professionalism (or lack thereof) will have a direct impact on your ability to attract and retain clients. Let’s face it- many freelancers join Upwork lazily. Don’t be like these freelancers- take a proactive approach to your career.

How Long Does It Take To Get Your First Job on Upwork?

At this point, you might be wondering- how long does it take to get your first job on Upwork? After all, there are plenty of freelancing platforms available online, and some may allow you to get work faster.

For some freelancers, it takes less than a day to get their first job on Upwork. For others, it takes them a month or longer. Every industry is different. Freelancers should not compare their results with others, as many factors contribute to the speed of success.

If you have applied to jobs and have yet to be successful, don’t give up. Getting your first job on Upwork is the most difficult. Do things the right way and eventually, you will get hired by a client.

Don’t allow yourself to lower your standards out of desperation. Mistakes you make as a beginner can come back to haunt you down the road. Have an abundance mentality, be consistent, and be patient.


You now know how to get your first job on Upwork. By creating an attractive profile, applying to the right jobs, submitting personalized proposals, executing actions with speed, and being professional, you can set yourself up for success.


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