The Beginners Guide to Getting Started on Upwork

We have plenty of posts on what to outsource, and how to hire online freelancers, but we have little on getting started on UpWork. And what better way to find out, then to hire a freelancer that did exactly that. And I’ll chime in with my views from a hiring perspective.

First off, Upwork or any other freelancing platform is not for everyone. Sure, there are plenty of reasons to outsource, but price tends to be the main one… and that rings true for a lot of businesses looking to hire. That’s part of the reason why a business like Fiverr has grown exponentially. Or crowdsourcing marketplaces like 99designs and DesignCrowd, where you’re guaranteed a design you’ll like, or your money back.

Unfortunately, from my perspective, that tends to squeeze out the middle. Because all these marketplaces tend to drive down the price, and then on the opposite side of the spectrum there’s still a strong desire for the pricier top talent, for example a marketplace like TopTal, who promises the top 3% of design and development talent.

But I think the only way to figure out if it’s for you, is to try it out. So without further ado…

Enter John, on Getting Started and Making Your First $1000 on Upwork

Upwork is a popular option for freelancers looking for extra cash or even full-time work in the comfort of their home. Upwork offers secured payment solutions, not to mention a great number of skilled freelancers with competitively priced services.
I’ve used Upwork to earn a steady income. If you are somewhat new in the world of freelancing, it isn’t surprising to get frustrated by how the platform works. In this article, I’d like to share how I managed to make my first $1,000 on Upwork.

Learn the platform

Every freelancing platform is different. If you don’t have the patience to learn the platform, consider it as a big mistake. You want to make sure that you know every detail of Upwork.
From how you are getting paid to how much is going to be deducted from your contract, these are things that you should know as a freelancer working on Upwork. And once you already know these details, be sure to take the Readiness Test.
Once you’ve completed the readiness test, your profile will not only look nicer, you can even apply to more job opportunities for the month.

Build a portfolio

A portfolio increases the chances that you are getting hired for the job that you are applying in. What I did was to find relevant websites where I can showcase my work.
I produced informative content on a free WordPress site (Related: How to Launch a WordPress Website). These helped me build my starting portfolio just to showcase what I am capable of, at least in terms of my writing skills and my knowledge on certain niches.

Take the relevant tests

The good thing about Upwork is that they provide different tests that can determine the capabilities of freelancers of different trades. Writers, SEO experts, online marketing managers, and other freelancers can find different tests to further prove their abilities to prospect clients.

Jay’s Note: I don’t typically place a huge emphasis on tests, instead relying on their body of work. But they’re really handy if you’re hiring a specialized skillet. 

Read every job opening thoroughly

It is important that you are reading every job post carefully before deciding to apply. Also, make sure that you avoid spam applications. These days, Upwork only provides a maximum of 60 connects monthly, which is equivalent to 30 applications every month. That means that you should use every application wisely and make the most of it.

Jay’s Note: I always implement the Brown M&M technique, which John passed because he read the entire description. Learn more on my guide on how to hire online freelancers.

Learn the art of writing a cover letter

A good first impression goes a long way. A lot of times, freelancers forget the goal of writing a cover letter. Its initial goal is to have an interview with your prospect client.
What are the basic rules that you need to follow when writing a cover letter? The most important rule that you should follow is to write in a professional tone. Also, it is important that you effectively market yourself. Show a couple of past works that are quite similar to the requirement needed on the job posting.

Jay’s Note: This is very important. When I actually see a cover letter that was thought out, versus something that was copy/pasted, it’s a huge plus in my book. 

Keeping the asking price competitive and reasonable

If you are starting as a freelancer on Upwork, always remember that you are competing with a good number of freelancers. One way to get hired is to keep the price of your services competitive and reasonable.
To know the right price, you want to research the average asking price for the services that you offer. Consider a number of things when checking the price of the service. Skill, experience and quality of work are the most important things that dictate the asking price of a contractor.
The first couple of gigs play an important role in building an impressive rating on your Upwork profile. One trick that I used in attracting higher-paying gigs is to first settle for the cheaper and easy-to-do projects. The quicker I finished the first few projects, the faster I secured a decent rating from clients. After a few months and a couple of good five-star ratings later, that’s when I decided to increase my asking price.

Jay’s Note: If you’re just getting started on UpWork, one thing that a freelancer can do to catch my attention is say something like, “Hey Jay, my name is Bob and I won’t be your average marketing consultant. I’ve done X, Y and Z for some of the biggest companies in the world. I’m just getting started on UpWork so I’d be happy to work with you at a reduced rate of $25/hr to build my portfolio on here.”    

Stick to what you know best

On Upwork, once you end up with a good rating and a good portfolio, it becomes easy to attract potential clients trying to avail of your services. But keep in mind that it is important for you to only stick things that you know by heart. It is hard to do a job that you are not confident with. The most important rule that I follow until today is to know my boundaries.

Establish clear communications with clients

Often times, a lot of clients forget about the contractors who they hired on Upwork. Make it a habit of messaging them every now and then. Ask for a job and clarify if the work is already done. This gives you the chance to either mark the job complete, which then reflects on your profile, or get another job from the client.

Target at least 40 hours’ worth of work per week

Making your first $1,000/mo is all about consistency. Over the years, I made it a habit of making sure that I set the number of work hours every week. Typically, I make sure that it reaches at least the 40-hour mark. This is especially handy if you are taking in contracts that pay by the hour.

Don’t take work that you can’t cover

Another important rule that you should always practice when working on Upwork is to never bite more than what you can chew. Always consider your current workload before ever accepting additional work. Lagging on your deadlines can be detrimental to your reputation as a freelancer.
You also have to be aware of the deadlines with fixed-priced work. This way, you are aware if you can still accommodate extra work.

Use tools that help organize your work

There are a lot of tools designed to help freelancers with their jobs. Tools such as Trello to help organize work with other team members, and Grammarly to help fix your grammar when writing those cover letters, are just some of the things that you can utilize. These tools help overall productivity and even boost the quality of your output.

Conclusion

Reaching the first $1,000 on Upwork can be challenging especially for a new freelancer. By taking the time to follow these tips, hopefully, it will be easier for you to reach the $1,000 mark.
Did any of these tips work for you? I’d love to know what you think! Feel free to leave a comment below!

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2 Responses to “The Beginners Guide to Getting Started on Upwork”
  1. Jenny September 6, 2017

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