Online Work Tips & Best Practices

By Bjarne Viken & Cameron Rambert, co-founders of Digital Mined

Are you struggling to find enough work on Upwork? What you may be lacking is not necessarily the skills to do the work, but the skills to get the job.

If that’s the case, you’re actually in a good position, because it’s easier and faster to learn how to get work on Upwork than it is to learn new professional skills. After that, it is just a matter of determining how to apply these methods to your circumstances. As you do so, you will increase your chances of getting hired, and get more opportunities to deliver high-quality work that clients will give you good testimonials for—thus creating a virtuous cycle of more hiring.

Here are seven steps to help you get started quickly:

  1. Define your title. Creating a title for yourself is extremely important because, if done well, you can increase your chances of getting hired. Ideally, your title should be a two- to three-word summary of your core strengths, with maybe a few enhancing words on either side.

  1. Define your tags. Choosing skills tags is very important because it affects how you are found by potential clients as well as how you are perceived. Luckily, the process can be easily done by brainstorming 10-20 words that tie in with your freelance title and then cross-checking these with what successful oDesk freelancers in your field are using.

  1. Write a clear description. Writing a description can be easily done after you have made a headline and associated tags. When you write your description, try to present arguments for why someone should hire you by focusing on the best pitches first. Most clients are interested in arguments that focus on quality and bigger return on their investment.

  1. Take relevant tests. Taking a few tests that are relevant to the work you do is the best way to validate what you claim in your profile description. It can also be an interesting way to learn which skills you need to enhance (or learn from scratch) in order to get jobs in a certain field of work. If English is not your first language, you can use the English tests indirectly to prove your ability to communicate.

  1. Do 5-10 small assignments. Even when you’re just starting out, you have to think long term. Be honest, over-deliver, and grow your reputation. Start small by applying for assignments less than $50. Make sure they are given by clients with good feedback and who have spent a good deal of money on freelancers. You can then work towards a better rate of pay as you gain more experience and better feedback. To increase your chances of getting hired for these first projects, make sure to answer everything in the client’s brief and say why you should be picked by referring to your skills and experience.

  1. Create a portfolio. With the work you have done so far, see if you can add a few samples into the portfolio section of your profile so clients can get an idea of the work you do. Ideally, you want to showcase not only your best work, but your range of skills and project types. It’s also worthwhile to regularly update your portfolio with new jobs as your career progresses.

  1. Go for larger jobs. Larger assignments give you the chance to take on more jobs that are similar or to try something new. It’s largely a matter of being strategic and using your existing clients as springboards to get more work. If you have established yourself as a highly skilled freelancer, your future prospects could include continuing in that role, creating and managing an agency or taking your work offline, if you choose.

The above list might seem a bit overwhelming if you are just starting out, so if you only take away one point, here is the most important bit to focus on: When you’re applying for a project, read the job description thoroughly and reply to everything.

Sometimes clients receive 30+ applications that aren’t even close to answering what they want. If you can be among the few applicants who reply to everything that’s asked, you have a much higher chance of being interviewed.

We’d love to hear your tips for how to make money on Upwork. Add them in the comments section below! For additional help getting started, check out the information for freelancers in the Hiring Headquarters.

[Editor’s Note: Digital Mined produced an eBook called “7 Steps For Making Money On oDesk”—now Upwork—which is no longer available. This post has been revised to remove references to the eBook.]

Bjarne Viken and Cameron Rambert

Founders of Digital Mined

Bjarne Viken and Cameron Rambert are the founders of Digital Mined, one of the fastest-growing sites where freelancers learn how to earn. Through the Digital Mined site, Bjarne and Cam (among others) frequently share the unique insights they've acquired throughout their careers as both successful freelancers and employers of freelancers. If you would like to get in touch with either Bjarne or Cam, feel free to send them a tweet at @digitalmined.

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  • John Michael Parecto

    Hello guys i wanted to have a job here in ODESK. But i don’t know how to get one, please help. I was working in BPO for three years and willing to work online part time or fulltime.

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  • Rabia

    Hi I’m new on odesk. I’m good at accounts and audit. i’m studying Chartered Accountancy and i know a lot of from IAS, IFRS and ISA. I’ve a good grip on ias 7,8,10,16,17,23,37 and 38. But i don’t know how to start work here. how to get work and how to initiate and submit work?? Can anyone guide me?? and do you people think i can get work here as i’ve no work experience.