Freelancer Guidelines

Great freelancers are what make Upwork truly special. Below are some best practices to help you land engagements, grow your freelance business, and thrive in our freelancer community.

Act Professionally. Always

Upwork is a community of skilled professionals. Be polite, courteous, and respectful in everything you do here, from the content of your profile and proposals to your postings on our forum.

Communication is the key to getting—and keeping—clients!

An informed client is a happy client. And, just as in the offline world, communicating early and clearly is key to keep satisfying your clients.

These are our top communications tips, from landing the job to finishing the project:

  • Outline a few clear and realistic expectations for you and your client to agree upon before you start the project. Document the agreement, including deliverables, deadlines, availability, and communication.
  • Respond quickly to questions and messages.
  • Consider sending your client regular updates.
  • When in doubt, ask! Don’t be afraid to contact your client with project-related questions or concerns.
  • Use the Message Center to document all agreements and discussions between yourself and your client.
  • Be upfront about your availability. Let your client know when you’re online and when you're unavailable.
  • If you’re going to miss a deliverable deadline, tell your client as soon as possible! Tell them why you can’t meet the deadline and propose a new date for delivery.
  • If you can’t complete a contract, tell your client and Customer Service immediately.

Kick Start Your Freelance Business

You’re your own boss on Upwork. It’s up to you to market your skills, advertise your services, set your rates and payment terms, find the right engagements, determine how to perform your work, and invest in your own success.

Step One: Create a great freelancer profile

Your profile is the most important advertisement you have to show a potential client you’re right for the work. It’s your business card, resume, CV, portfolio, and references rolled into one!

How you complete your profile is up to you. A complete, professional-looking profile generally includes at least your full name, title, and photo. It can show off past successes (number of years of experience in an industry, education level, significant projects), highlights your skills, and showcases the results of your Upwork skills tests.

Consider linking images or examples of work you’ve accomplished. (But you'll want to get permission from your client first.) Don’t have a portfolio? Upload recommendations from previous clients!

Finally, you'll want to check for errors. The freelancer with a well-written, professional profile will always be a client’s first choice. Avoid using slang, ALL CAPS or text shortcuts, and double-check that everything is grammatically correct and spelled properly.

Take a look at this example of a successful freelancer profile.

Step Two: Apply to the right project

To increase your chances of getting hired and get set up for a successful project, only submit proposals for projects you have the skills to do well. This leads to a job well done, which leads to satisfied clients which leads to more jobs! Also, the number of applications you can submit without additional membership fees is limited, so choose your applications wisely.

Step Three: Write an excellent proposal

Your cover letter for a proposal introduces you to a potential client, so you'll want to be sure you’re saying the right thing! To increase your chances of being selected by the client, consider tailoring every proposal specifically to the project (clients can tell when you just cut and paste a generic letter), sharing your skills, and concisely explaining exactly why your experience meets the needs of the project.

Step Four: Got an interview? Get prepared

Prepare for your interview just as you would a face-to-face meeting. To be well prepared, review the job requirements, jot down some questions to ask about the project, and be ready to discuss your skills. Test your computer and speakers, charge your phone, and double-check that your Skype, chat, or other communication software is working.

During the interview, you'll want to be on time and ready to talk specifically about why you’re qualified and what you would do to make the project successful. Ask about schedules, deliverables, and what your client expects. Be polite, friendly, and be sure to thank them at the end.

Build Your Own Success

The most successful freelancers have an entrepreneurial spirit, a strong work ethic, and consistently deliver great results for their clients.

Be work-ready and reliable

Being reliable and responsive is just as important as doing great work. This means responding promptly, meeting deadlines, and delivering on your professional promises. Technically, it requires a consistently working computer, Internet connection, and other technical tools—get started by downloading the Team App to your computer.

Be your own best manager

As a freelancer, you’re responsible for managing your projects, your schedule, and your client relationships. Don’t overcommit. Set and communicate realistic expectations, meet deadlines, and always do your best work.

Great work leads to great relationships

If you deliver great work and are a pleasure to work with, your clients will want to work with you again and again. Take a look at this excellent blog post for the top five tips to start and grow great client relationships.

Join The Freelancer Community

If you have any questions, the Freelancer Forum is a great place to find answers and connect with other Upwork Users. Join our Facebook family to jump into the conversation and follow us on Twitter to see info, updates, and job posts.

Now get started, enjoy your freelance business, and love the way you work!