Freelancing can give you more control and flexibility over your career. You get to decide when, where, and how you work and what clients and projects you say yes to. Rather than being an employee, you're starting your own business as an independent professional. Landing those first few jobs and clients on Upwork helps to build your reputation, but it can be challenging when you're new to the platform. As you gain more reviews and complete jobs successfully, winning projects can become easier.
If you're interested in freelancing, check out our beginner's guide for how to get jobs on Upwork:
1. Deliver your best work every time
When you’re working on a project for a client, try to always make it your best work. Consistently delivering high-quality work can help you get more jobs in the future as you earn a Job Success Score (JSS) and Upwork talent badges. When you submit a proposal, clients can see your JSS and any talent badges that you have, which can help your proposals get more views.
Clients may even start coming to you and sending job invites as you build your reputation. Once the demand for your services rises and you have less availability in your workweek, you can raise your rates.
You can also include automatic scheduled rate increases in your proposals for certain hourly contracts. This helps you keep your rates competitive while working on long-term client engagements.
2. Be active on Upwork
While the goal may be to have clients coming to you with job invites and repeat projects, in the beginning, you have to be active on the platform. Dedicate time each day to checking Talent Marketplace™ and see what newly posted jobs match your skill set. Being one of the first freelancers to submit a proposal can increase your chances of getting noticed by a client.
When you find a posting that fits your skill set, use your Connects to submit a proposal. By regularly submitting proposals and being active on the site platform, you increase your chances of being included on Upwork search results.
Connects are a freelancer’s virtual token on Upwork to submit proposals, boost proposals, and signal their availability to clients through an Availability Badge. Freelancers with basic accounts get 10 free Connects each month, which roll over and are usable for up to a year. Upgrading to a Freelancer Plus account gets you 80 free Connects, along with other perks like seeing the bid range for job postings and receiving free career coaching.
You can buy Connects them in bundles or choose a custom amount. Each Connect costs US$0.15.
You can get free bonus Connects by:
- Registering for Upwork for the first time (40 Connects)
- Earning the Rising Talent Badge (30 Connects)
- Winning interviews from established clients (amount varies from project to project)
- Completing Skills Certification (amount depends on the skill)
3. Optimize your profile
Improving your profile is one of the best things you can do to get more jobs on Upwork. Your profile is your opportunity to advertise your freelance business to potential clients by emphasizing your skills and expertise. Successful profiles are 100% complete, detailed, and describe your services and accomplishments in a compelling way.
To be eligible for Upwork’s talent badges, such as Top Rated or Rising Talent, you need to have a fully complete profile.
You can let clients know that you're looking for work right now by turning on your Availability Badge. Decide the maximum number of Connects you're willing to spend each week on the badge. The Availability Badge will stay on until you hit your max or turn it off.
When your badge is on "Available Now," a blue lightning bolt will appear on your profile and next to your name in search results and recommendations. Freelancers who turn on the Availability Badge receive up to 50% more job invites. Accepting a job invite doesn't cost you any Connects.
4. Find your niche
Working as a specialist and having a niche can make it easier to market your freelance business and win clients. Many independent professionals find success on Upwork by positioning themselves as experts in their niche. Once you have your niche, you can tailor your profile and portfolio for the type of work you want to do.
Clients hire independent professionals to fill the skills gap on their teams–they're often looking for specialists rather than generalists. When a client reviews your profile, they should be able to identify your top skills and what they should hire you for.
5. Optimize your proposals
When applying for jobs on Upwork, think of your profile as your resume and your proposal as the cover letter. Writing proposals for jobs you find on Upwork is a skill that takes practice. While you can use a template as a starting point, avoid copying and pasting the same proposal for every project you’re interested in. Clients often see generic information as a red flag; they want to know that you read their job posting and spent time on your proposal.
When writing a proposal, focus on the client and the problem they need help solving. Demonstrate the value you add and how you've successfully helped clients with similar problems in the past. Instead of making your profile, proposals, and communication all about you, make it about them. Try to keep your pitch short and direct; 100-300 words will typically tell the client everything they need to know.
Project proposals should be unique and specifically focused on how you can help the client. Tell the client why they should pick you by highlighting how your experience matches their project goals.
It’s crucial to respond within 24 hours if you get a reply from a potential client. Many clients will message you with follow-up questions as they evaluate candidates for the project. By responding promptly and answering the client’s questions in detail, you can set yourself apart from other candidates.
You can learn more about how to write a winning proposal in this Upwork Academy course.
6. Boost your proposal for jobs to stand out
If you find a job that you really like and think you’d be a good fit for, you can boost your proposelal. When a client posts a job as a freelancer, you can submit an auction bid to be one of the first four proposals they’ll see. These proposals are marked “Boosted” and have a blue lightning bolt next to them. The client will know that you paid extra so they’re more likely to read your proposal.
The auction runs for seven days or until the client hires a freelancer, whichever comes first. Set your max bid and keep an eye out to see if you win. You can be bumped out of the top four if another freelancer outbids you. If this happens, your proposal will be moved down to the bottom with the other unboosted proposals. This boosting process doesn’t cost any extra Connects unless the client interacts with your proposal.
7. Show off your best work
You can showcase your skills and expertise in your portfolio. Pick your best work samples that fit your niche. You can include samples of past projects, case studies, screenshots, testimonials, or anything that demonstrates your work quality.
Use the portfolio descriptions to provide background context and tell a story about how each piece in your portfolio helped solve a client’s problem. When clients look at your portfolio, they’ll see how you can help them with their problem because you’ve already done it many times for other clients.
If you’re new to freelancing and don't have any work samples that you can use from previous Upwork clients, you can add projects from jobs in the past. You can also create mockups for your dream clients or make up your own. Just make sure that you note that these are mockups and not paying clients. This can be helpful if you need specific portfolio examples for your niche and skill.
8. Ask clients for feedback
After you complete your first few projects with two or more clients, you'll earn your JSS. Your JSS is how Upwork measures your success on the platform. You'll need to maintain a JSS of at least 90% to be eligible for the Top Rated badge.
Along with a high JSS, you'll want to earn positive reviews from your clients. After completing a contract, clients can give you a rating and leave private and public feedback. The feedback shows up on your profile for potential clients to see and can help give them a vote of confidence in your skills.
Client feedback is optional. If you end a contract and feel that your client was happy with the deliverables, you can ask for feedback. Try not to be too pushy, but explain why the feedback is helpful. You can even request that the client include details that might help other prospects understand how you added value.
You can also request mid-contract feedback for long-term projects and ones that don't have a set end date. This is especially helpful if one of your first few clients is a long-term engagement.
In the beginning, you won't have any client reviews on your profile. You'll need to complete a project first–landing the first job can often be the hardest. Having testimonials from past employers or clients that you worked with before joining Upwork can be helpful and take the place of reviews.
9. Create your personal brand
Your first impression should be polished and professional. A There are three things that aclient sees three things when they view your profile in Upwork’s search feature: your profile picture, title, and brief overview.
- Your profile picture should be a high-quality headshot that features you dressed professionally, centered, and with your smiling face visible.
- The title section may seem simple, but these few words can significantly impact whether a client considers you for the job. Use a title that accurately represents the services you offer and your level of expertise. Be creative to make yourself stand out.
- Only the first two or three sentences of your overview are visible in listings of search results. You need to use those first few sentences to grab the reader’s attention, highlight your expertise, and draw them into your profile to read more.
10. Build long-term relationships with clients
If you start a project with a client, don’t think of it as remember it doesn’t have to be a one-and-done deal. Try to build a long-term partnership with your existing and past clients to get repeat business. You could do more of the same work for the client or recommend an additional service that provides value to the client.
Don’t be afraid to ask at the end of the contract if they have any other projects you could help with.
I really enjoyed working on this project with you. I have some availability in my schedule if you have any other projects coming up that fit my skill set.
Think about what other services the client may need that you can offer. They may not be aware of the other skills that you have. Upskilling and offering other services within your niche are great ways to grow your freelance business. You can create a specialized profile for two of your top skills.
For example, if you’re a freelance writer and win a proposal to write a blog post for a client, you can let them know that you also can write newsletters and social media posts to help promote the blog. A seemingly one-off job can turn into a long-lasting relationship.
11. List your services on Project Catalog™
Upwork’s ever-expanding platform aims to give freelancers the tools they need to succeed and grow their careers. A great addition to this toolbox to helps freelancers grow their businesses in a different way: Project Catalog.
Upwork’s Project Catalog helps freelancers turn their services into an e-commerce experience using prepackaged projects with upfront prices and specific service deliverables, such as logo design, translation, web development, and more. Freelancers can create up to 20 projects for clients looking to begin working right away. As a result, freelancers can create a new income stream from their existing skills and quickly connect with potential clients without going through the bidding and proposal process.
More tips for being successful on Upwork
- Be patient. Your first client was likely the hardest to get; it’s just a matter of replicating that success to get more jobs. It takes time to grow a successful freelance business. Be patient, stay optimistic, and put in the work to get more clients
- Find the right fit. When looking at Talent Marketplace, try to only submit proposals that closely fit your skills and experience. Instead of applying to anything and everything, spend more time creating great proposals for jobs that fall within your niche.
- Join the community. Get advice from experienced freelancers by being a part of the Upwork Community. Find answers in the forums and learn best practices from the Academy.
- Evaluate potential clients. Before accepting an offer, check out the client’s profile and be on the lookout for any red flags.
- Set a competitive rate. Make sure that your rate is fair compared to other freelancers with the same skills and experience. You can check the hourly rates guide to see average hourly rates for different skills.
Upwork is the perfect place to take the next step in your career. Clients from startups to Fortune 500 companies turn to Upwork to find skilled independent professionals. As a freelancer, you have the freedom to work when and where you want. You're starting your own business, which gives you more control over your career but requires putting in work in the beginning. The time you spend on your profile and creating proposals for jobs pays off when clients start coming to you. See which clients are looking for someone with your skill set right now to help with their project on Talent Marketplace. Make Upwork your home for work.
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