Many people believe that Upwork is over saturated, low paying and not worth their time. However, my bank account would disagree. With the right strategy you can make money on Upwork, too.
In recent years, freelancing has become a popular way to earn an income. For those who are open to exploring it as an option, Upwork is one of the most well-known and established freelance sites out there. On Upwork, you can find a wide variety of jobs in various fields such as writing, copywriting, coding, marketing, web design, and more.
In the past few years, I have had many successes on Upwork. In 2022, I was able to make over $26,000 working as a freelance writer and earn the bade of Top Rated Plus, which is the highest badge on the platform.
If you’re thinking about setting up a profile on Upwork as a new freelancer, I would definitely recommend that you do so.
Here are some of my top tips for getting the most out of Upwork:
To Make Money on Upwork, Start by Setting Up Your Profile
Setting up your profile on Upwork is no sweat if you’ve got a little bit of know-how and have an appetite to get the job done.
The most important thing that I’ve learned is to just do it. GO in, create it, and just put something in your bio. Make up a pitch. Tell your story. Create your offer.
A crappy profile is better than no profile at all. Just start somewhere. You can go back and edit, redo, and add to it later on.
Start by creating your account, and filling out those empty fields with information that highlights your credentials. Showcase previous work to help demonstrate your talent and value, then include certifications, tests, and other relevant badges that help give prospective clients a better feel for why you’re the real deal.
When I first started as a freelancer on Upwork, my only writing experience was college business papers. So what did I do? I uploaded those bad boys up and positioned myself as a writer in the education and business industries. As I landed jobs, I learned what I liked to write about and what I never wanted to think about again.
And so, over the years, I pivoted, tweaked and redid my profile. When I first started out, it looked pretty rough. But it was good enough to get me started, and that’s all we need for now.
1. Set up your profile to reflect the value that you can provide
The number one mistake I see people making is talking all about themselves and their achievements in their profile bio.
Here’s the thing. No one cares if you’ve published 18 books, written for 248 blogs and been a professional writer for 100 years.
That’s cool that you’ve been writing for so long, but for all I know you’re just a terrible writer that hasn’t given up yet.
What VALUE can you provide to your clients? This is what they care about and what they’re on Upwork looking for.
When I started, I would always start with my experience, and try to prove to the potential clients why I was a good fit.
As I’ve learn and grown, my proposals and bio have done the same. I’ll see a job posting, and in my proposal, I tell them what they need, and then tell them how I can provide that for them.
More times than not, clients really aren’t sure what they need in a freelance writer. Maybe some content writing…sales copy..web pages.. but what they really need is a way to engage their audience to drive traffic to their website so that they can meet their customer’s needs and increase their own revenue.
When you create your bio, don’t think of it as a resume. You can upload your resume if you really think it’s important to your industry. Instead, talk about the value that you provide to your clients.
You can increase engagement, tell a story, drive traffic, help their content rank, and give them peace of mind that their business is in good hands.
What value can you provide?
2. Don’t bid on low-cost projects
I know, I know. You may think this is the best way to get started if you’re a newbie. And there were definitely times when money was tight and I needed quick cash. I knew that I could land a small gig with my big profile, so I would pick up a couple $100-200 projects to fill in some gaps. And there’s nothing wrong with this, but if you’re trying to earn a big income, then you have to go after big fish and long-term projects.
If you’re looking to increase your income and build relationships that turn into long-term projects, then don’t be afraid to bid on higher paying jobs. Go after the ones that are in line with your skillset and reflect the value that you bring.
Don’t be discouraged when it seems like no one is responding to your proposal. This happens often and it’s totally normal. It doesn’t mean that you’re not good enough or don’t have the skills. It may just mean that the job wasn’t a good fit for you, someone else had a better offer, or maybe they just weren’t looking for what you had to offer.
The answer isn’t to lower your standards. You just have to keep applying.
Just keep applying, just keep applying…
3. Apply only for gigs that you would LOVE to work on
When I started out, I would apply for anything and everything. It didn’t matter if it was something that I was passionate about or not.
After landing a gig where I had to write 400 webpages for a rug cleaning company, I quickly learned that this was a huge mistake. When you don’t care about the project that you’re working on, your work won’t be as good as it could be.
The more passionate you are about the topic, the better your content will be. Don’t waste your time (or the client’s) by applying for jobs that you aren’t passionate about or won’t bring value to them.
Rather, focus on gigs that you know you’ll excel at. You can do this by looking for gigs that are in line with your skillset, experience, and interests.
This isn’t just a better way to make money, but it also makes the writing process more enjoyable. And when you’re passionate about what you’re writing, the end product will be something special.
If you take the time to apply only for gigs that you know you’ll excel at and bring value to, then your success on Upwork will be much higher.
4. Communicate well with your clients and do any revisions they want with a happy face
Here’s the thing with Upwork: once you sign a contract, you’re in it for good. If you end or break your contract, your client gets to leave feedback on your profile, and guess what…it’s there forever.
Toward the beginning of my contract, I agreed to write an Amazon buyer’s guide for the large sum of $5. Yeah.. five dollars. And guess what, the guy was super unreasonable and after I had written thousands of words for him, he didn’t like it and was asking me to do it over again.
Most likely, he saved my first draft, published it, and was now trying to get another one out of me. Instead of communicating with him, I ghosted him. And he got to leave a 1 start review on my profile saying that I was bad at communication and never contacted him again.
Which is true, and I should’ve handled it better. But, I didn’t realize that reviews on my profile would be there forever, and I would have at least argued back or gotten Upwork involved had I known what I know now.
This is an extreme case though. If you have a reasonable client, just do your revisions so that you can get that 5 start rating on your profile. Because all your future potential clients are going to be looking at your client history, and rightly so!
Your relationship with your client is just as important as the quality of your work. Your clients are often times busy and stressed, so it’s important that you make sure to always be professional and courteous when communicating.
Make sure to respond quickly to any inquiries that they may have, even if it’s a simple “yes” or “no”. And make sure to be clear and concise when communicating what you need from them in order to get the job done efficiently.
Doing these small things will go a long way toward establishing a good rapport with your clients, which can lead to more work down the line.
5. It’s all a numbers game
I got really discouraged at first because I would write 2-3 great proposals and then never hear anything back, and I would think that I was a failure.
That’s not the case. Now that I’ve written hundreds of proposals, I realize that it’s all a numbers game. By now, I know that if I put 8-10 proposals in, I’ll hear back from 2-3. Then I’ll actually interview with maybe 50% of the people that actually reply. And then I’ll actually start a contract with maybe 25% of the people that I interview with.
I interviewed for a book project just this week, and blindly thought that I was the only candidate. Nope, turns out they were actually interviewing 7 other people. So just because you make it to the Zoom interview doesn’t guarantee anything.
So, don’t get discouraged when you’re not signing contracts if you’re only putting in 5-10 contracts a week. When I’m actively trying to land new clients, I am writing at least 8-10 proposals a day until I fill my books.
6. Personalize every proposal
Don’t groan. You’ll get great at it after a while. If you’re working my process, then you will only be submitting proposals on high paying, long term projects. And those types of projects deserve a well-put-together and personalized proposal.
Be sure to address their needs, answer all their questions, tell about any relevant experience you’ve had, and always submit samples of past work.
One way that I do automate my process is by having writing samples ready to go in a document. That way, I don’t have to go hunt for relevant samples for every proposal I put together.
I also try to find the clients name so that I can personally address them at the beginning of my cover letter. This isn’t always going to be possible since some clients’ profiles are under an agency name.
Ultimately, Upwork is a great way to make money and build your business. However, it does take some time to get used to the platform and understand how to succeed on there.
By following these tips, you’ll be able to craft better proposals that are more likely to get accepted by clients that you love to work with.