Figuring out how to get jobs on Upwork can be a great way to start a freelance career—which can be both exciting and worrying at the same time.
Getting a potential client to take a chance on you when you’re brand new to freelancing can be a tough sell and I have known many freelancers to give up after a few months of not being able to find clients.
To help you resolve this issue, this post will cover how to get jobs on Upwork, one of the leading freelance marketplace sites, so you can make the most of your freelance career.
Keep in mind, there are many sites like Upwork to consider finding jobs from — but here we’re going to focus specifically on how to get jobs on Upwork.
What is Upwork?
Upwork is a place where designers, developers, marketers and a wide range of other skilled professionals can connect with business owners and gain work on a freelance basis.
With a variety of reviews, some might wonder if Upwork is legit — however I can tell you, it’s definitely a great place to start your freelance career.
Upwork is very useful because it handles payments, disputes and they even have employees who can recommend how to get jobs on Upwork by applying based on your skills in your profile. For this service, Upwork takes a 20% fee until the client has spent over $10,000 with you, where the fee then decreases to 10%.
Just like the other popular site Fiverr, there are many talented freelancers on Upwork, so the competition is high and it can be difficult to know how to get jobs on Upwork as a new freelancer. However, once you win a job and do good work, it opens up more opportunities than you may have thought was possible.
On Upwork, I have worked with small family businesses and major corporations that own football stadiums. Never in my life would I have thought this would have been possible, but by using the tips below I was able to work with some amazing companies while I learned how to get jobs on Upwork.
Here’s how to begin getting jobs on Upwork (even with zero experience):
1. Start with small jobs on Upwork
The hardest part of learning how to get jobs on Upwork is getting your first job. But once you get your first job and get positive feedback for your profile, you become less of a risk for potential clients.
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The easiest way to get feedback for your profile is to look for a low paid job that carries little risk to the client if you were to (for whatever reason) mess it up.
Going for a job with a budget of $20-$50 isn’t going to make you rich, and it isn’t going to take much convincing for a potential client to spend that on an unknown freelancer like yourself.
2. Focus on positive feedback
If the job budget is way below what you would charge normally, tell the potential client this in the job application but also tell them you are willing to take on this job at a reduced rate if they can give feedback after the job is complete.
This feedback will allow you to land more clients in the future and will make your profile stand out from other freelancers with no feedback.
As a seasoned professional your ego may stop you from applying to low paid jobs and I can understand this, but if you want to succeed you will need to get positive feedback and a few jobs under your belt on Upwork as quickly as possible.
As a writer, you could take on a job where you rewrite the meta descriptions of a website. As a designer, you could design a small banner and a developer could fix some small jobs on a website. These jobs should be quick, easy jobs that don’t pay too much but will allow you to move on to bigger jobs in the future.
Doing smaller jobs initially is also an effective way to build relationships with people and if you do a good job they will hire you every time they need your service.
One of my clients hired me to optimize the keywords on one page of their website, for a one-time fee of $30. I did a good job with what was needed and instantly became their go-to SEO person. This client ended up turning into a very valuable one, as I made $12,000 with them in just my first year of freelancing.
Going for lower-paid jobs and smaller jobs is a great way to get jobs on Upwork early on, but before you can launch your freelance career on Upwork you will need to optimize your profile so that potential clients know what you can do for them.
3. Optimize your Upwork profile
Learning how to get jobs on Upwork with some help from optimizing is something everyone should do. Make sure to fill out all areas of your profile in as much detail as possible.
If you don’t know what to write, do a search on Upwork for freelancers who offer the same service as you and look for ones that have high billable hours.
You can then look at the type of content potential clients would like to see and create your version of it.
When filling out your profile, you should test all of the elements to see which of them generate more views on your profile and more job invites.
The biggest factors that determined how many views my freelance profile got on Upwork were my profile title and my Upwork hourly rate. My advice to you is to test both your title and hourly rate until you find a sweet spot.
A low hourly rate could bring in more job invites, but you could end up with clients who don’t appreciate your skills. Whereas a higher rate will decrease the number of job invitations but will allow you to work with bigger clients. Tweaking your Upwork hourly rate is important for attracting the right clients.
When adjusting your job title make sure to save a copy of the old version so you can revert if you suddenly see a drop in profile views and job invitations; I learned this the hard way — make sure you don’t make the same mistake.
Pro Tip: You can also try freelance job hunting services like Vollna and receive all the latest freelancing jobs posted on UpWork, Freelancer, Peopleperhour and Guru straight to your inbox or your mobile phone.
4. Start sending proposals on Upwork
As a new freelancer on Upwork, you may not get invited to jobs right away so you are going to need to know how to send Upwork proposals. If you want to get a job on Upwork, you are going to need to stand out from the crowd when sending your proposal.
The mistake I see a lot of freelancers making when applying for jobs on Upwork is that they apply to every job they see with the same scripted template. This is not how to get jobs on Upwork.
Firstly, if you are sending template messages you need to stop. Clients can see a scripted message from a mile away.
The more personal you can make the proposal, the higher the chance of winning that job. If the client has hired other freelancers in the past and has feedback, there is a good chance that someone has mentioned the client’s name in a past review.
Personalising the proposal with the person’s name shows that you have already put in some effort to find out more about that person.
The best success I had when applying for jobs on Upwork was to not start selling straight away, but rather to find out more about the client. One of my clients showed me the messages they got on their end and the majority of applications all start along the lines of:
My name is X and I’m an SEO consultant from X. I have 5 years experience in SEO and can do this service, this service and this service.”
Can you imagine being on the receiving end of 50 of those messages?
You would get bored quick. These messages also show you don’t care about the client, but yourself.
The goal of your first message should be to get a response, if you get a response you can then direct the conversation to a meeting. If I could get a client to a meeting, it instantly increased my chances of closing that client.
The best way to get a response from a client is to ask them a single question— the question should be something simple and not something that would require a huge amount of thinking on their part. Remember, at this point you are strangers and they will be considering other freelancers for the job.
As an SEO consultant, I would ask them questions such as: How long have you been doing SEO? Why are you leaving your past agency or freelancer? Has your website been penalised by search engines?
You will have to come up with questions that make sense based on your expertise and the information provided in the job description. If the job description includes the above information and you ask it, you will annoy the potential client, so make sure you have read the job description.
Once the client replies to you, try to direct the conversation to a meeting over the phone or via Skype. If you don’t like speaking over the phone, I suggest you try getting used to it if you want to grow your business.
5. Aim for lots of Upwork Job Invitations
If you have completed a few jobs on Upwork successfully you will start to get invited to jobs.
Getting a job on Upwork is much easier when you start getting invited to them, you are far more likely to gain that person as a client as they are already expressing some interest in working with you.
Now, let’s see talk about how to get jobs on Upwork by invitation. Job invitations on Upwork can be a gold mine and can provide your freelance business with a steady flow of leads. A few tips that I can give you when responding to job invites is to check if the job is relevant to the service you provide and that the client can afford you.
I would often be invited to jobs that weren’t relevant to my skillset, such as pay per click and social media marketing. I would also be invited to jobs where the client didn’t have the budget to hire me.
I’m not sure why this happens, but it’s important to review the job application and find out the person’s budget before wasting time meeting with someone only to find out you can’t help them.
6. Prepare well for the Upwork interview
To get a job on Upwork you are going to need to invest in a good microphone and webcam to conduct meetings with your potential clients. When your hardware is set up and you have some meetings booked, you are not too far off from landing a new client.
Some clients will take the stance that they are interviewing you to make sure you can do the job, and while that is true, it’s also a good time for you to interview them, too.
You should find out about their goals, what they have done in the past, why they are looking to hire now, and how soon they are looking to get started.
It’s important to find out about the potential client to make sure their goals are realistic and achievable because if you commit to something that isn’t, you are going to get bad feedback on your Upwork profile.
Bad feedback isn’t the end of the world, but it can cause a red flag for others not to hire you.
If the meeting goes well and you think you can help the client, be sure to tell them and then go for the close. Ask them if they are ready to proceed, and if they are not, you can ask them if anything is stopping them from hiring you today. If they give a reason see if you can get around it.
A person who has more interviews lined up may want to talk to more freelancers before hiring you. In this situation, you can either wait or let the client know that you have limited availability and can keep a space open for them for a few days as you would love to work with them.
Using scarcity can cause the person to hire you on the spot, but don’t be desperate because clients can tell when someone is using scarcity as a marketing tactic rather than being truthful. To prepare we recommend you check this competency-based interview guide.
4 Additional tips for how to get jobs on Upwork
Winning the right type of jobs on Upwork is tough, but these 4 tips can help:
I. Vet the client
Working with clients that are constantly bothering you will slow down the progress of your freelance business. As a freelancer, you will eventually work with many clients and having one that is always on your back can become tiresome quickly, and it can also slow down the rate at which your business can grow.
To vet the client you should see if they have feedback from other freelancers. You should also see how they talk about freelancers they have worked with. A client that gives bad feedback regularly should be avoided as there is a chance they will leave you bad feedback as well.
II. Communicate often and deliver on schedule
Freelancers can have a reputation for being unreliable and unresponsive. To stand out from the crowd try to communicate as often as possible with a new client to put them at ease. You should also make every attempt to meet deadlines set by the client.
By being reliable you can become a company’s go-to person when they need work, and the company will often refer others to you too.
III. The client should have a confirmed payment method
This is just my personal preference, but I would only choose to work with clients who have a confirmed payment method. This way there is less chance of you being owed money at the end of a project if the client has added their bank details.
The Upwork hourly tracker app is also a good way to make sure that your work is protected and the client will pay you for work completed.
IV. Only apply to detailed job descriptions
Only apply for jobs where the job description has enough detail to show the potential client has put thought into what needs to be done.
Often you will see jobs posted on Upwork that never get filled, due to the lack of information and uncertainty.
As you may know, freelancers on Upwork get a set number of connections that they can use, so use them wisely.
If the job description is one or two lines and the client has no past job ratings, I would personally avoid applying for a job like that.
Growing your freelance business through Upwork
Upwork is a great place to gain new clients and it allows you to grow as a business very quickly if you use it to its full capacity. You should constantly be testing your profile, applying for jobs, communicating with your clients and producing good work.
By doing all of the above you will grow your freelance business and learn skills that can be transferred to other areas of your life.
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