Already started freelancing or are seriously considering it? Here are 21 tips and tricks to get the most out of your Upwork freelancing experience and earn a top rated badge. Most tips can be applied to all freelancing platforms.
- Keep your profile and portfolio up to date and include a personal photo. Upwork skills tests are also worth adding to your profile if you are proficient, however personally, they never had a significant impact on any of my hiring decisions.
- Be an expert, not a generalist. No one searches for a general developer or writer who does everything; they want someone who has specific and specialized knowledge. List and use keywords within your portfolio eg. if you’re a WordPress developer, list some of the plugins you have worked with (as a client, often I would search for specific expertise) or if you’re a writer, list the specific topics or styles you specialize in.
- You may need to reduce your rate to get initial work and reviews – if you doso, ensure you set expectations by making sure the client knows this. If you already have some clients you do work for, consider asking them to post a small job on Upwork and hire you so they can leave an honest review.
- Use the saved search and notification facility to send new job matches directly to your email inbox.
- Use free-text search (without filters) and browse through categories occasionally to find opportunities that other freelancers might miss (as most will people use filters).
- Never send boilerplate proposals – have a quality draft that can easily be edited/added too and always modify them for the job, at very least the opening. Clients can receive hundreds of applications that are mostly are copy-paste proposals/cover letters. Also watch out for specific requests hidden in the description — clients often include a specific instruction within the job description to help them catch and filter out bulk-applicants who haven’t read the job description eg they might ask you to open your proposal with ‘I love blue’.
- Reply quickly; often the earliest responses get most attention and a client may close a job opportunity as soon as they receive a suitable candidate. A quick, genuine ‘application coming soon – please wait’ proposal from someone who has a great profile and base cover letter would get my attention and stop me from prematurely closing the job.
- Use your connects carefully – there are many jobs available so only apply for the most suitable ones and make every proposal count.
- Don’t start the job until you have confirmation from Upwork that you are the chosen candidate and the client has deposited the funds in escrow.
- Ensure you fully understand the work before committing too much time and effort to it, especially if it is ‘pay per job’ whereby the client may not get to see the progress until you finish.
- Propose milestone payments where appropriate. eg for larger projects or first-time projects.
- Don’t dismiss new or low-spend company profiles — often these can be good opportunities that other freelancers pass by.
- Similarly don’t dismiss clients without reviews — this could be an opportunity for a win-win in terms of building credibility. Do look at client reviews though. If they are negative, you probably want to avoid them.
- Offer a video or phone call within your proposal. Most clients probably won’t take you up on this, but it serves as credibility and builds trust.
- If you feel you are a good fit, apply, even if you don’t meet the requirements. Simply acknowledge that you’ve read the job description and on paper do not meet the requirements, then provide reasons why you are a suitable candidate. The client will appreciate that you have read the description and your honesty. This trick only works if you genuinely are a good fit!
- Once you’re established and have some good reviews you can be fussier in the clients you accept. Consider checking their average hourly rate (but take it with a grain of salt).
- Always maintain communication and don’t be afraid to ask for a review when the contract ends as some clients will forget. Also consider preempting this in earlier communications by including ‘leave review’ in a list of project actions or asking for it before accepting the contract.
- Remember your Upwork contract; don’t try to move outside of Upwork as it’s in breach of your agreement and looks unprofessional to the client.
- Under-promise and over-deliver.
- There will be asshole clients. Sadly, assholes are everywhere – don’t let ‘em get you down. Learn and move on.
- Genuine enthusiasm and interest goes a long way 😉
So there you have it. Twenty-one tips to propel your life as a vanlife Upwork freelancer. Go forth, do good and enjoy!