I learned a few simple tips that can help you maximize your effort and save you time.
Upwork is a great opportunity for freelancers who want to work from home. That said, many people find the process daunting and complicated even though it really isn’t.
I spent a month or so studying the platform before I even attempted to apply for projects. I identified my skills so I’d know what jobs to look for and even took a few courses to bring myself up-to-date in the online writing world.
I also took a couple of the tests that Upwork offered so that I could showcase my abilities.
Then, I was ready to apply for work. If you want to be a freelancer on Upwork, that’s one of the first things you need to realize is that you will need to do all the hard work and apply for jobs.
So many times, I’ve had people write to me and say ‘Phyllis, I’ve had my profile up for two months and I haven’t got a job yet.’
I’d ask how many jobs they applied for and I was often told ‘None. I was waiting for them to hire me.’
Oh, if only things were that easy. In the beginning, you have to apply for jobs. Later, once you find some success on the platform, reputable clients will seek you out. But, if you get an invitation early on, it’s probably a scam.
Let’s get right down to business and talk about the other things you should know about applying for jobs on Upwork.
Looking for jobs and applying for them is the hard part. But once you get past that, good things will come.
As a new freelancer on Upwork, your portfolio will be empty. So you’ll need to convince a client to hire you.
Although, if you do have relevant work outside of Upwork (links to blogs you’ve written, etc.), go ahead and add them in.
You’ll have to apply for many more jobs than you think makes sense at the time. Your law of averages will take time to get better, meaning you may apply for eight projects and only get one job in the beginning.
As you gain experience, that gap will close and then you may start getting one out of six jobs, then one out of four and so on.
In my experience, there are two main types of clients. First, there are clients who want exceptional freelancers, topnotch flawless work, and they’re willing to pay for it.
However, they will rarely trust a newbie to the task. They will look for more seasoned freelancers who have more work experience on the platform to show for in their portfolio.
The other type of client wants decent work while paying the lowest they can get away with. This is where you come in. You’re more likely to get work with these clients in the beginning.
And while it seems self-defeating, it will pay off in time, trust me. My first few jobs probably averaged $5 an hour when all was said and done because I wanted to turn in perfect work.
Nowadays, I command $30 to $50 an hour. And best of all, I don’t have to find work anymore. Clients find me. But, I’m so busy, I have to turn most of them away.
Your first few jobs will ideally give you the feedback you need to show clients that they can count on you for good work. If you hustle enough, within a month’s time, you’ll have the portfolio you need to get better-paying jobs.
How to apply for jobs/projects.
Notice how the words jobs and projects are used interchangeably in this article. They’re the same thing. Only in the freelancing world, project is the word used most often.
I’m going to share some things that will maximize your search efforts and save you precious time.
To find the best work for you, you’ll want to tighten your keyword search as much as possible. On your profile page at the top, there’s a heading with a button that says ‘Find Work’. When you click on it, a bar pops up that says ‘Search for Jobs’.
Type in the keyword of the type of job you’re looking for and hit the search button.
You’ll then have a plethora of jobs to search through, but you’ll want to narrow it down.
There will be a lot of clients who aren’t established, probably some spam, and other things you don’t want to have anything to do with.
So, you should go to the ‘Filter’ box and click it to narrow your search.
When I was a new Upwork freelancer, the boxes I chose in the filter section were ‘any job type’, ‘any number of proposals’, and ‘entry level experience’.
Under ‘Client History’, I checked off two boxes — 1–9 hires and 10+ hires. I also checked off ‘Any Budget’, ‘Any Project Length’, and ‘Any Hours Per Week’.
You’ll have to evaluate your own availability and check off boxes that match your own requirements.
In the example to the left, I clicked the ones that I thought were best for a new Upwork freelancer.
But, the most important thing you need to check in the filter section is under ‘Client Info’.
You should check the ‘Payment Verified’ box. This will help to ensure that you get a more reputable client and not a spammer or someone who will waste your time.
Next to the ‘Sort’ button, you’ll also want to select ‘Newest’. This will allow you to see the most recent job postings near the top of the results page.
You’ll have a better shot of getting something that’s just posted.
Chances are likely anyway that older results have jobs that have already been filled.
Again, you want to maximize your time and efforts.
Under the ‘Category’ button, click all the types of jobs that’ll match your skills, desires, and experience.
Finally, you’ll want to select the country that you wish to work within. If you’re from the U.S., it’s probably a good idea to stick to clients within the U.S. for now.
Now you’re set to browse for work and apply for jobs.
When you’re done making your selections, click the ‘Close Filters’ button. All of the available jobs within your specifications will pop up.
When looking through the projects that are available, they should be a pretty good match for your skills.
But, there may be a few that aren’t. Just read through the requirements for each job and apply for the ones that best match.
As a writer, you may not know a lot about certain niches, but research is your best friend. I’m a great researcher and was able to deliver projects with an authoritative and expert tone because I researched the topic well.
But, it goes without saying that if you excel or know a lot about something, finding work in those areas is beneficial.
You could also blend skills. For instance, if you’re a gourmet cook, you might want to pay close attention to projects for food blogs and such. If you worked in insurance before, you may want to capitalize on writing jobs for insurance blogs.
If you’re an animal lover, you may seek out work as an animal blogger. And if you’re a social media diva, you may want to focus on managing social media posts. You get the idea.
Consider your skills, knowledge, experience, and goals to help you find work that best suits you.
Remember, that you’ll have to compromise a little on the type of work you accept as well as your fee in the beginning. But consider it part of your training and education.
You should learn some valuable things that will help with future projects. I did. Take it in stride and once you have a few jobs to build your portfolio, you can steadily increase your earning potential.
Be careful with your job proposals. Upwork limits the number of free proposals you have available.
If you look to the right of the job listings, there is a section that shows the number of connects you have. At the beginning of each month, you have 60 free connects available to you.
Each time you submit a proposal, generally Upwork charges you two connects. Therefore, you have enough connects to send out about 30 proposals each month.
When you’re new to Upwork, these can go really fast. This is because you’re likely going to submit a lot of proposals at first before you get your first jobs.
The point is, you don’t want to waste your proposals or your connects. You can carefully examine a client’s history to decide whether it’s really a good idea to submit a proposal so that your connects aren’t wasted.
For instance, under the client information, you can see their ‘hire rate’. I prefer only to submit proposals to clients whose hire rates are 65% and above. If their hire rate is lower, there’s a good chance they won’t hire anyone. So why waste that available connect?
You can upgrade your membership. I think last time I checked it was $10 a month and that will get you a few more connects. I tried it for one month and it wasn’t worth it. I just learned to use my connects more wisely.
Another thing I’ve learned is that some clients will only hire freelancers from certain countries. For instance, freelancers in the Philippines and a few other countries will work for as little as $2 an hour.
They’re hardworking people and will often work 80 hours a week. So they give a client a lot of bang for their buck. But, many clients only want native English speakers and source only native U.S. freelancers while others will only hire low-earning freelancers from countries, like the Philippines.
Looking at the example to the left, I would avoid applying for work with this client.
While they have good feedback, their hiring rate is only 53%. Their average hourly pay rate is only $4.16 an hour.
When I looked at the freelancers they typically hired, my suspicions proved accurate.
They only hire freelancers outside of the U.S.(mostly in the Philippines) and pay them pennies.
So, I would waste my connects if I applied with this client.
Chances are that they wouldn’t hire me because I’m in the U.S. and want to earn more than $4 bucks an hour.
If you look at a client’s hiring history, some of them only hire these freelancers because they can outsource their work for really cheap.
When you’re starting out, you should at least command $10 to $20 an hour, then go from there as you get more exposure and experience.
There are other things to consider about clients.
When you click on a job, to the right of the job description there‘s an ‘About the Client’ section.
This will detail where they’re from, their hiring rate and the number of jobs open, how much they’ve spent on Upwork, how long they’ve been on Upwork, and their average hourly pay.
At the bottom of the job description, you’ll be able to see the ‘Client’s Recent History’, which is where freelancers review them.
I prefer to work with clients who’ve spent at least five figures on Upwork, but I also have great clients who’ve only spent a couple of thousand dollars. You want to avoid clients who’ve spent less than that.
The way I look at it is that there are plenty of clients and why would I waste my connects when there are more bonafide clients out there?
You also want to seriously examine their history. If they’re a client who routinely gives out less than five-star feedback, avoid them. Especially when you’re new.
The last thing you want to do is to be stuck with a client who will give you less than stellar feedback when you’re just starting out.
You want the best feedback you can get so that it helps to establish your reputation and increase your earning potential.
In addition to the feedback a client leaves a freelancer, look at the comments in the feedback.
Keywords like ‘great communication’, ‘responsive’, ‘working on another project with them’, and so on really draw me to a client. It reassures me that they’re easy to work with and will offer a better experience.
Hopefully, these things help and you have a better idea of how to maximize your job-seeking efforts on Upwork.
If you’re persistent, before you know it you’ll have established and reputable clients sending you offers to interview. And you’ll be so busy, you’ll have to turn some of them away just like I’ve had to do.