Get Started on Upwork

How to Get Started on Upwork

What You'll Learn

Upwork is a great resource for someone looking to make a freelancing career. Upwork markets freelancers and agencies from around the world to clients around the world. There is a broad range of talent and clients available on Upwork making it a great place to launch or expand a freelance career. There are some successful strategies on how to get started on Upwork as a freelancer that can improve your chances.

Skills That Are In Demand

It’s amazing how many skills are in demand on Upwork. If you can do it remotely,  there’s a good chance you can sell it on Upwork. Here are some examples from Upwork’s list of top 100

  • Content creation
  • Research
  • Interviewing
  • All sorts of software development
  • Google Docs
  • Design work
  • All sorts of writing and other content creation
  • Search Engine Optimization

This isn’t the complete list but it gives you some ideas. It’s also important to remember that not all skill levels are created equal. You don’t need to be an expert to sell your skills.

You want to be careful not to oversell yourself but if you can do that, you could make a business of doing entry level work on an area until your skills improve. As we will discuss shortly that has other benefits.

The opportunity is almost endless as there are all sorts of clients looking for a variety of skills at different levels. It really is a big marketplace but that can make it difficult to stand out and get started on Upwork.

Selling Your Services on Upwork

There are two main ways to sell your services on Upwork.

Bid on Jobs

The primary way of getting work on Upwork is to bid on jobs. Clients will post jobs and skills that they are looking for. You use their search engine, which is pretty good, to look for jobs that match your skills. If you think you can do a great job, you apply and hopefully get work.  You bid for the job based on what you think 


The other option is for something called Pre-Defined Projects. These are Upwork’s response to Fiverr.  Here, you post projects you can sell basically as a package and a fixed price.  Now, instead of you going to your clients, hopefully they come to you. They will search for projects and compare them and select the one that matches their needs and budget. So, your description and keywords matter.

We would recommend trying a mix. The projects are great because you can advertise exactly what you have experience and interest in but you’re relying on someone looking for it.

With jobs, you get started on Upwork right away. There is a limit to the number of jobs you can apply to. Upwork uses a concept of connects. You start with 40 of them for registering and you get ten per month on their free plan plus ten each time you’re chosen for an interview. After that you must buy them. While they’re not expensive at fifteen cents each, you don’t want to spend unnecessary money. So don’t spam potential clients.

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Getting Started on Upwork

How Clients Rate Freelancers

Besides skills, clients largely judge freelancers on feedback and total amount of money earned. When you’re starting out, you don’t have either, so that’s tough. We need a strategy to get more of both.  Then you’ll show up in client searches and will be more likely to get jobs. Eventually, clients will be asking you to apply.

Upwork ratings
Upwork Ratings

Complete Your Profile

Your first step is to make sure that you fill out your profile completely. This does a few things for you. For one, Upwork will give you a score, and part of that is getting your profile done completely.

  • Fill out all relevant job skills.  As many as you can honestly do is best
  • If you have a couple of unrelated skills (e.g. content writing and web design) you can do separate profiles for each set of skills. This will let you decide which profile to send a potential client based on their needs without looking like you don’t focus on anything.
  • Include relevant projects you have done. Include descriptions, samples, references and testimonials if you have them. More information is better.
  • Everything should be well edited, well written and professional.

When you have a complete profile, it doesn’t just look good to potential clients,  it also helps your job search results and improves the chances that you show up in a client search. After a client creates a job, they get a list of potential contractors to invite to apply.

Bid On Easy Jobs

When you’re starting out, the first step is to get your feedback up. That will help you start applying for better jobs. Applying for easy jobs that you know you can do a great job at is the best strategy. Do this even if you have to apply for a lower-paying job. When you get those first jobs (really always but early is especially important) do an amazing job. Do everything you can to make the client happy. You need those good reviews.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a good review. At the end of a job, you can simply say “Thank you for the opportunity. If you can do so honestly, I’d really appreciate a good review. That helps me get future work.   Let me know if you need anything else.”  Feel free to copy that and edit it for your use. Then, add it to a text expander and send it at the end of every project.

Apply for easier jobs. Excel at them. Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews

A Few Other Tips

Here are a few other tips here

  • Be very responsive to clients. Communicate, even when you’re having a problem or are going to miss a deadline.
  • It can help early on to focus on clients that are new to Upwork. You can also see a client’s spend and feedback. Focusing on clients that have little to no spend can help you get those new jobs (they’re figuring out what they’re doing too.)
  • Stay away from clients with bad feedback. These projects are more likely to be difficult and they’re more likely to give you bad feedback.
  • If you do multiple projects for the same client, which can happen when you do a great job, consider asking if each project can be separate in Upwork. You could either add them as a milestone to an existing project (or as more hours) which is fine for income. However if you the client is willing to do them as separate projects each project gets its own review. Also, Upwork shows each project on your profile so it shows that you’ve done more successful work.
  • It’s not a bad strategy to trade a lower price (never free) for good feedback.
  • You have to review clients too. They also want good feedback so bear that in mind. Very importantly,  their feedback doesn’t show up on your profile until you have reviewed the client (good or bad).
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Early on you want to focus on getting good feedback and successfully completing projects. Apply for easy projects and don’t be too proud to take lower paying jobs.

Applying for Jobs

The first step is to focus on jobs as soon as you can after they’re posted.  You are significantly more likely to be hired if you apply in the first few hours after it’s posted.

Here is a secret for getting jobs on Upwork that is easy but for some reason many freelancers are too lazy to apply it. Ready…

Do a separate application for each job. Many freelancers use template responses. It’s painfully obvious when they do that. Don’t do that. In the cover letter make it clear you read the description.

Remark and maybe give samples that relate to the work they’re asking about. “I recently did a job using a script in Google Sheets very similar to this and we were able to save the client ten minutes for each transaction.”  Or maybe “I just finished a 2,000 word article on the mating habits of Siberian fruit flies, which are very similar to the North Wales black fly. The client was thrilled and they are already seeing traffic from it.”  Here I’ve said that I read the description,  can do the work and give them results. 

It’s okay to ask a question. Many of the job descriptions are unclear.  You’re looking to get asked for an interview.  If you ask an intelligent,  thoughtful discussion,  they are more likely to answer that and now you’re taking the next step to getting hired.

If you want an expert strategy, consider signing up for a free account for Loom and doing a video for the job that talks about your experience. Tell them how excited you are to work with them. Then, still write a great cover letter and include a link to the Loom video.

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These steps should get you noticed. When you get that interview focus on how you can help them. Give them a realistic timeline (most clients want everything done yesterday) and meet it! 

Benefits of a paid account

Upwork has a Freelancer Plus account which gives you more connects. That’s fine. The real value, though is that when enough people have applied, you can see the range of the bids.

This does a few things for you.  The first is that if the bids are too low, it might not be worth applying. This becomes a bigger problem later when you are closer to setting your own prices but even starting out you don’t want to be too low. However, on some jobs, you might have been willing to get paid less, but now that the job is much higher, you can still be low but make more than you would have bid. This opportunity alone can make the plus worth the 15 USD monthly fee.

How Upwork Makes Money

As you’re building your Upwork business, remember how they make money. They make a bit off the connects. They also make about 3 percent off of the client. The bulk of their money is from you. They get 20 percent of your fee (this does go down as the client has paid you more).  Upwork handles marketing, billing, payment processing, and dispute management so it can be worth it but it’s a big chunk. Bear that in mind as you bid on jobs.

Don’t Take Money Off Upwork

With this fee, it can be tempting to take work off of Upwork. Don’t do that. First, if your earnings and feedback don’t improve, you’ll never get better jobs from Upwork. Also. If you get caught they’ll throw you off.

Lastly, and probably most importantly, it’s dishonest and tells your clients that you’re willing to be dishonest. Eventually, when you’ve had a client for long enough it might be a conversation worth having but by then, you’re paying less in commission and have to handle payment processing so make sure it’s worth it.

Other Marketplaces to Check Out

There are other marketplaces like Upwork. It’s one of the biggest, if not the biggest but there are others.  You could also consider Freelancer and Fiverr. Fiverr is mostly projects that you advertise but if your skills allow that, it can be a good place to advertise. Why not try them all?

How to Get Started on Upwork

Upwork is a huge marketplace for a bunch of skilled freelancers to advertise those skills around the world. This creates more business opportunities but for many freelancers, it also means that they can make good money by marketing to countries where good money in their home currency can be a great price. You can make more money.

Starting with the strategies may not be easy but you will be able to build a business much more quickly and more profitably.

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