Right before New Year’s Eve 2020, I started on my first real Upwork contract (the first one was scammy. More on that at the end…). Almost 2 years later, I’m one of Upwork’s “Top Rated Plus” talents. How’d this happen?
From 0 jobs to 28 jobs completed in less than 2 years, I’m quite stunned at where I’m at today. As many people are reaching out to me now asking about how I created my successful Upwork profile, I wanted to share some of my top tips on how to create a successful Upwork profile. So let’s start on how to build an amazing Upwork profile to start making money.
Tip #0: Write an Amazing Profile. Provide Good Examples. Use Lists.
Since I’m a programmer, I love to start my lists with #0 (List = 1st item in the list!). Anyhow, I cannot understand the importance of writing an inspiring, clear, and project-rich profile!
When potential clients click on your profile after you submit a proposal, they want to see the skills their project needs. They also want to see that you’re a “go-getter”. You need to wow them, and you do that by using lists and inspiring language. Don’t be afraid to use emojis too. They can make your profile visually appealing as the profile description doesn’t fully allow HTML or images.
My projects focus on data science and automation, so first, I put those project types directly in my headline. Next, I show the value that my projects can have for clients in terms of time and money. Third, I tell them what to do next: “contact me to talk more”. In fact, I get about 3 to 5 inquiries a week from prospective clients asking about jobs.
Demonstrate your value to a client by showing off your previous projects, and make sure to talk up your statistics a lot. People love numbers and project outcomes, so tell them how much money or time you saved/earned during past projects. If you’re an artist, use some recommendation quotes from previous clients that show how much they loved your work. Just demonstrate your value in short and easy-to-understand terms without jargon. You’ll make people interested, and they’ll be much more inspired to hire you.
Oh, also use a professional photo for goodness sake! It really does make a difference. Don’t have one? Hire someone to take some good headshots for you. They’re totally worth it.
Tip #1: Start Small. Aim for a Small Fixed Contract. Underbid Everyone.
Your first contract will suck. Why? Because you’re going to have to sell your services, whatever they are, for a price that is probably way below what you would normally do it for. You’re also going to not receive responses on a ton of your proposals. In short, the start sucks. Period.
I’d written about 20 proposals before I was lucky enough to get my first contract. Right before New Year’s Eve 2020, I sent a proposal to a job to create a SQL query to automate a data flow for a customer in the US. I wrote an excellent project description and pretty convincingly gave similar and relevant projects I’d already completed for other clients outside of Upwork. When the client asked a question, I was quick to respond and hop on a quick video call with him to run through the plan.
I won the project and got to work quickly. I took it as a fixed amount contract for $300, and the job took about 25 hours to complete. It took this long because I made sure I did more than what the client asked for, even making his process better than what he expected. I wowed him, but my wallet wasn’t thanking me too much for this goodwill (yet…). I earned a whopping average of $12/hour for this first contract, and any SQL developer in the US would balk at this rate. However, I knew it was 100% worth it.
Why? Because reviews are worth more than gold.
Tip #2: Wow Your Client for Sure 5 Star Reviews
For your first contract, you need to do everything in your power to go above and beyond what the client asks for. Make sure they are wowed. To do this, you need to only take on a project that you know you can hit out of the park. To wow your client, make sure to:
- Respond quickly to their inquiries, even if you have to stay up late.
- Think about why they’re doing the project. Anticipate their next move, and if you can, adjust your deliverable to go beyond what they had paid for.
- If possible, give them great ideas on how to best use your deliverable. Guide them on how to do it best, and be super supportive.
Reviews are everything in Upwork. The only have success now because I made sure to “wow” my first 3 clients and earn their 5-star reviews. Once I got 3 great reviews, pitching for projects became much easier.
Tip #3: ONLY Pick the Right Clients for You.
Once you have a bit more flexibility in who you can pick as clients after you earn 2–3 good reviews, you need to make sure you only pick clients that will be good for you.
How can you know if a client is good? Well…
- Read their past project reviews from former Upwork talent.
- Check their average pay rate for jobs similar to your focus. If they’re paying too low, don’t even bother trying to argue for a higher rate.
- After you messaged them with a proposal, if they’re not following up quickly, don’t spend too much time trying to win the project. Only put your time into messaging clients that are messaging you back. In short, don’t SPAM people.
If you can find a client that pays well, values your work and doesn’t work you to the bone, you’ve found yourself a unicorn! Hold onto those clients and make sure you do everything you can to keep them happy. Many times you’ll find that these clients are Upwork Plus clients that have completed many projects with an amazing track record.
Cherish and keep your good clients happy, and they’ll return the favor.
- Create an amazing profile with clear and relevant information for your skills and jobs. Use a good profile picture.
- For your first project, shoot small and underbid everyone.
- “Wow” your clients to get about three 5-star reviews before bidding for larger projects and raising your rate.
- Pick good clients, and do everything you can to keep them!
Quick note: Avoid Scams
My first project actually was a scam, or at least I think it was. I believe a college student pretended to be working for a statistics test creator company and needed me to “verify” answers for a practice test he was creating. Funny, because he kept telling me if the answers were correct/incorrect after I returned the work to him. Then, there was a 60-minute time limit to submit the answers. Weird, right? Scammy, definitely. Some college student thought they were smart, and I reported them to Upwork.
Also, NEVER TAKE WORK OFF THE PLATFORM. Don’t fill out a Google form to apply for an Upwork job. Don’t accept off-platform payments. Don’t send prospective clients your email unless it’s to schedule a meeting. Protect yourself by keeping everything within the platform, and avoid things that make you question if it’s a legit job.
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