Having only seriously started my Upwork career in 2021, I’m quite stunned at where I’m at today with almost $100,000 earned; however, I didn’t get here overnight. It took me 9 months to reach my first $10,000, and from there on out my ability to get contracts and ongoing opportunities has become much easier.
There is no reason why you can’t earn that amount that faster, and I wish I would have had some guidance when starting my Upwork career. If I would have known the tips below that I eventually came to learn just by trial and error, I would have made my first $10K much faster.
Once you make your first $10,000, things get much easier on Upwork. Getting to that point though is very tough and takes a lot of dedication, so that’s why I’ve made the following tips to help you earn your first $10,000 earned on Upwork. Let’s get started!
Tips on How to Earn Your First $10,000 on Upwork
Tip #1: Create a “Go Getter” Profile Page
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 currently get about 3 to 5 inquiries a week from prospective clients asking me to send proposals to their Upwork jobs.
Demonstrate your value to a client by showing off your previous projects, and make sure to talk statistics. 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, show off quotes from previous clients that show how much they loved your work. Just demonstrate your value in short and easy-to-understand terms without industry jargon. You’ll make people interested, and they’ll be much more inspired to hire you.
Tip #2: Take a Professional Photo
First impressions are everything. Don’t skimp on getting a good profile picture, but if you have to be budget conscious, use your iPhone and a well-lit environment. Smile. Show your clients that you are professional, and perhaps demonstrate a bit of your personality so that they can know you’d be fun to work with.
Tip #3: Aim for Small Fixed Contracts.
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. It will most likely be a fixed-size contract, and rightfully so. Your client is going to want to reduce the risk of hiring an Upwork talent with little to no reviews. In short, you have to start at the bottom.
I’d written about 20 proposals before I was lucky enough to get my first contract. 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.
Upwork reviews are worth more than gold.
Tip #4: Wow Your First 2–3 Clients for Sure 5 Star Reviews
For your first three contracts, you need to do everything in your power to go above and beyond what they ask for. Make sure they are wowed. To do this, you need to only take on projects that you know you can hit out of the park. 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 your clients’ next needs, and if you can, adjust your deliverables to go beyond what they had paid for.
- If possible, give them great ideas on how to best use your deliverables. Guide them on how to do it best, and be super supportive.
Reviews are everything in Upwork. I only have success now because I was able to “wow” my first 3 clients and earn 5-star reviews. Once I got 3 great reviews, pitching for projects became much easier.
Tip #5: Try to Avoid Cost-conscious Clients (If Possible…)
Once you have a bit more flexibility in who you can pick as clients after you earn 2–3 good reviews (~$1,500 earned), 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 similar jobs. 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. Most clients will let you know if they are interested in messaging you. Messaging them also is a bit off-putting. Only put your time into 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 professional profile picture.
- For your first project, aim for small fixed contracts.
- “Wow” your clients to get at least three 5-star reviews before bidding for larger projects.
- Pick good clients, and do everything you can to keep them!
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.
So good luck on making your first $10,000 on Upwork. You can do it!