Edit: I’m closing in on $80K since writing this post, in case you’re wondering if I know what I’m talking about. 😉
Ah, Upwork. Perhaps the most debated topic in the freelance writing world. Some writers swear by it. Others spew venom across the room and short circuit your laptop at the mere mention of it!
As this particular freelance marketplace has evolved with the times, it has caught slack for steep fees, pay-to-play policies, and strict regulations.
But Upwork has helped me earn thousands over the years while working with dream clients and honing my skills. I find myself defending the platform in community spaces a lot. It’s not personal and I don’t work for them. In fact, I simply feel obligated to give my side of the story because I’m committed to helping other freelancers.
I want to balance out the sea of “it’s a scam!” comments and rationally encourage those who do want to try it out. Because, with the right strategy, Upwork is an awesome way to pad your freelance writing income.
While I don’t use it for full-time income (nor do I recommend doing that, to be clear—never put all of your eggs in one third party basket), I’ve been in scenarios where Upwork saved my ass… and my rent payment.
When my independently contracted clients have gone bankrupt or defaulted on payment, I’ve never panicked while I sorted things out. I know I have several long-term clients on Upwork who need recurring work completed, which translates to consistent income. And that’s a pretty good feeling.
To date, I’ve made around $60k on the platform. Check out my little congratulatory email from Upwork below. This is over the course of 4 years, so, no, not a full-time salary. But again, the point is not to be a full-time Upwork freelancer. Just to add Upwork to your overarching strategy.
In the past year—since June 1st, 2019 to be precise—I’ve earned $28,283 of income from Upwork alone. Because of the strategies I’m going to talk about in this post, the earnings are exponential.
My independent freelance work, plus Upwork income, helped me clear the $10K/month mark last year for the first time. I’m still buoying between $7-10k per month depending on a number of factors, from existing client needs to new projects and how many hours I work per week.
Things have been a bit less predictable during the pandemic as well.
But I feel confident knowing I could hop on Upwork and make a few hundred dollars to cover groceries, bills, or tuck more money away for a rainy day.
I’m not bragging and I hope it doesn’t come across that way. My intention is to point out why it’s not a bad idea to learn how to play by the Upwork rules and add a veritable smorgasbord of client relationships to your broader strategy.
I also think we should stop skirting around numbers as if they’re some kind of taboo.
I wouldn’t take the advice of a “freelance guru” who can’t be up front about what they’re earning, and neither should you. That’s why I’m including real numbers. 😉
Anyway, I’m sure you’re eager to learn, so let’s dive in.
Here’s how to make consistent freelance writing income on Upwork:
Embrace the fees.
Let’s get this out of the way. I don’t want to seem insensitive, but I think everyone should stop complaining about the dreaded Upwork fees.
When Upwork first announced that they’d be charging fees for connects (on top of taking a chunk of your income as you earn) the community didn’t hide their frustration.
But I think a platform as polarizing as Upwork becomes a target for criticism when they make any change in policies—even if that equates to mere cents.
I have to imagine that Upwork’s fees came as the result of freelance shitposting.
When reaching out to clients is free (and a large percentage of freelancers are stuck in a frantic must-find-work mindset) clients get buried in thoughtless templated responses. Folks apply to gigs they aren’t a good fit for. I’ve seen writers claim to have applied to 100 jobs in a single day.
That kind of behavior contributes to pure noise rather than benefiting the writer or their prospective clients.
At first, I thought Upwork was introducing fees to weed out those who weren’t serious (and I said as much on IG), but now I believe they are trying to inspire more freelancers to take their outreach seriously.
As all my biz mentors have stressed at some point, people are more invested in something when they actually invest in it. Money = skin in the game. If you know you’re paying for connects, you’re far more likely to approach them thoughtfully, apply for work that’s an ideal fit, and put real effort into making those connections.
This results in a higher quality freelance marketplace for everyone.
And no, you don’t need 100 jobs. Just focus on getting a couple of high-quality clients at a time. Better yet, start with one.
I believe abandoning Upwork over fees is the direct result of having a scarcity mindset. Complaints that I witnessed included sentiments like “it’s already hard enough to make money there, how can they charge us for connects?” and “I’m not paying to email someone!”
What if your mindset was more like this:
“There’s more than enough money to be made on Upwork. I’ll focus on increasing my bottom line so these fees aren’t even noticeable.”
“This is such a wealth of client leads, why wouldn’t I invest in access to it?”
At the end of the day, Upwork is a freelance marketplace and it doesn’t owe you anything.
In that way, it’s no different than other services you pay for, like Netflix, web hosting, and the gourmet dog food you order for your pup. No one is forcing you to use those things and you could opt out. But you see the benefits, so you pay for it on a regular basis.
In this case, you could pay a few cents for a connect that lands you a $5-10k contract. I’ve earned $17k from one of my newer clients to date and that all started with a single message.
The percent Upwork takes from your earnings is a different story, but let’s talk about that too. Here’s a snapshot of the fees you agree to when you begin working with a new client:
☕️ 20% for the first $500 you bill your client across all contracts with them.
☕️ 10% for total billings with your client between $500.01 and $10,000
☕️ 5% for total billings with your client that exceed $10,000
At first, I thought this was nuts. But then I realized this is Upwork, yet again, nudging freelancers to form those long-term relationships.
Just like in the real world, it’s far more cost-effective to maintain working relationships with clients over time than to constantly search for new ones.
(Also, It doesn’t take much to get to $500. You can exceed that in one project.)
One of my first-ever clients still works with me to this day. Apart from Upwork’s cut of that income decreasing, our agreement has evolved over time. I’ve negotiated a higher rate four times in accordance with my independent rates and growing value.
If the fees still bother you, fine. Make it worth it for you! Decide what you’d need to make each month to cancel out those fees. Raise your rates by 20%. Do what you need to do. Just don’t forget that the fees are a minimal investment for the incredible resource that Upwork can be.
And did I mention you get to deduct them from your taxes?
Try to focus less on the $0.15 or the 20-5% and more on building great client relationships that will pay off over time.
If all you do is sit around resenting the platform, you’re hating on a system that could be working in your favor.
To wrap this up, here’s a video I shot in January when the paid connects email first went out to Upwork users:
TAKE ACTION: Release scarcity from your mind and adopt an abundant point of view. Acknowledge and embrace that you’re investing in your career growth when you pay Upwork fees.
Define your niche. Then define it more.
For existing Upwork users, having a strong niche is every bit as important as when you’re freelancing out in the wild.
For new users, it’s 10x more important.
The Upwork approval process has gotten tricky in recent months as the marketplace has become more saturated. The further you can niche down, the higher your chances are of getting accepted.
If you’ve been getting rejected upon trying to join, try further honing in on your chosen niche. If you’re a software content writer, maybe you narrow down to a B2B wellness software writer. If you’re a fashion copywriter, maybe you narrow down to a women’s luxury copywriter.
Upwork favors freelancers with a strong sense of who they serve and what they offer. This is further proven by their specialized profile feature, which was rolled out just recently.
Specialized profiles allow you to create sub-profiles for the different specialties you have. This is perfect for someone who has an overarching niche but specific services that are better showcased separately.
For example, you could have an overarching theme of “wellness writer” and have a specialized profile for wellness brand marketing copy and another for wellness blogging.
So, why is Upwork so obsessed with niching? Why don’t they encourage jack-of-all-trade writers to serve a wide range of clients?
Dare I say it…? I think they’re doing you a favor.
By strongly encouraging niching down, they’re increasing the odds that you will find the clients you want to work with (and vice versa).
New freelancers often get stuck in a sort of nicheless default-mode, which results in them applying to hoards of opportunities and hoping something will work out. This creates a noisy and frustrating experience for clients who want a specialist to handle a specific project.
The key is to be that specialist instead.
Experienced freelancers know that the fastest path to a high-income, low-stress career is to serve a specific kind of client with specific services.
Sure, once you’re established you can branch out! But especially in the beginning, having a strong niche ensures you get found in search, gain credibility, and can even start off with higher rates. This is one of those “break the rules once you’ve mastered them” scenarios.
New freelancers sometimes resist this because they’re scared of narrowing their prospects and not having enough work. The opposite is true!
Release this fear and be intentional about narrowing your client pool. The fact is, you can’t work with everyone. And if you try to attract every kind of client, none of them will see you.
It pains me to see freelance writers struggle with getting high-quality work, refusing to narrow down and focus on their ideal target client.
Working for every kind of client is exhausting and ineffective. It means you’re changing hats all week long, maybe even multiple times per day. This can lead to burn out and sub par work.
Why not focus on doing exceptional work for one kind of client instead?
This could lead to you taking less jobs at higher rates and, eventually, improving your whole quality of life.
Yes, niching down is that important.
Again, this is a scenario where it’s possible to get work as a jack of all trades, but why would you make things harder for yourself? If you’re making decent money now, without a niche, just imagine what you could be making.
Bringing this back to Upwork, before you complain about the platform being a “race to the bottom”, recognize that the best clients aren’t looking for generalists.
I advise you to ignore the low paying gigs entirely and position yourself as a high-value match for specific kinds of work. Then watch your Upwork career flourish.
I’m first-hand proof of this theory, by the way. During my first year on Upwork, I made pocket change. I was ready to give up after experiencing nothing but frustration. I found a great client, but I couldn’t seem to replicate that process.
It wasn’t until I decided to leverage my fashion industry expertise and narrow my offerings that I began to see things pick up.
In the span of a couple weeks, I went from proposals being ignored to receiving private job invitations. Soon after, Upwork was covering my rent.
At the very least, give niching down a try. You can always pivot if you don’t like the results.
TAKE ACTION: Examine your current niche and see if you can go even more narrow with it. If you’re a generalist, begin brainstorming specific niches you may want to pursue. The best niche aligns with your experience and interests and serves a growing (not declining) industry.
Cater your profile to the client you want.
Your Upwork profile is sort of like a mini website-meets-resume that, with the right strategy, can bring in consistent leads.
Don’t skim over any part of your profile! Even though the process of representing yourself on one page can feel daunting, take the time to think through and carefully craft this tool.
☕️ Start at the top with your title.
This should reflect your niche as specifically as possible so that you show up in search results. Think about what your clients are searching for and leverage that language. (Another reason to have a strong niche? When you have one, you’ll know your target customer and what kind of language they’re using. Yes, I’m still talking about niches!)
A strong title can help you stand out, even if the prospective client doesn’t have time to read your bio or browse your portfolio.
When you’re one of hundreds (maybe thousands) of writers looking for similar opportunities, you’re more likely to get lost on page 10 of search results.
Remember, you’re not just a copywriter or a content writer. Be more specific.
Do you help life coaches write their sales pages? Do you write e-commerce product copy for software companies? Or maybe you ghostwrite e-books for entrepreneurs?
Yes, you CAN offer other things and your title will evolve over time. But for now, infuse that title with specific keywords related to your specialization.
☕️ Next, let’s talk about your bio.
I mentioned above that many clients won’t even read your bio. Some of them will, so make sure it’s on point.
Your bio is not about you, but about what you can do for the client. If your “About me” has always been “me, me, me” focused, it’s time to make some adjustments.
Remove all of the sentences that blather on about how passionate and hard-working you are. That’s filler and clients who have taken the time to read your bio will roll their eye sat the sight of it.
(And that’s not because you’re not hard-working, it’s because this means nothing to a complete stranger on the internet.)
Instead, focus on your ideal target customer (bringing it back to that strong niche) and figure out how you can address a pain point in their lives immediately, in the first sentence of your bio.
For example, my Upwork bio is geared toward online fashion retailers who are trying to stand out in a saturated space with a ton of competitors. I open with calling this out right away. This lets them know I am tuned into their struggles and am familiar with the industry in about 2 seconds flat.
How do you think that compares to the early version of my bio, which said something like, “I’ve been a passionate fashion writer for X years and have worked with Brand X, Brand X, and Brand X?”
Yeah, there’s no competition. 😉 Stop talking about yourself! Your client’s biggest concern is how you can make their life easier. That will be their #1 reason for hiring you—not whether you have a bunch of impressive credentials listed.
Take this same strategy when crafting the rest of your bio, showcasing your knowledge of their plight and how you can help them solve those issues. Get specific with how you approach these problems. You can even get specific about who you do and do not wish to work with!
For example, I state very clearly on my profile that knowing your target customer is a prerequisite to working with me.
This shows my ideal client that I know the importance of being familiar with a target customer before any copy is written. Through this simple inclusion, I’ve SHOWN them that I have experience instead of stating it and asking them to take my word for it.
Stay honed in on that niche and reinforce your presence as a specialist and expert. And remember to keep language colloquial, but professional, so that reading your bio is a pleasure instead of a chore.
☕️ Upload a stellar photo.
Don’t overthink this—just pick a winner! By that, I mean don’t pick a Coachella selfie unless your niche is festival fashion.
Upload a photo that looks professional and welcoming. A clean background and smile never hurt.
You may also choose to cater your profile to your niche. Travel writers might use a headshot taken on the beach, while a medical writer might opt for pristine, minimal look.
You can scroll through freelancer profiles on Upwork to get a sense of what a “good” photo looks like. Clients will be seeing a lot of them, so how can you make yours stand out (in a good way)?
Notice which photos stand out to you: Facial expressions, backgrounds, overall moods.
Working online means people are passing judgement and making decisions based on first impressions. Consider this when choosing your photo.
☕️ Re: the rest of your profile…
…cover all of your bases. Don’t leave anything incomplete (especially if you’ve yet to be approved). Each piece of your profile is a chance for you to stand apart from other writers and attract your ideal target client.
Upload samples relevant to your niche. List relevant work experience in the appropriate fields (no need to go on about this in your bio since it’s already on the page), and fill out any other fields that are available to you.
Don’t do this in an hour. Take the time to complete your profile and make it something you’re truly proud of. On the same token, it shouldn’t take two weeks.
You’ll change it often over time, so don’t think it needs to be flawless from the get-go.
Before we wrap this section up, let’s talk about niches…again.
You may also be given the chance to fill out a specialized profile on Upwork.
It has been noted by Upwork that profiles with specialized sub-profiles (I know, it’s a little confusing) will get priority traction in search results.
I myself have not done this but have not noticed a dip in the frequency of my job invitations—but I am planning to do so in the future.
When Upwork gives you a chance to showcase your niche, you can bet it’s for a good reason. I recommend utilizing those opportunities whenever possible.
TAKE ACTION: Fill out your profile with your target customer in mind. Review it from the eyes of your target customer and audit yourself with ruthless honesty. Ask, “If I were the client and I saw this profile, what would make me want to hire me? Or not?”
BONUS TIP: If you’re trying to get approved on Upwork and you’re being rejected, look at whether you can further complete or optimize your profile. Is your niche too vague? Is your profile incomplete? Is your writing sloppy or does something about your profile say “I’ve rushed this”? Keep an open mind in examining ways you can improve your profile and keep resubmitting.
Ignore low paying, low quality jobs.
Many people who call Upwork a “scam” say this because they’ve browsed some of the insultingly low rates being offered there and made a snap judgement about the entire site.
It’s worth checking the other side of the coin, where freelancers are getting paid hundreds and thousands of dollars per project.
Let me kick you a little scenario:
You’re driving down the road on a beautiful fall afternoon. You see a sign for an apple orchard coming up on the right, and damn—you’ve got a craving for some deliciously crisp apples.
You’ve heard that the orchard has thousands of gorgeous, thriving trees. Mixed in, though, you’ve heard there are also some sad looking trees with low-quality apples.
It’s the largest orchard in your region, though, and it has hundreds of varieties of apples. There’s always something new to discover. And it would be awfully convenient to just pull in.
The drive is coming up…
What do you do?
Do you drive past with the window down screaming “scam!” out the window? Or do you pull in, grab a basket, and look for some awesome apples to bring home?
I know this is a bit of a wild analogy, and I am sort of missing fall right now, but you get the picture, right?
If you knew there was the potential to make a few hundred or even a few thousand bucks on a freelance marketplace website (but there would also be duds to wade through), wouldn’t you want to give it a shot?
I’m one of the freelancers who is cashing in on Upwork, and I’m here to tell you it’s worth side-stepping a few bad apples to find the good ones.
It is easy to call something a scam because it’s not working out for you. This is a classic reaction to anything online that isn’t automatically generating desired results, in fact.
But in this case, it also feels like a cop-out.
And yes, there are scammy clients, bad apples, and low paying jobs on Upwork. But that doesn’t define the entire platform.
Also, I have an amazing trick for avoiding all of that. Ready for it?
Ignore the low paying jobs.
Amazing, right? *pauses for applause*
Not to be cheeky, but I am amazed at how much time people spend complaining about a platform that could be making them a lot of money.
As for the bad apples (a.k.a. low quality clients), once you learn to identify red flags—we’ll get into that below—you can ignore those too.
Whether you’re on or off Upwork, I would advise that you pay no mind to opportunities that aren’t a good fit for you. There are thousands of new jobs being posted on the site daily. It’s impossible that they would all be the right fit.
And it’s impossible that they’d all be the wrong fit as well.
(See how that works?)
Freelancing on Upwork doesn’t mean you must automatically accept any Upwork project you encounter, even if it’s in your niche. Instead, you get to decide, based on your niche, rates, policies, interests, mood, goals, and values (among other factors) whether to accept or reject projects.
In other words, you still own your career’s trajectory. You still curate your client docket.
Now that we’ve settled this matter, I want to drop a little caveat in here:
You should also know that sometimes clients pop arbitrary numbers into the budget field and publish the listing because a) they’re not even sure what to write and b) they’re just experimenting.
If you find a project that looks like a great fit, but the budget is too low, you can always apply and state your (higher) rate. I’ve done this many times and ended up getting paid my desired rate despite the original budget.
Freelancing is always about experimenting, negotiating terms, and securing collaborations that work for everyone involved. At the end of the day, no one should be getting ripped off or feel as if they’re getting taken for a ride. And that includes the client!
So, my friends, please: If the project budget is too low, if you don’t feel aligned with the client or their brand, or you have other reasons why you feel that are a bad fit for you, just move on.
Scrolling away only takes one flick of the finger.
TAKE ACTION: Browse Upwork opportunities in your niche and save (you can use the little heart button) a few opportunities that look promising. Remember to include a few that you plan to negotiate higher rates for. Ignore (and I mean ignore) anything with insultingly low compensation.
Be personable with proposals.
Okay, you’ve found the gig you want. You’re excited to reach out to the client and secure this new relationship.
So how do you stand out from other freelancers who are vying for the same opportunity?
As someone who has hired freelancers on Upwork, I can tell you that 90% of the replies being fired off from hopeful writers look excruciatingly similar.
Most of them look like this:
To whom it may concern,
My name is so-and-so. I’m an experienced copywriter with X years of experience working with X type of clients. I have a degree in X from so-and-so university and have been passionate about writing since I was X years old.
I would be a good fit for this project because I produce high-quality work, free of plagiarism, and I am very familiar with this kind of writing. Please review my portfolio website at (URL).
I look forward to hearing from you.
Unfortunately, this templated response has little chance of getting a reply, let alone getting the well-meaning freelancer hired. It was likely sent to at least 10 jobs in one day.
(If you’re applying to Upwork jobs all day with a templated response, consider this your official cease fire.)
It lacks any indication that this person can actually get the job done, and quite frankly, it’s boring! It sounds like it was written by a robot.
We want to step away from robotic language and embrace the fact that, despite building our careers over the internet, we are doing so as warm-blooded human beings.
Infusing a bit of personality into your proposal can instantly perk them up and grab the attention of prospects.
Start by addressing the client by name. If you don’t see their name on Upwork, a simple, “Hello!” is better than “To whom is may concern” or “Dear sir or madam”.
In the first sentence of your reply, avoid launching into the “I this, I that” ramble. I know that it’s tempting and counter-intuitive, but instead, focus on the client. Focus on the project. Focus on their business. Not your alma mater.
(Unless you can leverage that somehow. For example, if you went to the same school and you have that in common. I once used this very strategy to connect with a marketing head at a fashion company and got the job within a few minutes of sending my proposal. But if she didn’t share my alma mater, I never would have mentioned it in the first line like that.)
Clients don’t post opportunities online to learn about your personal history or your credentials. They do so because they have a job that needs doing.
If you’re offering yourself up as the best option, how can you open your messages in a way that identifies you as the best writer for that job?
Much like your bio, your Upwork proposal cover letter is a chance to sell yourself to the client. In that sense, it’s like a sales letter.
But! Don’t make the mistake of going into their inbox guns blazing and trying to “close the sale”. Instead, apply the same techniques we discussed in the bio, where we kept our language focused on our target client’s industry and pain points.
In this case, you’re speaking to an actual client, so your language should be specific to their business and their project.
You should also be taking this opportunity to feel out whether this project is even a good fit for you.
Yes, I said it, friends.
Even when you find an opportunity on Upwork and you fill out that proposal, you’re not begging them to “pick” you! You’re finding out, on level ground where both parties hold equal power, whether this collaboration is a good move for you to make.
If you’ve been approaching proposals with a “pick me, pick me!” energy, you’ve been chasing clients away.
Take some power back and switch up the way you think about these interactions. In fact, here’s some required reading that digs into this point further:
Once you receive an answer, you want to get to know the client and learn about the project before you confirm your interest in working together. But the first step is to get that conversation started.
Be personal, not pushy.
It doesn’t take much to stand out when so many freelancers are using canned responses and copy/pasting with wild abandon.
If you put just a little bit more effort into your proposals, you’ll be way ahead of the game.
TAKE ACTION: Find an opportunity on Upwork that looks like a great fit for you. Submit a proposal using personable language, keeping your wording focused on the client and their needs. Treat this is an opportunity to find out whether the project is a good fit for you. Don’t approach the task with “Pick me!!” energy.
BONUS TIP: You may also notice a set of questions following the cover letter field when you’re submitting a proposal. These questions are mandatory and they actually show up before your cover letter when the client views your proposal. Those are your first chance to grab the clients attention.
Leverage the power of samples.
Samples are kind of magic. If you use them the right way, they can do most of the talking, landing you gigs—even if you’re still struggling with writing good cover letters.
There are two instances in which your samples can work in your favor on Upwork.
☕️ First, let’s talk about samples that live on your profile.
When a client is intrigued by your headline, and perhaps your bio, they may scroll down to check out some of the work you’ve done.
Your samples can be from projects you’ve done outside of Upwork or within the platform, for previous Upwork clients.
When you’re adding work to your profile, you’ll have the option of tagging samples with specific projects. This creates an integrated profile where your Upwork project history, samples, and other information are all packaged together.
Be aware that when you tag a sample with a specific Upwork project, that client will receive an email. The email will state that they have the chance to review that sample and ensure they want you to share it publically.
As you can imagine, this means you can’t pull any funny business when uploading samples. Keep your samples 100% authentic and make sure your clients are okay with you featuring them on your profile.
90% of the time, clients won’t mind, and the work will be public on their website anyway. Sometimes you’ll run into a client who doesn’t want you to feature their work. If the project is already done, there’s not much you can do about this.
What you can do is notify clients ahead of time that you plan on featuring the resulting work on your profile. They will probably agree. If not, it’s up to you to decide whether that will be a deal breaker.
Personally, if a client doesn’t want me to showcase samples, it’s a point against them for my final decision of whether or not I want to work together. For some, it’s not a big deal.
☕️ Next, let’s talk about the second way samples come into play…
Many clients will ask to see samples of your work when you submit a proposal. Even if you have samples on your profile, you’ll need to attach or link to them separately in the proposal.
As we’ve covered above, clients are getting an overwhelming amount of inquiries each time they post an opportunity, and they simple don’t have time to click over and browse everyone’s profile samples.
Make things easy for them by narrowing down to the most relevant samples for the project and including them with your proposal.
If you’re linking to your portfolio site, don’t link them to the homepage. I’ve hired many creatives over the years and this is one of the most frustrating things you can do.
Always link to a specific page with the relevant samples clearly showcased. If your samples are crammed one one page, just take a few seconds and set something up for the client.
For example, I’ve pulled all of my fragrance samples and turned it into a PDF that I uploaded for a fragrance client. I wasn’t going to link them to my PDP copy samples and let them scroll and try to find them.
How can you package your samples so that the client sees exactly what they need to see?
That said, be sure you’re sending them writing samples specific to the job you’re applying for. I’m not sending blog content samples to get product description gigs. I’m not sending SEO meta copy in to land a romance language About page project.
Pretty straight forward, right? But sometimes when we’re applying for work, we forget. We want to impress, so we just shower the client with everything we’ve got.
This approach has the opposite of the desired effect, and they end up incredibly frustrated.
Whether you’re uploading samples to your profile or including them with your proposal, keep them relevant and make sure you’re not providing the client with extra work.
TAKE ACTION: Outfit your profile with samples of your previous work, both on and off of Upwork. Optionally, reach out to previous Upwork clients in advance if you plan to showcase their work so they won’t be surprised when they’re notified of the upload. This might even be a good time to check in and see if they’d like to collaborate again.
BONUS TIP: If you don’t have samples because you haven’t worked with clients before, don’t fret. You can create samples that are specific to your niche and use them to show off your skills. Start with one or two. Be transparent about the fact that they were not generated for an actual business.
You can get creative by writing an email, blog post, or sales page for your ideal target client. Prospective clients will appreciate your effort and your abilities will be on clear display.
Get paid what you’re worth.
When it comes to setting rates, many freelancers begin to panic. And they don’t actually stop panicking, even after they’ve had several clients.
What is it about getting paid that makes us lose our minds?
It’s easy to play mental volleyball with the options: Should you set your rates low and competitive, or higher to appear high value? And what’s even considered low or high?
When I first started freelancing, I looked around at other freelancers to see what they were charging. I was shocked to see that rates varied dramatically (and I ended up even more confused).
Since there’s no overarching “freelance handbook” that we can pull the answers from, the rates of your peers will always vary.
Back in my early freelancing days, I decided to go with an arbitrary rate of $20/hour and I gradually worked my way up from there. This wasn’t a bad call, but it random, and it took me way too long to work my way up to $95+ per hour.
I want you to approach this with more strategy both on and off of Upwork. And this is where it helps to stop thinking like an ex-employee and start thinking like a freelance business owner.
How do business owners decide their rates? They consider their income goals, the value of their product, and they’ll likely research industry standards for context.
Let’s start with income goals:
What numbers are you trying to hit this month? Or this year?
If you’re trying to make $5,000 in your first month and you’re charging $15 an hour, you’re going to have to take on a lot more projects than someone who is charging $35 or $75 or $105 an hour.
Part two of this question is: How often do you want to work to make those income goals a reality?
One of the perks of being a freelancer is designing your work schedule. When deciding your rates, you should also be asking yourself how often you plan to work.
If you know you only want to work 25-30 hours per week so you can spend time with your kids, how much do you need to make during those hours to hit your income goals? And how many different projects are you willing to divide those hours into?
☕️ A higher rate = less projects.
☕️ Lower rate = more projects.
Breaking it down by the hour can also help you estimate per-project rates if you’d rather not work hourly (which we’ll get into below).
Don’t worry about being completely precise, but run some numbers in your mind and base it off of your income goals, first and foremost. You’re not freelancing for fun. You’ve got bills to pay and a life to live. So what makes Upwork worth it for you?
Figure that out and charge accordingly.
Of course, the next part of the equation is “how much are you actually worth”? And this is a tough one, because it causes ample second-guessing, even among the most confident freelance writers.
If we could, we’d all charge enough to work a few projects and take the rest of the year off. But your value determines whether clients will actually pay the rates you set.
Let me run that by you again: It’s all about value.
When you’re new, it can be tricky to separate experience level from value. And you might have a hard time convincing yourself you’re worth $105 an hour at the beginning.
(As a general rule, if you don’t believe your rate, your prospective clients won’t, either.)
On the same token, if you’re prepared to deliver premium level writing services know damn well you can get results, put that premium price tag on your work!
Experience level can play into value, and often does, but these two factors don’t always mirror one another. It’s important to know the difference and how it applies to you.
A new brick and mortar business doesn’t hand out their products for free just because it’s launch day. They might offer discounts as incentive, but not always. This is a business decision that you get to make on your own.
Maybe you offer a special package to first-time clients. Maybe you don’t! Whatever you decide, don’t assume you have to sacrifice your time and energy for low rates just to get your first few clients.
You’re a professional writer, so that has to be reflected in your rates, no matter what your experience level is.
For those who aren’t new, take an audit of what you’re bringing to the table. Are you charging enough for your services? Are you priced so low that you look like a mediocre service provider, or so high that you can’t back up your rate with solid reasons to work with you?
I find that most writers are doing the former and charging way too little.
Here are a few examples to break down the “why” behind writers charging big bucks for their services:
☕️ A conversion copywriter can charge a premium because they can reveal an almost immediate ROI, generating millions of dollars for their client in some cases. An example would be a writer who works on the sales page for an online course. If that course sells to thousands of students because of effective copy, that writer is worth their weight in gold.
☕️ A content marketing writer might write SEO-optimized blog posts on a client’s website that educate their customer over time, helping them become familiar with products or services while eliminating any doubts they have about buying. While the ROI isn’t as immediate, they can demand a premium by being niched-down writers who are experts in the vernacular and values of that specific demographic.
☕️ An e-commerce product copywriter can charge top dollar for long-form PDPs that generate sales while building up SEO credibility—or creative romance language that implants a vivid image in the customers mind, helping them to see how their life would change if they invested in that product or service.
☕️ Likewise, an email marketing copywriter can generate millions with a single email, especially if their client is promoting a high-ticket item or they have a mass market audience.
☕️ Less direct, but still crucial, a customer service copywriter can decrease the number of questions from customers and increase the number of sales with clear policies and helpful UX copy.
Are you starting to see how you might charge a premium for these services? Even if you’re not generating millions for your clients, you’re not just writing pretty words on a page. You’re helping them increase their bottom line. And once you deliver copy to them, they can benefit from that copy for months to come.
How does your writing make the client’s business thrive? Focus on those results and don’t low-ball yourself.
Finally, decide how you want to be paid.
On Upwork you can be paid by the hour, by the milestone, or by the entire project in one shot. Everyone has different opinions on how they prefer to work.
Hourly can ensure you’re fairly compensated for longer projects, but blanket fees can be easier to negotiate—and can be broken up into milestones to protect both parties.
This is one of those situations where you’ll want to make a decision and experiment with it. You can always switching things up later.
You may run into clients who prefer to work a certain way, but don’t be afraid to respectfully challenge that. If you know you want to be compensated by the hour, negotiate that with them and show them why it makes sense.
A final word on pricing:
You may think you should price yourself lower to “compete” with competitively priced freelancers, but be careful. Going too low can make you look cheap and undesirable. It’s also a guaranteed race to the bottom as someone will always undercut you.
Instead, focus on the value you’re bringing to the table and price yourself accordingly. We’re not here to scrape for pocket change, but to make full-time careers out of our writing services.
And while I don’t consider Upwork a source of full-time income, the goal should be to make a premium and hit those income goals every month.
It’s actually reassuring to know that the best clients aren’t even interested in freelancers with extremely low fees. They know they’ll get what they pay for.
Stay business-minded and take the guilt and confusion out of pricing by focusing on your numbers. Once you arrive at your rate, stand behind it with confidence. Believe in your worth. And adapt it overtime.
When you’re bringing an awesome service to the equation, clients will pay your premium rate with a smile (over and over).
TAKE ACTION: Stop second-guessing yourself and set your rates! 😉 Make sure you’re set up to earn enough to hit your income goals and position yourself as a high value asset to clients. If you already have rates, consider raising them if you’re struggling to hit income goals or spinning your wheels. Don’t be afraid to ask for more money. Clients happily pay higher rates when they know they’re getting a high value service.
Take excellent care of your clients.
Warning: Your job as an Upwork freelancer doesn’t end once you land the gig! You have to take great care of your clients in order to establish long-term success on Upwork.
Yes, long-term success requires long-term clients. Why?
If you’re only doing one-off work, you’ll be investing a ton of your time in trying to locate and lock in new clients. You’ll also be starting at the bottom of the Upwork cut % ladder every single time.
A better strategy would be to nurture the clients you have, keep more of the income you make, and create a relationship that can benefit both parties for years to come.
This is not to say you should never look for new opportunities (because you absolutely should), but if you find yourself having shiny object syndrome and scrolling through the job search feature when you should be doing existing client work, reel it back in.
Your existing clients are the priority. Those relationships determine your immediate future as an Upwork freelancer, so treat them like gold.
When you’re familiar with your client you can continue to deliver value again and again, anticipate what they need, and even start to offer light consulting as part of your package.
One of my very first Upwork clients is still my client today, four years later. Because I’ve seen her business empire grow and we’ve worked so closely, she knows I can jump into a project with minimal training or hand-holding and get things done.
A long-term relationship doesn’t mean you’re locked in at your entry-level rate, either. Because we’ve both evolved, I’ve also asked for higher rates four times over the years and she has agreed each time.
From the client’s POV, that long-term freelancer relationship is valuable too. They don’t want to spend all of their time looking for new freelancers and testing out new talent once they’ve found someone they trust. They have a business to run.
The more time you spend with a client and the more intimately you get to know their business, the more valuable you become to them.
Don’t play the game of collecting clients, doing subpar work, and moving on to the next job to build your portfolio. This tactic is 100% hurting your long-term success. If you do this, you’ll be frustrated in a few months with major burnout (and maybe even a low rating to recover from).
Just like any other business owner out there, you want to focus on taking great care of those existing client relationships.
So, how do you do that?
☕️ Communicate expectations. Ask questions. Become immersed in their business and understand their needs.
☕️ Submit work early—and do an outstanding job with every project you take on.
☕️ Be extra-helpful. For example, guide them through the process of setting up a milestone if they’re brand new to Upwork.
☕️ Anticipate issues and suggest solutions. Schedule calls if you need to walk through things. Answer their messages in a timely manner.
☕️ Be a reason they sigh with relief, not a reason they’re pulling their hair out.
Remember: When your clients are happy, those positive reviews come pouring in, along with five-star ratings that can earn you “Risisng Star” status, which opens up a world of new opportunities like being recommended for jobs and being invited to jobs privately.
Overtime, great client relationships can land you a spot on the “Top Rated” list, which has its own set of perks (we’ll get to those).
Check out this post for tips on securing long-term work with clients, both on and off of Upwork—and then, go sweep those clients off their feet:
TAKE ACTION: Come up with a game plan for treating your clients like gold. What unspoken services are included in your rates that will make collaborations smooth and keep them coming back for more?
Go overboard with communication.
Originally I was going to merge this tip with the one above, but I think it’s crucial enough to deserve its own headline.
When you work online, things can get lost in translation… and it’s more than glitches and delays during Zoom calls.
From the start of a project to the very end, be sure you exercise those awesome communication skills we touched on above.
☕️ Before you lock in the project, be sure you clarify everything that’s expected of you and what you expect of the client.
☕️ Once you lock in a project, it’s up to you to make sure you have everything you need to get to work.
☕️ During the project, be sure to follow up with them with any questions or requests for additional resources as soon as possible as you work. You can also touch base with them to offer status updates. Instill that trust!
☕️ Leading up to the close of the project, communicate any changes in the ETA or any glitches you hit. If you’re waiting on the client for an answer or resource, shoot them a quick reminder so it stays top of mind.
By doing these things, you’ll be helping them stay on track with their goals by doing this, and they’ll appreciate it.
You may have a client that isn’t used to working with someone online and needs a little hand holding. Or perhaps you’re new to the game and you have questions about what’s expected.
Whatever the case, speak up.
Being communicative will make you a memorable collaborator and someone who clients will turn to again and again.
It will encourage smooth collaboration, increase your odds of getting 5-star ratings and help you establish those coveted long-term relationships.
TAKE ACTION: Create a list of questions to ask clients before and during a project. You can ask them about specific deliverables, their target customer, the timeline of the project, their preferred method of communication, and anything else that feels relevant. Your questions will change with every collaboration, but it can help to have a list of the basics to start with.
That said, set boundaries.
Letting clients walk all over you is decidedly not the ticket to freelance success.
Don’t read “treat clients like gold” and “over-communicate” and think that means giving up all of the power in the collaboration.
After all, you’re a freelance business owner providing a service to another business. The dynamics of Upwork may make you feel like you have the shorter end of the stick, but in reality, no one can force you into a situation you don’t want to be in.
For example, if you find a project that feels it could be a winning collaboration, but the client’s terms don’t jive with you, you’re under no obligation to “just be happy you found something”.
Taking on work under terms you don’t agree with almost always leads to trouble down the line.
Instead, you can ask clients to negotiate on terms. You decide what you’re willing to meet them halfway with. If they won’t budge, you have the option of walking away. High-quality clients will respect your time and talk through discrepancies with you.
After being on Upwork for a long time, I have specific ways I like to work, and they’re no secret. When clients are used to working a different way, I am happy to explain my process to them.
My boundaries are mostly about workflow and communication. Here are some examples:
☕️ I won’t do a single stitch of writing until a milestone is activated and funded. Why would I? That simple step is a client’s commitment that they have agreed to contract you for the work and placed the payment in Escrow. Asking them to activate it before I take action isn’t “difficult”, it’s absolutely standard.
☕️ I won’t use project management chat features like Slack, because I’m not my client’s full-time team member. They haven’t paid for a full day of randomly stealing my attention away. Instead, I ask for a single point of contact and for everything to flow through that person at regular intervals. I can’t do my best work if I’m left without tons of mini distractions.
☕️ I don’t allow multiple team members to submit written feedback on my copy docs. My point of contact is asked to review their own team’s feedback, distill it into clear direction, and then pass it over to me. Once again, this isn’t just diva behavior. Multiple people sharing feedback directly with me causes confusing and leads to multiple revisions.
☕️ I don’t pick up the phone if a client calls me and I don’t reply to text messages after standard business hours (if ever). If a client needs to speak to me, they have my email and Upwork messages to get in touch and explain their needs. I’m always timely in my reply during designated business hours. I used to reply on weekends or just about any time, but that trained them to expect me to jump into action at all hours.
While I used to feel wary about scaring clients away with my boundaries, I’ve found that when I simplify the back-and-forth, everyone is happier.
So, when a client says “I’ll add you to our Slack!” and I say, “No, sorry, I don’t use Slack”, I happily explain my reasons.
I didn’t put these boundaries in place over night. It took a while! In fact, I have vivid memories of one well-meaning client who was a paranoid control freak about launching his brand. He was paying me what I considered to be a large amount of money at the time, which I felt I desperately needed.
Since he was in a different time zone, he asked me to Skype with him at 6AM every morning while he and his two team members walked through the details of everything we had worked on the day before. The rewriters were endless and I found myself pinching my arms to stay awake while they debated amongst themselves during these calls.
They had no respect for me time and no trust in me as a writer. Worse yet, the designer would come into these meanings and change the project as often as his creative whims seemed to change.
Despite needed the money and feeling paranoid about bad feedback, I told them to keep the work I had done and I walked away from the contract. Anything would have been better than that excruciating process.
But you know what? I never walked into a situation like that again. I learned to firmly and professionally tell clients when I’m available, how and when we can schedule conference calls, and much more.
I had to shake off the idea that the client is somehow “the boss” and own 50% of the collaboration. Once I did that, everything changed.
TAKE ACTION: Remind yourself what your “ideal” freelance life looks like. If it doesn’t look like chatting with clients on Slack all day or taking random calls from clients at 10pm, do not accept that behavior. Write up what your new boundaries are going to be, so that you can work at your highest standard and feel good about the work you’re doing.
Learn to spot red flags.
Upwork has a ton of awesome clients, but there are some not-so-awesome ones, too. For the sake of continuity, we’ll keep calling them “bad apples”.
Now, a bad apple for you might be a honey crisp for someone else! But there are some apples no one wants to take a bite of.
Learning to spot red flags in advance can help you determine which clients aren’t worth your time, so you can focus on more fruitful relationships.
(Okay, no more fruit puns.)
Finding and securing work on Upwork can be a bit time consuming, so you don’t want to spend your time on clients who are going to cause you frustration and drain your energy.
I can give you some examples of my own red flags, but you may very well have to dive into your Upwork career and swim a bit before you learn to spot your own. Some are more universal and apply to everyone.
Also, note that for many of the red flags below, details about the client (except for their actual name) can be seen on the right hand side of job listings and job invitations.
☕️ Does the client have many 1-2 star ratings? What have other freelancers said about working with them? If they have terrible reviews, you should examine them closely. A one-off bad review could just mean a rocky collaboration, but repeat offenses might mean trouble.
☕️ How many jobs has the client posted? Is their higher rate or average hourly rate paid so low that you might be wasting your time? Again, not a deal-breaker, but something to look out for.
☕️ Is the client’s payment method not verified? You can ask them to do so before you take on a project. If they won’t, this could be a bad sign.
☕️ Is the client asking for free work? Or are they asking you to do work for a milestone that isn’t activated and funded? If they simply forgot, you can remind them to do it and carry on. But if they have some excuse, step back. You can report clients to Upwork if they’re asking for free work.
☕️ Is the client eager to hire you but unclear about the project at hand? This could lead to scope creep, which is when a client keeps tacking on new work to an existing agreement without increasing your rate.
☕️ Is the client unclear about who their target customer is? This is the #1 red flag for me. I can’t do my job (writing copy for a target customer) if they are wishy-washy on who that is. I used to help them do a customer profile, market research, etc. Now I just ask them to come back when they have it sorted out.
☕️ Is the client undermining you, telling you how long a project should take, or saying anything that brushes you the wrong way? You’re not required to people who aren’t acting respectfully. And remember that you can report clients to Upwork who make you feel uncomfortable.
☕️ Is the client asking to pay you outside of the platform? Accepting can get your account deleted and see you banned from the platform, so don’t be tempted. Explain to them that it’s against the TOS—and decide whether you want to carry on working with them. After all, despite Upwork fees, the platform has protections in place that keep you from getting left high and dry without pay.
☕️ Is the client asking you NOT to use the hourly tracker? Big no-no. The tracker protects you from non-payment if your client defaults, but it doesn’t work if you add hours manually. Manually hours mean no proof of hourly work was recorded. If your client decides not to pay you for that time, Upwork can’t help.
☕️ Is the client trying to contact you through personal means of communication, emailing you excessively, or acting extremely impatient? This is a sign that they think you’re at their mercy and aren’t treating you like an equal. You’re not their employee and you don’t have to deal with this kind of behavior.
These are a few big examples, but stay vigilant and keep your eyes peeled for more.
I love Upwork, but it’s wild wild web, meaning anyone who wants to take advantage of you can sneakily do so if you let your guard down.
And in case you’re thinking, “Wow, Upwork is full of red flags!” just imagine how many red flags exist online in general, when writers are looking for work outside of a regulated framework.
Whenever you’re doing business online, you should keep an eye out for red flags similar to these.
TAKE ACTION: Jot down some of these red flags so you can review prospective projects and clients against them. If you spot any, don’t be afraid to speak to the client directly. For example, asking them about a bad review might offer the opportunity for an explanation (a chance you might also appreciate from a client someday). However, if you ask them about an unfunded milestone and they go radio silent, you probably dodged a bullet.
Become “Top Rated”.
I want to preface this by saying, don’t stress about your Job Success Score. That’s the number at the top of your profile that you’re going to stress about anyway.
There are so many factors that go into it, and yes, you can still find work on Upwork without a perfect score.
So what is this anxiety-inducing score and how does Upwork calculate it?
“A freelancer’s Job Success Score reflects their reputation on Upwork based on direct client feedback and other indicators of client satisfaction.
It combines metrics on their clients’ public and private feedback, long-term client relationships, client rehires, and contracts that don’t result in work delivered.”
They go on to say that scores from 90-100 indicate long-term excellent performance while 80-89 indicates room for improvement. There are long and short term factors at play, which means your score can evolve and change over time.
Everyone gets a bad rating or a “no feedback given” once in a while. Many clients don’t bother leaving reviews, in fact! And even the most experienced freelancer will have a rocky project or some circumstance that results in a less than stellar review.
As a result, the rating from the client may not be the gleaming 5-star everyone wants.
But don’t worry! A quality client is looking at your written communication skills, your samples, and your relevance more than anything else. Having less than a perfect score has not prevented me from hiring freelancers in the past.
If you score begins to dip, just keep focusing on the long game and thrilling your current clients. You can increase your score by using all of the tips in this post, as well as directly reaching out to clients to ask for a review upon concluding a project.
Now that we have this out of the way, one of the reasons you’ll want to work (consistently, but not frantically) toward a high Job Success Score is to gain easier entry into Upwork’s Top Rated program.
The perks of the Top Rated program are listed out here, so you can give them a spin.
Some of these perks include:
☕️ A badge on your Upwork freelancer profile (and in search results)
☕️ Reduced fees (starting at 10%) on Featured Jobs
☕️ Exclusive invitations to submit proposals
☕️ The ability to exercise more control over your Job Success Score
☕️ Priority customer support
☕️ Access to events and other perks
One of my favorites? The limited ability to hide bad feedback. Yep, I needed to bust out this little trick when a red flag client slipped through the cracks and had it out for me.
After a difficult collaboration, she had her assistant deliver me a message that said I had “worse than grade school level writing abilities” and no idea what I was doing. Ironically, it was packed with grade school level insults. But I digress. 😉 She Also left an empty feedback form but a 3.5 star review.
I won’t go into the details, but I can confidently say that the situation was frustrating and unfair. It also hurt my job success score. I felt like I’d been taken advantage of and insulted on top of it all.
Thankfully, my track record of being a Top Rated freelancer allowed me to hide that unfair rating from my profile. It was the only time I’ve used the feature, and I was very glad to have it.
Here’s how you can become a Top Rated freelancer:
☕️ A current Job Success Score of 90% or higher
☕️ First hire on Upwork was more than 90 days ago
☕️ Maintained Rising Talent status or a Job Success Score of at least 90% for at least 13 of the last 16 weeks
☕️ A 100% complete profile
☕️ 12-month earnings of at least $1,000
☕️ Up-to-date availability (if unavailable now, set a date estimate)
☕️ An account in good standing with no recent account holds
☕️ Activity on the platform (proposal, accepted invitation, or earnings) in the past 90 days
When all is said and done, this isn’t a difficult list. Just take the tips above, apply them, and be patient. It can take a bit of time to get added to the program, but it’s worth it.
TAKE ACTION: Review your stats and take note of what you’ll need to do to get into the Top Rated program. Don’t panic if you’re a few stats off. Just stay the course, deliver high-value services, and focus on building excellent relationships with clients. Also, don’t forget to ask for that feedback.
Become an optimist.
No matter where you seek out advice on getting freelance writing clients, you’ll find a gatekeeper with their arms crossed, huffing and puffing about how that is the “wrong” way to do things.
It’s true that things can go wrong when you try something new, and it’s true that you may stumble and fall in the beginning. But doesn’t everything start out that way?
Aren’t we all new at something, at some point?
I don’t see that as a reason not to try. If I gave up on Upwork in my first year, I would made have $61k less than I did. I’m not going to turn my nose up at that number, even if it’s from a freelance marketplace website.
I’ve also worked with some incredible clients who I might never have found otherwise. I have Upwork clients who let me know they’ll be in town in case I want to grab a coffee. I have clients that check in, even between projects, to see how I’m doing. I have clients that trust me implicitly and give me creative control I haven’t had before.
And as I said, I’ve lost major independent clients who would have caused serious financial distress if I didn’t have Upwork income to back me up.
I believe that I made that possible because I just didn’t want to give up. I’m an optimist at heart, and I was convinced I could turn this often-criticized opportunity into a success.
Magical things happen when you believe it’s going to work out. The very essence of quantum physics is that the universe shifts to meet your brain halfway, so if you’re putting nothing but negative, pessimistic energy out there, you’re not going to get anything decent back.
So yes, this might seem out of left field, but I actually think my success on Upwork has stemmed from refusing to be deterred by negativity and “scam!” comments.
When the Upwork hate train pulls into the station, I wish my peers knew that they could be spending that energy on building up an additional income stream instead. And I worry that new freelancers are being discouraged before they even give it a try.
That’s why I wrote this entire post. I want to infuse some optimism into the topic. Because I’m not saying “this might be possible”, I’m saying it is.
So yes, if you’re curious about Upwork and think you might want to try it out, block out those negative opinions and give it a shot. This post will be right here to help guide you.
TAKE ACTION: Put those blinders on and ignore the hate. Channel your inner optimist and decide, here and now, to believe in yourself. If you want to give Upwork a shot, do it.
Play the long game.
I often encourage our freelancing family not to look for “hacks” and “tricks” in their career, but to establish a strategy and chip away at their goals bit by bit. This is far more effective.
Stop looking for shortcuts. Stop giving up before you actually try.
Friends, this stuff doesn’t happen overnight. I wish it did, and that we could all expedite our earnings magically…
But like most things in life that are worth achieving, you’ll need patience and perseverance to find lasting success on Upwork.
For me, the platform was slow-starting. At first I didn’t think I was going to be successful. But it’s important to stick to it to see results, because you could be one day away from that dream contract, that next 5-star rating, or that Top Rated badge.
So, what kind of “success” time frame are we talking?
Upwork mirrors freelancing itself in its unpredictability. You could get your first client tomorrow, sure. But you might not establish consistent work or a sizable payout for months.
The “I’ve made it!” timeline depends on your goals, as well as how much fine tuning your freelance writing presence needs.
Maybe you’ve nailed your niche down, you have a killer bio, and even some samples to upload to your profile. You might find success faster than someone who is starting from scratch.
It also depends on how often you’re researching leads—and how many of those leads you’re pursuing. Among other things!
Asking “how long until I’m successful on Upwork?” is as vague as “how long until I’m successful in life?” It depends on your effort, your attitude, and a dash of fate—but following the tips in this post can increase your odds of finding success quickly.
Once you get established and snag that “Top Rated” badge, you’ll build momentum with increased visibility, private job invites and other perks. But the trick to achieving that level is to be consistent, patient, and determined.
Don’t be tempted by shortcuts or think you’ve “tried it all” by slapping a quick profile together and waiting for clients to find you.
Don’t be tempted by the idea of firing off 100 proposals and waiting for the first few to bite.
Shortcuts lead to increased stress. When you try to “hack” your way to the next level of your career, you end up missing out on important lessons that strengthen you. Looking experienced on paper is not the same as having experience.
The things you learn at every level of your career are crucial for the next step. This is the essence of evolving as a freelancer (and a human, I think).
Embrace being new! Embrace not knowing it all yet. You’re going to learn, I promise.
Play the long game and reap the rewards when it’s time. You’ll be able to do so with increased confidence and next-level experience.
Read the TOS.
Alright, friends. I’m sure you’re weary. I sure as hell am! I’ve been writing this post forever. But I couldn’t let this one end without one final tip.
I can’t tell you how many freelancers I’ve seen griping in forums because their account was banned or placed on hold.
They aren’t always at fault, but often these sob stories reveal blatant breaches in the contract you “sign” when you create an Upwork account.
Don’t be that person crying about their account being banned. Read the entire Terms of Service before you begin working.
If you’ve never read it and you’re already freelancing there, now is the time.
Once you read the rules, you’ll know how to play by them.
Upwork has strict rules in place and they are known to take swift action if someone steps out of line.
These policies are, for the most part, designed to create an environment where both the freelancer and the client can establish and grow good working relationships.
Some say these policies tip more in the direction of the client—and I am not going to deny that—but at the end of the day, you can spend your precious energy getting mad or spend it making money.
(I mean, I suppose you could also write a letter to Upwork detailing changes you would like to see! They’re very responsive to feedback and questions.)
Anyway, please don’t fall into the cliche of the angst-ridden ex-Upwork user who got kicked out because they never bothered to study up on the rules.
Be the freelancer who knows the system and how to make it work in their favor.
Whew! Those are my Upwork tips, freelance writing friends! I think I covered a lot here, but I sincerely hope they take some of the mystery out of how to make the platform work for you.
My Upwork earnings have been exponential and they continue to grow. This is a good trajectory to be on and, once again, it didn’t happen over night.
Keep playing the long game. Be strategic and genuine. Work with integrity. Delight clients and respect your own boundaries. If you can do these things, you’ll come out on top.
I want you to succeed.
I want you to make money.
I want you to collaborate with dream clients.
I want you to have fun while building that high-income, low-stress career you’ve always dreamed of.
I know you can do it!
Please leave a comment with your thoughts! I’d love to hear about your experiences on Upwork…
As always, to join in the conversation, join the Freelance Writing Cafe Facebook group (we’re almost to 2k members)!