Here are the best practices for Freelancing on Upwork
Upwork has slowly become a behemoth in acting as a job platform for freelancers worldwide. Upwork offers many tools within the platform for independent professionals to seek the right clients, manage contracts, and have a work diary to log tasks.These features combined with top companies worldwide seeking freelancers through this site make it an absolute essential in any freelancer's playbook.
Before we dive into the best practices, let's learn why you should use Upwork and what makes it great.
I have been a strong advocate for Upwork and its ability to connect clients to freelancers. Upwork makes it very easy for clients to seek and hire qualified people quickly and easily. For freelancers, it's extremely easy to seek the right projects in their niche and current skill level.
Clients can sort freelancers within the search console, and apply multiple filters to meet their preferences. Once on a profile, they can review the freelancer's skill set at a glance, and see their success score, work history, and client feedback. This makes it easier to review and vet freelancers.
Freelancers can use their search console to filter jobs by location, client budgets, and hourly rates. They also get a "Jobs you might like" section on the landing page which shows similar jobs in line with skills and previous jobs that you have worked on. You can sort job posts by entry-level, intermediate, or expert level. You can see also see a job description at a glance in the search without opening the page which saves time and effort. Freelancers can also easily add design work and feedback from clients outside Upwork.
This combined with project management, contracts, hour trackers, and payment protection makes it a great platform for both clients and freelancers. The supply and demand end of the market is virtually endless. Due to this, Upwork is slowly becoming synonymous with freelancing as more jobs are added and completed on Upwork every single day.
The Best Practices for Freelancers on Upwork
Freelance success on Upwork is a combination of multiple practices to convert and close both inbound and outbound leads. This means having a great discoverable profile and a rock-solid proposal and cover letter strategy which catches and keeps the client's attention.
Good communication skills for your specialization and people skills will be t the forefront of a lot of these practices. With these check practices, combined with a relentless pursuit for success, you will surely start seeing results.
Your Upwork Profile
Your Upwork profile is like an interactive resume for freelance jobs and making it shine will surely get you into client inboxes with a sure foot. We will target the cover letter in a different section of this post. Your profile is what finally converts a client and having a strong profile would go a long way toward finding freelance work on Upwork. Here are the specifics for each of your profile elements:
Before clients find your profile page, they usually come through the search when seeking a particular skill or qualification in a freelancer. Even when they make a job post live, they still peruse the available talent and then invite freelancers to apply.
Just like on Google, Upwork also sorts freelancer profiles based on the keywords within their profiles. So make sure that your title includes specific keywords that the clients may type in on their end so your profile can rank higher. The client may search for Digital Designer in the search, now while there is no such thing as a Digital Designer but rather a Graphic Designer who works on digital collateral; if you find this trend increasing in freelance profiles of others in the niche, it's a good idea to include it in yours.
The goal isn't to copy or replicate others but to present yourself in a way that clients can find you. This can be Including multiple keywords within your title to target as many search queries as possible.
Your overview section or bio is right under the headline. This is the second most important piece of text that you will write for your profile. The first 2 lines here will be the most critical since they will be visible in the search results section, right before they open your profile. Make sure you write converting copy in these 2 lines. Something that gives an overview of your skillset and your ability to deliver on a certain project. Think of a. 2line introduction for yourself that can convince anyone that you are the best person to work with.
The next step would be to have an introduction for yourself. This is where you can talk about your educational qualifications and past experiences that build the client's confidence in your background and your abilities. Here you can also talk about the scale at which you have delivered projects. The goal should be to convince the client to send you an invite.
Towards the last section of your overview, including a breakdown of services and what different specialized services you offer. If it's graphic design, you can add specifics within the field like print design, social media design, packaging design, etc. End the section with a paragraph about what it's like working with you. Highlight soft skills like punctuality, attention to detail, proactiveness, etc. These may seem unnecessary but you should remember that it all comes down to people skills at the end of the day, so make sure you seem like another genuine human being beyond being a service provider.
Keep it simple and clear. Don't tell a story here about your love for a field or why you chose to start freelancing. This is still a professional platform, a little human touch doesn't hurt but clients don't want a story, they want a professional, who is skilled, can handle their project, and is easy to work with.
The introduction video is a great way to help the client learn about what you do engagingly without having to read the entire overview section. This video should ideally contain your services and portfolio pieces.
In a case where your portfolio work isn't visual nature, you can record yourself or create a video with testimonials and images of your past clients. All top freelancers on Upwork have some kind of video introduction on their profiles. This is free real estate and you should take advantage of it, as soon as possible.
If you are a new freelancer on Upwork, you may not have anything here and that's okay. The practices in this guide will change that real soon. As for others, make sure that you seek great reviews from all your clients, which means delivering your very best in every project you work on and resolving disputes amicably. This includes written feedback and a 5-star review wherever possible. Knowing that you were able to help someone achieve their intended outcome is the biggest vote of confidence a client needs to see.
Do not hide your project value in the work history section with a free profile. Hiding this may seem evasive or disingenuous to your prospective clients. Client hires as per their budget constraints but more often than not, they hire as per their goals. So don't worry about an older client's budget from skewing perceptions of newer clients. As long as you have progressed in your skills and ability, and have work to show for it, you will be able to charge the right amount.
I would not advise that you buy the Pro Membership as you can do pretty much everything with a free account except hiding your project values which as I have mentioned is not genuine in the eyes of a prospective client.
Portfolio and Skills
The portfolio section is the holy grail when it comes to converting clients, especially in creative fields. You should do everything to put your best foot forward to make your work stand out in this section. My suggestion would be to make the project covers more service-centric i.e show packages in packaging design, landing pages for web design, product shots for photography, etc. Have longer projects which utilized multiple services at the beginning, which can show the client that you are capable in more than one field and can assist them with other parts of their business.
Give this section your thorough attention as most clients simply scroll to the portfolio section to make their final decision.
The skills section is important to rank yourself well in search results, so make sure that you are utilizing this section to add as many keywords as you can to rank within your industry. Since Upwork only allows prefilled entries in this section, you can only list your skills once and that's good enough. Don't think too hard about keywords here, just make sure all relevant skills are added to this section.
Testimonials, Certifications, and Past Experiences
The testimonial section is essential for new freelancers on the platform to receive and add testimonials from previous clients that they have worked with. Upwork requires verification from your clients to add these to your profile with a verified tag and checkmark. If you have a work history, the likelihood of someone scrolling to this point is low, but this a good place for new freelancers to show some track record working with clients outside of Upwork.
Adding certifications to your Upwork profile is a great way to establish authority and prowess in a certain field. There are multiple certification services that Upwork supports and you can add them to your profile. While they won't exactly convert a client, they can help bolster their confidence in your abilities. Don't overcomplicate this section, keep it simple and relevant to your skills.
In the past experiences section, make sure you add all your previous roles and positions. This is the bottommost section so it's not likely anyone will read this but this will help add industry-relevant keywords which can later help you rank better in search. So use as much detail as possible to talk about your experiences using necessary industry-centric keywords.
Badges and Job Success Scores
The Job Success Score is a major criterion of consideration for clients when they are seeking a freelancer. Ideally, a score above 90% is ideal showing that you have completed most of your projects successfully. Some difficult clients and terms don't stack up but apart from those situations, make sure that you deliver as expected, on time, and always go the extra mile whenever possible.
Practice underpromising and overdelivering with all your clients. Since there is a job success sorting filter in the client-end search console, make sure you maintain a score of 90% or higher. In the case that your score falls below 90%, try getting more feedback from ongoing clients and also onboard smaller projects to make the sum greater than 90. There aren't many details on how Upwork calculates your job success score but keeping a high client satisfaction rate will ensure a good result.
Writing a Cover Letter
So you found the perfect job on Upwork for you. You agree with the client's budget or hourly rate for the project as well. First, select an estimated timeline from the dropdown icon and the base level hourly or fixed rate.
Writing a cover letter is the next step, but before you start applying, make sure you divide your cover letter into 3 sections. This is a bottleneck for a lot of great freelancers so make sure you pay attention to these 3 sections. These sections allow the client to quickly understand if you are the right fit for them and if they are the right client for you.
Section 1, Upper funnel
Begin with writing about who you are and what problem you can solve for the client. Start with your name and then talk about the one designation or expertise that you can bring to the project. Just one that's relevant to the project.
If you are still early in your career, utilize 2 lines of writing about a previous project that is similar to theirs. Keep it simple and brief. A project description with the company name and location, your role, and the result.
For example: Helped XYZ Company as a Lead Developer by developing a public API to use a custom dataset ad display on their website.
Section 2, Middle Funnel
This is where you talk about price. Break down pricing into 3 tiers which means high medium and low to not alienate any customer. Keep in mind that the level of freelancer that the customer is looking for will determine these prices so make sure you apply accordingly. For hourly projects, you should only apply to the jobs that are at a rate that you will accept. For hourly projects and fixed-rate projects, you may want to propose different pricing to the client.
You should also talk about how you will complete their project and share an additional example of similar projects if possible.
Section 3, Bottom Funnel
In this section you write about How the client can begin the project, when can you start, and how long will the project take? Be direct and crystal clear as possible.
Close off the cover letter with an eagerness to work and ask specific questions about their project. This question should be a strategic one, don't make it technical but something that you think the client can ask themselves and see the value in your question.
Upwork is a great platform and everything you have read above will help you leverage the platform features and sections to find the right clients and get hired. If you thoroughly follow the process above and keep innovating and updating these sections, you will succeed. Slowly but surely, with new projects being completed, you will also be invited to interview for client projects without having to bid on jobs.
The challenge will be to upskill yourself without a corporate structure in place. So make sure you have effective talent development strategies in place that help you build 2 or more skills every year to complement your core skills. In addition to this, you can look for text-based print resources like my Freelance Shortcut Book. You can also look for the best courses for freelancers looking to upskill on Upwork Academy to be better freelancers.
So go create your Upwork profile, set up your profile, and send out a proposal. Your dream client is on the other end of that Cover Letter!
Best practices for freelancing on Upwork.