How to get work on Upwork? The freelance success guidebook.
With hundreds of thousands of freelancers, how do you stand out on Upwork to get hired?
Written By Scott LuscombeQuestion? Talk to Scott
How to get work on Upwork
Prospective clients have problems to solve and go to Upwork to find solutions.
Here is how you can be the solution and get hired as a freelancer on Upwork.
With hundreds of thousands of freelancers, how do you stand out on Upwork to get hired? I will explain how I have found success on ELance, oDesk, and now Upwork over my twenty-year career as a freelancer.
I will break this down by experience level so, whether you're a freelancer looking to get your first job on Upwork or an experienced freelancer with hundreds of thousands of dollars earned. Some of these takeaways will level up your freelance business.
Suggested read: 3 best freelance jobs for beginners in 2023.
Let's recap how the process works first (I know it's obvious, but it parallels what you need to do further in stay with me):
Potential clients post their projects for your to send proposals.
Potential clients use the search feature to find freelancers directly.
Potential clients use the project catalog to shop for freelance services.
"I know that, Scott. Tell me something I don't!"
Ok, here are the considerations you need to start taking based on these prospective clients' pathways to hiring you and how you can optimize your pitch, profile, and presentation to attract and win jobs on Upwork.
How to win projects on Upwork, the main considerations.
Here is what I wish I had known starting out as a freelancer that I know now:
Shorter is better with proposals; you want to start the conversation fast, not make potential clients read a novel.
Use all of the characters available in your profile on Upwork (5,000) and ensure that you also have specialized profiles. This acts as SEO for freelancers; you want to be at the top of the results.
Project Catalog services must stand out; you can do this with a combination of writing, price, and design. But the price is a winner here, and the race to the bottom on pricing is in the WRONG direction. Your price needs to be different, not just another cheap freelancer.
How to write winning Proposals on Upwork:
MUST READ: How do I write a freelance sales pitch on Upwork?
When you read through jobs posted on Upwork to find your next potential client, it's important to understand the purpose of the proposal process. I have written in-depth on how to write the pitch, but I have found other freelancers I have coached miss how a great pitch can elevate your freelance career.
What I recommend for writing a winning proposal on Upwork is to keep it short and get to the one-on-one conversation with your potential clients as quickly as possible. There is a temptation to try to prove everything you can do within the first proposal, but it's a bad idea. I have tested thousands of proposals, and I have found short wins.
It seems to win because I can hyper-personalize each proposal to the potential client and get them talking with a short 15-20 second read of my proposal.
I break the proposal (or pitch) down into 3 sections:
Upper Funnel: I explain in 1-2 sentences who I am
Middle Funnel: I give the client options
Lower Funnel: I aim to initiate contact
By keeping these proposals short and sweet, I aim to qualify the client quickly and make it easy for them to contact me and start the project. Where many new freelancers go wrong is on the Middle Funnel. Instead of explaining the options and helping the client choose, the freelancer will often over-explain all of their skills.
NOTE: Clients rarely understand what a specific skill means unless you explain how the benefit of that skill solves their problem.
Digital marketing is about aligning your service's benefit with the potential clients' problems. New clients need to know that you understand the problem and offer solutions that they can choose from that suit them.
Try this with your next Upwork proposal:
NO: Instead of writing, "I am a developer, I will do your project for your budget of $1,000."
YES: Try this, "I recommend package A (details + price), B (details + price), or C (details + price) to complete your project. Which one suits you best?"
You limit yourself to potential clients when you only respond with an hourly rate or flat rate pitch to job opportunities. The reason is that you're holding the ball with the first example. By "holding the ball," you have removed the prompt for the client to respond.
With the YES example, you give the client options. It's the reason successful brands have enough options for customers to build a solution that works best for them. Think of buying a phone, a car, or a house. Pretty much any large purchase has options because these options give the customer the ball, making the client the decision maker.
If you only offer one solution to the client's problem, you have to be PERFECT. When you give them options (even better if one of those options is below their budget), you give the client confidence that they are working with the right freelancer.
I have found that many clients will choose the higher option now that they've seen the options. If you strategically set your pricing with increments, you increase the likelihood of success and an upsell.
Running out of connects to send proposals? Read How to get more Upwork connects for free?
Here is how to structure pricing for your Upwork proposal:
Clients budget: $1000
Package A: $750
Package B: $1000
Package C: $1500
When I propose 3 options for each project, clients almost exclusively choose the more expensive package and have only a handful of times chosen the lowest price option.
By doing all projects strictly to the client's budget, you are wasting each job post and will typically get stuck with only low-paying jobs as the clients will see that even if you read the job description, you're simply trying to get as much money as possible from them.
Most freelance transactions will be between you, the independent professionals, and the clients, typically small business owners. Where many freelancers go wrong is that they are in such a rush to submit proposals they forget to think through the sale.
Considerations to increase your sales conversion rate as a freelancer on Upwork:
How do I ensure that the client sees me?
How do I ensure that the client feels understood?
How do I ensure that I meet the client's budget?
Solving the problem during the creative or technical phase of the production portion of the project is up to you. Still, the above considerations are incredibly important to get the job. Smaller jobs can be easier, but they are also important. One of my clients, Wallet Ninja, started as a $250 Logo Design but had a lifetime value of over $150,000 in business over a few years.
How do I get noticed on Upwork?
As an Upwork client, I almost exclusively skip long-format proposals. I know they've been copy-pasted, and I'm busy. Clients don't have time to read one 1,000-word proposal or 50-100 proposals from competitive freelancers.
When I hire a freelancer, I want to know that they understand the problem, offer a solution within my budget, and have good work to back it up.
My freelancer profile varies from a job success score perspective after thousands of projects. Sometimes it's at 100%, sometimes at 90%, and I don't notice a big difference, so if you're in the 90-100% range, there is nothing holding you back. Earning $500,000 on Upwork over hundreds of jobs and thousands of hours, you're likely to have bad projects, bad clients, or things that didn't go well. Even Apple has bad reviews on most of its products, so don't worry about bad reviews. It's just part of the business. Try to learn from each bad review but don't dwell on it.
The simplest way to get noticed is to have a clear and concise proposal, aiming to get to the conversation with the client as quickly as possible.
How to write a great Profile on Upwork:
MUST READ: How do I write a great Upwork profile
How to write Project Catalog services on Upwork:
How to get work on Upwork