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Making Upwork Work for You


March 13, 2018 | Stephen Jackson

As a freelancer, it’s necessary to stay on top of your game in order to remain competitive. I’m repeatedly drawn to a recent study that found that more than 34 percent of the U.S. workforce was made up of freelancers. What’s more, by some projections, this number is likely to climb to constitute the majority of workers in America by 2027. Yikes!

This being the case, it’s really, really important that you do everything you can to stand out in an increasingly crowded market. We’re committed to providing you valuable resources, such as a roadmap of online marketplaces, and even a little guide on how to not go crazy while working from home.

Succeed in the Marketplace

But let’s get a bit more granular. One of the most popular platforms for freelancers across the world to find jobs is Upwork, and as more and more people start hopping on the site to advertise their skills, it’s necessary to know the proper steps to be successful.

Lisa Oda, Upwork’s Director of Content Marketing and Strategy, cites an article on their blog that suggests the traits people should look for when searching for a freelancer, boiling it down to three main things:

  • Good communication skills
  • A willingness to collaborate
  • An indication that the freelancer will take the company’s success seriously

And while these seem like common sense pieces of advice, they should nonetheless be words to live by when presenting yourself to an unfamiliar client — especially one who can easily go find someone who might be a better fit.

But let’s go a bit deeper. Let’s say you’re new to the platform, and you’re looking to make a splash. What else do the folks at Upwork think you should keep in mind?

Build a Solid Profile

Your profile on Upwork is your online storefront, and you want to make it shine. Start by uploading a professional picture and make sure you nail the title of your page. Your title will be the first thing that potential clients see, so keep it simple but also specific to what you have to offer as a freelancer. This is no time for nuance.

Next comes the overview, which is effectively your general pitch to a new client. What makes you special? What industry are you in? What are some professional accomplishments you’re particularly proud of? Are you an expert at any types of software or tools? Let ‘em know in your overview.

Also, make your portfolio shine by including top-notch work, and be sure to highlight any certifications you may hold, your education, and your past employment history. Lastly, consider making a video and adding it to your profile — it can really make you stand out.

Submit a Quality Proposal

Proposals can eat up lots of time, so they need to stand out in order to get responses from potential clients. And once you find that magic combination of professionalism and personality, it’s a good idea to replicate it moving forward. To this point, one successful freelancer on Upwork suggests building a template that’s easy to personalize for a variety of clients.

When building your template, it’s good to keep things short and to the point. It’s also necessary to grab your client’s attention quickly. One hack is to look at feedback on the client’s profile in order to learn their first name (other freelancers will often use it in the comments). Once you know it, personalize the proposal to catch their eye.

“While a template can streamline your process, be sure to thoroughly read through the post and answer all questions from the client,” Oda says. “Some clients include a simple request in the job post to see if potential freelancers are responding to that job, or simply any job that seems close.”

It’s also recommended that you include work samples as high up in your pitch as possible.

Finally, and most importantly, make sure you directly address what’s likely the client’s most pressing question: Why choose you? Talk about your experience, mention great feedback you’ve received, tastefully brag about your education (if appropriate), and highlight some Upwork skills test results (if you’ve taken any). Also, carefully review all the details of a given job and make sure your proposal addresses them directly.

In general, don’t be afraid to sell yourself. After all, this is no time for modesty. “However, be sure to set proper expectations,” says Oda. “If you know a job is going to take longer, require more detailed discovery up front or simply can’t be done in the time frame required, be honest. You will win points here in the long run!”

Communication Skills are Key

Be as clear as possible, and don’t be afraid to express your boundaries or limitations. Often, people need jobs done as soon as possible — especially if they have a boss they need to answer to. It’s also best to keep your emails and messages straightforward and to the point. Also, it’s often a good idea to send a follow-up email after a phone call to make sure everyone’s on the same page.

Finally, when in doubt, communicate with your client. Don’t be afraid to double-check on a specification if you aren’t sure. Being nitpicky will pale in comparison to a job done incorrectly.

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