If you are working as a freelancer, you have likely either heard of, or used, Upwork. If you haven’t, I am not sure how big of a rock you have been under, but you should probably check it out.
Upwork is the world’s largest online platform connecting freelancers with potential employers. It has become so popular that new freelancers looking to create a profile on the platform have been denied due to an over-saturation of freelancers with similar skill sets. If you try to create a profile as a content writer or Facebook Ads Ninja you will likely get put on a waitlist. It is that competitive.
I have worked on Upwork for the past year and a half and am currently one of the top rated freelancers on the platform. You can view my profile here:
I have had other freelancers reach out to me with questions about how I am able to find new clients on a consistent basis.
I will not lie to you.
The fact that I am top-rated and have a list of great reviews on my profile definitely helps. These days I’m often contacted by potential clients rather than the other way around.
It was a long road to get to this point. There was a time when I was applying to 3, 4, sometimes 5 new jobs each day.
Here are several strategies that helped me when I was searching for new clients through Upwork.
1) Apply to new jobs EVERY DAY.
What many freelancers sometimes forget is that Upwork is invested in our success. They want you to get hired. They want you to make money. They want us to find new jobs.
The more new jobs that we find, the more money we earn on the site which means more money for Upwork and their ludacris 20% commission (C’mon Upwork!!!).
Upwork has algorithms that are consistently working. The more jobs you apply to, the more Upwork’s system recognizes your sincerity in finding work.
The more active you are, the more the site will work to help you. Upwork will send you more job recommendations. They will also send your profile to more people who have posted jobs related to your skill set.
Lastly, there is no better practice for applying to jobs than actually applying. Try different approaches when applying for new jobs. Write different cover letters. See what approach generates the most responses and begin to fine-tune and duplicate your approach.
Whatever you do, keep applying. Do not be discouraged if you do not get any responses. All you need are one or two hires and you are on your way.
2) Find the name of the person who posted the job and use it in your proposal.
When you find a job that you are interested in applying to, go and search for the name of the person who posted the job. You can sometimes find it in the job description or on their Upwork client profile. If not there, you will almost always find it in reviews left by previous freelancers.
Use their name when you apply. People love their own name. Using a client’s name in a proposal adds a personal touch and shows that you are thorough. People will respond better to “Hello Dan,” than to “Hello,”
3) Create a job on Upwork and copy other freelancers.
While it may be competitive to create a freelancer profile in Upwork, it is not very difficult to create a client profile on Upwork. A client profile is what you need to hire someone on the site.
Go to the site and create a client profile. Think of 2-3 tasks that you need help with. It helps if you create a job posting for something you actually need help with. It will help to put you in the shoes of your potential clients, who are certainly posting new jobs because they have something they need help with. Don’t fake it. Provide as much detail as possible.
One thing to note. Creating a job posting does not necessarily mean that you will need to hire someone. You can always close the job posting if you want.
Once the proposals for your jobs start coming in, pay attention to which proposals stand out to you.
What do you like?
What parts of their profile do you find yourself reviewing and going over?
What proposals caught your eye?
If you were going to hire a freelancer, who would you choose? Why?
Then, mimic the tactics of the freelancers you like.
I once hired a web developer through Upwork to help me work on a personal website. Aside from his reviews, I liked how he didn’t talk about himself. He sent me a video showing what problems he saw with the site and then gave me a list of specific actions he would take to resolve these issues. He also sent me a list of questions.
I loved his directness. It showed me that he knew what he was doing and that he was proactive. I hired him on the spot and continue to copy his proposal strategies to this day.
By going through the hiring process yourself, you will be able to get a better idea of the process other clients on Upwork go through when they post a job.
You will see many proposals come through and what separates some from the rest. Do not be afraid to steal a tactic or two from other freelancers’ to help you stand out from the rest.
4) Do not talk about yourself.
The best way to establish credibility with a potential client is not to talk about yourself. Most people do not care where you are from, where you went to school or what you have done in the past. They are only concerned with how you can help them.
The best way to establish credibility through a proposal is to ask questions and provide solutions. Some might think that asking questions will make you seem ignorant. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
A lot of people post jobs on Upwork without a clear vision of what they really want. They have an idea of what they want to do, but they do not know how to get there.
Asking good questions can often help people clarify their ideas to themself. Being able to ask good questions and help navigate people toward what they are actually searching for will help you to establish rock-solid professional credibility.
When I was first prospecting for Facebook advertising clients, I thought it would seem rude to ask people what their monthly budget was for the ad campaigns.
I later found out that most people didn’t know what their budget should be. They were looking for me to tell them. They had heard Facebook was a cheap place to advertise and they wanted to test it out.
One question I routinely ask prospective clients is, “When you were creating this job on Upwork, what was the ideal end result that you had in mind? Why is it you want to have this done?”
5) Use visuals.
This is a tactic that I stole from the aforementioned web developer. In his proposal to me, he used screen recordings to show me what was wrong with my site and what he wanted to do to correct it.
I was very impressed with the site and loved the visual element of his proposal. I was able to hear his voice (humanized him for me) and see that he was adept with navigating WordPress sites.
Since seeing this, I routinely incorporate videos into my proposals. There are a number of screen-recording services you can use – I use Screencast-o-Matic – that will allow you to record, edit and send screen-recordings.
Most sites will allow you to upload videos to the site, which means you do not need to worry about downloading hundreds of videos.
If, for example, I am applying for a job to write website copy for company, I will visit the website, make a video and send a link similar to this:
6) Be patient.
Do not be discouraged if you do not land many new clients right away. I can’t tell you how many people I know that have given up just before they were about to find success with Upwork and other freelancer sites.
Persistence and patience are the key to continued to success as a freelancer. The more work you find, the more you will continue to hone your message and proposal. Each of us is different and our messages to prospective clients should reflect that.
Keep calm and apply on.