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3 Things You Need to Know to Use Upwork as a Freelancer

Raise your hand if you like getting scammed. Yeah, we know, it’s not easy being an Upwork freelancer. You know you need to be conscious of the scammers. But you also need to make sure you’re setting yourself up for success. The three points I address in the post and the video below focus on ways you can avoid self sabotage.

You have a few minutes to turn your Upwork game around right? Great, I thought so.

1. An Optimized Profile Will Attract Great Upwork Clients

If you’re a freelancer on Upwork, the first thing you need to focus on is setting up a great profile. The primary things that you want to focus on are your title, your overview, and your hourly rate.


Your title is extremely valuable real estate. When I search for something like “B2B content writer”, a list of freelancers shows up with their first name and last initial, their photo, and their title. You don’t want to get too crazy using what I like to call a unicorn title, which pretty much says that you do all the things.

“I’m a content writer, graphic designer, and social media manager. I do ALL THE THINGS!”

Says the Unicorn Freelancer

Most of the time what this means is that you don’t do all of those things well. You might do one of them well, but you don’t want to misrepresent your skills because the only thing that does is lead to unhappy clients, and unhappy clients leave bad reviews.

Pick a Professional Photo. Smile!

When it comes to your photo, make sure it’s nice and professional. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a professional headshot, but you want to have a nice plain background. You want your face to be very clear – a smile shows that you’re pleasant. 

Be in professional clothing, even if you just have a nice shirt on and pajama bottoms, they’re not going to know! Just make sure you look nice and professional and you look the way that you want your client to think of you. No Snapchat filter photos.

Onto Your Profile Summary: The Overview

Next up is your overview. You need to write it for the client that you’re trying to attract. Too many overviews are just a list of random skills or they say “my degree is in whatever.” They don’t really care what your degree is in unless it’s supremely relevant to what it is that you’re doing. 

You can always mention your degree in your proposal. Let’s say you have a degree in supply chain management and you’re going to be working with a client that focuses on supply chain management services, then your degree suddenly becomes relevant. 

But wasting space in your overview when further down on your profile you can put your education… It’s just not a good idea.

Even if You Don’t Work Hourly, Update That Rate!

Your hourly rate is also really important. It can help fend off the people looking for cheap work. If you put that your hourly rate is $15 an hour, because you never updated it and you don’t use an hourly rate, that’s a mistake. 

Hourly rates are still a common way that we communicate a service exchange. So even if you never charge by the hour, telling someone that your rate is $70 sets expectations versus telling someone that your hourly rate is $15 an hour.

When clients go through the Upwork system, the platform allows them to filter so they can choose if they want a freelancer that’s $10 or under, one that’s $10 to $30, or even $30 and up, so you want to make sure that your hourly rate fits in the category that you want to represent. 

If your hourly rate is $15, and then you quote $400 for a blog post, that’s going to be extremely confusing to the prospective client that you’re speaking to. You’ll also waste a lot of time on that. If they want somebody who writes for $15 an hour, let them find that person – it’s not you.

If you want more tips on how to create a stellar Upwork profile, you may want to check out the Upwork for Writers Bundle, as it includes an eBook with step-by-step instructions (and videos) on the different parts of your profile! 

2. Develop a Critical Eye: Properly Assess Upwork Job Posts

Another thing to work on is evaluating job posts. This is something we work on a lot in the Content Coffee Break. All you have to do is look for the “Would You Apply To This Job?” posts or the acronym WWATTJ?. We get some really good discussions surrounding those job posts. 

It’s interesting to see that I’ll apply to certain jobs that other people won’t apply to and people ask a lot of really good questions. It’s a really good exercise, and great for inexperienced writers. It brings us all together, no matter what our level of experience is, because we all have something to offer.

3. Make Your Connects Worth It

Writing proposals that get responses is a huge thing on Upwork, especially now that you have to pay for your connects. The higher your response rate, the less time (and money) you’ve wasted.

Copy-paste proposals are pretty much a waste of time. Not to say that you shouldn’t work from a template. You can still have a standard format that you use, but you want to make sure that you tailor your proposal or your pitch to the person that you’re talking to. 

If they put their name, you can search for them on Linkedin, or you can search for their company and look at their website. Just make sure that your proposal is tailored without using up too much time. You can do that by working from a base template, like the one included in the Upwork for Writers Bundle.

Bonus Upwork Tips

Don’t take payment off of the platform. Once you do that, you have absolutely no recourse as far as getting Upwork to help you get paid by this person. They have their payment guarantee system in place for a reason, and if you follow the rules, you will get paid. 

If you take it off of the platform and the client ghosts you, takes your content and doesn’t pay you, then there is absolutely nothing you can do, at least in terms of Upwork. And most of the time for our writing projects, it’s not enough to sue somebody. 

If you did work that would have amounted to $500, how much are you going to pay an attorney to sue that person? And the clients know this. Oftentimes they will keep the projects at a certain amount to make it so it’s not worth it to actually sue them.

You can bad mouth them all you want, but you’re the person who’s out those hours and money.

Only Work with a Funded Milestone

You should never work unless the milestone is funded – it’ll say “funded” next to it. Also, always submit work using Upwork functions until you build trust. Let’s say you have an ongoing content blog arrangement. I normally give my clients access to the blog posts via Google Docs so we can collaborate. However, I also submit it through Upwork’s functions. 

The reason why? If it’s a fixed-price contract, you have two weeks that you would have to wait until the funds are automatically released to you. If you only do it through Google Docs, the client may forget, because they get busy. You want to make sure that you submit using Upwork’s functions. 

In a way, it can even make it easier because if you can afford to wait those two weeks, then you don’t even have to bring it up to the client. The client’s happy with your work and then the funds get automatically released.

Are you trying to use Upwork to land freelance clients? Let me know in the comments!