How to Be Hired as a Freelancer on Upwork

Contributed content / By Dorothea Oppelland / 11 February 2020

Establishing yourself as a freelancer on Upwork can be hard work if you’re not sure where to start. By crafting your professional brand through your profile and adapting your communication style to your clients, you’re more likely to earn jobs.

It’s no doubt that Upwork is one of the largest freelancing platforms in the world. According to financial results, Upwork has been increasing its gross services volume (GSV) by 21% year over year to reach $487 million in the Q1 of 2019. The company is growing at an impressive rate, and freelancers should capitalize on that.

If you’re thinking about joining the online freelance workforce, Upwork is definitely your best bet. According to their website, they host about $1 billion worth of jobs every year, so you’ll definitely find something that fits your skill profile.

The platform connects freelance professionals and agencies with clients in five main areas: 

  1. Content writing
  2. Creative and design
  3. IT and engineering
  4. Sales and marketing
  5. Business operations

If you’re proficient in one of those, then you’re in good shape. However, be ready to face competition like you’ve never seen before. Upwork has millions of registered active users, which means that you’ll need every trick in the book to win projects.

How to Get Hired as a Freelancer on Upwork

  • Start with a strong Upwork application
  • Create a descriptive profile
  • Tailor your job proposal
  • Research the client

Step 1: Start With a Strong Upwork Application

Just a couple of years ago, you could start working on Upwork by filling out your profile and choosing your target skill categories

Now, Upwork has decided to screen applicants to account for the number of freelancers with the same skill set.

After you provide your information, a special team will then evaluate your registration request and decide if they want to accept you. 

This can seem like a daunting process, but there are things that you can do to increase your chances of getting accepted.

  • Provide as much job- and skills-related information as possible to show that you’re an expert in your field
  • Always include detailed information about education and previous experience
  • Stay up to date on the most in-demand skills, such as proposal writing, lesson plan writing, Dropbox API, and UI design. 

The trick is to present yourself as a valuable contractor by showing off popular and unique skills. Follow these tips, and you’ll have a higher chance of getting accepted.

Step 2: Create a Descriptive Profile

Your profile at Upwork is your resume. It’s the first thing that the clients see when you apply to jobs, so looking good and professional is essential.

According to Elena Willis, a freelance writer from Studhilfe, every good Upwork profile should:

  • Have a great profile picture: Upwork has guidelines to help select a profile picture, but, in short, you should have your face in focus on a simple background. Make sure that your photo is well-lit so that clients can see you clearly.
  • Write a concise profile summary: This is a short personal description of yourself that tells the clients what you can do. It also gives a glimpse into your personality.
  • Upload relevant portfolio items: Portfolio items give tangible examples of what you’re capable of. Make sure to have a few that show off your best skills.

For example, if you were a graphic designer, you could highlight your background and detail-oriented approach.

For example, if you were a graphic designer, you could highlight your background and detail-oriented approach.
 
Adding emojis is generally avoided, but it can work in your favor if you’re trying to convey a sense of warmth and creativity.

It goes without saying that your profile is a way to brand yourself on Upwork, so you should be professional but thoughtful about it. Are you more to-the-point or is it more beneficial to be approachable? That’s up to you!

Step 3: Tailor Your Job Proposal

Once you’re accepted as a freelancer on Upwork, you’ll get about 30 “connects” to apply to jobs. Connects are used to apply to jobs — one application can cost you between 1-6 of them, so it’s a good idea to use them wisely.

While you can always purchase more connects, you’ll still want to make the most of what you have.

Each project will require you to indicate your price and write a cover letter. The latter goes in the “Additional details” part of your connect proposal.

Each project will require you to indicate your price and write a cover letter. The latter goes in the “Additional details” part of your connect proposal.
 
If you don’t customize your cover letter to fit the job you’re applying for, you likely won’t get the job. 

An effective cover letter:

  • Is customized: Most clients will spot generic templates immediately. Instead, read the job description carefully and then write a cover letter that shows you understand the project.
  • Is short and sweet: “No one wants to spend a lot of time reading your novel,” says Brian White, an expert writer from Essayhilfe. He suggests keeping your letter to about 200 words.
  • Includes work samples: After the first paragraph, mention your success on similar projects and give concrete examples.
  • Answers the client’s questions: Job descriptions can be long, but it’s important to read through them to address all of the client’s concerns. For example, a post for content writing might have a list of requirements.

Make your cover letter customized and short but comprehensive.

The client will base their hiring decision on whether or not you can meet their list of requirements.

Finally, in many cases, clients want to know what you think the best approach to their situation would be. Or, they want to know more about your relevant experience. Be sure to provide answers to each. It’s a chance to let the client know that you have what it takes.

If you want more insights into cover letter writing, read Upwork’s official proposal guidelines to find other useful tips.

Step 4: Research the Client

Beyond just writing a cover letter with your experiences, you can personalize your client communication by researching them.

  • Refer to the client by name: You can usually find the client’s name in the job posting. If it’s not there, check out the feedback section from previous contractors for their names.
  • Try to mirror their writing style: If the client communicates in a conversational style, responding in a similar way can make them feel more comfortable with you.
  • Work with highly-rated clients: Applying to jobs for clients with low feedback may not be a good idea. Watch out for clients with poor payment ratings and negative contractor feedback.

If the person looking for a freelancer has fewer than 3 stars, be wary.

You’re less likely to have a positive experience with them, so skip them altogether.

The job searching process is just as much about finding the right client as it is presenting yourself in the best light. Do your research to get a better picture of your prospects.

Establishing Yourself as a Freelancer Takes Time

Getting hired is a process that takes time, so it’s important to be patient. But there are still steps you can take to help make you more attractive as a freelancer. 

Convey your personality through your descriptive profile and personalized cover letter. You can also set yourself apart by doing your due diligence when researching potential clients. Tailor your communications to show that you understand what’s expected. Finally, avoid clients that have a poor track record.

With these tips, you’ll be well prepared to freelance on Upwork. Just be careful what you’re applying for. And stay away from jobs that don’t excite you because freelancing should be fun, too. 

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