Getting Hired on Upwork

On first glance, Upwork appears to be filled with nothing but very low-paying projects. But once you know how and where to look, you can find some reputable and well-paying clients.

Here are some tips from a ‘Top Rated’ Upwork freelancer to get you up to speed and winning those projects in no time. 😉


Create and Maintain a Winning Profile

You won’t win work by registering your profile and putting your feet up to watch the clients roll in. You have to make an effort to grab the attention of potential clients, both now and consistently throughout your time with Upwork.

Step 1: Upload a professional photo

It’s fine to post holiday pics on your personal Facebook profile, but it won’t win any professionalism awards on Upwork.

Opt for a portrait shot, dressed smartly (but still showing your personality!), looking directly at the camera in a brightly-lit environment.

A good quality phone camera and a tidy home office background - or plain wall - can do wonders.

Step 2: Create an eye-catching bio

Scour several Upwork profiles and you’ll find many of them are… well, boring.

Remember, you’re a unique person with your own set of skills and personality which are both equally important, so avoid yawn-worthy, waffling paragraphs that read like a CV.

Instead, start with a snappy first line as your initial impression, then briefly explain your skills, the clients you are looking for and how you can solve their problems with your expertise.

It can be fun to include a line or two about your personal interests at the end.

Avoid excessive use of punctuation, sloppy spelling and grammar (ask a friend to proofread for you) and avoid being overly formal in your tone.

Step 3: Complete your profile

It’s tough competition out there, so give yourself the best chances of winning projects with an informative and polished profile.

Let’s say a client is looking for a freelancer to help them with their project, and they come across a handful of profiles that match the skills they’re searching for. There are half a dozen profiles without photos, a bio, or past experience. And then there’s one or two fully fleshed-out profiles, presented with a smiling, professional face, a snappy bio, and every section of their profiles completed.

Which do you think they would choose?

Step 4: Keep your profile relevant

As freelancers, our careers change and evolve over time.

As you gain skills and change your niche, be sure to update your profile to reflect this so you’re attracting the right clients and not selling yourself short.


Looking For Work

If you’ve followed the steps above, your profile is now looking sharp and you’re ready to venture out and grab yourself those first projects.

But where to start?

Once you’ve clicked around and familiarized yourself with the platform, it’s time to start actively seeking clients.

Step 1: Subscribe to categories

There’s a category for virtually every type of work on Upwork, and clients will post their projects and tag the relevant categories.

By subscribing to these categories, you’ll be informed of new job posts which match.

You can also perform a search under any category to find past projects, too!

Step 2: Find your ideal project

Upwork’s search filters are valuable, as they allow you to search by rate, length of project, client experience and more! Narrowing down your search makes it more likely you’ll find projects that fit your expectations.

A side note: don’t disregard a job if it doesn't fit your exact specifications. If the hours are a little low, or the pay is slightly off, these are areas you can negotiate in your proposal!

It pays to be flexible as you may find the ideal client by broadening your horizons.

Step 3: Research potential clients

Once you’ve found a project that stands out, it’s time to do a bit more research before you work on that proposal.

First things first, has the client given you their company name? Run a quick Google search on them and check a few things:

  • Do they have a website? (If not, be wary);

  • Are they present on social media? Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are relevant ones to search for;

  • On social, how do they speak to their customers? Are they active?;

  • Are there any bad reviews online about their business? This isn’t necessarily bad, especially if their project on Upwork is to look for someone to help improve their service, but it’s good to know what you might be getting into!).

You can also do research within Upwork itself. Scrolling down the project description, you can find out what past freelancers thought about them, to get a sense of what they’re like to work with.

Step 4: Choose projects carefully

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. You may come across project listings that seem like a dream; very little or basic work with promises of a huge payoff.

Here are some red flags to watch out for:

  • The client’s account is brand new with no information

  • They ask freelancers to contact them OUTSIDE of the Upwork platform, via Skype or a random email address

  • They have bad feedback from past freelancers

  • The work seems sketchy or vague

  • They present no description of who you’ll be working for

  • They promise a ridiculous amount of benefits without detailing what work will need to be done

If you suspect that a job isn’t real, you can report it or contact Customer Support for help.

Step 5: Build feedback

Being brand new to a site like Upwork - which relies heavily on good feedback and job success to win clients - may dash your hopes of ever getting selected or even noticed without these things.

But this isn’t true. Your polished profile will help set you apart from many other freelancers to give you a head start.

One handy way of building your feedback to help your long-term game can be to pitch to clients who wouldn’t necessarily be your first choice.

We would never suggest applying for jobs that pay peanuts or doing work that you don’t feel comfortable with, but compromising (at least at the beginning of your Upwork journey) can pay off in the long run and lead to better paid work.

Step 6: Write a persuasive proposal

After you’ve discovered a project that seems like a great fit and you’ve checked that the client is legit, it’s time to craft your proposal!

Here are some pointers for writing a winning proposal:

  • Start with a friendly, personalized greeting (avoiding the generic and outdated ‘Sir/Madam’).

  • Explain what attracted you to the project listing; this can be a business achievement they mentioned, the skills needed match yours perfectly, or you loved their latest blog post, for example.

  • Explain concisely why you’d be the ideal freelancer for them, highlighting past clients, experience, or skills that are relevant.

  • Include any information they’ve asked for as part of your proposal, for example, a link to a writing sample, an audio recording, even a code word (some clients ask you to include a word to prove you’ve read the listing).

  • Offer an incentive! Employers are often nervous about hiring someone they haven’t worked with before, so offering to do a small trial project or before committing can open doors for you.

  • Ask a couple questions you’re curious about if anything was unclear in the job description.

  • Finish with a call to action (for example: “Don’t hesitate to reach out if you’d like to schedule an interview.”).

  • Read your entire proposal out loud to yourself, it should take no more than 5 minutes from start to finish.

  • Don’t forget to proofread and edit! First impressions are very important.


Common Questions

1. Should I pay for a membership?

That depends.

If you’re applying for a large amount of jobs each month and want to make your profile appear at the top of a project’s proposals, you can opt for the ‘Plus’ plan which includes more Connects, higher visibility and other perks.

As a beginner though, you probably don’t need this. The free membership to Upwork gives you access to everything on the site, including ‘Connects’ (the points used to apply for jobs).

2. Can I take a client relationship off Upwork?

No! This is against Upwork’s Terms of Service and you can be banned for violating their rules.

There’s good reason to stay within Upwork’s walls, too: it keeps you safe, guarantees you get paid for your work, and tallies up your earnings and feedback to strengthen your credentials.


Remember: Building up a client base and winning proposals you’re happy with takes time and effort. Like anything in the freelancer life: it can be hard, but it’s oh so worth it!

You've got this! 💪


📌 Additional Resources

  • How to Get High-Paying Clients on UpWork (Even if You Don't Have Any Existing Freelancing Experience...) In this free online training, Brandon, a college dropout, shows how he went from having zero income and literally searching for $10/hr jobs online... to quickly creating a $197/hr freelancing career using UpWork.


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