How to Use Upwork to Grow Your Freelance Business

I love Upwork.

I’ve been with the platform from the very start of my freelancing career, and it was still named oDesk then.

Fast forward 10 years later and I am still using the job marketplace as a source of a number of my leads. In fact, about 70% of my clients I get from Upwork.

However, as I join a lot of Facebook groups for freelancers and virtual assistants, I see a lot of people complaining and discouraging people from using it.

You know what they say about people speaking ill over something? It’s usually because they have very limited (if at all) knowledge of that particular thing.

Like Upwork, for instance.

These are just some of the things that I hear people say against Upwork:

  • There are too many cheap freelancers that it becomes difficult to compete.
  • There are too many cheap clients and charging beyond $xx is impossible.
  • Upwork takes too much of your hard-earned money.

Well… they’re actually true in some areas. However, if you know to play the game, you can actually make Upwork a profitable source of income.

Here’s how:

1) Optimize Your Profile

There are many areas in your Upwork profile that you need to work on, if you want to attract your ideal clients.

These would include:

  • Job title
  • Overview
  • Work History + Feedback
  • Skills
  • Portfolio + Project Catalog
  • Links + Other Information

For a more thorough explanation on how to optimize these places, grab your checklist below:

2) Collect Stunning Testimonials

Social proof works, I tell you.

I added three of my best testimonials (related to my job title) right at the very top and I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from people who checked out my profile after I sent them my pitch.

While it will be your skills and expertise in the area that your potential clients will look at, it also helps reassure them that they are getting help from the right person. And the thing with Upwork is that you can’t fake the feedback left by clients (located in your work history) because you can only leave those once you’ve completed a job with that person.

If you’ve worked with other people before outside of Upwork, it’s also possible to invite them to leave testimonials and endorsements inside the platform. Cool, right?

3) Smaller Projects = Quick Wins

Sometimes, people would ask me… How do you get clients on Upwork when they look for people with experience but I have nothing to show in the first place? How can I make my profile stand out?

There are many factors that would lead a client to hire you and, as such, there are many ways that you can sell and market your services to them.

One thing I always recommend is to start out with small, basic projects especially if you are a newbie in the freelancing world. Obviously, you can expect someone to hire you to do strategy work or to pay you top dollar straight away, when your only work experience was waiting tables at your local diner.

If you’ve had years of experience in a particular industry or skill and can translate it into the digital world, then good for you. Otherwise, I suggest opening up yourself to starting with small, basic projects and working your way to the top.

4) Work On Your Pitches

Oftentimes, it’s not about your skills or experience that makes it; it’s how well you sell and market yourself to your potential client.

My very first experience in anything related to sales funnels was when I pitched for a Clickfunnels project. I had zero experience in the field nor the platform prior to that BUT I made sure that I oozed confidence in my proposal. I did use my background in programming to sell myself – so find yourself an angle that will give you an edge over the others.

The project was pretty simple. It basically had me putting together a sales page that the client already designed. So essentially, it was a copy-paste-upload-move-around kind of work but I was paid $15/hour for that. That client actually outsourced that part of the project on behalf of his client so when he decided to let go of the project, he referred me directly to his client and even told her I get paid $20/hour. Instant raise! I’ve been working with his client for the past 2-3 years now and she’s given me her own referrals, too.

5) Be A Good Upworker

Since we’re using a third party platform to grow our business, this also means we need to abide by their terms and conditions. The reason why they also ask a hefty percentage is that it costs a lot to maintain a huge platform that ensures people are paying for services (or are getting paid for their services) in the most secure way possible.

Two of the most important rules I keep in mind: (1) keep all financial transactions within Upwork, and (2) keep all communications within Upwork PRIOR TO setting up a contract.

Plus, if you do really well with your JSS (job success score), you get those cool badges that would help boost your profile even more.

As for the fees?

Well, I always suggest charging an amount that you are comfortable receiving even after all fees (Upwork, PayPal, loss due to the exchange rate, etc) have been taken out of it.

With Upwork, you start at a 20% fee for contracts less than $500. Projects from $501 to $10k get charged 10% and anything higher is charged only 5%.

You can also securely get payments from your clients outside of Upwork through their Direct Contracts, which I think is pretty neat. You only get charged 3.4% for each contract (versus PayPal’s 4.4% + $0.30 fixed fee) then you can withdraw it directly to your local bank account.

Running A 7-Figure Business

I did a quick glimpse of my earnings and here’s what I got as of today, January 23rd.

I do earn a bit from my agency (where I’m really the only person working lol) and, of course, my direct clients.

There are a lot of other bad-ass freelancers who earn wayyyy more than I do and you could be in the list, too!

See? Upwork isn’t so bad.

If you have any more questions about Upwork and how to use it to grow your business, post them in the comments below.

13 thoughts on “How to Use Upwork to Grow Your Freelance Business”

  1. Pam, you just inspired me how to update my portfolio so that I can be a Freelance Writer again. It feels good to know someone like you who had been hustling time and again and making it look like a breeze!

  2. I have heard Upwork from my friends and I want to try the tips that you have mention above in order to compete and know your value as a freelancer.

  3. Fernan Salibongcogon

    It’s great to hear your success story with Upwork. I was amazed by how long you were with the platform. The tips are very helpful to newbies.

  4. These are helpful tips, Pam. My fiancé and I created Upwork accounts but we haven’t really explored the platform. I am going to share this with him and maybe we could work on our Upwork journey, too. Congratulations on your success and keep helping more people explore more opportunities in the online world.

  5. I have been an Upwork user since then. I got two projects before but I have never gotten any tips on how to optimize it. Will take heed of your suggestions and will try to revive freelancing via Upwork. 🙂

  6. Heeey Pam! Your freelance writeups always fascinate me. I am currently working with my client in Upwork as well (I was only doing it part-time). But now that I am shifting from corporate to full-time freelancing, I want to make my Upwork profile more appealing to get more clients. This is a great help btw! And if ever lang meron ka projects dyan for outsourcing, please consider me. I am a copywriter/blog VA, may konting background din sa salesfunnel stuffs. Hoping to hear more from you soon!

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