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Review: Working as a freelancer on Upwork

When I started out as a full-time freelancer, I signed up with three of the biggest players: Upwork, Freelancer.com, and Fiverr. I created profiles, scouted the competition, got used to the interface and looked for as much work as possible. As of now it is Upwork is pretty much the only platform I use; I personally believe that the quality of customers and projects is the highest and most constant. There are definitely some things I would change if I could, but what's perfect.

There are now more people freelancing than ever before and a large number of different websites that can help individuals connect with clients and find job opportunities. But which freelance website is best for you? It can depend on the type of industry you're in, whether you're looking for a long or short-term gig, how much experience you have, etc.

Upwork is a popular option with many freelancers in a wide variety of industries. In fact, the company sees itself as the ideal location for entrepreneurs to find employees for any position in their company: from design to legal to human resources and sales.

So what is it like to work on this platform?

Get started with Upwork

Registration is straightforward. It takes some time and energy to complete your profile, but this is certainly worth the effort and is important if you want to stand out and win over high-quality accounts.

Here's what you should do:

  • Create a strong profile and résumé: Your personal bio is a chance for you to quickly introduce yourself and say what sets you apart from your competitors. One way to get a feel for your personality or expertise is with a short video. There are also specific areas where you can talk about your professional and academic background; the more details you can give, the better.
  • To add samples to your portfolio: When you start working, you don't have any customer reviews or recommendations to vouch for your experience. Make sure you give clients an idea of ​​your style and skills by uploading a few short and crisp work samples or by including any relevant certifications you may have (from a pre-defined list).
  • Set your price and availability: Your profile shows the hourly rate that you normally charge (however, many gigs come with a set “project fee” that you and the client will decide on). Find out what other freelancers with a similar background are asking for. You can always increase your rate as you gain experience and even bid for a different rate than the one you have listed. You should also let customers know what kind of time you want to spend by setting your availability (choice: more or less than 30 hours per week, or “open to offers”).
  • Carry out tests to demonstrate competence: At the time of this writing, there are over three hundred “skill tests” on Upwork that you can take and view the results in your profile (don't worry, you can always “hide” any results you don't want to be shown). The tests are broken down into a few dozen categories, such as mobile technologies, translation skills, etc. Choose the ones that are most relevant to your skills; this gives customers confidence in your work and shows your commitment.

Search and application for vacancies

Use of "Connects"

You apply for jobs with “Connects”. Free accounts have 60 connects per month, and sending an offer to a job usually costs two. Basically, if you are not “invited” to apply for a position (in this case no connects are required), you can send around 30 applications per month. If you opt for a paid membership, you get 70 connects per month, which increases to 140 and is limited. In my experience, 30 connects are enough to get you a lot of work, as long as you know about the jobs you're applying for and have the time to fill out well-designed applications.

Search for vacancies

Your homepage automatically lists open jobs as they are listed, i.e. the further you scroll, the older the posts get. These jobs are based on the categories for which you indicated an expertise or an interest during the registration process.

There are a number of filters available to help you narrow down your search. These are the three big things I usually focus on to make sure I'm applying for a high quality position that has the best chance of success:

  1. Payment verified: There are many instances when individuals post a job they will never fill. I believe that if a customer is serious about wanting their job done, they will verify their payment. In my opinion, applying for jobs that don't is a waste of time and connects.
  2. Customer history: Much like the comment above, I always check to see if a client has hired freelancers in the past - it seems some people really enjoy just posting jobs at Upwork! If they have hired in the past, read all of the reviews to get an idea of ​​what previous freelancers thought of the work experience.
  3. Number of suggestions: Even if the job sounds perfect, if there are already a number of applications I'm less likely to apply. Remember, you want to stand out! Applying early for positions that don't yet have many offers can help you grab the best opportunities.

Sending applications

This is where all of your previous efforts come together and hopefully will result in you getting the job! When applying for a job, attention to detail and personalization are crucial.

Here are a few things I always do to help my application stand out from the crowd:

  • Personalize the message: If possible, use the customer's name or company name in the message; this is a great way to get a customer's attention.
  • Use an interesting "hook" or introduction: After a dozen applications, they all start to sound the same; stand out from others and be remembered with an interesting or funny anecdote.
  • Show that you've read the job description: The quickest way to dispose of your application is to not answer any questions or not provide any samples that are requested in the job posting.
  • Refer to relevant samples: When applying to be a cameraman for a tech company, reference industry-specific work samples - they may not be your favorite samples, but they will likely mean more to the client.
  • Asking smart questions: You don't want to come across as bothersome or arrogant, but saying or asking something that shows a competency in your field can mean a lot more than a line on a resume.
  • Keeping the conversation going: See if the customer has specified a date when he or she will make a decision; if not i would wait three or four days to check if they have additional questions or if there are samples / references for you to provide.

Working with clients

Fixed price vs. hourly projects

Before the work can actually begin, the client and the freelancer have to agree on a compensation rate and structure. Basically there are two ways, both of which can be set up to ensure that the freelancer is paid regularly for the work done, while giving the client the option to approve the work before the payment is released.

Fixed price projects are best suited for clearly defined work; the freelancer knows exactly what is expected of him and when to deliver. “Milestones” can be set that either break down the different sections of the project at the beginning or can be added later when additional work relevant to the project is required. Freelancers ask for payment for milestones when they are completed.

On the other hand hourly projects can be given preference for projects that are less clearly defined, including those where the amount of work may change over time or in situations where the amount of time required is less certain. Freelancers can track their working hours with the Upwork desktop app, which tracks various workflows and occasionally takes screenshots. The work is billed weekly.

Ongoing business relationships

Upwork not only makes it easy to continue ongoing relationships on the platform, it makes it easy Relationships are also rewarded with reduced service fees after a freelancer has earned a certain amount from a specific client. The platform also does this to discourage clients / freelancers from continuing their professional relationship “offline”. Upwork's "share" is one thing that many freelancers complain about, so the good news is that it keeps decreasing over time.

Conflict resolution

As with anything else, there will be times when clients and freelancers disagree on the terms of the work or the product being delivered. This is one of the top reasons keeping the communication on Upwork helpful is good. In the event of a dispute, a mediator can intervene. There are formal steps - for both clients and freelancers - to file a lawsuit against what a person may find unfair.

I was lucky not to have to contact Upwork to resolve a dispute with a client, despite hearing horror stories in the past. For example, if you're working on an hourly project, make sure you're always tracking your hours with the desktop app; when a client denies work, you only have protection for the hours inserted by the tracker. Freelancers can also file disputes over a fixed price contract that involves both parties in mediation and voluntary paid arbitration if a friendly solution cannot be found.

Close jobs and get paid

Submitting the work for payment

When you've completed a specific project as a freelancer, you formally submit it and request payment. At this point, the customer has 14 days to either approve the work and approve payment or request changes. If you do nothing during this period, the payment will automatically be released to the freelancer.

Double blind feedback

After completion of the work, both parties have 14 days to give each other feedback. Please note that once money has been exchanged, the customer can give you feedback, even if the project has not been fully completed. Both the freelancer and the client are asked to rate each other on a number of factors such as communication, availability, collaboration, etc.

The feedback is double-blind, which means you won't see their feedback until you submit yours. I think this is a great system that encourages honest feedback between the parties. I mentioned this before, but I always look at the reviews a client has received (and given) before applying for an open position; for the same reason, I am always sure that I will provide detailed feedback that I think could help inform another freelancer later.

Your Job Success Score (JSS)

This is something I wish I had known more about when I started my Upwork experience. A JSS is assigned to each freelancer and updated about every two weeks. Unfortunately, Upwork is not particularly transparent about how this score is calculated. For example, if a position stays open for too long with no work being done, or if you apply for positions outside of the categories you specified, your score can appear to lower your score.

Indeed maintaining a high score and being a "top rated" freelancer has a number of advantages, like displaying a badge on your profile page or being able to respond to customer feedback so it's really worth doing everything you can to keep that score high.

Set up a payment plan

Upwork is extremely flexible when it comes to payment plans. You can choose to send an automatic payment to your account, quarterly, monthly, twice a month or weekly. This is great if you want to stash your money and not touch it for a while. You can also click on “get paid now” at any time and make a bank transfer or use a third-party provider. It's entirely up to you!

Get to work with Upwork

Upwork is a fantastic resource for clients and freelancers. Personally, I was very impressed with the quality of the jobs and the talents on the platform. At this point, it's my main source of income as a full-time freelancer. And although I've only been on the platform for about six months, I've already built a number of long-term business relationships.

Mind you, there aren't all great options; there are definitely some customers out there who are just out to get as much work as possible for as little cost as possible. These are not the jobs you want. So, you get what you put in. If you want to work on large projects with companies related to your talent, you will have to put a lot of time and effort into making sure your profile and applications are as solid as possible. This way, you can be sure to have a successful career on this platform.