Freelance Jobs Online: The Ultimate Upwork Guide
Freelance jobs online includes just about anything–if you can think it up, you can freelance it. Some of the more common freelance gigs are writing, graphic design, and IT & programming. But really, the possibilities are endless –if you’re good at something (seriously, anything), you can offer those services as a freelancer.
As far as work from home opportunities, freelancing is an attractive way to earn a living while doing it on your own terms (for the most part!). As a freelancer you can choose which jobs you take, for whom you work, negotiate your pay rates, and decide how and when you work. Sounds ideal, right?
It can be. But there’s also a bit of a learning curve when first starting out as a freelancer. When just starting out, you’ll need to build your client roster and perfect your pitch in order to be successful.
Finding Freelance Jobs Online
There are many websites devoted to helping individuals find freelance jobs online. Upwork, Guru, Freelancer, and Fiverr are the some of most popular platforms.
These sites are great for helping you gain your freelance footing. If you’re successful on one (or more!) of the freelance marketplace sites, you’ll likely have recurring projects, repeat clients, and more work than you’ll know what to do with.
I’ve tried my hand on just about every freelancers’ site. And my hands-down favorite is Upwork.
Freelance Jobs Online with Upwork
Upwork was just launched on May 5, 2015, but it isn’t technically new.
Upwork was formerly known as oDesk. In December of 2013, Elance and oDesk, the two largest sources of freelance jobs online at the time, merged together. As part of the merger, they opted to remain two distinct sites; Elance stayed the same and oDesk changed to Elance-oDesk.
Then over the next year and a half, Elance-oDesk was rebuilt and launched as the new site, Upwork. And since Upwork has now officially taken over both Elance and oDesk, it is now the world’s largest freelancer’s marketplace with literally thousands of gigs posted every single day.
Signing Up at Upwork
According to Upwork:
If you have amazing skills, we have amazing freelance jobs. With 4+ million clients using our platform, Upwork has opportunities for all types of professionals.
Creating a freelancer account on Upwork is pretty straightforward. All you need to do is go to their sign up page, fill out basic information and choose a username and password. You can also sign up with Facebook, LinkedIn, or your Google account, if you’d like.
Once you’ve signed up, you’ll just need to confirm your email address to begin building your freelancer profile.
Creating Your Upwork Profile
After you’ve confirmed your email address, you’ll be prompted to complete your Upwork profile.
When looking for freelance jobs online, you’ll need to create a profile that sets you apart from the many other freelancers out there.
Upwork is no different.
Before you jump into completing your profile, you’ll need to decide what freelance services you want to offer. Are you a writer? Programmer? Engineer? Legal professional? Depending on your answers, you’ll need to select the most appropriate category from the options Upwork gives you:
After you’ve selected your general area of freelance services, you’ll be given the opportunity to narrow down your niche. For example, as a writer, your expertise probably lies within a few areas, perhaps it’s blogging, copy writing, or web content. Maybe you will only write product descriptions or supply copy for lawyers and legal professionals.
Or if you’re a designer, maybe you have a knack for logo design or presentation creation.
Whatever your area or areas of expertise are, Upwork allows you to showcase those categories which you’re the best at. It’s important to stick to a niche or two and focus on those. As you get established, you can always branch out. But in the beginning, always, always, always start small.
The next portion of your Upwork profile is where you’ll be able to tell potential clients about you and what makes you great. Freelance jobs online and freelance job sites can be super-competitive. But a well-written, thoughtful and complete profile can go a long way in helping you land your first gig.
What’s nice about Upwork’s profile creation is that you’re prompted to fill in details. Being walked through the entire process, step by step, helps streamline what can be a somewhat daunting task.
Introduce Yourself on Upwork
The introduction portion of your Upwork profile is all about you. You can choose to link your social media accounts to your Upwork profile. If your social media accounts are professional and showcase your work and talents, then by all means, share them.
If they’re personal and used mostly to stay in contact with friends and family, I would skip this. Or better yet, create some social media accounts specifically for your freelancing endeavors!
Clients love to know they’re working with real people. This unique feature of being able to link your social media accounts with your Upwork profile can help give you a human presence. Plus, it can really make you stand out against your competition seeking the very same freelance jobs online.
In thinking of giving your profile a human presence, you’ll need to upload a photo of yourself. This is one of the easiest ways to help boost your profile’s credibility, yet many freelancers skip this when first starting out. But really, if you have even a semi-professional shot of yourself from the shoulders up, you really should upload it. Why?
Freelancers with a friendly, professional-looking portrait are hired 5 times more often than those without a photo.
You can’t argue with that. So go ahead and upload a picture of yourself. Don’t have one? You can always try the DIY approach to taking a professional headshot.
The overview is really a chance to stand out when seeking freelance jobs online. Most freelancers, especially beginners, don’t maximize the overview’s full potential.
When writing an overview, always, always, always open with what you can do for the client, not what your talents are! It works. A client really does want to know what you, as a freelancer, can offer them.
Of course after you open with what you can do for a client, you should then include your experience and skills. And at the end of your overview, you should include some kind of incentive for them to hire you or contact you for more information.
Any good salesperson will tell you that at the end of any pitch you’ll need a call to action, that is something that lets a person know what you want them to do. (This is why a salesperson will always ask you for the sale at the end of their pitch.) As a freelancer you are selling your services and talents. Don’t be afraid to ask the client to contact you or hire you!
So remember when creating your overview for any freelance jobs online:
- Open with what you can do for the client
- Close with a call to action (hire me, contact me, let’s work together, etc.)
Experience & Education
After you’ve introduced yourself in your Upwork profile, you’ll have an opportunity to include your experience and education.
Don’t panic if you have little to no experience or education in your chosen freelance field! In my experience, many clients consider these things secondary to actual talent. There are, of course, those clients that specify a certain education level or experience. But many more will simply want to see that you can do the work they need done regardless of where you’ve worked or graduated from.
Note: You will have to include at least one education entry on your Upwork profile.
Using Your Portfolio To Get Freelance Jobs Online
In order to demonstrate that you can get the job done, you really should upload samples to your portfolio.
Upwork has this section marked as “optional.” But really, regardless of your field, a few samples can go a long way in helping you land your first freelance job.
So, what if you don’t have any samples? Make some.
If you’re a writer, write a few sample blog articles or landing page content. If you’re a designer, create some logos to showcase your talent. There’s no excuse not to include portfolio samples, even if you’re a beginner.
As you gain experience, you can upload newer samples. In fact, it’s good practice to keep your portfolio fresh with recent, up-to-date content. So after you’ve successfully completed a few jobs, you should update your portfolio. As you grow your freelance business, try to make it a habit to freshen up your profile and portfolio about once every three months or so.
How Many Samples Should I Upload?
A general rule of thumb is to include two samples for each of your skills listed. So if you’re a WordPress site creator, logo designer, and photographer, you should have two samples demonstrating your proficiency in all three areas.
The Final Details
You’re almost ready to begin searching freelance jobs online. There’s just a few more final details to hammer out.
You need to set your hourly rate. A lot of gigs on Upwork are billed hourly instead of per project. So you’ll want to sit down and seriously consider what hourly rate you feel comfortable working at.
- Upwork takes a 10% cut. So if you bill the client at $15.00 per hour, you’ll actually receive $13.50.
- As a beginner, you might have to price yourself at a lower rate until you gain experience
Having lower rates in the beginning is pretty common when it comes to freelance jobs online:
Once you build your reputation through consistently high client satisfaction, you’ll be able to command higher rates from clients who respect your proven skills. In fact, we have found that freelancers on Upwork, on average, increase their hourly rate almost 60% in the first year and close to 190% over 3 years.
So don’t be discouraged if you’re having to work at a lower-than-expected rate right out the gate. Over time, as you prove yourself, you’ll be able to increase your earnings.
After you’ve settled on an hourly rate, you’ll just need to provide your location details.
Something a little different about Upwork is that your profile needs to be reviewed before you can apply to jobs.
Once your profile is approved (I can’t imagine why it wouldn’t be!) then you can begin connecting with clients.
Note: I submitted my profile for approval at about 10:00 p.m. and was approved the following afternoon at about 1:00 p.m.
Much like its sister site, Elance, Upwork gives freelancers a certain number of connects each month. If you find a job you’d like to submit a proposal for, you’ll need to use your connects to do so.
With a free account you get 60 connects per month. With a paid membership you get 70. For the $10.00 per month you also get to carry over any unused monthly connects.
In my experience, the free package should be sufficient. Unless you’re really, really curious about what your competitors are bidding on jobs, there’s really no need to upgrade at first. Remember that with all memberships, free or premium:
All payments are made securely through the Upwork platform. When working on hourly projects, you’re eligible for Upwork Payment Protection that assures that an hour worked is an hour paid. On fixed price contracts, pre-funded milestone payments from your clients are secure with Upwork Fixed Price Protection.
Finding Freelance Jobs Online with Upwork
When you login to your Upwork account, you’ll see a list of jobs that are recommended for you based on what’s in your profile. You can also perform a basic or advanced search to narrow down more specific jobs. If you find a job that sounds interesting, you can use your connects to submit a proposal to it.
The right proposal can make all the difference in how many gigs you land. Make any of these common Upwork proposal mistakes, and you may be harming your chances of getting hired.
And that is the basics of getting up and running on Upwork. It really is quite similar to Elance, with some marked differences. For one, Elance requires that all jobs pay a minimum of $20.00. This keeps competition healthy between freelancers without jobs simply going to the lowest bidder.
I can’t say the same for Upwork. While I did come across some great opportunities on the site, I also noticed many terrible ones, too. Some companies consistently pay at a rate of $5.00 per hour. I’ve seen other freelancers working consistently at $3.33 per hour and clients who will only hires those freelancers willing to work at such low rates.
Unfortunately, there is no minimum pay rate on Upwork. Some clients are simply seeking freelancers who will work at absolute rock-bottom prices. However, with a little diligence, a perfect profile and pitch, you can find clients willing to pay fair prices for good work.
As all Elancers merge over to Upwork, you’ll see an increase in the number of opportunities, too (good and bad!).
What do you think? Interested in finding freelance jobs online through Upwork? Already earning money from home each month with Upwork? Have questions? Leave it in the comments below!