This article contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, when you make a purchase!
Upwork remains my favorite freelancing site, but when I joined it, back in 2012, it was known as oDesk. And unlike now, when application rejections seem to be the order of the day, registering on the site was easy as pie.
On May 5, 2015, the site rebranded to Upwork; a merger between Odesk and Elance, where five million clients connect with 12 million plus freelancers. The site experienced a couple of technical issues a few months ago that frankly had me almost pulling out my hair.
That has since been taken care of. Here’s my detailed Upwork review.
Starting Out – Building Your Upwork Profile
First things first, sign up for an account. As is the case with many freelancing sites, you will then upload your photo and build a good profile that comprises of:
1) Writing Your Overview
Consider this to be your pitch. You are basically selling yourself to your clients. Don’t just highlight your skills but talk about your unique set of characteristics that differentiate you from other professionals. That could mean you are honest, diligent, reliable, a quick learner etc.
2) Taking Skill Tests
Take a couple of skill tests to prove to your potential clients that you have the right skills for the project. Aim to be at the Top 10-30% in every test.
3) Uploading Your Portfolio
This is a sample of work that you have done previously. If you are a newbie, you most likely don’t have any. Consider working for someone for free to get some. At the end of the day, you want to prove to the client that you have the necessary knowledge to make his project a success. If you are a transcriber, that may mean downloading a video on YouTube and transcribing it. Look for Creative Common videos – videos that you can use legally.
You can also add a video to your profile. This feature wasn’t there when I first joined the site. Good thing about having a video is you get the chance to demonstrate to your prospective clients that you have a good command of the English language.
Bidding on Upwork
Upwork is a bidding site. That means that clients post jobs and then freelancers apply to those jobs. The client will have to read many applications before finally settling on one candidate that he finds suitable.
You don’t need to write long cover letters. Keep it short and sweet. Ask yourself, “Why should the client hire me instead of the other freelancer?” Clients want to work with freelancers who are passionate about their work, because this will ensure the success of their project. Be that kind of freelancer.
There is really no secret to bidding. You need to bid regularly and consistently. Remember to check out the client’s history. What kind of feedback has he left for previous freelancers?
After you have sent a proposal to a certain job and the client communicates with you, probably seeking clarification on a few issues, you’ll be able to see this under the Active Candidacies.
On Upwork freelancing site, clients can also send you an invite if they believe you are a good fit for their project. When you get an invite, ensure you respond to it promptly. The good thing about receiving invites is that it can get to a point where you are receiving so many invites that you no longer have to bid as much as before.
Upwork Connects and Membership
On February 2015, Upwork introduced connects, which are virtual tokens that you need to bid on jobs. There was a lot of hue and cry when they did this, as previously the job application quotas allowed freelancers to bid as much as they could. Since the introduction of connects, freelancers are deliberate about the applications they send.
All freelancers are on the basic membership which is free. Freelancers automatically receive 60 connects per month which are refreshed on a monthly basis. You can use either 1 to 5 connects per bid, depending on each job’s specifications.
You can always upgrade to the Freelancer Plus Membership which gives you more connects. It’ll only cost you $10. If you upgrade to this plan:
- you will get 70 connects and the ability to buy other connects at $1 per connect.
- your connects will rollover meaning they don’t expire at the end of the billing cycle.
- you can check your competitors bids.
Types of Contracts
There are two types of jobs on the Upwork freelancing site: hourly and fixed. Hourly jobs pay you depending on the amount of time you worked. If you took three hours to write a 1,000 word article and your hourly rate is $10, you will get paid $30. Pretty simple : 3 * 10
You will need to install the Time Tracker app which is on the right side of your profile. This app takes random screen shots when you’re working which will then be sent to your client.
Fixed jobs pay per project. It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to complete the job, you will be paid a fixed price. For fixed jobs, Upwork have put in place measures to protect the freelancer. When a client funds a milestone, those funds are held in an Escrow account. You can work confidently knowing that upon completion of your client’s work, you will get paid. DO NOT start on any fixed price job before the client has funded the milestone.
I also like that I can chat real time with clients, the same way you chat with your friends on Whatsapp. You can even tell if a client or freelancer is online.
My Stats Feature On Upwork
I must also mention, on this Upwork review, a feature called ‘MY STATS.’ This feature allows you to track your performance. You can see how well you’re doing on Upwork in terms of your reputation. You can also track how responsive your clients are as well as how effective your marketing is.
The job success score is quite significant. This score takes into consideration the following factors:
- long-term relationships with clients.
- feedback you have received from clients.
- repeat jobs.
- private feedback that clients leave.
This is updated every two weeks. On average, a score of 90% and higher is recommended.
Your job score will be lowered if:
- you have too many open contracts that are inactive.
- you have too many contracts that have ended without any feedback. This can happen when you end the contracts and the client doesn’t leave you any feedback.
Payment Options on Upwork
If you think that you will enjoy all the monies you earn from your projects without sharing some with Upwork, let me burst your bubble 🙂
Upwork deducts 10% of your earnings – they need to earn money too.
UPDATE: On May 3rd, Upwork changed it’s pricing model. The site upped it’s fee from 10% to 20%. Freelancers are now charged 20% for the first $500 they earn across all contracts, 10% on contracts that range from $500.01 to $10K, and a 5% fee will apply to contracts that total $10,000 and more.
Once your clients pays you, you can withdraw via Paypal, Skrill, Payoneer or your bank account.
UPDATE: Kenyan freelancers can now withdraw their funds via Mpesa.
Each payment method has it’s own withdrawal fee, for example, Upwork deducts $1 for Paypal withdrawals.
If you have any questions regarding your account, you can contact Upwork support via live chat, submit a ticket or call them. I prefer the former.
And I Love Working at Upwork Because …
- I’m able to work directly with great clients and forge long-term business relationships. I now have several long-term clients who send me work on a regular basis, year after year.
- One of the challenges that transcribers face is dealing with low quality audio files. I have noticed that many of my clients send me very good quality audios compared to the ones I find in transcription sites.
- I’m able to get repeat business. What I realized earlier on in my freelancing career is that clients do not want to jump from one freelancer to another. If you are a good fit, they’ll send you work every time they have a new project.
- The feedback you receive from your previous clients helps to build a great reputation and trustworthiness that can lead to lots of work from potential clients.
- You can set up an agency and have multiple freelancers working on clients projects. Here, you can find more information on setting up an agency.
Do you work on Upwork? Feel free to share your experience in the comments below.