Upwork is my favorite freelance site. Unfortunately, it is already populated by millions of others! When trying to get your foot in the door, you need to know how to start a freelance business and find clients – fast.
A proven approach for creating a good freelance business on Upwork is structured here:
Step 1. Plan how to start a freelance business in your own situation
Since joining any freelance site without a business idea and the definition of your clientele is pointless, you’d need to get those figured out first. Read these first before you jump in:
- Freelancing – It’s an Expert’s Game: Figure out the perfect match with your skillset, clientele, and rates.
- 4 Freelance Myths You Need to Debunk Before Leaving Your Day Job: This article helps to be realistic about your position as an individual professional.
- Let’s Science the Shit Out of Unstable Freelance Income! gives you clear targets for expecting what you can make as a freelancer… and easy steps for financial survival!
- 10 Freelancing Hacks You Should Know Before Joining a Freelance Site lists things most people are not aware of at the beginning and therefore spent months in getting their first Upwork gigs. One of the best ways is to be a client first!
- Consider having a mindset of a solopreneur from the beginning. Freelancing can be started with nearly $0 initial capital, but it can be grown much faster if a small amount of money is used strategically. Consider learning How to Avoid Being a Business Idiot When Going Freelance.
Step 2. Sign up!
Once you know what kind of business you plan to do, sign up on Upwork without any hassle with these tips:
- Upwork’s own guide for setting up a freelancer profile is the first task.
- A must-read is also Upwork’s Terms of Service. Make sure you go through the rest of the Legal pages too. Particularly, pay attention to what is said about what communications methods are allowed in which parts of the hiring process!
Step 3: Create an attractive Upwork profile
Create an effective Upwork profile:
- Freelancer Profile Writing 101 covers the basics for getting your title and value proposition right.
- Now that you have a profile, make sure it stands out and attracts the right people. Many of the 9 Freelancing Hacks for Starting Freelancers help in getting it right early on.
- How to Start Freelancing and Make It to the Global Top – My First Year on Upwork is a long extensive article that shows you the whole journey starting from a) creating a very specific profile that attracts clients in a very narrow field, and b) picking the first perfect projects that grow your portfolio and track record quickly enough to make you Top Rated in a matter of months.
Step 4: Get your first projects going
Start finding suitable freelance projects by focusing on having a service that matches your clients’ needs 100%:
- Have You Proposed Right? Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 give you comprehensive guidance on how to write Upwork proposals that win jobs. The guide covers good examples, typical mistakes, and a general template for big projects.
- Utilize these tips and tricks to make sure you don’t miss out on what many other freelances already know: 11 Empirically-Proven Freelancing Hacks for Online Freelancers
- Once you get past a couple of initial projects, put a laser focus on those jobs that you can do really quickly and make a critical impact on the client’s business. See an example in the article $1,000 per Day as a Software Developer: The Secret Behind My “Ludicrous Speed”.
- Make sure you don’t repeat the typical mistakes most freelancers make during the first steps on Upwork. Read: Why and How New Freelancers Keep Failing, Part 1: The developers in case you are a technical person, and Why and How New Freelancers Keep Failing, Part 2: The Designers if you belong to any of the creative fields.
- Also, keep in mind that some clients post scam jobs. See an example here: How I Avoided Getting Scammed on a Freelance Site.
- Lastly, take a look at the examples of how to communicate with clients in a professional manner. Go through: Code of Conduct for Online Freelancers, Part 1 to grasp be basics, and Code of Conduct for Online Freelancers, Part 2: How to End Toxic Client Relationships Like a Boss to make sure you can manage conflicts in case you ever end up in one.
Step 5: Grow the value of your freelance business
Rinse and repeat by following this proven approach:
- Sooner or later, something goes wrong, so you have to be able to Always Look on the Bright Side of Freelancing Failures. Managing those failures is a critical part of becoming a really good freelancer!
- Build a skill to quickly differentiate bad clients from good ones. See my examples of The Strangest Invitations I Ever Got via Online Freelancing Sites, Part 1 for reference. (Also, learn how to entertain yourself with the funniest kinds of invitations show in Part 2. It’s fun!)
- Develop a clear method for picking those clients who see your services as the clearly best in class. I wrote a little program for doing this, see: My Algorithm for Picking Freelance Gigs Online
- Increase your hourly rate to reach high-end clients just like I did. See: What Happened When I Raised My Hourly Rate on Upwork to $199
- Little by little, start getting rid of the proposal process altogether so that you can rely on getting direct invitations from clients. Here are my TOP10 Invitations I Got on Upwork … and How You Can Get Them Too.
- Once you’ve reached the top, you don’t really need the platform anymore, assuming you have created a presence outside Upwork too. Take a look at Freelancer’s Sales Channels – 5 Proven Examples Other Than Freelance Sites to get some inspiration. It may happen that you “grow out” of Upwork at some point!
My domain-specific tips
For software professionals, these are additional reading based on my 20+ years of developing, researching, and inventing software (awarded in 5 different categories):
- Being a Freelance Software Developer – It’s Not About the Code
- What is CTO-as-a-Service and How I Do It as a Freelancer
For those with academic backgrounds, I would recommend taking a look at the article How to Freelance With a Ph.D. Like a Boss that helps you to identify the parts of freelancing that are similar to the scientific process and to learn a couple of other freelancing tricks.
With this list and recommend order of reading my articles through, I wish you all the best with your freelance journey.