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Make Money on UpWork: Get Hired for Your First Job

Make Money Online with UpWork

Cha-ching! That’s the sound my bank account made today because my monthly paycheck from UpWork, my side hustle, got deposited.

This is Part 1 of a small post series about how to make money on UpWork. I made over $100 in my first month on UpWork and in this series I will explain how you can turn it into a viable source of side cash like I have. In this post, I will go over how you can get hired for your first job (this isn’t exactly a piece of cake).

Before I dive in, let me give you a little background on UpWork:

What is UpWork?

UpWork is an online service that connects freelancers of all sorts (writers, website designers, graphic designers, editors, etc) to clients. The clients post a job and freelancers are able to submit proposals for the job. Then the client interviews a few freelancers and chooses someone for the job.

UpWork boasts that it helps freelancers find jobs they’re actually interested in, get hired quickly, and ensure they receive proper payment. It streamlines the whole process.

In return for letting you use their platform, UpWork takes a small service fee out of each of your jobs. The fees start at 20% of each project, but can go as low as 5% (depending on how much work you do). You get to set the price that you’re willing to do a job for, so make sure to take this service fee into account while bidding on projects.

Click here for an in-depth description explaining exactly how UpWork works.

Who’s UpWork For?

Really, it can be for anyone. College students, stay at home moms, desk workers, etc. If you’re planning on traveling the world with no permanent job like me, Upwork is a nice little source of income. A small stream of cash to buy yourself a few tacos and another night in the hostel. All you need is a skill (or a desire to learn) and internet connection, so it’s perfect.

A word of caution: this isn’t a get rich quick scheme.  If you’re not willing to put in some work, UpWork won’t work for you. Well, technically most jobs aren’t for you. In this world, trading time for money is the simplest way for lowly nuggets like ourselves to pad our wallets.

You do get to choose exactly which jobs you want to bid on, how much you’ll charge for them, and when/where you do them. Major improvement over a stereotypical job like waitressing, right?

There’s a small problem though…not many people want to hire a newbie freelancer with no experience or reputation.

Why No One Wants to Hire a Freelancer with No Reviews

When you complete a job, the client has the ability to leave you a review that will be displayed on your profile. This is critical for securing clients. If you don’t have any reviews, there’s no proof of your work ethic or the quality of your work.

Google “Finding a Good Freelancer on UpWork” and you’ll see that clients have a lot to be worried about when hiring people. There are freelancers who cheat clients out of their money, can’t speak english well, never turn in work, etc. Clients have fair reason to be wary of you if you don’t have any reviews on your profile.

Getting your first hire on UpWork is critical because they will hopefully leave you a positive review to display on your profile.

As such, the sole purpose of this first job, is just to get that first good review. Money and pickiness can come later. My first job was to the tune of $4, but by the end of the month I had made over $100.

Now to the nitty gritty of how to actually make money as a newb with no experience on UpWork:

Get Hired For Your First Few Jobs on UpWork

These tips will help you get not just your first job on UpWork, but likely your first several jobs. Eventually you’ll want look for jobs that offer more money, but until you establish yourself and build a bomb portfolio that’ll have clients kneeling at your feet these tips will serve you well.

Now, how do can you actually get that first job?

Step 1: Use Filters to Find Jobs For Beginners that Have Little Competition

UpWork allows you to filter through jobs to find ones that are more starter-friendly. Specially, look for jobs that have few proposals and clients who want beginner-level freelancers with low rates.

To find these jobs:

  1. Navigate to “Find Jobs” and then click the search button without typing anything in.
  2. Click “Filters” up at the top (red arrow in photo below).
  3. Then select “Entry Level” under Experience Level and “Less than 5” under Number of Proposals (circled in red).
  4. Browse the jobs that load.
Using Filters to Find Jobs for Beginners

These might not be the most exciting or high-paying jobs, but you’re more likely to get them. Like I’ve said, view it as an investment in making future money.

Step 2: Make Your Proposal Stand Out From Competition

Even if there’s only five proposals for a job, that’s still four other people you’re competing against. The next few points will explain how to stand out from your competition and seal the deal.

A. Underbid the Job (Or Bid on Underpriced Jobs)

If a client has specified that they want beginner freelancers with the lowest rates, then price likely is important to them (this isn’t necessarily the case for the higher paying clients); therefore, if you drop your price you will be more enticing to them.

In the beginner area of UpWork, it’s kinda like a rat race to the bottom. You want to be the rat who’s willing to do the dirtiest work for the cheapest. Well, it doesn’t actually have to be dirty, just cheap.

For my first job, I made a grand total of $4. Yikes…but I got a 5 star-review from this, which helped me get better paying jobs. For my second job, I offered to write an article for $5 less than the price the client was offering because I was “new and had no reputation on UpWork.” The client hired me  and has since given me several higher paying jobs now that I’ve proven my worth.

If you can’t compete on skill and experience, compete on price.

B. Research the Job and Submit a Proposal with the it Mostly Done

So I actually wrote the article for my first UpWork job before I even submitted the proposal. 

This was my first job:

Description of My First UpWork Job

It was an easy job that essentially only involved a quick rewrite of a news article. I attached a rough version of the article in my proposal. The client had no doubts about the quality of work that she was going to receive, because she had already essentially received it. I was hired.

This might not be a viable (or smart option for you). I got my third job (an article on things to do in Ahwatukee, AZ) by doing a decent amount of research on the article beforehand and including a rough outline of some things I would include. Once again, I was hired.

At the very least, make sure you’re personalizing each of your cover letters for each job. No one likes receiving a cover letter that’s obviously been sent out to hundreds of other people.

3. Submit Proposals Only for Projects You’re Extremely Qualified For

Most people begin by submitting proposals to any project they’re even semi-qualified for. I did this, and, not surprisingly, no one hired me.  I didn’t bring anything exceptional to the table. This isn’t the right tactic.

You only have a certain amount of proposals you can submit each month so use them wisely. Perhaps you have a lot of knowledge about football….only look for articles looking for football writers and then load that cover letter with all of your experience; or maybe you know a lot about gardening, wait for a client who needs a skilled gardener. Applying for general “article writing” jobs could get you something, but you’re much more likely if you can tie in your prior experiences to add more value.

My largest job ($150) was writing articles about organic cosmetics. Not only have I been using organic cosmetics for years, but I also started my own organic hair care company. I brought a lot of unique added value that was hard for the client to turn down.

To Sum it Up

Your first few jobs aren’t meant to make you tons of money. After that first $4 job, I went on to make over $100 that first month. I completed a total of 9 different jobs. Each job escalated in price. Here’s the breakdown of how much I made on each job (after UpWork took their 20% cut):

  • #1, 2, 3, 4 (~400 words): $4
  • #5, 6 (~700 words): $12 
  • #7, 8 (~1400 words): $24
  • #9 (~1500 words): $32

As you can see, I’ve got a nice $120 sitting in my account all from those first 30 days on UpWork.

This month (my second on UpWork), I haven’t submitted any proposals and I’ve already made $120 with just four ~800 word articles that previous clients have asked me to write. I’ve actually been invited to write plenty more articles, but due to the start of the semester I turned them down to focus on other things.

Is it time to quit your day job?

Maybe. If you’re in college like me, this could replace those annoying minimum wage gigs so many of us have. I was able to quit my waitressing job, bless up. Think about it, would you rather write articles in your PJ’s or have to roll silverware until 2 am? You know where you’ll find me. Take that time you saved driving and vibe to some music (current mood: alt-J) or start journaling.

In the next few posts, I’ll go over a number of other things that have helped me get UpWork jobs such as how to properly set up your profile, how to join the rising talent program, how to get a good job success score, and how to write cover letters that actually get you hired. All good things to know how to do if you’re trying to make money on UpWork. Subscribe to stay updated!

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