Getting Clients On Upwork: A How To Guide

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Getting Clients On Upwork: A How To Guide

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If you’ve read any of my digital skill articles then you might be thinking it’s time to start earning some income now. In this article, I’m going to outline the steps you’ll need to take to get clients on Upwork.

Now, this isn’t always the best way to get you clients but it’s perfect when you are just starting and are at the beginning of your journey. The reason for this is that when you have no case studies or testimonials it can be extremely hard to sell to businesses that aren’t necessarily actively looking for your service or skill.

Upwork flips that around and puts you in front of hundreds if not thousands of businesses that ARE actively looking for your service or skill.

So let’s jump in and cover everything you need to know about getting clients on Upwork.

Just as a side note, I still use Upwork to this day to bring in high-quality clients.

Your profile

There are two key elements to getting clients on Upwork. The first is your profile and the second is your proposal, which we will cover later.

Your Upwork profile is going to differ from other people, it’s just the way it will be. There are thousands of freelancers and agencies on there with fully decked-out profiles with hundreds of on-platform reviews and huge portfolios. But don’t let this put you off.

I started a new Upwork account a couple of months back and signed 2 big clients from it with 0 reviews and 0 jobs completed on the platform itself.

The Basics

So let’s start with the basics, make sure you have all of your location information, a verified phone number and the number of hours you can work. This is simple stuff, I don’t need to walk you through it… but make sure it’s there! In regards to your location, if you’re like me and travel and work or you plan to do that then just put your home location or wherever your business is registered to.

Here’s mine:

getting clients on upwork

If you don’t have a relevant degree to the skill or service you are selling don’t worry put it on there anyway. If you don’t have a degree at all don’t worry either.

You Title

Next, you need to have a ‘Title’. Mine is ‘Facebook Ad Specialist’, it’s straight to the point and shows exactly what I specialise in. You will see a lot of freelancers on there with about 6 different skills listed in just their title. This is stupid, you look like a jack of all trades and a master of none.

You have to be highly niche-specific. I will cover this in another article on how to choose the right digital skill for you.

You’ll also see people with titles like ‘Facebook Ads God’ or ‘Facebook Ads Guru’. Now many people argue that this makes you stand out a little. But that may have been true 5 years ago, but now I think it makes you look silly. Keep it clean, straight to the point and let the client see exactly what you specialise in.

You Bio

Your bio is one of the most important parts of your profile and will be one of the deciding factors in getting clients on Upwork. It is really important to note here that everyone’s bio is going to be different. If you’re just starting your bio will be completely different from someone who has a lot of experience. But I’ll break down each element you should include whether you’re new or a veteran. I thought I’d do this in video format as it’s much easier to explain and I’ll give some examples of what you can replace if you do not have experience.

As I mention in the video it’s really important to keep your bio simple and straight to the point. You have to look at it through the eyes of your potential client. They don’t want to see a list of different software you can use or a life story. They want to see what you can do that relates to them (solving their problem), your experience (whether that be hands-on or course/education based) and pretty much why you are on the platform and why they would want to hire you (the last line I put in there).

Over the years of using Upwork both for myself as a freelancer and hiring on Upwork, the client wants to find a reliable freelancer that they can continue to work with long term. The reason being is that it’s a headache trying to find new freelancers that can do what they say they can, have good communication and are willing to go the extra mile.

getting clients on upwork

Portfolio

Your portfolio is also a very vital element of your profile. This is the same for beginners or veterans. You want to get as many case studies and portfolio pieces as possible into here so clients can look over them and you can reference them in your proposals.

The beauty of the portfolio on your website is that you don’t necessarily need to have a lot of hands of experience to fill this up. If you’re a graphic designer this is heaven for you. You can create multiple high-quality pieces of work that nobody paid you to do and put them in there.

This is, however, slightly harder if you run social media ads for example. But again I will cover how you can fill this up even with no previous work when we get to writing your proposal.

getting clients on upwork

Testimonials

The testimonials part of the profile is pretty big. Potential clients want to see social proof that you have done work for others and they were happy to work with you. The great thing about Upwork is that you can request testimonials from people you have worked with outside of the platform.

So if you’ve worked with clients in the past kindly ask them for a recommendation and ask your current clients as well. You might even want to throw a little incentive in there as well like 5% off their next bill or something as it can sometimes be hard to get business owners to take the time to leave you a review (trust me).

If you don’t have any previous clients, then again, I recommend you do some free work for family, friends or other people in your business circles in return for a testimonial.

Certifications & Employment History

These categories are important for everyone to use but don’t start throwing out that you worked at Starbucks when you were 16. Keep everything super relevant.

If you’re new to working online and learning a digital skill then you should have a bunch of courses you’ve taken so list them here.

So now we’ve covered your profile let’s jump into finding the right jobs. I’ll split this into two sections, one for complete beginners and one for freelancers with clients under their belt.

Skills

getting clients on upwork skills

Here is your chance to list your relevant skills. This is important to do because potential clients can find your profile just by searching by skill and you’ll also be recommended to potential clients when they post a job just based on what skills you have listed.

You must make all of these very relevant to what you can do. Upwork gives you a maximum of 15 to list, but that doesn’t mean you need to list 15 skills here. However, you do want to list as many as you can.

Here is where you can start listing things like the software you are proficient in, for example, a graphic designer can put in here ‘Adobe Photoshop’ or ‘Adobe illustrator’. If you have niched down correctly you can combine these with ‘ad design’, ‘ebook design’ or ‘social media posts’.

You mustn’t start listing things you are not proficient in or have 0 experience or knowledge in. Especially if you are a beginner because you might on the off chance get a job offer sent to you and you’ll get the excitement all freelancers do at the start of their career and take up a job you can’t do. (side note at the time of writing this article I got an invite to a job and an instant meeting) which demonstrates the power of having your profile in good standing.

I’ll write this as it happens but essentially this client runs their own online agency but they just want a two-hour coaching session on running ads. Now I’m going to do this job for way under what I’d charge per hour, to build a relationship with this agency owner which can then lead to me managing their client accounts for them. Again proving that free or cheap work can be very powerful when starting out or even when you’re experienced. It may lead to nothing but I’ll be able to get a testimonial and a review on my Upwork profile, get enough of these and it’s a game-changer for your freelancing career.

Finding the Right Jobs: For Beginners

Now that you have your profile ready it’s time to start finding work. As I mentioned previously you should have your skill and niche down at this point so finding jobs that are suited to exactly what you are looking for shouldn’t be too hard.

However, you may find it a little overwhelming searching through the hundreds of jobs.

Now before I carry on with this section I want to make it very clear that when working on Upwork as a new freelancer with no experience or very little you are going to need to do free or extremely underpaid work. With no solid background and social proof, it will be very hard to land well-paying jobs. It may seem like a hard pill to swallow but trust me in the long run it will pay off. But you need to select these carefully.

Ok so let’s find some clients on Upwork. First of all head over to ‘Find Work’ on the top bar and then hit the green search icon so you can filter out jobs.

getting clients on upwork search

You’ll now be brought to a page where you can search and filter out jobs. As a beginner I don’t recommend putting too many filters on, however, I do recommend the following:

Experience level:

  • – Entry-level
  • – Intermediate

Client Info:

  • – Payment Verified

The reason we are only looking for jobs posted by people who have verified payments is that you will have A LOT of people posting jobs on Upwork without any payment verification and they will never even look back at the job. As you may know… or not, you get a certain amount of ‘Connects’ per month with Upwork and you want to use these for applying to jobs where you have at least a chance of the potential client getting back to you. If you’re sending out proposals to jobs without payment verification then you’re usually wasting connects which are pretty precious, especially if you are just starting out.

getting clients on upwork job search

Now you’ll want to search for the job you are looking for. So if you have your skill down and you have niched down correctly you can search for these exact terms, for example ‘Facebook Ad Specialist’, ‘Social Media Posts Graphic Designer Logo’ or ‘Javascript Website Development’.

Now it’s time to take a look through as many jobs as you can and use the star button to favourite the ones you like. Once you’ve gone through as many as you can you can start applying! Skip to the next section about how to write your proposals.

Finding the Right Jobs: Advanced

If you are further along in your freelance career I still recommend reading the section above, the only real differences are we are going to change the filters and we are going to be more specific on what jobs to find.

So firstly we want to set our filters to:

Experience level:

– Expert

Client Info:

– Payment Verified

Job Type:

– Fixed Price

You’ll notice here that we have added a fixed price as the job type. The reasoning behind this is that you’re more advanced. Meaning you have case studies, and testimonials and can demonstrate your skill set better when on a call. This gives you leverage, and with leverage, you can negotiate a fixed price that pleases both parties. In my opinion, as freelancers, we should not be working by the hour, no matter what skill we have. Clients are paying for our expertise, not our time.

getting clients on upwork expert job search

You’ll now want to start searching through the jobs that match your skill. As you become more advanced you’ll want to be looking out for jobs and potential clients that have a history on Upwork. You’ll want to look at how much they have spent on the platform (the more the better in most cases), the client reviews (yes freelancers give clients reviews as well) and look into detail about the job/potential client is looking for.

We will dive into this in more detail in another article, but what we are looking for is clients that want to form long-term relationships with freelancers. The reason being is that when you build a relationship with a new business or agency they will give you a constant stream of work, and you will barely have to lift a finger to get it.

Things to look out for when looking through these jobs are clients that want to hire full-time or part-time ‘freelancers’. This means they want you on as a staff member without having to go through the cost and risk on their side of actually hiring correctly. Red flags to look out for within their job posting:

  • – Daily team meetings (a big no-no for me)
  • – Constant communication through Slack or Whatsapp during their country’s working hours (remember we’re freelancers working in our time zones and on our schedule).
  • – Working with their business or most of the time their agency exclusively.

You’ll see a lot of jobs like this and if it’s not in the job description they might bring it up on your first call. I’ll go more into detail about how to approach this later on in the article.

Writing Your Proposal

Your proposal is the key to getting clients on Upwork, it’s your chance to get directly in front of clients that need your service. We must stand out at this point otherwise we will have no chance of even getting a meeting.

First of all, you need to ensure you have read the job posting correctly so you can personalise your proposal as much as possible.

Personalisation in your proposal will make you stick out above everyone else. It’s well known that the vast majority of freelancers on the site will just copy and paste their proposals to every available job.

It’s so well known that a lot of job postings will say something like ‘put FB ROCKSTAR at the top of your proposal to show you have read it.’ So make sure you look out for these otherwise the potential client won’t even read your proposal.

This is not to say we can duplicate elements of our proposal in other job postings. As we have niched down and all of the jobs we are applying for are going to be pretty similar so will our proposals.

Right, let’s break down the elements in our proposal that we need to ensure we get at least a reply from the potential client. I’ll start by posting an example proposal I have created.

getting clients on upwork cover letter

So first of all we have the line the client asked anyone who read the job posting to write first.

Then we get into our opening line which HAS to be personalised. This is the first thing they will read and if it looks very generic it will not spark any interest to carry on reading. Take whatever you can from their job description and use it here. In this example you can see I used their name which they left in the job description (most people don’t do this) then I asked them a question about their agency.

Asking a question is always a good option, in my opinion, it shows you’re fully interested and understand the project and it comes across as you’re a professional.

You can use this in almost any instance, for example:

Graphic designer: ‘Hey Justin, I love the sound of your project do you know what style of logo you like?’

Web designer: ‘Hey Justin, I love the sound of your project do you have any website design styles in mind?’

Once we’ve caught their attention we can give a brief about ourselves that isn’t too long but shows we have what they need. Remembering at all times these all need to be written specifically for this job listing.

Finally, we ask them when they are free for a call. This shows them we are eager to work with them and our ultimate goal is to get this person on a call. If you are not willing to do video calls then you need to start getting used to it. I see so many freelancers and even clients that would rather just chat through text.

We HAVE to get on a video call with them so we can discuss everything properly and show them we are reliable, trustworthy and can do what they need.

So as a quick summary here is how your proposal should look:

  1. Personalised introduction
  2. A small brief about yourself that 100% relates to their job posting
  3. A call to action to get them on a call
  4. A reminder where they can find your portfolio


You’ll also note I add in “you can also find some more information about me here: mikecoombe.com”. According to Upwork, this is fine, but be careful as I often get clients then direct message me through my website rather than Upwork which is against their terms of service. If this does happen be sure to redirect them back to Upwork.

Having a website will greatly improve your chances of getting a meeting in my opinion as it makes you look much more professional. I’ll write a separate article on how to get a quick and easy freelancer website made.

Closing the Client

Now you’ve started sending out proposals you should eventually start getting some replies. Do not be discouraged if you do not hear back from any of the jobs you’ve applied to. It’s very common for this to happen as a large majority of potential clients will automatically only invite and interview freelancers that have a tonne of reviews and completed works ON the Upwork platform.

The key here is consistency, set yourself a reminder to go off every day to send out 2-3 proposals (this is what I do).

getting clients on upwork proposal reminder

Eventually, you will get a lead and a meeting. But do not give up! If you’re struggling and are completely new to this with absolutely no previous experience or testimonials then considerably lower your price when applying for the job. For example, if the job says they have a $400 budget, propose a $50 payment. This will be the point when you will need to do free work or very underpaid work.

I did free/extremely underpaid work for months just to build up my old profile. But it greatly benefits you in the future, not only for the testimonial but also for your experience in working with clients.

Setting Yourself Up To Get Recurring Revenue

As I’ve mentioned before all freelancers should be setting themselves up for recurring income from each client they sign, no matter what service you offer. It is extremely stressful, constantly applying for jobs and hoping you get them just so you have some money coming in. This will lead you to take jobs that aren’t suited for you or will force you to constantly take underpaid jobs.

getting clients on upwork recurring revenue

So how do we set ourselves up for recurring revenue?

Well, it depends on your service offering. If you’re like me and you manage advertising accounts, it’s very easy as this is a daily/weekly task forever (or until the client decides to stop running ads for whatever reason).

But what if you’re a graphic designer or copywriter for example? You need to create an offer, which will be subscription-based. I will go into offer creation in a lot more detail in another article. But think of ways you can turn this job into a consistent revenue stream. Here is an example:

Copywriter:

A client wants an article written for their website blog. You manage to get a meeting with them by following the steps above, you get on a call with them to discuss what they want right now (one article written for their website), and once you’ve agreed on that you can then show them a new offer which can be something like ‘I will write 4 articles for your website a month for X amount per month’ – obviously making it a cheaper option in the long run.

If successful you now have a solid client you know you will be writing for, for the foreseeable future.

You can use this example in any field of online work, just think about it and focus on what value can you give the client in return for essentially a subscription-based service.

I reached out to a friend and freelancer recently as my Macbook decided to die on me and I didn’t have backups of the work he did for me. He designed my company branding many years ago and I love it still to this day. But we ended up talking and he said he has completely changed his business model, instead of constantly trying to find work and dealing with admin stuff he completely changed his business model into a subscription-based business. He’s an amazing graphic designer. Check out how he has crafted his offer on his website: https://juho.co/

This is the perfect example of securing recurring income, saving you stress and giving you more time to work on your business and your client’s work.

Conclusion

I hope this article will help you on your way to getting clients on Upwork. Remember though, there are many ways to sign clients and this is just one of them. In further articles, I will detail these different methods.

The key to getting clients using any method is persistence and patience. Just keep going and you will get there.

If you have any questions relating to this just fire me over an email by using the contact form here: https://mikecoombe.com/contact/

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