Your Simple Guide to Landing Your First Upwork Client in 30 Days (Experience Not Required)

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How was the earth formed?

What did the Egyptians use to build the pyramids?

And where the heck is waldo? 

These are all great mysteries of the earth, but none compare to our topic today: How do you get your first job on Upwork? 

It’s a question that has plagued many freelancers and side hustlers alike. But no worries, it’s a question i’ve put in hundreds of hours of practice with in order to perfect over the last 5 years and in doing so, i’ve built a full scale agency off the back of. 

My goal is to help you avoid the pitfalls  and mistakes that I made early on, and land your first job on upwork in your first month. 

Let’s get started. 

So you’re ready to start freelancing but a little nervous eh?

I know that feeling well…too well. 

“Can I really provide value even though i’m so new?”

“Is charging someone for work before i’m an expert unethical?” 

“Will I be able to sustain this freelance business while working full time and if not, should I even start?” 

These thoughts are completely normal and imposter syndrome is something everyone struggles with. Despite having made it all these years both freelancing and running multiple companies, I still feel that way to this day. 

The real key is what you do with those thoughts and feelings. You have three choices:

  1. Ignore them and pretend they dont exist
  2. Listen to them, trust them, and give up bfefore you even start
  3. Listen to them, examine where they are coming from, and move forward wisely despite them

You can guess which i’m going to recommend…

Number 3 for 600 Alex! 

Okay so please excuse the cheesy  Jeopardy reference, but you get the point. Having doubts is normal, and everyone has to start from scratch at some point. 

If you’re not starting from scratch on a semi regular basis, you’re not challenging yourself. The fact that you’re reading this means you’re more ready than you know. 

Now that we’re on the same page. Let’s talk about why you came here. 

Getting started on Upwork. 

Is Upwork Up…WORTH it?

Upwork is a marketplace that connects freelancers with business owners who need their talents. 

It offers everything from graphic design, coding, legal document review, hand modeling and more. You also have the ability to pitch jobs, track your time, take certifications, and get paid through the app as well. 

It’s pretty great. 

These days, because Upwork has been around for awhile, you might hear that Upwork is “too competitive”, “saturated”, and “not worth it” from some naysayers. 

In a sense, they are right. 

If you want to put in minimal effort, with a poor quality service offering, and wait for business owners to come to you without considering their needs, you shouldn’t waste your time. 

However, i’ve personally made over $50,000 in my first 12 months back in 2019 on the platform so I truly believe that with the right strategy, mindset, and work ethic you can succeed on the platform over time as well. 

You’ll want to keep these 3 major keys in mind:

  1. Expectations. You will not become a millionaire on upwork in your first month. Heck, probably not in your first 12. But having $100, $500, $1000 extra in your back account can be life changing. Then over time, it might even turn into your full time income. Stay in it for the long game. 
  2. Approach. This will be uncomfortable at first. Since your new, you’ll have no social proof, no case studies, and little confidence. Your first client will be someone who likes you and wants to take a chance on you. So it’s crucial that you remember to paint yourself in the most realistic light and find the right first partner. 
  3. Offer. Your work needs to be exceptional right from the start. Even though you’re not an expert, you have atleast one skill that your first client won’t have, which makes you instantly useful to them. Fromm there, you need to give them the best service that they’ve ever got in every conceivable way. That’s how you get repeat business and keep the flywheel going. 

Okay, you’ve got the basics down, now pull up your laptop, get some coffee in your system, and let’s get you set up.

How To Get Your First Upwork Client In 5 Simple Steps

1. Make sure your profile doesn’t suck

There is no more sure fire way to not get hired and make an extra $2,191 this month, than by having a profile that sucks.

What does a sucky profile look like you may ask? It goes a little something like this:

  • Barely filled out
  • Standard boring copy about your work history, school you went to, irrelevant buzz words, blah blah blah
  • Lack of a photo
  • No relevant tests taken or skills added
  • Missing examples of relevant work you’ve done in your portfolio

In order to have a profile that makes people take notice and give your offer some consideration, you’ve got to do the opposite of all of these things.

Do this instead…

Fill out your profile to 100%.

Not figuratively speaking. You can keep track of this in your dashboard by going to find work > my stats > “Marketing effectiveness” > profile completion percentage.

Write an engaging description.

This should focus solely on explaining how you will make the life of your prospect easier by having you in their life.

Seriously, they only need to have a vague idea that your skillset is what they’re looking for. It’s far more important that they like you and feel confident that you can solve their problem.

Prove you have skills.

Upwork has hundreds of skill tests you can take directly on the platform. Go to find work > tests > and search for relevant ones to what services you want to provide.

Take 3–5 of them, do well, and then display them on your profile by going to find work > profile > scroll down to “tests” > toggle “display on profile on.

Use examples.

Include all of your best projects, examples, case studies, and whatever else you’ve got in the “portfolio section of your profile. This allows you to add images, links, descriptions, titles, and everything you need to show a basic skill set in what you’re claiming. Prospects will look at this.

Pimpin’ out your profile like this and getting your profile to 100% will go a long way towards getting hired for jobs you apply to and eventually having prospects seek you out.

2. Speak directly to the needs or pains of the prospect

When you’re bidding for a job or even with the language you use on your profile, spend 95% of your energy and thought process focusing on how you can make the prospect’s life easier.

What is a huge pain for them? Why is their business struggling? What is frustrating them the most? Why do they need help in the first place? Who are they and what about them is limiting their progress?

Dig deep.

All of those answers and your responses to them will be the difference in communicating in a way that provides value, or coming across as a pushy used vacuum salesmen (didn’t know they had those did you?)

There are two main pieces of advice I have to guide you through this process.

Use the same language as them. If they say they need help with copywriting for an eCommerce shopify site, you had better use all of those words in conjunction with each other at least once in your message.

Even if you haven’t done the type of work before, you have got to convince them that you understand their needs and have a specific solution to address them.

Use all of the words that they do at least once. Especially towards the beginning of your messaging.

Be as relevant as possible. If you get an invite from a construction contractor who needs help with a business plan, you should try and include past work examples that you’ve done in that industry. Describe how you would go about creating the plan, and show past examples of successful plans written up.

Getting the job is all about the confidence that you help create for your services. Take all of your prospect’s fears away and you’ll get hired.

3. Send out 30 proposals

To start, I sent out 71 proposals and got hired for 9 jobs total.

That’s roughly a 13% hire rate, and my profile is considered to be in roughly the top 90% of hiring rates for sales and marketing professionals.

When you’re first starting out however, you will be on the freelancer basic plan and can send out roughly 30 proposals. So max that out.

You will have absolutely no momentum in the beginning. No one will know who you are or care about you. You have no proof. So it’s imperative that you cast a wide net in the beginning.

Spend an hour or two a day finding jobs that you know you could quickly and easily benefit the prospect and start sending out proposals like your life depended on it.

Once you get the first job or two, use some money to upgrade your account, get more proposal credits, and max that out too. Only stop sending proposals once you get more work than you can handle.

4. Price yourself correctly

A commodity is a basic good used in commerce that is interchangeable with other commodities of the same type.

Don’t be basic. Don’t turn yourself into a commodity…

In terms of freelancing or consulting work this is when you try and not only price yourself with others in the marketplace (incorrectly thinking that it will make you more competitive), but position yourself similarly as well.

The key term of a commodity is that it is easily replaced with another similar thing.

Your goal is to stand out and offer unique and specific solutions for the target clients you want to cater to. Even if your only differentiator is being able to make them like and trust you, you’ve got to find something.

Pricing yourself higher actually increases the likelihood that folks will give you more attention. It will spark their interest as to why you consider yourself worth more than the competition. They will automatically assume that your offer has more value.

It’s your job to deliver on that.

That being said, if everyone is charging between $10-$50 / hour for logo design, you’re not likely to be hired if you charge $1000 / hour.

Keep in mind that at the beginning, you want to position yourself at the upper end of the market, but you also don’t have anyone’s trust yet. So you cant be the most expensive either.

5 . Go so far above and beyond that it hurts

Twice now, I’ve had clients reach out and propose extra services that they didn’t originally want done because of my exceptional work in other areas for them.

Your goal should be to achieve similar results. Do such an awesome job that you become their go to for all other future tasks.

By creating such a great impression on them, you’ll also warrant better feedback, which will boost your profile and cause you to show up for more searches. This will ultimately allow you to charge more and retain more future clients as well.

Big Takeaway

Your income will be directly proportional with the amount of effort you put into your work and the value you are able to provide to your clients. So don’t be a dummy, hustle hard, and go crush it.

Ken Marshall

Ken Marshall is the Founder of Best Freelancer Tools as well as a husband, former freelancer, recovering foodie, mini Australian shepherd puppy dad, and serial entrepreneur (mostly failures, lots of lessons). He is passionate about helping others achieve their full potential.