For many new freelancers and agencies looking to secure work in today’s online and competitive world, the place where they do is Upwork. In this article, we will look at Upwork, what it is, how to use it and useful tips and tricks.
What is Upwork?
Upwork is the result of a merger of two freelancer marketplace platforms, elance and oDesk. Elance was founded in 1998 by MIT graduate Beerud Sheth and Wall Street veteran Srini Anumolu. By 1999, the company had 22 employees.
Odesk was founded several years later in 2003. It was created as a staffing firm but became an online marketplace allowing users to collaborate on projects with remote workers.
In 2013, the two platforms merged to create the Elance-oDesk. The company then rebranded in 2015 to Upwork. Elance was then phased out.
The company offers businesses a chance to list work on the marketplace enabling agencies or freelancers to bid on the work. The platform also helps with payments. There are two different ways that freelancers can be paid, based on a per-job basis or an hourly basis.
The Lifecycle of an Upwork Job
To understand how Upwork works it is important to understand the lifecycle of a job on the platform.
To start, a client will sign up to the platform. They will then create a job. The job can be assigned to numerous categories, including writing, website development, CV writing, graphic design, software development, and more.
Within the job creation, the client will assign certain preferences such as language, location of the freelancer, budget, hours spent on the project, deadline, and whether the freelancer has a specific rating on the platform.
The creator then writes a description of the job. Sometimes these can be very detailed but can also be very brief.
Once all the information has been detailed the client publishes the job within the job list.
Freelancers can check the jobs on different lists, including searches, jobs for specific nationalities, new jobs, and best matches. The best matches are jobs that match the skills and experience of the freelancer.
If a freelancer is interested in a role, they can then apply for it. As part of this, they enter in the bid, time to complete the work, create a cover letter and upload examples of work.
Sometimes, clients might request some additional questions to be answered. The freelancer can then submit their application. Applications cost bid tokens, the number of bid tokens to apply for a role depends on several factors.
Clients then receive the applications and can review the applications. They may then ask the freelancers follow-up questions, or they can make an offer of the job, setting the terms of the job and funding the project.
Freelancers then have a chance to decline or accept the role. Once the job has been started freelancers can complete the work. If they are working on the hourly rates, they can have their work tracked, which pays in increments of every 10 minutes. Hourly jobs pay automatically the Friday after the billing period ending on a Sunday.
Those with fixed-priced roles are paid when the work is submitted and the client releases the funds.
All work is subject to Upwork fees which are 10% plus VAT or sales tax-free, depending on the location of the freelancer.
The job can then be closed (if applicable) though some jobs are long-term.
Fixed-Priced versus Hourly Jobs
One of the first questions often asked is about the differences between fixed-price and hourly work. There is a simple difference between the two. For one, fixed-price jobs are where the job has a specific price that is only released when the client is happy with the work. Hourly rate is when the freelancer is paid for the amount of time they are working on the project.
There are protections on the hourly rate. For example, freelancers are monitored on their keystrokes. If there are too few keystrokes, then time is not accepted by the system. Therefore, it protects clients from the freelancer turning on the timer and walking away.
However, there are times when jobs require the freelancer to watch a video, listen to a podcast, or read some notes. These have lower keystroke engagements, which lower the rate the freelancer is paid.
But hourly rates are protected payments. Upwork will guarantee their payment. However, Upwork does not guarantee the payment of fixed-price work.
Which is Better: Fixed-Priced or Hourly Jobs?
Many freelancers have preferences over which types of jobs they work. Hourly roles can be popular because they offer protection, and it can be easier to manage workloads. There are only so many hours that an individual can work in a week.
However, fixed-priced jobs can be more lucrative, especially for very productive people. There are some problems with fixed-priced jobs that they’re not guaranteed. The client needs to authorize the payment and if they don’t, the freelancer can sometimes be left out of pocket for the work. While there are dispute options, these tend to be more in favor of the client.
How to Start an Upwork Freelance Account
So here are the instructions on how to start an Upwork Freelance account. They are simple instructions, and it takes just minutes to get started.
Step 1 – Sign Up
First, go to UpWork.com and click on the ‘Sign Up’ button in the top right corner.
Step 2 – Create a Free Account
Now you need to create a free account. You can use your work email address or your Apple/Google account.
Step 3 – Personal Information
Enter your personal information including your first/last name, password, and location. You will also want to determine that you want to ‘Work as a Freelancer’. You will also want to review and agree to the Upwork Terms of Service.
When ready, you can click on ‘Create My Account’.
Step 4 – Create an Upwork Profile
Now you can create an Upwork profile. To start, you need to add some details including:
- A photo of yourself (make sure it is a professional headshot for creating the best impression)
- Your title
- An overview of your talents
- Work history
- Add at least one skill tag
It is best that you complete 100% of your profile. And you will probably want to review the profile regularly. But spend some time on your profile.
You will also need to detail some of the services that you offer. You can choose up to four work categories and ten skills from Upwork’s extensive list. In the categories, you need to detail your level of experience.
In the educational background, include the degrees earned, the area of study, and additional details.
For your work history, you might want to include what companies, positions, main duties, and projects you’ve worked on.
You will need to add your language proficiency. This can be very important for those who want to do translation work.
Step 5 – Set an Hourly Rate
Now you can set an hourly rate. Think carefully about this, but you can always adjust your rate at any time and set a different rate when applying for roles.
Step 6 – Add Contact Details
You will want to add some contact details, such as the address that you use for tax purposes and a phone number.
Step 7 – Preview the Profile
Now you need to preview the profile and ensure that all the information is accurate and looks good on the public profile. If there are mistakes, you can always make changes to your profile and re-examine the profile.
Once you’ve submitted the profile, you will need to verify your identity using either a valid government-issued ID card or an online visual verification option. Most of the time, this process takes just 10 minutes.
Step 8 – Now you’re Ready
Now you’re ready to start working as a freelancer on Upwork.
Tips for Making a Success on Upwork
There are numerous considerations to make when working as a freelancer on Upwork. Here are some of the tips that you need to make sure that you’re following.
Tip 1: Bid Carefully
You might consider that bidding on every project is something you should do. However, this doesn’t normally provide you with the best results. What tends to happen is that you will use up your bid tokens and have nothing left.
There are a limited number of bid tokens every month. So you need to assess the job carefully. Do you have the required skills, time, experience and can you match their budget to complete the work?
There will be some projects where you’re the perfect fit, but the client’s budget is too low. For example, some people are looking for freelancers from locations like Indonesia or India, where costs are much lower, and they might offer budgets of just $4 per hour.
Tip 2: Use Outside Skills
While you might be an experienced content writer or website developer, don’t forget your other skills. You might have, for example, a qualification in food hygiene, animal care, or teaching. You can find jobs requiring these specific skills within your main occupation.
When you have these skills, and mention them in your profile, utilize them in your proposal. And you might also be able to get paid more for your hard work.
Tip 3: Charge the Right Amount
Remember to set a good hourly or project amount for your work. Consider not just the hourly rate you would like to get paid but other costs in the business, such as utilities, rent, business rates, marketing, equipment costs, insurance, and marketing.
Therefore, you might have been paid just $15 an hour in your old job, but you can now charge $20 to $25 an hour for the same work. It feels positive to earn more per hour, even if some of it is going towards basic maintenance.
Tip 4: Utilize Consultations and Projects
There are nice features on Upwork which include consultations and projects. Consultations are where people can purchase your time to advise them on specific issues that they might be having, such as they want to talk to you about growing their brand on YouTube. Set up some consulting options to earn quick money.
Projects are set services clients can buy directly with no need to bid on work. You can set the project specifics, cost, timelines, etc. It is a good way to be introduced to new clients very quickly.
Tip 5: Use Outbids Wisely
There is another feature where you can increase the number of bid tokens you can use on a proposal to rank higher in the proposal list on a client job. You can set the number of bid tokens you use. However, it is best to use this feature carefully. You only have a limited number of bids and many people can outbid you easily.
Choose jobs where you have a competitive edge and can make a difference.
Tip 6: Regularly Review your Profile
Once every 3-4 months, review your freelancer profile. Add new information, examples of your work to the portfolio, adjust your hourly rate, and remove irrelevant content.
You might also want to use this time to create specialized profiles. For instance, you might have a profile specific for writing blogs, another for writing website content, and another for ghostwriting fiction books. Using specialized profiles can improve results very quickly.
Tip 7: Assign a Time to Apply for Work
A critical tip is to not get obsessed with applying for work. Have a set time when you’re ready to apply for work, and then work through the openings and select the best options for you. Doing it all day, every day can become tedious and depressing if you’re not getting the results.
Tip 8: Get to the Top Rated Plus Scheme
Not every freelancer is created equal. If you want to be successful you want to demonstrate that you’re a top-quality freelancer. Upwork has a scheme known as the Top Rated scheme. When you reach certain milestones in the number of projects/hours worked and get good feedback you will be entered into these.
Top Rated Plus freelancers have several benefits, such as being able to remove poor reviews (one removal a year), faster payments on hourly and other benefits. Getting there takes a lot of work, but the benefits can be significant.
Final Word: How to Develop Your Business with Upwork
Above are the details that can help you develop your business with Upwork. Make no mistake, making it big on Upwork is hard, and there is a lot of competition. But those with the skills can make their business successful. And then you can become the master of your own career and income.