Do work you actually like, from anywhere in the world
Barely a day goes by where I’m not trying to explain to someone how I earn a living on the internet. When I first started travelling a lot, no-one batted an eyelid, I guess people just assumed I had saved up a bunch of cash and was spending it, with the eventuality of returning to the UK and chaining myself to an office desk once more.
But now that I’ve been doing it for a couple of years people are starting to ask questions; both my friends over Facebook and people I meet on my travels. It can be hard to explain in a sentence or two so I normally end up having to give a partial answer that doesn’t really explain anything. In reality there are many online avenues to generate income, however the UpWork platform is probably the quickest to get started with and is a place you can generate (relatively) consistent income.
So you want to do it as well? I thought so.
On December 18, 2013 Elance and oDesk, two of the webs largest global freelancing platforms announced their merger. 18 months later the two platforms were aggregated into a single site, Upwork. With over 9 million registered freelancers and over 4 million registered clients, Upwork is now the world’s largest marketplace for freelance and outsourced work.
But where to start? How to get it all up and running? How to land those contracts and start earning money? Well that’s where this post comes in. I’m going to break down how to get you signed up, create an attractive profile, apply and win jobs, and finally how to increase your earnings over time.
Decide on your role
Have a quick look through the different UpWork job categories and spend a little time thinking about what category you can fit your skills into. Perhaps you have a current or previous job that fits one of these exactly – in which case this makes this process easy for you!
Perhaps you have a background in Sales – in which case you will look in the Sales & Marketing category.
Are you a graphic designer? The Graphic Design category is for you!
You get the idea.
But Fred, I don’t have any experience in any of these areas!
If you don’t fit a specific niche, start thinking about all the different jobs you have had over the years, what fits closest to your experience, and what category you can learn the fastest.
What I would suggest is doing some online learning around something you have a small amount of experience in or you are really interested in. Learning new skills is always a positive! Udemy offers very inexpensive courses that you can complete quickly.
Do you enjoy writing, and have the ability to type quickly? Online writers have been known to make $100,000 + per year, and no, they are not necessarily best selling authors. They just work hard and know how the game works.
If you are REALLY stuck and you want to start earning right away, you can go for something like data entry – but the pay for this can be pretty low as it is relatively unskilled. You will be competing with non-native English workers who live in countries with a low cost of living and therefore can charge low rates. You won’t get rich from data entry, but you could possibly make a few extra dollars and get your UpWork career started.
The Sign Up
“The first step is you have to say that you can” – Will Smith
Where there’s a Will (pardon the pun) there’s a way. Begin by navigating to Upwork.com and hit “Sign Up” in the upper right-hand corner. The process will take a couple of minutes. Yes it will require more time than your must-have-right-now mind is used to, but trust me you don’t want to mess this process up. Think of Upwork as launching your own business. A business needs you to pay attention to the details. To make sure that all the legal, the tax and banking information is complete and correct. Once you’ve entered all this information it is time to get tactical with your Profile.
A Hire-able Profile
Asides from your cover letter (we’ll get into that in just a bit), clients and job posters will get to know you by your profile. Make sure to put your best foot forward, be presentable and most important you want to be hire-able.
Think of your Profile as your Upwork resume/CV. Notice how I say that it is an Upwork resume/CV and not your normal resume/CV that you would post on a jobsite like Monster or Workopolis. Your Profile should speak to the users and clients that use Upwork. Yes, there is a difference. To make things easier, Upwork has provided a Profile completion meter. You will want to make sure that by the end of the process this is at 100%. Follow the steps, fill in the information and post a professional looking profile photo.
Get specific about what you can bring to the table and then be great at executing. Don’t be generic when describing your skills or offerings. “Great at communication” won’t cut it, so don’t even put it down. Instead drill down and get detailed with the following, “Experienced sales and marketing copywriter”. Listing yourself as an “Video Editor” won’t get you many bites but if you add specifics like, “Expert editing videos using Adobe Premier and Final Cut” clients are more likely to reach out to you.
But make no mistake, no one will hire you if you are bad at your job, and if they do, it will be short lived and your reputation will be tarnished before you have barely begun! Make sure that you have the skills or are willing to quickly acquire the skills that people are paying for. If you don’t have the skills you need, or want to brush up on them a little – there’s plenty of online course sites such as Udemy that provide learning material to get you up to speed quickly.
Upwork has tests that you can take for your particular field of work. The results are posted on your Profile so that clients can see that you indeed have the skills you claim to have. These tests take a bit of time to complete, but make sure you do at least a few of them to give yourself some credibility.
Money matters, after all that’s why you joined Upwork in the first place. You will want to start with a lower rate to get your feet wet, get some contracts, start generating ratings and get some feedbacks. But don’t get stuck in the low wage trap, start to gradually increase your starting wage as your experience and rating increases.
Time to Work
Now that your profile is up and running. It’s time to get applying and land those jobs. Upwork provides a comprehensive search engine that will allow you to narrow your search to projects that suit your specific skillset.
Once you find a job that is a good fit, it’s time to write a cover letter that convinces the client to hire you. Begin by giving a brief introduction on you and what you are good at (2 sentences max). Then list the specific skills that you can bring to the project (2-4 sentences). Perhaps most importantly, provide examples or samples of completed work. If you’re a writer, post a link of your published pieces. If you’re a web designer, send a link of pages that you created. If you’re an artist send a file containing commissioned pieces. This shows clients that you not only talk the talk but can walk the walk as well.
Remember that this may be the only chance you get to communicate with this client. Make sure that every word on that cover letter counts. Treat it like a job interview and avoid the fluff. Illustrate to them that you are right person for the job. Don’t hesitate to ask questions as well. This shows them that you not only read the job description thoroughly but have an understanding and experience of how projects like theirs work.
There are two types of payments when it comes to Upwork: fixed price and hourly. Fixed price is a project in which you and the client set an agreed upon a price that you will be paid upon completion of the project. Hourly is a project in which you will be paid an agreed upon price per hour of work that you log.
Onwards and upwards
So you’ve already logged some contracts. Got some jobs, ratings and feedbacks under your belt. What now? How can you make more money and turn this into a serious source of income? Surprisingly the key is to increase the money you are asking for. This may seem like a bad move because people may balk at a higher price, but all it does it get rid of low paying jobs from your radar. A higher asking rate gives the perception that you are a true professional, knowledgeable in your craft and asking for your worth. They see you not as cheap labor but as a highly skilled specialist. You may get less volume of work, but the quality of work you receive will usually bridge and overcome the gap.
On the outset Upwork may seem like just another outsource or freelancing site, but you would be wrong in thinking this. It is a new source of income and for many it has become their main source of income. There are writers that have made six-figure incomes through Upwork and skilled coders that have made more than that in a single year. Make no mistake, if you have the desire to detach yourself from the cubicle farm, Upwork may be your ticket out.
The only questions you have to ask yourself now is, “Do I want to?” and “Am I ready to put the effort in?”
P.S. If you have questions, feel free to leave a comment – i’ll do my best to answer!