Upwork – the biggest freelance platform in the world. Could anyone even be called a freelancer without getting one’s feet wet with Upwork? At least for me, the idea of getting there and succeeding in receiving genuine jobs seemed really exciting. There was just a small problem. I had no clue how to do this…
In the beginning, it was all about competing in vain with reputed freelancers, writing job proposals no one even reads, spending hours and hours on reading articles from Upwork experts, thinking and figuring out how to break through.
So how did I get from there ⬆ to a top-rated status with 💯 percent Job Success score?
I’d say – lots of persistence and some luck.
Difference between Upwork and crowdtesting freelance platforms
The only common thing is that you, as a freelancer, have complete control over the projects you get involved in.
The fear of starting with an empty profile
Look, I totally remember those nagging thoughts and demoralizing feelings of a newbie at Upwork. You are browsing long lists of top-rated freelancers and after comparing their cool profiles with your own, you feel like you’d better go watch a movie instead and give up right away. Anyway, how could you possibly compete with them? You’ve got no feedback, your profile description is somehow ok, but after reading it several times, it seems dull and what is worse – you don’t even know how to make it better.
Oh, if I could just go and talk to myself back then. But given that a time-machine is yet to be invented, I’ll just share here my mistakes with you.
My top 3 mistakes at Upwork
❌ 1) Spending more time on writing job proposals instead of improving the profile description itself.
I would carefully write each cover letter meticulously choosing words. If someone posted a link to the product that needed to be tested, I wouldn’t neglect to check it and mention my feedback in the cover letter. None would matter. Why?
a) Only a small portion of proposals are ever getting read by clients (so save your elaborated pitch for later)
b) My profile description was horrible (sure, at that time I thought it was decent ). Two solid paragraphs of boring text…Really? Who do you think wants to read that bla bla bla? Eventually, I outlined the most important info in 5 bullet points. It turned out to be enough to win jobs and get regular invitations from clients or Upwork recruiters. Hilarious, 5 bullet points including some stats did it.
❌ 2) Getting worried about skills tests
I read somewhere that skills tests were important. So I even went as far as spending time preparing for them. Pure waste of time and energy.
Starting from 16-th July 2019 skills tests are removed from Upwork. As they point in their website “research found that clients don’t find skill tests important when making a hiring decision”.
❌ 3) Not using all free connects
I heard the scary stories about freelancers being blocked after spending all their connects and not receiving jobs, so I would send proposals only if the job was 100% match for me. And yes, when I was starting with Upwork, connects were free, now they cost $0.15 each. But let’s put it this way, If you are ok with paying up to 20% commission from your income to Upwork, would a couple of extra bucks spent make any difference? No answer needed.
Funny stories with my Upwork clients
When all is good, there isn’t much to talk about.
The client is adequate, tasks are clear, you diligently work, get paid, you both receive great feedback and score.🏆 Happy ending.
Obviously, not every contract will follow the scenario above. So let me share some stories from the category “What the heck is going on?”
Ended up working several days for 16 $
This happened at the stage when I had little client feedback on my Upwork profile. So I just followed common advice – apply for small jobs just to get good feedback. The job description stated I need to find 2 bugs to be eligible for the payment. 2 bugs only? How difficult it could get? I took it without giving it a second thought. The product in test was mobile app. I found a couple of bugs right away, but obviously it’s not how the story ended.
For some reason (accidentally or for a purpose, I never got to know ) I was included in the client’s conversation with some developer when they were discussing the work outcome. It turned out that the client had killed that freelancer’s profile with a score of 2 and despite all explanations wouldn’t change his mind.
Here it goes, the creeping fear of failure. In my thoughts, I already buried ➕ my 5-star history profile. Was there anything to be done to save it? The plan was simple – deliver exceptionally good work. I tested for a couple of hours several days. I made a very good report with all defects found with exact detailed steps to reproduce, actual, expected results, screenshots, and videos. Tried to make it as close to perfect as it could get. I was adding some more defects each day until the client himself told me that it was enough. Halleluja.
Although the moment of truth was yet to come. Fearfully I’ve opened the client’s feedback and score.
5-star score ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ and a comment saying “Great work”
Ouf, what a relief. Needless to say, that after that experience never ever would I apply for a small fixed-priced job.
Sometimes they just disappear
Unlike regular employment, contracts at Upwork don’t guarantee you any stable work commitment. You just never know what happens. So here are some cases from my Upwork experience:
➖ I took the time to go through the onboarding process and agreed with a client for the first set of talks. He said he needed to confirm with his boss and disappeared.
➖ The fixed-priced task was split into milestones. I completed the first milestone and haven’t received any reply. The funny thing is that I actually googled the guy, he turned out to be in Wikipedia, quite a big businessman. Was he himself on Upwork or someone was acting on his behalf, that I don’t. Anyway, I never heard from him again.
➖ Delivered the agreed work and asked if anything else needed to be done. Got silence in response. Over the course of the project, everything seemed to be going very well, we never had any problems with communication. So I tried to get rid of the worries that arose in my head and finally I got the email that started like this:
“Apologies for the delay in getting back to you. I moved house last week and this morning my wife crashed our car into our front driveway wall so things have been a bit crazy here!”
Poor guy. And I thought it was me who was having a bad day.
QA on request or be ready anytime
That contract agreement was strange from the very beginning, but at the time I was in the mood – “let’s try everything there is”.
Experimenting with short term projects, at that point I’ve already signed up for a 5-hours weekly limit project and it turned out to be a fun testing of the mobile app. So this time I was to get into something similar but more extreme.
So how did it all end? I’d worked on these terms for 2 weeks, this “Natalia, leave everything else and test now!” approach was ruining my flexibility. Just at the point when I was thinking about how to get away from this without a bad review, the story took an interesting turn. Another freelancer, Automation engineer, was hired and I was to assist him. Literally the evening before we were discussing which were the suitable scenarios to be automated and the next day client had a change of plans and stopped cooperation with both of us. 🙃 The end.
Although starting with Upwork may be bloody hard, it’s worth giving it a try.
What you need to keep in mind – being proficient in your field is not enough. Determining your hourly rate, wisely choosing clients and negotiating terms, understanding the value that you can bring into customers’ business – these are the things that matter. In a way, you are your own marketing promoter, sales manager, accountant, growth-hacking specialist and so on. You can’t learn this from books. Only real-world experience, babe. And that’s what Upwork is perfect for.