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How to make a living on Upwork

Oh, Upwork. Freelancers either love it or hate it; there’s no in-between. While Upwork has its fair share of flaws, I fall into the former group.

I started my freelance career on Upwork. At first, I was just looking to make a little extra pocket change. I never anticipated that my Upwork ventures would eventually lead to a full-time freelance career.

Even though I’m highly qualified (I have a first-class Master’s in writing, for crying out loud), I started out just like all freelancers do on Upwork: with no feedback and no job success score, which are two key things clients look for.

Yet here I am, two years later, a full-time, top-rated Upwork freelancer with a 100% job success score.

How to make a living on Upwork, how to write good Upwork proposals

Wanna know how I did it? You’re in luck! In this handy guide, I’ll share a few of my secrets for making a living on Upwork and attracting clients who pay well and provide steady work.

Tip 1: Write strong Upwork proposals.

Crafting a winning proposal takes work. I’ll admit, I wasn’t very good at it at first, but, with a lot of practice and patience, I learned a few tricks of the proposal-writing trade.

How to write a good Upwork proposal

Upwork proposals should be…

  • Short. No more than a few paragraphs at most. Refer potential clients to your Upwork profile for information about your experience, education, client feedback, etc.
  • Relevant. Only mention experience which is relevant for the job you’re applying for. Be sure to provide writing samples within that niche so your potential client doesn’t have to hunt for them!
  • Friendly, but professional. Proposals shouldn’t be overly formal. You are talking to a human being, after all! Encourage your potential client to contact you if they have any further questions, and don’t forget to thank them for their time.

Here’s the most recent proposal I sent:

Hi there,

I’m Mel, a freelance pet content editor and former pet health writer. I would love to collaborate with you on blog posts about pet health.

For nine months, I wrote disease and treatment guides for a company which provides credit for pet owners whose animals need emergency treatment. I wrote more than 200 informative guides on small animal diseases and treatment procedures.

I’ve attached a few of those guides for your consideration. Hopefully, you’ll see that I’m experienced in writing about veterinary health topics in a casual capacity.

Please feel free to check out my profile, portfolio, and client feedback, and don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions.

Thank you very much for reading this proposal and considering me for this opportunity. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Mel Lee-Smith

This job ad received 10 to 15 proposals. The client interviewed 5 people, and hired one — me!

Granted, I had the expertise they were looking for, but I’d like to think my proposal was pretty solid and helped me get the job. I told them how I could use my experience to help them — that’s what clients want to see.

Tip 2: Craft a killer bio.

I’ll show you a rough example of my first Upwork bio:

Though I am relatively new to Upwork and the world of freelancing, I have extensive education and experience in writing. I am currently studying for a Master’s degree in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of Winchester in England. I also earned my Bachelor’s degree in English from an American university. Because of my education, I have written for American and British audiences in formal and casual capacities. Living in the UK for nearly two years has better enabled me to identify colloquialisms and nuances in British English, which helps me better connect with British audiences.

No wonder I couldn’t land any decent clients when I first started out — that wall of text I called a bio was a snoozefest! While it highlighted my education, experience, and travels, it was a little too stuffy, and didn’t really tell potential clients how I could use my expertise to help them.

I was taught to use a highly professional tone in my cover letters and job applications. When I applied that advice to my freelance profile, it didn’t work very well for me.

That’s because freelance clients are real people, and should be treated as such. Hooking potential clients doesn’t have to be complicated. Tell them, in simple terms, what you can do for them and what sets you apart from other writers and job applicants.

Needless to say, I changed my bio:
upwork new bio.PNG

See how natural that sounds? Not only does it tell potential clients, in explicit and simple terms, what I can do for them, but it also tells clients what I don’t want. That’s equally as important and ensures neither of us waste our time.

I’ll probably change my bio at some point to reflect my status as a pet content writer and editor, but for now, this bio has worked well. After all, I’ve sent only one proposal in the past year. Every client I’ve worked with since January 2017 sent me an interview first, and some have even commented on my bio!

Tip 3: Be honest.

One of the interview questions for my first pet content writing position was, “Why you?” I sat at my laptop for a good twenty minutes trying to figure out how to answer that question. Why me, indeed? I didn’t have much feedback on Upwork at the time. I’d only been on the site for a little over 3 months.

Here’s my answer:

upwork vetary interview question.PNG

Since this contract was one of my first Upwork gigs, my tone was still a little stuffy, but I was honest with them. I opened up about why I didn’t have much Upwork feedback, and included information on my relevant experience.

Long story short, I got the gig. Nine months later, my editor recommended me for a freelance editing position with the company. Of course, I accepted, and am still happily working with them!

Tip 4: Focus on improving your job success score.

The best way to do that is to receive good client feedback. And the best way to do that is to simply turn in your work on time! That’s not exactly rocket science, but you’d be surprised at how many writers fail to do this.

If you want good client feedback and, in turn, a good job success score, you need to be reliable. That involves turning in high-quality work on or before the deadline, communicating with your client on a regular basis, and informing your client of any issues or reasons why you can’t submit.

The good thing about working with clients rather than companies is that they understand when shit happens. Since I almost always submit my work on time, many of my clients have happily extended my deadlines when I was going through rough patches.

Wrapping Up

You might be thinking, “Well of course you’re a top-rated freelancer; you have a Master’s degree in writing, for God’s sake! I don’t have any of those qualifications. I just like to write.”

That’s okay, too! You can still win high-paying Upwork clients without a degree in writing. You just have to be passionate, determined, and willing to work.

No two Upwork journeys are the same, but you can make a living on Upwork. You just need to put in the work, and the rest will fall into place.

Need help figuring out how to make a living on Upwork? I’ll be more than happy to give you some advice! Just drop a comment below, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook, or send me an email!

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