Freelancing has transformed from being viewed as a way of being lazy or not trying to put in the effort of a 9-5 job to being viewed as a smart way of working. You choose your clients, you control your time, you even control your earnings.
With this knowledge, many have turned towards freelancing. According to Forbes, there were 57 million American freelancers as of 2019. These numbers have increased and will continue to increase due to the ease at which we all can get an account on many freelance platforms and get access to jobs. There are many such platforms; Upwork, Fiverr, Freelancer.com, Truelancer, Toptal, and a host of them out there. (The Freelance platforms include but are not limited to Upwork, Fiverr, Freelancer, Truelancer and Toptal.
A major problem many freelancers face in the midst of this sea of opportunities and platforms is getting jobs. Both greenhorns and experienced freelancers face this problem, how can you solve this problem? How can you compete with# experienced freelancers? How do you get a regular flow of jobs?
I will be focusing on Upwork in this article. I’d share with you tips on how you can compete with it’s 12 million registered freelancers, and how to get work on Upwork with no experience. The tips I’d be providing can also work for experienced freelancers, and it can surely help you out of your “feast and famine” cycle.
On Upwork, you get jobs via two processes; sending out proposals to job posts and getting offers directly from clients. The tips I’ll be giving you now will increase your chances on both ends and help you as you start out.
Note: These tips are not magic phrases that’ll instantly get something done out of the blue, but they are guides to help you out, and I’m sure if you follow them, you would see results.
Tip 1: Be Patient and don’t be Desperate
Yeah, I know you want to land your first job, and you don’t have any experience. You have sent several proposals with no replies, questions start coming into your head. You wonder about what you are doing wrong, how tough the freelancing process is, maybe you should focus on other things. I have been there, every experienced freelancer has been there. My first part of this tip is to wait and be patient, it gets easier.
Let me share my story with you:
I got my first job on Upwork within a week of joining, but after that first job, it took me about three weeks to get the second one. I tried several methods of writing proposals, I used several techniques. I thought about stopping, but I am glad I didn’t, I would not have the financial freedom I have now. It used to take me a week or two to get a new client, but now it takes me a day or two, and sometimes I decline offers.
Nobody becomes a pro overnight, I understood this and read a lot on how other freelancers excelled, like you are doing now. It took time, but it was worth it.
The second part of this tip is that you should not be desperate, at least don’t show it in your proposals. Nobody likes someone who reeks of desperation. Think about it; if you were (are) a client, would you hire someone who is desperate? It is fine that you have not gotten your first job, but clients want to see that you are confident, and you can do a good job.
On average, about 20 people apply for a job, and you are one of them. The chance of you getting the job is 1/20 or let me say 5%, and this is the same for every other person. I’m not saying this to discourage you, but to show you that the playing field is level. You just need to know how to stand out, and that brings us to tip 2
Tip 2: Have a Badass Profile
Pardon my language, but that is it. Whether you are a pro or a newbie, your profile matters.Your profile shows who you are, your skills, your employment history, and your education. Basically, it shapes the client’s perspective of who you are; your personality. You don’t have any experience, so this is a lifeline of yours.
I mentioned that all freelancers get jobs via two processes, you getting direct offers depends solely on your profile, and having a great profile could help you out with your conversion after sending out a cool proposal.
Great Profile ≃ More Jobs(Your first job)
I’d discuss how you can optimize each part of your profile and make it stand out. The changes I’ll suggest might be subtle, but it’ll surely make a difference.
Use a good profile picture:
We all know that you should not judge a book by its cover, but having a great cover would increase its chances of getting read. Your profile picture is the first thing the client notices about you.
I would advise that you should not use a picture of you from the last camping trip you went to or a group photograph. Your picture should have these qualities:
- It should be business-friendly, one that is slightly formal but not too formal, you don’t need to suit up
- It should have you smiling. It is a universal language that says you are friendly, easy to approach, someone they can trust. Don’t use an image of you having a stern look. This tip also helps you in everyday life, just smile!
- It should show your face completely, neck, and parts of your shoulder.
Your title should show what you specialize in:
I have seen many freelancers having titles that are vague, they don’t really tell the client what they offer. Is your title just “Writer”? Are you a content writer or a copywriter? Or is your title just “Web Developer”? Your title should tell the clients that you know ReactJS, JQuery, and PHP.
Stand out from the crowd by using keywords that clients search for! Tell them what you specialize in, be clear and concise.
I want you to try something, go to the search bar on your Upwork page, change the search option to Freelancers and Agencies, then search for Graphic Designer or Copywriter. A list would come up, what do you notice from this list? The major things that show are their profile picture, title, and the first line of their overview.
This is what clients see, make sure they see something that gains their attention.
Know what should be in your overview:
This is where you’d expand on your title; you’d explain what you can do for your clients, how you can help them on their projects. Your overview is the best way for you to tell your future clients about what sets you apart from others and why they should hire you.
I’d advise that you try to hit the client’s pain points and explain to them how you can relieve it, what do I mean by pain points? Pain points are the major problems clients face with freelancers, so try to explain how you won’t give them that problem. Focus on the client!
Your overview should be clear and also short, three to four paragraphs are enough to do the job (around 1000 characters).
Have a little fun with it!
Note: Make sure your overview is error-free; avoid spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. No one would want to give a job to someone who can’t even communicate well.
Build your portfolio:
Building a portfolio can be really helpful for someone without prior experience. A lot of clients ask for this when they post a job, and with no experience, how can you jump over this hurdle?
You might think you need to get jobs first before you can build your portfolio, but there’s just a simple trick to it. Why not build your own portfolio item? Clients don’t care who you make them for, they just want to verify your skills, through the actual proof you provide.
I am a content writer on Upwork, and there are many niches and project types clients give out. The major types for that I see are product reviews, biographies, news articles, articles on health and fitness, etc. So what should I do to build my portfolio? I can simply just write a 1000 word article on each of these areas and use them. It’s that simple.
This works for everyone, A graphics designer can make a beautiful sample (Illustrations, Logos, Album Covers, etc.) and use it. Create portfolio items for each service you provide.
After creating a wonderful portfolio item, and you are about to put it on the portfolio section. Write a short and concise description of the item. Explain the skills you used, the problems you faced, and how you tackled it.
Don’t be afraid to put this extra effort. I know it’ll take your time, but trust me, it’ll be worth it.
Apart from having an awesome profile picture, title, overview, and portfolio, you need to know how to send out proposals. This would be my third tip for you.
Tip 3: Send out mind-blowing proposals:
Sending out a proposal is the next and most critical step in your journey to getting your first job. Your proposal should stand out, gain attention, and get you hired. Here are things you should always consider while writing a proposal.
Read the job description:
Yes, I know it sounds like an obvious thing, but really, a lot of freelancers don’t actually read and understand the job description before writing proposals. There are two major reasons for this: First, you don’t want to get a job you can not do or complete and end up disappointing your client. It would not be a great start for you.
Secondly, you don’t want to waste your connects; why did I say you don’t want to waste your connects? Many clients have figured out that freelancers just send spam proposals, so in order to weed them out, they ask you to include a code word in your proposal. If you don’t include it, they’ll ignore it.
While trying to get a job offline and you have an interview, the job goes to the person with the knowledge of what the company does, what they will be hired for, and lastly, what value they can offer the company. The same thing applies here.
Writing the cover letter:
There’s no mandatory format for cover letters, but I’ll share with you some extra tips.
- Don’t place the focus on yourself, talk about the project, and how you can help the client. I know you are awesome but the client will figure it out later. Many of us think we need to tell them about the years of experience we have or even the amazing college you graduated from. This leaves you with a cover letter that is self-centred, reduce the “I” s in your cover letter, and increase the “your” s.
- Build rapport with your future clients. Try addressing them by their name, some include it in the job description, if not check the feedback section from other freelancers. You can also say something friendly and talk to them like they are humans because they are, they have emotions, and they are not robots.
- Show that you can actually do the job. You can share a suggestion on how the project can run well, or you can share an exciting piece of information. You can also try sharing how you would get the job done if hired.
- Avoid grammatical errors and spelling mistakes, they can put off your clients. Take the time to reread your cover letter, you can use tools like Grammarly to check for these errors.
Try to use these tips, you’ll see the difference.
Don’t copy and paste your cover letters:
Humans are remarkable creatures, there are subtle hints in our written language that hold a lot of information. We can detect when someone is hiding something just from the choice of words they use, we can know if they truly care by the language they use.
You might have written a proposal that you think can be reused for many jobs. My advice to you is that you should not reuse it. Clients can spot a “copy and pasted” cover letter from a mile away. What does a “copy and paste” cover letter say to the client? It says that you are not interested in the project and it says that you might be lazy.
Try writing an original cover letter each time you apply for a job; it shows your interest in the job, and it’ll help you out more in your quest.
Don’t bid too low:
According to a research by Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management, they found out that a low price can backfire when you are trying to make a sale or a pitch. Why? Many people directly link high price to high quality and low price to low quality. Think about it, you know it’s true.
So what does this mean to you as you are trying to get your first job? Don’t bid too cheaply. Many clients will begin to doubt your abilities because if you are willing to go that low, it means you probably don’t have a clear view of what they want, or you will cut corners just to get the job done.
The exciting thing about jobs and pricing is that most clients are willing to pay more than what they put up as a budget. If you can prove to them that you are capable, clients will be willing to pay more because high quality is often associated with a high price.
When I first came across this bidding tip, I tried it, and it really worked. The client put up a $25 budget, but I charged him $40 because I know that anything lower would not be worth it. The client replied and said he didn’t really care about the price, but the fact that I knew what the project was worth, he had to hire me.
There’s something you should avoid while using this tip, don’t bid your clients an excessive amount. Yeah, I have seen people bid $200 for a $40 job; doing this will scare off your future clients. Do more research about this and know how you can earn more from your jobs.
Tip 4: Know the right jobs to choose and be flexible:
Know the right jobs to choose from. Try to apply for jobs that you have a genuine interest in and jobs within your niche. You might think that sending as many proposals as possible to related and unrelated jobs would help you out. It won’t, it will delay your progress. Apply for jobs you know you can do, and you have knowledge in.
Moreover, connects are 15 cents each, I know I would not want to buy $15 worth of connects and not still get a job. I know because it has happened to me, don’t be like me, be better. Thinking about it now, I just laugh at resources I have wasted. I don’t regret it, it was part of the learning experience.
Also, since you are just starting out, you can apply for jobs with lower rates. It sounds like I might be contradicting myself after saying you should bid what you think the job is worth. At this moment, you should think beyond the pay sometimes and focus on the five-star review and great feedback you would get.
It is possible to get a high paying job on the first try, but if you get an offer for a low paying job, that can be your chance to gain experience. Try to be flexible!
Tip 5: Nail your interview:
If you have used all the other tips, I gave you on getting your first job on Upwork. I am sure you would get an interview. There are cases where you get an offer directly, and you can accept and get right on work after a little conversation, but most times, your proposal just gets you a chance at an interview.
At this point, you still have some competition, so you have to try your best to get the job. Do a little research on your client, did they provide a company name? Search and know what they are about and tailor your pitch towards helping them. Bring out the “Sherlock Holmes” in you. I have mentioned this before, but I’ll mention it again. Focus on your client during the interview, give suggestions that can help the project be successful.
Try asking the right questions; deadlines, guidelines, etc. Understand what they want and make sure you are a good fit. Blow them away when you are done, and you’ll surely get good feedback if you do a good job
I hope you have learned a few things on how to get work on Upwork with no experience. Try to use them, and I assure you that you would be able to get that first job. This is a great resource that can help you out in starting your freelancing business.
After you finally get your first job, there’s only one piece of advice I have for you – Keep improving. Don’t just stop; keep learning new ways to get your work done effectively. Learn new skills to increase the value you can offer your clients. Learn from top-rated freelancers, you can check their profiles, rates, feedback, etc.
Dedicate your time and effort to set up your profile, and to send each proposal. Don’t be afraid to fail, fortune favours the bold, I wish you luck!