How I got my first job on Upwork

I’ve been on working on Upwork for 2 months now. Although it is not my main source of income, it helps me generate some extra income, build my portfolio and improve (a lot) my skillset. I’ve been reading about people working full-time on Upwork and making great money there, so I wanted to give it a try and see if it would be a hustle that would fit me and my goals.


So, I’ve put together a profile. This, I believe, it’s the step you should really invest in. If you don’t you’ll be just wasting your time bidding on projects. According to Wikipedia there are around 18 million freelancers registered on Upwork. There will be a lot of competition, and you don’t want to compete on price (you will always lose), so your profile must really stand out.

Start by having a nice looking and professional photo. Professionally taken, plain background, only you and headshot should be your reference. This will be the first thing your potential clients will see and possibly filter by. Then, you need:

  1. An optimized title. Think SEO here. Use keywords that relates to your niche (I’ll get to that).
  2. A catchy description. Introduce yourself, show your credentials, provide examples of past work and results.

Additional Info

Try to add some relevant items to your portfolio. I did not have my portfolio on my profile when I started out, but it will help you stand out and give confidence to your potential clients, since you do not have any feedback, yet.

Complete any other info like: languages, your rate, availability, education and past works. The more complete your profile, the better your chances are.

On Upwork, you can create specialized profiles, which are like sub-profiles with different title, description and job history for each of your specialization. Although I did not have a specialized profile when I’ve started out, I do now, and I think you should build one too. Platforms do not build features to not be used by their users, so maybe you’ll become more relevant in the platform if you use all features (who knows?).

Bonus: If you can add a video introduction to your profile then your odds of getting a job will be very high!

One thing I did before submitting proposals was to verify my identity with Upwork. It’s just one videocall and some paperwork and you’re done. It rewarded me with a nice verified badge in front of my name, and another one on my english skills.

The Job Hunt

Now is the time to really get into the wild. There are a lot of jobs available on the platform, and new jobs are constantly being added. That being said you will need a process to scroll through jobs and select only the relevant ones. Remember your goal here, right now, is not really to make money, but to start having positive feedback and some amount earned displayed on your profile. So, the jobs you’ll be looking for should be fixed jobs that you can complete rather quickly and with excelent quality. You want to build your profile quickly!

Each proposal you send costs you “connects”, and “connects” costs you money. This is great because it makes you more selective on the proposals you send. The first jobs you’ll get will also help you buy “connects” for your next proposals.

I personally do not waste my time sending proposals to jobs that have more than 10 proposals already. I think it is a waste of time and connects. But, feel free to try and see if it works for you. It never worked for me.

The basic guideline to choose a project to bid on are:

  • Small fixed-rate jobs.
  • Ideally clients with great feedback.
  • Jobs you know (100% sure) you can accomplish with TOP quality.
  • Matches your goal niche.
  • Has less than 10 proposals sent.

The Proposal

You found a project that is perfect for you. Know, it is time to send that proposal and, hopefully, get hired.

Clients receive a lot of proposals, so you want to really catch the attention of your potential client, or you’ll just be discarded. You have roughly the first two lines of text to convince your potential client to open your full proposal.

Do not just copy-paste a template text to all your proposals. Make it personalized to each job. Do not waste your precious first two lines. Quickly tell what your experience is and why did you propose to that project. After that you can write about similar works you’ve done before (if any). Add attachments if relevant.

I like to add to most of my proposals a quick overview of how I’m thinking about handling the project. It takes a bit more time to write, but most of the times it’s what gets me to the interview phase.

Writing and sending a proposal is something you’ll get better at the more you do it. Do not be afraid to experiment and see what works best for you. Always be improving your proposals. 🙂

What now?

Now you keep sending proposals until you secure a project. Don’t give up after a few proposals, it may take some time to get your first one. But then, it gets easier and easier…

In my case, I’ve sent 7 proposals before getting my first job. But that is not the “normal” case. Maybe I got lucky, but also I’m very picky on my projects. From what I’ve seen 20-30 proposals before getting a project is pretty normal.

If you got an interview, congratulations. Most of the times, if the client takes the time to chat with you, you’ll probably get the project. But, if you don’t, that’s okay. You know that your proposal was good enough to attract your potential client’s attention, so keep doing what you did.

After you successfully start a contract, I’d recommend you to completely focus on your work and deliver the best possible work! You can’t afford to mess up when starting out. If you get a bad review or an uncomplete job now, you’re life on Upwork will get a LOT harder.

Then, deliver, receive payment and feedback and repeat!

Let me know what your experience was. 😀

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