Why I missed hundreds of dollars and got set back one month in time

This simple administrative trick I am about to share now can save you a month or two of your precious time and opens up access to hundreds or even thousands of dollars’ worth of jobs.

While working for my first Upwork client, who happened to be a highly valued long term customer, I realised I needed to get some more clients to boost my profile and reputation. At this point I did not know the importance of the Job Success Score. I still was concerned obtaining my rising talent status. What a big difference it would have made if I knew this in advance! Later I will tell about selecting clients, but in this stage you just want to get any small jobs to start building on your reputation.

So it happened. I landed a ‘simple’ job that ended up being more complex and time consuming because the client did not have access to his site (typical). I did my thing and the client was satisfied. He wanted to offer me a follow up job. To keep things organized, I archived the first task as completed successfully and closed the contract. I left my feedback and – as soon as the client funded the new job – I completed this second task. Once I received my payment, I also archived this job.

Rising Talent Badge

I was glad to see one ongoing contract and two completed jobs listed on my profile. Two weeks later, I realized the client never left feedback. I asked him if he gave feedback, and he claims to have done so. I patiently waited for the next platform update. Nothing happened. I decided not to waste more time on the matter and continued to submit proposals and landed a few more jobs.

In the meanwhile, I watched my top rated eligibly meter move up every week. It takes 13 out of 16 weeks to have either the Rising Talent status, or a 90%+ Job Success Score, to gain access to the Top Rated program. In week 11 or 12 I lost my Rising Talent badge and immediately profile views and interviews dropped to zero. Luckily, I was accepted into the Top Rated program once my first Job Success Score (90%) was added to my profile. Now clients started approaching me! I accepted another job and focussed on that instead of tweaking my profile even more.

Job Success Score

Out the blue, my Job Success Score plummeted to 83% and immediately lost my Top Rated badge without any warning. I assumed my latest five-star feedback had not been processed yet and asked for a revision. The Upwork helpdesk freelancer of duty was so kind to publish my latest awesome client feedback, but I had to wait until the next update for it to be taken into account for my Job Succes Score.

Another two weeks passed and now we are in the last week of November. With the update my Job Success Score rose! To a disappointing 86%. This situation is kind of embarrassing, because I enthusiastically started marketing myself as Top Rated freelancer and my profile shows nothing, not even the Rising Talent Badge.

Worse is the fact that it is virtually impossible or just as hard as that first client to get new contracts. The financial consequences run into hundreds of dollars. Very frustrating as well, because I have received not one negative public feedback and completed all tasks successfully.

The algorithm that Upwork uses to calculate Job Success includes elements such as previous or historic Job Success, clients’ reputation for giving constructive or negative feedback, the percentage of long term contracts (I guess those are hourly based contracts) versus short term contracts and repetitive hires by existing clients such as adding milestones to running contracts. Of course the public and private feedback are part of the equation as well.

Always ask your client to close the contract

Today I have to humbly admit that I lost my Top Rated status due to my mistake to close completed contracts in order to archive them. Always ask your client if they are fully satisfied and if they could close the respective contract, hence they are forced to leave feedback in the process. It is crucial to avoid such a seemingly little lack of feedback on you profile. It portably costed me my Top Rated badge weeks later and access to new contracts. This threw me back at least four weeks in time and costs me hundreds of dollars of potential income this month and when you take into account customer lifetime value the damage may be thousands of dollars.

How to get your first client on Upwork

One of the steps on my route to financial independence and anticipated early pension is the ability to work no matter where. In stead of listening to the rant of someone who claims to have made it, I thought it might be more interesting to share my experiences on my path to freedom. Such a clichee claim – but as the matter of fact, while struggeling I did make certain advances and I am sure that the tips I am about to share about the Upwork platform are huge time savers and potential money makers for people just starting. I just recently passed the procces from Newbee to Rising Talent to become a Toprated freelancer.

It took me almost a full year to become a toprated freelancer. With todays knowledge, I think it can be done in around six months or even less. I wish I joined five years ago when it was still called Odesk, and I am sure that starting today is more tough than it was for me ten months ago. However, if you are smart, responsable, and willing to put some effort into building up your reputation, the Upwork platform is a great source for location independent freelance work.

Before, when I used to apply for jobs, I researched the company thoroughly, even read the year reports and calculated all logistic implications. The process of applying to a job took me up to one week. Selecting the vacancy, researching it and polishing my curriculum, writing and submitting the motivation letter. With that same attitude I started applying for gigs on Upwork. Two weeks passed and I had no response at all. I realized I needed to increase my aplication rate and set myself a goal to put Upwork to the test. I trusted the platform, because I discovered it as a client some time before and had a good experience contracting someone to help me with market research. I agreed with myself to apply to 100 jobs before to give it up. In the end it were 112 aplications before I landed my first Upwork client.

After 30 applications and no response at all, I decided to improve my profile. I made sure to have it completed in such a way the indicater said 100% and started taking Upwork tests. About the huge mistake I made here I wil tell you later, if you do not mind. The important message here is that with my overhauled profile I started to get interviews.

I ended up in all newbee traps that some so called clients set. A classic is to suck out information in the interview fase and get free consultancy that way. If a prospected client is asking many questions and is interviewing a lot of candidates simultaniously be very carefull. After you have established the fist contact, the second contact should be about conditions and logistics and clearly lead towards on offer.

Another trap is the ‘small test’ to select the right candidate, another trick leechers use to obtain free work. If the Upwork tests are not enough, you can accept any small task or milestone as a paid test. It happened to me, and even though I tell you about it, when you are eager to take on some tasks, you probably will take this bait too. Just allow it to happen only once and make sure you do not spend too much time on it. All is exercise. In the tasks itself, working with the platform and client communication.

I noticed when I hit 60 aplications that some jobs receive over 50 apliccants. Also, It seemed that some contracts were made outside the platform. When clients publish their website or company name, many freelancers try to source the client to contact them directly. I think this is not done. It is annouying for the clients and Im pretty sure this practise is not according to the house rules. But, when I reached 100 applications it left me only this grey area to get the attention from clients.

The specific cold email that lead to my first Upwork client was even a follow up on the first email that was not answered. Emailing prospects is a whole art by itself and I will not go into detail here. I had a very pleasant real life meeting and we decided to use the Upwork platform anyway for its convenience. No worries about hour registrations and billing. After my first client I kept applying to jobs, like one or two a day on average and soon received my Rising Talent badge.

Do you want to know how I got to become a Rising Talent and later on Toprated Freelancer in the past ten months? Than leave a short message if you have read this. I plan to do a short serie of blogposts on my Upwork adventures were I will tell about the mistakes I made and the thing that I may have done right…

Hope to hear from you,


Disclaimer: I write this first blog bluntly on my tablet, so forgive me any typos.