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.

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