If you’ve paid attention to my site, and my “I Became My Own Boss” video, you know I’m a big proponent of freelance job sites. I talk about Upwork a lot because I’ve had a lot of success with it, so I use it almost exclusively, but there are plenty of others out there too. And regardless of what some folks say, there are ample profitable, worthwhile opportunities on these sites.
There are several things you can do to see freelancing success on Upwork or a competing platform, but if you want a chance at making money through these sites and totally owning them, listen up! Here are my top five tips for working these freelance job sites to really make the money!
1. Post a pic.
You’ve heard of “pics or it didn’t happen.” In this case, it’s “pics or you may not be real.”
There are a lot of folks running one type of scam or another on every corner of the internet, and this includes freelancing sites. Unfortunately, there are tons of people scamming employers on these, and it’s not by pretending to be a Nigerian Prince.
The scam is far simpler: the profile is actually owned by a small agency or content farm. The person who applies for the gig, and is supposed to be the one doing the work, then has (usually) lower quality contractors who charge less actually do it. Then they pass the (often) poor work on to the client. Once too many negative reviews for this come in, they close up shop and open another account.
Yes, profile pictures don’t prevent this, but it puts potential clients at ease. By seeing you, they have faith they are dealing with a real, singular person. Plus, you are a person who cares enough to properly fill out their profile! This may not give you a leg up in getting gigs, but it puts you in the running! I’d never hire a freelancer sans photo.
2. Fill out your profile. All of it.
Most of the higher tier opportunities I’ve spotted on Upwork weren’t visible to the general public. I didn’t find these gigs on the site… they found me.
I’ve been invited to invite-only gigs from top websites, international corporations, and well-known brands. The pay for these gigs has ranged from good to really, really great. And these impressive potential clients wanted to talk to me all based on my profile.
Yes, my track record of awesome feedback probably didn’t hurt, but my completed, thorough profile gave them a good idea about who I am, the work I can do, and what they could expect from me. And it also shows that I’m detail-oriented and conscientious–things that folks like to see in their freelancers.
On a more technical side, that more filled out profile should help you to be found in search. And yes, you definitely want to be found.
3. Put up a portfolio.
If you can, add a portfolio to your profile. If you can’t add one on the site of your choice, link to a self-hosted version.
I want to say this is so potential employers check out the work you do, but that would be a lie. Most of the folks who are scoping you out don’t even bother to look at it–but they note that it’s there. This attention to detail shows them that you’re the kind of person they may want to work with. And yes, there are the few that may review it, which spares you the time it takes to prep a custom sample for each inquiry.
4. Don’t fill up your schedule with micro-gigs.
Quick money is tempting, and that’s what a lot of the assignments on many freelancing sites are. A majority of employers just want one-and-done gigs: a quick business card layout here, a blog post there, and a CSS tweak to top it all off. These can take you a few minutes to a few hours to do, but the money isn’t worth it in the long run. (Yes, I post my fair share of these too…)
By taking all of these quickies on, there are a few issues you may find yourself having soon enough. Namely, you’ll be spending a lot of time you could spend working on landing your next gig–browsing through listings, applying, Skype calls, back and forth emails, etc. Then when you land one, you probably need to exchange more emails with the client, hop on Skype again, and do some research to figure out how you can best serve them. This means you’ve probably put more work into landing and understanding your micro-gig (usually unpaid) than you will spend on the actual project.
This isn’t a sustainable model. Especially when you consider that you will have to go and do the whole thing over again and over again and over again, as you have a roster full of one-time customers and no ongoing clients.
5. Don’t do an unpaid trial.
I don’t even know how to address this without insulting some employers, so I’ll just do it: these folks stink!
Most employers who don’t want to pay for a trial run of (insert whatever it is you do here) do so because they don’t value your time or what you do. They think it’s easy and no big deal, and they think that their business and their gig is so rad, you should be honored that you’re even considered. It’s entitlement. They think it’s okay to ask you to put your paid work on the back burner and spend your time whipping up something for them on the house, and they will then either use your work for their gain–still without paying you–or simply throw it away. Eff that!
And there are those who say they will pay if they choose to use it. But what if they don’t use your work? And even if they do, they probably won’t pay up.
I had that happen to me once–they loved the piece, posted it, and told me the contract and the funds would be coming the next day. When I inquired three days later where the contract and money were, I was informed they were reviewing their budget and would make payment if they could. So yeah, that never happened. There is a small contingent of folks who ask for free trials because they can’t actually pay you.
Of course, there are some folks who are just misinformed and think that’s how it works with freelancers. If you want to educate them about what the “free” in “freelancer” really is about, go right ahead. It will do all of us a favor!
What Defines Digital Nomad Life?May 12, 2017
What’s it REALLY Like to be a Digital NomadMay 8, 2017
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Also published on Medium.