10 Tips to get your first contract on Upwork

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Upwork is undoubtedly one of the best freelancing platforms out there. Hate it or Love it, if you are looking for freelancing opportunities you can't ignore it. Upwork is also notoriously famous for having some strict rules against freelancers, tough competition between talents, low balling, frequent banning of accounts, 20% commission. Despite all these, Upwork is one of the best we have got out there.

After trying other platforms like Freelancer, Guru, Peopleperhour I feel Upwork is miles ahead in terms of overall experience, job availability and talent pool. It is also very hard to win contracts on Upwork, especially during the initial days. Forget the first contract, even getting the first response is unbelievably tough.

I have compiled a list of techniques to get ahead and succeed in Upwork. These are the techniques that I personally tried and helped my friends get their first project on Upwork. And there is no easy hack for that, you have to work hard.

  1. Apply for a small job (<$20). If you are new, people won't trust you easily even if you are capable of delivering excellent results.
  2. Be available as much as you can. I used to be on upwork for over 12 hours a day, sometimes 16 and even 18 during the initial days. You never know when the right job will get posted.
  3. Be among the first 5-10 applicants to bid on a job. Chances are the client will notice you and start a conversation. If there are already 15-20 proposals, don't apply as you won't get noticed. Upwork will push top rated freelancers up to the dashboard and as a newcomer you won't be seen. Nobody has time to scroll to the bottom of the list.
  4. Write a short proposal as you are applying for a $5-20 job. Most of my proposals are no more than 3-5 lines excluding Hello and Thanks. Be detail oriented, to the point and mention specific projects or skills that are relevant to the job post.
  5. Never apply on jobs where the client's payment method is unverified or has a low hire rate (<15%). Chances are such clients are not looking to hire anyone so why waste your time and bid.
  6. Scroll through the client's previous jobs below the actual job post and try to find his/her name and start your proposal with Hello/Hey <Name>. This will turn a cold conversation into warm and give them an impression that you did some research and is trustworthy. I have had much more success since I started using this strategy.
  7. It's okay to do some initial work for a lower rate. I started with an $8 hourly rate and now charge anywhere between $35-50. I also completed a fixed price contract for a much lower rate, like half during my initial days on upwork.
  8. Think of your initial effort as an investment for what is to come in the future. All the time you spend, doing work for a lower rate will pay off once you have a good job success rate on upwork. Don't go after money at the start, try to build a relationship. Over 60% of my client returned back to me for more projects.
  9. Communication is the key. Reply to your client's message as soon as possible. Make it your first priority, at least for the first few jobs. There are a lot of people fighting for the same project and clients want to get the job done quickly so they will often hire an initial responder.
  10. Be consistent and honest with your clients. Once you have taken over a project, make sure you complete it in time. Trust matters more than money and your ratings show how trustworthy you are.

Don't look for a shortcut to succeed because there are none. Give your 100%, work hard and work smart. There will be a lot of jobs waiting for you. After a successful first few jobs, you may get a badge such as "RisingTalent" or "Top Rated". It will help you get noticed while applying for jobs. Good Luck.