Upwork Dissected – A Review

After emigrating from the UK to Italy in April 2015 I needed to find work, and it wasn’t long before I discovered the Remote Working websites. There are hundreds of these sites, but I found there were only a few that were free and useful. The one I currently find most of my work with is Upwork.

When you first register with Upwork, you’re invited to fill in your profile. Do not skip this. It’s way too tempting to dive straight in and start applying for jobs, but you’ll find you’ll be wasting your time if you don’t have a well-written profile. So, where to start?

Before you write anything in your profile, first think about what type of work you truly want to do. Many people who use Upwork are ones who are starting a new career, or who have to stay at home for one reason or another. There are so many different types of work offered on the Job List that it can be a little overwhelming at first, and tempting to try and be all things to all people. Attempting this doesn’t work. Most clients have a quick scan of your profile looking for key items of information. And, a profile that tries to cover lots of topics will be far too much trouble for them to read. In many ways, your profile is just like a standard CV, just in a different format.

Setting up Your Profile

Job Title

This is the first thing a potential client sees. Try to think of something that is specific to the work that you want to do. Don’t simply write Freelancer. For example, my title is Freelance Creative Writer/Proofreader.

Hourly Rate

I don’t consider this an important number. You can over-ride this figure and set an individual rate for any job that you apply for. The only time it may be of any importance is when a client is searching for Freelancers with specific skills and rates for a project. This doesn’t appear to happen very often, at least not so far in my experience. I suspect it might start to apply when you have built up a lot of work history. For now, I’d put in the minimum amount you’d be happy working for.

Skills

Again, be selective, don’t add skills that have nothing to do with the work you’re looking for. It’s all very well being the best dog groomer in your county, but if you want to be a writer, then it’s not relevant. You can list up to ten skills here, but I’d say five is the optimum number. If you list too many skills, the clients will be tempted to skip over it.

Overview

The overview is the meat of your profile; this is where you get to sell yourself. The trick here is to keep is short, but sharp. Try to get as much information into as few words as possible. While you can’t use bullet points within the editor, you can make your own. A list is a great way of getting a lot of information across clearly yet concisely.

Work History and Feedback

The History and Feedback section is where any jobs you currently have open or have finished will be listed. It will also show any feedback you’ve received from your clients.

Portfolio

You have another chance to show work you have done in the past in this section. Again, make sure it’s relevant to the work you’re looking for. This is another important area until you’ve completed some jobs and got a bit of work history built up in the previous section.

Certifications

If you don’t have any relevant certificates or awards, then leave this section blank. Don’t be tempted to put your cycling proficiency certificate in here.

Tests

Yet another important area, probably the second most important after the Overview. Upwork allows you to take as many tests as you want, and they are all free. However, bear in mind that each one will take between 30 and 40 minutes. If you fail the test or get a low score, then you can choose not to have it shown on your profile, so there’s no harm in taking as many as you want. If you do fail the test you can retake it after a month. Try to find tests that are suitable for the work you’re aiming for.

Employment History

This section covers you last employers, and what you did for them. Don’t rehash what you’ve written in your overview, try to make each job look and feel as close to the work you’re looking for as possible.

Education

This section may, or may not be relevant to you. If you have a degree, then definitely put it in here. It doesn’t matter whether the degree anything to do with the work you’re looking for; some jobs specify one.

Other Experiences

I’m not convinced that this is an important section; I seriously doubt many clients make it this far down your profile. If you are going to put something in here, such as hobbies and interests, then make sure there’s nothing that might put a prospective client off.

So, that’s it for the profile section. Have you spotted a theme so far? Yup, make sure any information in your profile is relevant to the jobs for which you’re making a proposal. It’s a lot of hard work to get it slick, and you’ll find yourself tailoring it as time goes by. However, getting it right is one of the most important things you’ll do on Upwork.


 

Applying for Jobs

Searching for Jobs

So, you completed your profile and successfully passed some tests, and you’re now ready to start applying for jobs. Searching for work can be done several ways on Upwork; by default the search results will try to match the skills listed in your profile. You can search for jobs with specific keywords in them, and save this search. For every search you save, it goes into to your Job Feed, and the results you see are an amalgamation of these searches. The other way to search is by category; you can drill down to the sub-category that you are interested in. The resulting jobs are all listed in a standard format:

  • Title – What the client has called the job
  • Type: – Whether the job is a fixed price or paid hourly.
    • If it’s Fixed Price, then the only information on this line will be the budget the client expects to pay
  • Hourly/Skill Level: You should be looking for jobs that match your level of skill
  • Rate: An hourly rate the clients wants to pay
  • Est. Time: How long the client thinks the job will take to complete. It might also display whether the job is full or part time
  • Description: A truncated view of the work required, click on “more” to see the full job description
  • Client: A graphical representation of the client’s profile. If you hover over the $ sign, you will see any history the client may have
  • Skills: A list of skills the client feels are required to complete their job

There is also an entry on the Type line showing how long ago the job has been live. This is only useful if you’ve just refreshed your page as it is a static figure.

Connects

When you join Upwork you are given a number of connects, as a basic member you will receive 60 of these at the beginning of every month. these connect are like virtual tokens, or credits that get used within Upwork. You will use some of these connects every time you apply for a job. The number of connects is based on the size and type of the job being offered and ranges from 1 to 5. However, the vast majority of jobs will cost 2 connects. You can upgrade your membership to Upwork, and one of the benefits is that your unused connects will roll over each month. The number of connects you start the month with depends on the level of your membership.

Making a Proposal

Before you apply

When you find a job that you want to apply for you submit what’s called a proposal. This is like making a bid on an auction, except that once you made your bid you can’t change it. Clients can add specific questions that you will need to answer before you can submit a proposal, but most of them are straightforward. When you click on a job entry, you’ll see the full description along with these questions that the client expects to you to answer.

At this point you should do a double check:

  • Do your skills match most, if not all of the ones listed
  • Do you have the required level of experience the client is looking for
  • Have you got enough Connects left to be able to apply
  • Have you got the capacity to do the hours needed

As well as checking to see if you’re a match for the job, you should also check and see what type of client you might be working for. The first thing I do is assess the way the job description reads, and then ask myself if it feels as though this client knows what they want. I once had a proposal accepted for a short 300-word article about technology. Despite the client appearing to be very clear in what he wanted, it took me five attempts to deliver something he was happy accepting. What we ended up with was a million miles away from what he asked for in the first place, and despite all the rewrites I only got paid for an hours work. There’s nothing worse than having to spend hours of your time educating a client on what they actually need.

On the right-hand side of your screen, there will be some information specifically about the client. It will start with whether they have a verified payment method. If there is a tick after their name then they have done this; if it’s a question mark, then they have yet to verify their payment method with Upwork. Now, I’m not saying never apply for a job if the client doesn’t have their payment method verified but proceed with caution. Sadly, there are a small number of people on Upwork posting jobs for which they have no intention of paying you for the work that you will do. Upwork recommends that you don’t proceed with any contract until they client has verified their payment method; having been burned myself, I can wholeheartedly agree with that. When I had just started with Upwork, I was so pleased to be offered a position that I didn’t check whether the client had this or not. I ended up writing five articles comprising of over 4,000 words without getting paid.

Just below the client name is their reputation, if they have any. It will show what their average feedback score is, and how many reviews they have received. Anything below 4.5 should be treated with caution unless there’s only one review been completed. Below this is where the client is based, and what the current time is. I find this useful to work out when are the likely times the client will want to talk to me. Most remote working jobs it doesn’t matter what time zone you are in, but you do need to know what time the client means when they say they need the work completed first thing tomorrow morning.

After the above, there are three more groups of information, but they are all self-explanatory:

  • Number of jobs posted
  • Percentage hire rate: this is the number of hires against the number of people interviewed
  • Number of open jobs
  • The amount the client has already paid for on Upwork
  • How many people the client has hired, and how many are currently working for them
  • What their average hourly rate of pay is
  • How long the client has been a member of Upwork

You should use all this information about the client to make a judgment on whether you would like to work for the, or not as the case may be.

The final two pieces of information on the proposal screen are how many people have already applied for the job, and whether the client is currently interviewing any of them. A final point here is that if yo like the job, but you’re still not sure about applying, you can save the job into your favourites by clicking on the heart.

Applying

OK, so you’re happy you can do the job, and you think it will be a good client to work for. And, you’re confident you will you’re going to get paid, now is the time to make you best bid. The first two section cover the job description and the number of connects it will cost you to offer. If you’ve done everything I mentioned in the previous section, then you can ignore these. If the job is an hourly paid one, then you will have the opportunity to amend the default rate per hour. This rate will be pre-filled with the rate that is on your profile.

Now to fill in the Cover Letter. Remember, you only get one shot at this, so it has to be the best you can do. Start by re-reading the job description, and then try to match all the salient points with some experience. You might want to write this in Word or something similar. One reason is that you can save it later for reference, or amending for a different but similar job, the other reason is to take advantage of any inbuilt spellchecker. However you chose to write it, make sure that you read over it at least twice. There’s nothing worse for an employer than to read an application full of grammar errors, especially if the job is anything to do with writing

After your cover letter, there may be further entries depending on whether the client has asked any qualifying questions. If not, then the last part is to attach a file with any supporting documents.

So, that’s it. All you need to do now is keep an eye on your messages in case the client contacts you about the job. Finding work on Upwork can be hard work, but like most things in life, the more effort you put in, the more you tend to get out. During my career, I have read hundreds of job applications. I quickly get to the point of thinking if the candidate can’t be bothered to present themselves in the best light possible, then I can’t be bothered to read their application. Some of the jobs on Upwork attract hundreds of proposals, just think of the poor client that has to sift through those to find ones that stand out. Make sure yours is one of those proposals that catch their eye.

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