There’s nothing like the independence of working for yourself. However, self-employment is not without its own set of challenges. If you’re trying to make it as a freelancer or independent contractor of any kind, it can be rough going until you really get yourself out there. Even once you’re established, it can be difficult to find a steady stream of work. Unfortunately, this forces you to hold onto your “day job” even when it’s not really what you want to do. To help you get started and reach potential clients, websites like Upwork can generate a steady stream of work. Here’s how to make the most of it.
Stage 1: Gearing Up
Setting up a quality profile should take you 2-4 hours, so make sure you make time to sit down and do that (though it doesn’t have to be all at once). In creating your profile, you’re better off to focus on 1 or 2 primary sets of skills, and be specific. Instead of saying you do web design, call out WordPress development or landing pages. Rather than list yourself as a marketing guru, focus on copywriting or whatever your niche really is.
To be successful, you need to be really good at your craft, so don’t wing it. You’ll have stiff competition. That competition also means you’ll need a fairly low rate to begin with, at least until you nail a few jobs and get some good reviews — then you’ll be safe to raise it bit by bit.
Also, take as many of Upwork’s tests as you can, to help match you with potential clients.
Step 2: Getting Work
Once your profile is up and optimized, it’s time to start applying for work. Narrow your search down to the types of jobs you really want. Starting out, don’t worry so much about the pay — your goal is to start landing some work so you can get some reviews. As a newbie, it’s usually best to go for fixed price jobs worth between $50 and $250. Max out your application quota and keep it there as steadily as you can. Getting your first job is probably the hardest, since you have no history on the site. But don’t give up!
Step 3: Winning Jobs
To land jobs, you need to stand out. Remember that a lot of those other applicants won’t be very high quality, so your chances might be better than you think. However, there are some things to remember: First, don’t use a template. Actually write a custom cover letter. Second, provide a portfolio of work (links or attachments). Include a brief explanation as to why these samples are relevant. Third, if you can, create and submit a case study with your application that shows a client testimonial. Fourth, clarify that you’re a native English speaker. And last, ask questions in your cover letter such as what the client needs to move forward with you. Get a conversation started.
Step 3: Creating a Niche
Though you set up your profile to focus on 1-2 skill sets, over time you might need to refine your niche in order to fit the market (as long as that niche is still within your abilities). You might need to narrow down your profile to an even more specific set of skills to reduce your competition and boost your chances at landing work.