Succeeding on Upwork: How I Became "Top Rated" and How You Can Too (My 7 "Secrets")

08/05/2016 09:03 pm ET Updated Aug 06, 2016

Freelancing is hot right now, with massive growth in freelancer earnings. Last year, Upwork paid out over $1 billion to freelancers and in their recent press release, they reveal that “the 10 fastest-growing skills all experienced more than 125 percent year-over-year growth.”
But how do you get started?
Here’s one man’s story, rolled up into a handy how-to piece. 

You can visit the author's website at&nbsp;<a href="http://ShineCopy.com" target="_blank">ShineCopy.com</a>
You can visit the author's website at ShineCopy.com

 

What a thrill it was.
The day Upwork rated me as a “Rising Talent”. That’s the first step on the ladder - and I had made it.
What a boost that was to my confidence.
I began to believe I could actually make it as a freelancer writer. And when you get YOUR “Rising Talent” badge, you will too!
All I had to do was keep on following my strategy.
And what strategy was that?

THE TRUTH

I’ve boiled it down to 7 of what I’m calling success “secrets”.
But the truth is… they’re not secret strategies at all. That’s why I wrapped the word secrets in quotes.
These 7 strategies are the route to Upwork success which hundreds (or is it thousands?) of successful freelancers have followed. There might be a few exceptions who got to the top by flaunting some of these principles but I’m betting there won’t be many.
Why?
Because these success tips work.
And why is that?
Because of the way human nature works.
When we treat people the way we would like to be treated, they’re going to respond positively. You’ll see what I mean as you follow along with my 7 points.

HOW DO I KNOW?

Like I say, these “secrets” just plain WORK.
And how do I know that?
Because a couple of months later (or was it sooner? I don’t recall) Upwork replaced my “Rising Talent” badge with the “Top Rated” one.
Look… 

 

So let’s get right into it.

 

MY 7 NOT-SO-SECRET UPWORK SUCCESS STRATEGIES

 

1. Treat every job like it’s paying you $100.

“Really? It’s only paying me 5 lousy bucks - and that’s before Upwork takes a bite out of it! And you’re telling me to sweat over this job like it was paying me good money?”
Yep, that’s exactly what I’m telling you.
And here’s why.
Actually there are two reasons.

  • For one thing, it’s good practice (and also a sign of good character) to do your best. 
  • However there is another important, completely practical reason. I’ll frame it as a question. If you produce lousy work, who is going to pay you more? Nobody. 

Who is going to pay you more if the work you do is sub-standard or sloppy? Or thrown together in a hurry?
No. Body.
So my TOP recommendation is to do the best work you can on every single job.
Spend the time to do it right. Every time.
Spend the effort to impress the client. Every time.
If it takes 5 hours to research, write, rewrite, edit and proofread your first $5 article, so be it. (The good news is… the first one is the hardest. It gets easier as you gain experience. It really does.)
You won’t be working for $1/hour for long because (1) you’ll get faster as you gain experience, and (2) once you’ve been formally recognized by Upwork as a Rising Talent, clients will be impressed and you’ll be able to raise your rates.
And when you get your “Top Rated” badge, Upwork starts to send you more job offers.
But, you know, that will never happen unless you treat every job like it’s paying you $100 (or any high figure you want to dream about).

 

2. Ask questions (because good clients appreciate knowing you care).

Now, how do I know clients want you to ask questions?
Because Greg told me so.
He was my very first Upwork client. I was unsure about so many things when I got started. So I asked him all manner of questions. We swapped 3 or 4 messages through the Upwork system. Each message has several questions in it too, which I’d carefully thought through. This was stuff I needed to know.
He patiently answered my questions… and his answers generated more questions in my mind. I promptly asked them and he answered again, albeit briefly. But that was all I needed.
When the article was submitted and it came time for Greg to give feedback, he gave me 5 stars (what a thrill! - what a relief!) and he also commented on the fact I’d asked questions. He was pleased that “Gary was invested in the project, as if it were his own”.
Think about that. He could see that I was giving his job as much care and effort as I would invest in a project of my own.
Elsewhere he wrote that it was evident that I “cared” about the work I was doing for him. I did. I was deadly serious about succeeding as a freelance writer and I knew this was the first (small but important) step. I hope you are able to look at this “apprenticeship phase” the same way.
It’s far better to ask all your questions than to deliver an article which misses the boat because you made some assumptions. You really do want to avoid that.

 

3. Every time you write to the client, use courtesy and professionalism.

When you’re messaging a friend, you probably use all manner of typing shortcuts like gr8 and LOL.
My advice is - don’t do that with clients.
If you plan to be a writing professional and to get paid as a professional, then you need to write and act like a professional.

A QUICK CHECKLIST

- Use full sentences, not the online equivalent of a Neanderthal grunt.
- Use paragraphs, not one endless stream of words. Make your communications easy for your client to read.
- Use capital letters where they’re needed. For example, I’d never write “hey greg”. That, in my view, would be disrespectful. It’s certainly lazy.
- Punctuate your writing correctly.
- Use good grammar in your emails, just as you should use correct grammar in your writing. (If you’re a graphic designer or a specialist in another non-writing field, then it’s up to you. But my thinking is - good writing is never out of place.)
- Forget the whacky or weird things you might (or might not) say to your buddies. They have no place in business communications.
- Neither do swear words, of course.

JOKES?

Your mates know you and your sense of humor so you can have fun with them online and offline. But you don’t know your client’s sense of humor, if any.
You have no idea of his or her sensitivities. Your funny joke about a [dog/horse/Irish man/politician/whatever] might be highly offensive to your client. Even if it’s not, it will most likely seem out of place.
My best advice. If in doubt, leave it out.
You won’t go wrong by leaning towards being more formal in your client communications (not less).
No client will condemn you for not including a joke or some internet silliness. It’s safer to share those with your mates… only.
In summary: Be polite, professional and business-like every time you make contact with a client or a prospective client.

 

4. Proofread everything 3x before you click the submit button.

You are not being judged by who you are or by your best-ever performance. You are being judged by only one thing - the words you send to your client. Make every communication the very best you can.
Run the spell checker over it.
Read it out loud to yourself.
Word by word.
Why “word by word”? To help you see the missing words. The words that are NOT there on the page.
Pardon?
Yes, you read that right.
After you’ve labored over an article for hours, your brain will see what you MEANT to write. If there is a word missing, your brain will fill in the missing word when you read it.
But when your client reads your piece for the very first time, he doesn’t know what it’s about so his mind will not insert the missing word. He’ll see your error, the one you did not discover.
It’s amazing how often that happens. Yes, it happens to me too.
If you are lucky enough to have a supportive friend or partner, ask them to read your stuff. If they are unfairly critical, you might not want to ask them again but if they make valid points, be thankful. Then improve your work.
There is no substitute for proofreading what you’ve written before you send it. And that includes both the articles and the messages you send to your client.

 

5. Deliver one day early.

Clients appreciate freelancers who are reliable. So I’m recommending you plan to submit your deliverable 1-2 days early.
(On the other hand, if they give you a week for the job and you get it done next morning, it might be smarter not to send it in on day 2. This is especially true later in your career when you’re being paid the big bucks because if you completed it “too quickly”, the client might think they overpaid you - and that will make it harder to negotiate a raise in rates.
There’s another advantage of getting your work done before the last day.
If you complete your writing task 2 or 3 days before it’s due, you can come back to it fresh the next day and read it with fresh eyes. Remember how I said to proofread it three times?
On the day before it’s due, give it one last slow and careful read-through and then write a polite covering note to go with it. 

  

6. Ask the client for 5 stars and a positive comment.

You definitely want the 5-star rating but you also want a glowing testimonial from as many clients as you can.
Why?
So you can use those comments in your profile and when you respond to job ads.
How to get great feedback from a client? It starts with doing a great job. We’ve covered that already.
But once you’ve done a great job, you are in a good position to (politely) ask the client to post positive feedback.
I’ve had clients who were happy with my work (they gave me 5 stars) but all they wrote in the feedback area was “good work”. Now you can’t get much mileage from a brief comment like that, can you?
So we need a solution to that problem. Want to see mine?

HOW I ASKED FOR 5 STARS

Here’s a sample of the kind of message I sent to the client…

Hi Greg. The attached article is due tomorrow but I thought you’d appreciate getting it a day early.
I’ve run it through Copyscape and I can confirm it is 100% unique.
I hope you feel it meets your requirements. If it doesn’t, please let me know what needs fixing and I will take care of the re-write promptly.
If you do like it, I’d love to see 5 stars from you. I’m sure you know how vital it is for beginning freelancers to get strong ratings for their early jobs, so if there is anything in my article that would hold you back from awarding 5 stars, please let me know.
Again, thank you for the opportunity to work with you. It’s been an education and a pleasure.
Gary.

In case you’re wondering, yes, he gave me 5 stars and a great feedback comment.

 

7. Instead of using Upwork’s “Submit for payment” option, send the client a draft.

I did this at the outset because I knew how important it was for me, as a new freelancer, to get off to a good start in Upwork.
If your early work gets a poor rating, it’s going to be difficult to climb back out of that.
That’s why I sent my first couple of articles as DRAFTS, instead of using the “Submit for payment” button. I attached the article to an Upwork message. You could send a .txt file or a .docx file or whatever the client asked for in his job ad. (Be sure to read the job specs very carefully!)
When Greg read my article and said it was fine, I submitted it again via the “Submit for payment” button. You have to do that to trigger the get-paid function inside Upwork.

TIP: Once you start getting those wonderful endorsements, copy the best bits into your Upwork profile.
There you have it. The strategies that helped me get a swag of 5-star ratings and heart-warming reviews from clients.

 

IF YOU ONLY DO ONE THING AFTER READING THIS ARTICLE…

Once you’ve got your confidence up, you may want to start pitching for freelance work outside of Upwork.
Why?
To earn more.
When you pitch your services directly to business clients, you can earn more than most Upwork clients pay!
Interested?
Then do yourself a huge favor and click over to https://www.writersincharge.com/blog/
That’s where a successful African writer has set himself the challenge of earning his first $1000 as a brand new writer.
Huh?
You said he’s successful but now he’s “brand new”. How can that be?
Here’s the thing…
For this $1000 challenge, he is using none of his contacts. None of his (excellent) reputation. All Bamidele is using is his knowledge and skills.
For the challenge, he has created a new online identity called Joseph. This new writer is an unknown. “Joseph” started from zero, like we all did. He had no online presence. No website. Nothing.
He is building everything up from scratch.
And he is documenting EVERY step of the way.
For FREE.
Also, he set up a free Facebook group where over 1700 of us can read his progress in great detail.
People are absolutely LOVING it. They’re asking him questions - and he is answering them. He’s holding nothing back.
Together we, the members of this Facebook group, are documenting our progress and encouraging each other.
I’ve never seen anything like it.
So if you only do ONE THING as a result of reading this article, visit WritersInCharge.com — and get ready for a heart-warming discovery . 

 

  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gary Harvey is a freelance content writer with a Bachelor of Internet Science & Technology degree and 5 years experience running his own SEO business. He is available to write for your business. You can see the Content Marketing services he provides at his writing website: ShineCopy.com
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