How To Use Upwork Effectively

The fact is it doesn't matter what type of freelancer you are - you could be a freelance writer, a virtual assistant, a web designer - you need to consistently put yourself out there to be able to rise above the irregularity of the freelance income cycle and to do well. This video specifically goes into the most effective ways of using Upwork as a means of finding and securing new clients. 


Let's talk about how to use Upwork effectively.

Every so often I hear from people who jump on Upwork, bid on 15 or 20 jobs, then get frustrated when they get no response, and ultimately quit and jump off the site. While this can be extremely frustrating for them, it's equally frustrating for me when I hear it from freelancers – they are not giving Upwork a chance.

Marketing yourself is key

You need to be able to have a consistent marketing plan on Upwork if you want to succeed. Back when Upwork was Elance, I had to bid on dozens of jobs before I landed my first one. This means that it's not always going to be super easy for you to land a project on Upwork until you put a consistent marketing plan in place. For this reason, I recommend that new freelancers don't jump on the site once and hope that it's going to work for them until they have an established profile and lots of feedback.

It’s easier for me or another established freelancer to get on Upwork, bid on a few jobs, and land them – we have that feedback built up already, we have a reputation on Upwork. But if you're new, you need to spend that time on marketing every single day, or at least every single week. Set aside a goal of submitting 20 bids per week or spending three hours per day on the site – whatever you can afford to do in your current situation – and then you will begin to see results.

If you've ever read the book, The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy, it's a great example of why marketing needs to be consistent. Small incremental things done over and over again are going to have better results for you than jumping on Upwork, bidding on a hundred jobs, and getting no response. That first job on Upwork is the hardest one to get, so you might have to put in the most effort to get it, compared to your future projects.

Don't bid on Upwork for a couple of hours and then come back six weeks later and feel frustrated that you didn't get the results you wanted. It's much better to develop amazing work samples, a really clear pitch that can be tweaked a little bit for each individual client, and then be consistent with it. Apply to jobs every single day or set aside several hours a week for this purpose. It will take time to get traction – you've got to stand out from the crowd.

5 Things Keeping You From Landing Business on Upwork

Whether you're hoping to be a freelancer part time or full time, I've seen the same mistakes made dozens of times by freelancers who are confused as to why they are not landing business on the world's most popular freelance job site. if you've never had the opportunity to hear about Upwork before, I'm excited to introduce it to you. I've been working on the Upwork and Elance platforms since 2012. That platform has been critical for sending me hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of leads in freelance writing jobs.

Although even saying the name Upwork is extremely controversial in freelance circles because it has a reputation for providing far too many low-quality jobs, I have found that if you sift through those low-quality job opportunities, you can really build a part time or full time freelance career doing what you love on Upwork.

That being said, you have to work within the bounds of Upwork and ensure that you are applying a consistent strategy when it comes to pitching jobs.


Mistake #1: Giving Up Too Soon

Every so often I will have somebody email me and say that they have been bidding on dozens of jobs on Upwork but have had no response. If they ultimately hire me as their freelance coach to review their marketing materials, I'll take a look and find out that they've made one of the five mistakes below.

However, the biggest mistake that I see people making on the freelance job platform, Upwork, is that they are not consistent in their marketing strategy. You simply cannot drop into Upwork and hope that you'll land a couple of jobs after bidding on 10. This is especially true if you do not have any background.

Watch this YouTube video to learn more about why it pays to be consistent and why it might take some time for you to land your first couple of jobs. Trust me, after you land those first few jobs it's much easier to grow a freelance career and land jobs on Upwork. But you have to have a consistent marketing strategy applied over the long run. Bear in mind that you're going to have to be patient.

Now, I can help you increase your chances of success in landing jobs on Upwork so long as you're not making any of the four mistakes below. These four mistakes can cost you significant money and opportunity. The worst part is that they may be encouraging clients to never get in touch with you at all, so you don't know what you're doing wrong. In fact, this is the case with more than 90% of people whose Upwork profiles and pitches I have helped to correct. Often people don't realize that they're making a catastrophic mistake in sending out their marketing materials and that it's leading people to just ignore their proposal altogether. So, let's get that Upwork proposal fixed.


Mistake #2: No or Bad Work Samples

I cannot believe that in 2017, when the freelance and gig revolution is at its peak, that so many people send work samples that are simply low quality. I've seen this hundreds of times with freelance writers.

Since I've had the opportunity to hire dozens of writers on Upwork and on other platforms, I've seen far too many people who submit materials that are just not up to par. Spelling and grammar mistakes should obviously be excluded from anything you submit on Upwork.

If you position yourself as a writer, editor or a freelancer who is detail oriented, these mistakes will be spotted by your client. I don't care if you are the greatest writer in the world if you submit a writing sample that has five spelling errors in it because you were too careless to look at it.

The client is going to ignore your proposal and move on. He or she probably won't even let you know about those mistakes and you'll continue making the same mistakes over and over again using those materials to pitch yourself to other jobs, all the while not even realizing it. Make sure that your work samples have been edited not just by you but by another person. Run them through a tool like Grammarly and then verify that they are original on Copyscape.


Mistake #3: Passive Closing

Far too many people are very passive in their closing when submitting for jobs on Upwork. You need to be passionate about what you do and the results that you can bring to your client. Don't close with sentences such as:

  • I hope I'll be able to help you.
  • Please consider me.
  • I hope you will take my proposal seriously.

All of these show that you are passive and are meek in your approach towards landing freelance business. You must come from a position of confidence in order to encourage clients to get in touch with you.

They unlikely won't even send you a message back if they feel that you are too timid. Coming from a place of desperation is also a big no-no when it comes to a closing in your pitch.

Don't include statements like "I can complete your project today and I would be thrilled to do it" because it indicates to the client that you have a great deal of free time and that you are desperate for the work.

This never helps you land business. You can say the same thing in more powerful words such as "I'd love to get started on this right away. When would be a good time to schedule a phone call so we could hammer out the details?" That puts you in a position of confidence because you are willing to get on the phone with them and understand that you need particular instructions to get started.

They don't need to know whether or not you're fully booked with business or whether you're just hoping to land your next client because your schedule is wide open. Don't give them that information. There’s no need for them to have it.


Mistake #4: Poor Follow Up

This is one of the most frustrating from any time that I have been in the client's situation. I've hired freelancers for True Car, Microsoft and many other companies over the years and I have found far too many people do not have professional follow up.

In fact, I've even received messages that went too far with me or the client by stating "I guess you haven't had time to look at my proposal. I thought you would have had the decency to get back to me."

It doesn't matter if you are extremely professional, you need to watch your tone when you send messages like this in Upwork or in any other scenario. if someone has reached out to you to ask further information, and has not responded to you, reach out to them gently but professionally.

You run the risk of turning somebody off and thinking that you are difficult to work with. Being difficult to work with is one of the things that will turn a client off immediately. Remember, you need to come from a position of confidence but you also don't want to convince the client that you are rude or unprofessional.

A lot of different things can be interpreted from the tone of an Upwork message or an email. Keep things professional.

When you reach out for follow up, do so in a manner that shows that you are still interested in the job but never do so in an accusatory manner. Many freelance clients on sites like Upwork are reviewing dozens or even hundreds of proposals.

Following up in an accusatory manner or acting like they have ignored you indicates to the client that you're already too much of a problem to work with and they'll probably ignore your proposal altogether.

I've been in the position of hiring writers where I wanted to recommend somebody because of their writing reliability and quality, but the client felt that they were too pushy or rude in their follow up and we've had to decline working with them altogether.


Mistake #5: Being You-Focused

This is perhaps one of the most common mistakes made bidding for jobs on Upwork. When you focus completely on yourself, you're not telling the client anything original about why they should choose to work with you.

In fact, they are probably getting dozens of proposals that say the same thing "I'm a great writer and you should hire me". This means you're not differentiating yourself from your competition at all and you're not giving the client any reason to choose to work with you specifically.

Given the choice between 8 different people who appear to offer the same quality, the client is probably going to be at a loss and search for a higher elsewhere or just hire the first person who got in touch with them. You must be able to differentiate yourself from your competition and do so in a way that focuses on a client, not on you. Think about the results you have gotten for your clients, the ways you have made their life easier or the testimonials they have shared directly after working with you.

If you do have some feedback on Upwork already, you can quote some of that directly but don't provide too much information. Being you-focused tells the client that there is nothing special or distinctive about you because they don't really care about you. They care about what you can do for them. Make sure that your proposal is tailored towards this information in particular.

My Favorite Tool for Podcast Scheduling: Calendly

This week, I am introducing you to my favorite appointment scheduling tool, Calendly. Having recently launched my own podcast which, on a weekly basis, puts the spotlight on two entrepreneurs who are pushing the envelope in their respective fields, it has become really important for me to streamline my scheduling process and reduce much of the email tag that tends to happen when appointment setting happens via email. Calendly has delivered on this need with amazing results for both my guests and I. Have a listen right here! 


Hey! Let's talk about one of my favorite tools to manage my podcast, Better Biz Academy. You can check out the link for that podcast in the description of the video.

On Better Biz Academy, I interview amazing freelancers and inspiring online entrepreneurs who talk about how they get clients and make more money in less time. Running a podcast has been an exciting experience for me, but part of the reason I've stuck with it and been able to be so successful at batch-recording my episodes has been a little tool called Calendly. There are plenty of similar apps out there, like Acuity or Schedule Once, but if you're thinking about starting a podcast, I strongly encourage you to use a tool like Calendly.


Make things easier for yourself and your client

Why? Because there are so many unnecessary emails going back and forth between you and a client, or you and an interviewee or interviewer trying to schedule a podcast. If you've ever been a guest expert on someone else's show, you've probably already used Calendly or a similar tool. Basically, it automatically connects to your Google or iCalendar - whatever you use - and provides open slots for people to book a time to record on your podcast.

This means no more back and forth emails, such as: "Hey, are you free next Tuesday at 4?" "No, that won't work, how about Thursday at 9?" Calendly auto-populates the times that you want your podcast recording to be available. Personally, I only make podcast recordings available two days out of every single week. This means that when somebody wants to book a time, the program automatically shows them what's available, and it blocks out any other times another person has scheduled for, or if I have another appointment that takes precedence. This makes it super easy for me, and it puts the responsibility on the person being interviewed to go ahead and select the time that's going to work best for them. I love this method because it takes all the guesswork out of it for me, and it makes it very easy for my guests to see when they booked.


Help them stay on top of it

Another reason I love Calendly is that it can automatically create a calendar event for the person who has just booked a time with you, so there are no excuses for them to forget. You can opt into the paid version of Calendly and have several different types of events; you can only create one general event on the free account. You can also play around with these settings and specify how many reminders the person is going to receive prior to the event, and then - my favorite part - if somebody needs to reschedule or cancel the appointment, they can do it directly through Calendly.

I'm all about getting fewer emails, and this really helps me achieve that goal. I recommend that you check out some kind of scheduling software like Calendly, Schedule Once, or Acuity to make sure that it's very easy for people to book time to appear on your podcast.


How to Avoid Getting Banned on Upwork

For those of you looking to establish or grow your freelance careers, there are definitely a ton of online job boards to choose from.

With twelve million registered freelancers, five million registered clients and three million jobs posted annually, worth a total of $1 billion USD as of 2017, Upwork is the world's largest freelancer marketplace and a great source of clients in my business. 

In this week's video, I take you through the nuts and bolts of playing by the rules, and not getting banned on the platform - because let's face it, ensuring continued access to such a wide network of connections that can potentially turn into future clients just makes sense.


Let's talk Upwork!

Whether you are a freelance writer, a virtual assistant, a web developer, or a project manager, being able to use Upwork is an excellent way to streamline your leads. However, I have heard of a number of people lately being banned on Upwork, and I want to talk about the importance of following the site's rules and regulations so that you don’t get banned.

Now, why does this matter to begin with? Upwork is controversial in the freelance community, but I don’t believe you should purposely cut yourself off from the website, in case there is a great lead there or a great opportunity, or things get slow in your freelance business and you need to drum up some new clients.


Stick to Upwork's Payment Rules

One of the worst things you can do on Upwork is not follow their payment protection rules. This means that you meet a client over Upwork, you send a message in the Upwork room between you and that client and say, "Hey, contact me over email" or "Can you pay me via PayPal?" This is against Upwork's terms of service. If you are doing this and Upwork catches you, they are probably going to ban you from the site. It's a big no-no.

Make sure you read through all of the information about being a member on Upwork; it’s really important that you understand what you can and cannot do. If you get kicked off of Upwork, you lose a huge pipeline of potential leads – and that's forever. This is why I never recommend purposely shutting yourself off from that source of leads. You may need it sometime in the future, and it’s not worth taking the risk with some client who may or may not have hired you anyway to try to take them off the platform.

Now, Upwork does have rules about when you can take your clients off the platform. It's usually after you have worked with them for a number of years. Remember there is also that sliding scale for the fees in place. One of the big reasons that people choose to try to take a client off the platform is because they think, "Well, I am going to have to pay 20% in fees". The 20% only applies to the first $500 that you make with a client. Beyond that, it drops to 10%, and then if you have a really big project, it drops to 5% as well – but they have got to be spending thousands of dollars to make that work. But is trying to take the client off the Upwork platform worth it for you to avoid having to pay that 20% fee to Upwork? If they close your account and ban you forever, it won’t be worth it. I encourage you to think carefully before you engage in that kind of behavior.


Be Civil When Trying to Solve Disputes

Another thing that can get you banned from Upwork is treating a client maliciously or doing something else that's against the terms of service with regard to your client interactions. This happened to me when I was a client on the Upwork platform. I hired somebody to do a writing project, and they didn’t meet the deadline. I gave them four opportunities to fix the situation because I didn’t want to leave them bad feedback; I was a freelancer on Upwork, I understand how important feedback is. This person was brand new to the site; they didn’t realize that the way they treated me would ultimately lead to them to getting banned. This person cursed me out, tried to blame everything on me, and ended up getting kicked off the site forever and unable to bid on jobs at any time because they chose to use curse words and personally threaten me.

You might get frustrated with a client on Upwork, but the website does have dispute resolution services and I encourage you to always keep it professional, no matter what. Again, it’s not worth getting banned from the site.


Follow instructions

You might even have your Upwork account closed or seriously impacted if you consistently deliver low quality projects or if a client files a dispute or a complaint against you. That's another reason to be professional and always make sure you have the instructions that you need before starting a new job. These tools can be indispensable when it comes time to getting great reviews on Upwork and keeping your account open.

Make sure you read through those terms of service for the site. It's never worth engaging in behavior that could potentially get you banned from the site. I recently had someone email me and inspire this video and post because they said they had no idea why they’d been banned, and when I went to take a look at what used to be their profile, I found dozens of negative feedback comments of one or two stars. At some point, their account could have just been closed because they interacted with the client negatively, for example, but it certainly is going to be difficult for you to land business if you have poor feedback on your profile to begin with. Always strive for five-star feedback. It makes a huge difference in getting future clients.

Benefits of Time Blocking Your Days as a Freelance Writer

A freelance writer and in particular somebody who has another job or other ventures they are working on at the same time as their freelance writing career, needs to benefit from as many time management and productivity strategies as possible. That's why I want to introduce you to the benefits of time blocking your days. This has become an extremely beneficial strategy for me as I've grown my freelance writing business.


Why I Love Time Blocking in my Freelance Writing Business

In particular, now that I'm working on my PhD dissertation and also growing my freelance coaching and course creation business, it is extremely important that I time-block my days in order to meet the deadlines set by my clients as well as achieve the goals I have for my own personal and business life.

Time blocking simply means setting aside time in which you work on particular tasks.

Batching your tasks together is one of the most effective ways to keep your brain focused on one task at a time. For more information on the benefits of keeping your brain in one lane rather than switching gears, take a listen to this podcast episode.

There are so many different ways that you could time block your days that you can schedule this aligned with your individual needs. One of my favorite ways to time block has been setting aside mornings vs. afternoons for particular tasks.

I know that my brain is most focused in the morning so I work on the most mentally taxing tasks early on in the day. This typically means working on my dissertation and my client work. That leaves the afternoons free for recording podcasts, sending marketing emails, and following up on administrative tasks.

This time blocking has also encouraged me to stay within the bounds of the hours that I set aside to do particular tasks.  If you've ever heard of the principle that the work expands to fill the time to completion, then you've probably experienced what it's like to have five open hours in front of you and finding that a task that only should have taken two has stretched across the entire five. Time-blocking can help keep you from making that mistake and ensure that you stay on top of your goals.


A Sample Time Blocking Technique

Time blocking might look, for example, something like this. From 7am to 9am, you might be focused on client-facing tasks such as editing and delivering their work and sending invoices. From 9am to 9.15am, you'll probably take a break and then head back to work from 9.15am until 11.15am for a second blocked period. This could be answering emails, assigning tasks to your team, pitching to new clients, or doing the research for the work that you'll turn in the following day. Time blocking helps to keep your brain focused on one particular task and discourages you from expanding to spend way too much time on a task that simply doesn't require that many minutes or hours.

Another way that many people choose to use time blocking is by segregating theme days. For example, someone with a podcast might use Monday as their podcast day so they do all of their recording, editing and preparing episodes on that day. Tuesday might be the blog writing day to promote their online website and then perhaps Wednesday and Thursday are client-facing days with Friday as a catch-up day. This is not always possible for the brand-new freelancer and it is, in fact, a style that I personally have not resonated with.

The reason it doesn't work well for a new freelancer is because most of a new freelancer's responsibilities will fall on the marketing end. You’ll probably spend 80% of your time marketing your business when you first start your freelance writing business simply because you don't have any clients yet to deliver work to.

As you grow your company, you will have more time that needs to be allotted to researching and delivering client products but you'll always need to be marketing. The freelance writer who makes the mistake of not marketing their business on a regular basis will find that they will most likely experience the feast and famine cycle. Once you've completed all those major projects on your plate, the lack of marketing will play out as no income for the following couple of weeks or months.

Thankfully, this is easily avoided with a consistent freelance writing marketing schedule. Time blocking your days can help you accomplish your marketing goals as well as your client project goals. Time blocking is even important if you have a full-time job that keeps you from being able to work on your freelance projects all hours of the day.

You probably only have early mornings, evenings, and the weekends available to work on your freelance projects. Putting it into your calendar like a schedule and blocking off a couple of hours to work on particular aspects of your freelance writing business increases the chances that you'll be successful with carrying out these tasks. View it as a second job although there is a lot of flexibility afforded by freelancing, especially when you have another full-time job, it is important that you need to stay focused on the tasks you've got to do for your business.

As somebody with limited time, you have to be laser focused on the goals that you intend to achieve with your freelance writing business. Although you can certainly choose the hours in which you do these tasks, putting them into your calendar and blocking out that time is important. Treat it as though you would an appointment with another person.


You Need a Solid Stop Point and Time Blocking Helps You Do It

You're unlikely to back out on it or to avoid participating in the project. If you know that after 8pm, your mind has turned to mush and it's impossible for you to work on projects, then you need to block your most effective freelance hours outside of your day job from 5.30pm to 8.00pm. Having this as a window also gives you a clear stop point.

One of the biggest mistakes that many new freelancers make is in having no stop point. That means that their work has a tendency to bleed across all open hours of the day, ultimately leaving them burned out and frustrated. Having a stop point every single night or the point at which you will no longer do any work is extremely beneficial. For a full time freelance writer, you might even have a stop point on Friday afternoon or evening such that you don't work over the weekends.

One of the biggest traps that a lot of freelance writers fall into is dedicating 7 days a week and many hours of the day towards working on their freelance writing business. Some of that is simply the hustle that is necessary to keep your freelance writing business alive and successful but it can also burn you out and actually lead you to hate your career rather than feeling passionate about it. That's why I encourage people to use the benefits of time blocking and other strategies to help them grow their business and ensure they stay focused on the goals they need.