How’s Upwork for beginners? There are so many things to learn in order to succeed. Once you get there, you don’t want to make these terrible mistakes!
We live in an exciting era.
According to a study commissioned by Upwork and Freelancers Union, around 57 million Americans, which represents 35% of the entire U.S. workforce, freelanced in 2019. That’s insane!
Freelancing has completely changed the way we look at work now and, even though freelancers have existed one way or the other for a long time, nobody can deny that we’re witnessing the rise of a new lifestyle that’s here to stay.
According to this study, “51% of freelancers say there is no amount of money where they would definitely take a traditional job”. I include myself in that 51%. No doubt.
And it comes as no surprise.
Freelancing allows people to work from anywhere, which makes it possible to work and travel at the same time, have kids without worrying about leaving them under the care of strangers and working at a time when you feel the most comfortable, no matter if you’re a morning lark or a night owl.
These amazing benefits and many more have made people fall in love with the idea of freelancing and there’s more than one way to insert oneself in the market.
When I started, I chose Upwork and today I want to tell you about the mistakes I made while I was working through the platform so you don’t make the same ones I made.
Upwork was both a blessing and a curse in my life. It has taken me literally years to realize that and understand exactly what happened and how I ended up being broke after making thousands of dollars a month on that site.
Today I want to tell you a little bit about my story and what I learned from it. In this post, you’ll also find a list of the exact mistakes I made, along with advice on how to avoid them.
I know you’re toying with the idea of taking your chances in Upwork.
So, let me tell you: this is exactly what you need to read right now.
This is the blog post I wish I had found when I was starting out instead of reading a bunch of “experts” saying you can make millions of dollars a week on Upwork if you try their special proposal template.
Read more: 75 bad habits that are screwing your life up
My experience working through Upwork
So… a little bit of my background.
Before I graduated, I started looking for clients to offer my translation services. I got a few here and there and then I decided to try Upwork.
Then, I started putting together my profile and following every single piece of advice I found on the Internet.
That’s how I completed it and started sending proposals. I got literally zero responses in the course of three full months, but I didn’t give up. I kept sending proposals like crazy.
After getting no results with my approach, I searched the mighty web to find out what I was doing wrong.
Thanks to wonderful people who share their knowledge for free, I learned how to craft more personal and professional proposals and one day, finally, I got a reply which led to my first gig on Upwork.
Someone needed me to translate some documents and that’s how I made my first ever $100 and couldn’t be happier.
I kept sending great proposals that converted and got around 1-2 responses a day, which led to around 4-5 new contracts a week.
That’s how I started making thousands of dollars a month that allowed me to travel, buy me the things I wanted and afford eating out 2-3 times a week. I was living my best life, on my own terms.
But then, just like it started skyrocketing, it started going downhill from one moment to the next.
I ended up here.
Upwork for beginners: 4 awful mistakes to avoid
If I were going to start doing Upwork again in 2015, this is what I’d do differently, not to say better.
As I said at the beginning, it wasn’t easy for me to realize where I went wrong.
They say life can only be understood backward, right?
1. Not looking at Upwork for what it really is
When I was working as a freelancer on Upwork, I never thought about the platform as a means to an end.
I literally thought it was what my career was going to be forever.
At this point in time, I was too naive to believe I’d be able to grow there as a professional and that, if I kept pushing and increasing the reviews on my profile, someday I’d start attracting big clients with important documents to translate.
Lately, I’ve realized I never saw Upwork for what it really is: a platform to help me get started and make my first dollars.
If you want to start there, please keep in mind there’s more to your professional life than competing against mediocrity for a couple of dollars. You’re worth way more than that.
2. Not having an “exit plan”
I should have planned for my Upwork retirement.
Looking back, it seems I believed I was going to work there as a freelancer forever and keep sending proposal after proposal FOR. EVER.
I never, ever, thought it was possible to work outside of Upwork or having my own website.
And of course, I never even looked for other ways to work as a professional freelancer that wasn’t through Upwork!
If you want to give Upwork a try and it starts going well for you, as it did for me, my advice is that you see it as something temporary to help you jumpstart your income or your career for a while.If you want to give Upwork a try and it starts going well for you, as it did for me, my advice is that you see it as something temporary to help you jumpstart your income or your career for a while. Click To Tweet
Upwork is great to gain experience working with real, and sometimes the worst, clients, which of course can help you learn and be ready for anything.
Working through Upwork can help you develop customer service skills and hone your craft.
But chances are, it won’t help you grow a lot professionally.
Once you’ve worked there for a while, you’ll realize that there’s a limit to the quality of work you can get there. And that limit tends to be somewhat low.
Now that I’ve thought it through, I should have planned my exit; I should have set a dollar amount that indicated to me it was time to start building my own business on the side. Or maybe I should have set myself a limited amount of time to work there.
But I didn’t and I ended up making a fool of myself lol
3. Not analyzing the people I was competing with
Sure, there are a lot of professional freelancers on Upwork who deliver high-quality work and aren’t afraid to charge what they deserve for it.
Working on Upwork means competing with people who have years of experience and people who have built amazing portfolios to show their clients (although I honestly don’t understand why such people are active there anyway).
But they don’t make up the majority of freelancers on Upwork.
Working on this platform also means competing with people who:
- charge $5 an hour to design a website,
- pretend to know what they’re doing when they really don’t,
- are willing to charge the lowest low just to win a contract.
Upwork is definitely NOT the right place to be if you want to get clients who show respect for your knowledge, professionalism, and worth.Upwork is definitely NOT the right place to be if you want to get clients who show respect for your knowledge, professionalism, and worth. Click To Tweet
4. Not sending more proposals when Upwork messed with my stats
They tell you that once you’ve built your profile and a good reputation on the site, you’ll start receiving tons of invitations from clients and you won’t have to send a single job proposal ever again.
Well, in my case that didn’t happen.
Although I received around 2 invitations a week, most of them were useless invitations to translate texts written in languages I don’t speak.
However, I kept my hopes high. I thought maybe someday I’d start getting the right invitations.
I can’t really explain why I suddenly stopped receiving invitations and my profile views dropped. I guess Upwork messed with my stats for some reason.
What I do know is that when that moment came, I was too tired of sending job proposals.
So I stopped altogether. I gave up sending job proposals.
Even though I had a somewhat stable income through Upwork thanks to clients I got because of my proposals, the truth is I received a response to around 10-20% of the proposals I was sending.
I was lucky enough to get great clients from that small number of responses, but yes, I was sick of feeling like I was talking to a wall. Plus, writing some of those failed proposals took me 40-60 minutes!
Even then, I didn’t design an exit plan. You may think I’m dumb af. I think so too.
Then, I lost my TOP RATED batch and everything went downhill from there.
Other stories about Upwork you should read
- I made these expensive mistakes on Upwork. You don’t have to.
- I Was an Upwork Success Story and It Nearly Killed Me
- My horrendous experience with Upwork and why you should never ever use it
As I said many times throughout this post, working through Upwork is a great opportunity if you’re a beginner and you want to start working from home.
It takes some time for your profile to gain traction but, if you’re consistent and send amazing proposals, you’ll start getting gigs eventually.
However, don’t let it fool you.
If you let this success go to your head and blind you, you’ll stop seeing Upwork for what it really is: a platform to help you get started and improve your skills.
Spending too much time working there can really ruin you professionally and emotionally.
Use Upwork to make the money you need to support yourself while you’re starting out and build a real business on your own. But have an exit plan designed beforehand!
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