A few months ago I added an “Ask Danny” page to Freelance To Win. Since then we’ve received a ton of great questions from many of our 30,000+ (and growing) monthly readers.
Time to answer some of the more popular and interesting ones.
Changing my Upwork profile
This first question comes from Kushagra P:
I want to do writing work (especially script writing) but my main profession is graphic designing. That’s why my Upwork profile focuses on graphic design work and services I offer.
So, please tell me how I should change my profile that I can apply for writing jobs too on Upwork.
Expanding your services so you can apply to twice as many jobs — cool idea. You make yourself more valuable to clients and it gives you more ways to make money.
But you need to be careful.
You might end up with an Upwork profile that appeals to no one. Most writing clients won’t care about your graphic design skills, and vice versa.
So why should you risk changing your profile at all?
Instead, do what In-N-Out Burger did: create a “Secret Menu”.
Since your graphic design profile is already working for you, keep it as is. Meanwhile, you can still apply for writing jobs, and if your proposals and your writing samples are good, clients will love you.
Focusing on your proposals is the most effective way to win jobs anyway, so that’s where you should be focused.
And you won’t risk ending up with a “Frankenstein” Upwork profile that bores half of your potential clients to death.
Sending writing samples to clients
This next question comes from Yonathan S:
Really thankful for this article and the crystal ball technique. I’m trying my best right now to break the egg on Upwork, and I’m going to try the Crystal Ball Technique.
One question though. When I apply for a job, in what format do I submit my writing samples? Word .doc format or PDF or something else? Hope you can help shed light on this.
This is a very popular question, especially from new writers.
I don’t use any of the formats you mentioned for the simple reason that I don’t like to attach files to my Upwork proposals. Clients don’t always notice attachments, and it can be a pain for them to have to download files.
Instead, I like to include links to my writing samples in my proposals.
It’s easier for clients to click on a link than to download a file. Plus a link is more obvious than an attachment so it’s virtually guaranteed that clients will see it.
The easiest way to do it is to create your writing samples as Google Docs. Then, when you want to show one to a client, you can copy and paste the link to a specific sample right in your proposal.
It works great and you’ll probably never want to use attachments again.
One more suggestion: Don’t get too hung up on details like this. It’s better to send out proposals with any example of your work than to sit around mentally debating the pros and cons of what format it should be in.
Succeeding on Upwork as a non-U.S. freelancer
The next question is from Marcelo:
My question is pretty straightforward: Do you think I can achieve quick success on Upwork if I’m from a third world, non-English speaking country?
I sure as hell can speak and read in English, I’ve been studying it (and watching movies and reading books in English) since I was 5 years old.
But do you think Upwork clients would prefer to hire a US/Canada/Europe-based freelancer rather than a Paraguay-based freelancer?
I’d love to know your point of view here, since I’ve been reading all of your blog posts and my current “dream” is to make a living and travel without being stuck in a 9-to-6 office job.
First of all, I can’t speak for every one of the 4-million clients on Upwork. But as a client myself (I’ve spent over $50,000 hiring Upwork freelancers) I can tell you how I make decisions.
And it has nothing to do with where people live.
My father was an immigrant to the US and I’m from New York City (a city that’s called The Melting Pot for a reason), so it’s just not something I think about.
And I have many friends who are Upwork clients and I know they feel the same way.
I’ve also met many successful Upwork freelancers who are from non-English speaking countries and have done very well. My good friend Oleg is a great example.
With that said I want to caution you about this “quick success” type of thinking.
Quick wins are one thing — it’s good to get your first few Upwork jobs quickly so you can get motivated and make some money.
But if you really want to change your life for the better (as you said, abandon the 9-6 job, travel the world, etc) then you should be willing to trade some time and effort in order to do it.
You don’t walk into a gym and expect to look like a bodybuilder in 2 weeks, right? You’ll do much better on Upwork if you give your online freelancing career the same respect.
Getting repeat business from a “one time” service
Next question, from Rebecca M:
How do you get repeat work from a one-time service?
I am a voice actor. And I fear that my craft is a performance, not a service, that people only need once.
I mean, how many times do you need your podcast intro narrated? How many times are you going to update the narration for your e-learning course? How much voice over work is one company going need? (And why hire the same old voice for everything?)
– a novice Upworker with a one-time service
What would you say if I told you there were tons of voiceover clients on Upwork who’d be happy to give you as much repeat business as you want?
There are. We’ll talk about who they are in a second.
But first, it isn’t lost on me that you used a certain word: Fear.
Fear is blinding. When your brain is hopped up on fear you miss the obvious.
I know because I get tons of emails from people asking the same question as you. They could swear they offer a “one time only” service, yet 9 times out of 10 they can get repeat business easily if they expand their thinking a bit.
Since “expanding your thinking” is a pretty abstract concept, let’s make it more real.
For example in your message you ask, “how many times will someone update an e-course?” A better question is, “If I help an Upwork client make a great e-course, what are the chances they will make more e-courses?”
Or, “Why do I have to limit myself to e-courses and podcast intros at all?”
A good friend of mine (I met her on Upwork btw) owns a company that makes Explainer Videos, and they’ve been giving repeat business to the same voiceover artists for years.
There are countless other Upwork clients that have similar needs.
But as long as you’re allowing fear to direct your thinking you’ll miss a lot of great opportunities — on Upwork, and everywhere else.
When you’re in fear mode there will always be something imaginary standing in your way.
Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of legitimate challenges to online freelancing.
But the last thing you need is to make it more difficult by creating imaginary boogeymen.
Relax. Take a deep breath, or a walk. Drink a glass of wine.
Then get to work because effort is the best way to slay boogeymen.
Short proposals vs. long ones
OK, the last question comes from Suleman:
I would like to know which type of proposals are more effective.
Short ones or long detailed ones? I’m really confused in these. Also can you share key points to write a good proposal?
This is like asking if a long movie is better than a short movie. Neither one is better.
What’s important is the quality of the movie, not the length.
I’ll happily sit through all 3+ hours of The Godfather. But you couldn’t make Howard the Duck any less brutal even if you chopped it down to just 5 minutes.
I’ve read articles by “gurus” who say “keep your proposal short because clients don’t have time to read a long one.” But it’s not true.
Like everyone on earth, clients make time for what’s important to them. When they get a letter from their accountant they don’t say “I only have time to read half of this” — they read the whole thing no matter how long it is.
So the key is not the length of your proposal. It’s, are you making your proposal important to the client?
If you make it important to them then it won’t matter if it’s short or long. They’ll read it and love every second of it, and they’ll message you back quickly to try to hire you.
There are a lot of ways you can make your proposal important to clients. I’ll list a few:
- Focus on helping the client first — not just getting them to hire you
- Be friendly, not too formal
- Limit your use of the word “I” (it’s your favorite word to say, but one of their least favorite to hear)
You can also see real examples of some solid winning Upwork proposals here.
Do you have a question you want me to answer for you? Ask it in the comments right now and I’ll do my best to reply (I may reply in the comments, or in an upcoming post).
(Flickr Creative Commons image via Matthias Ripp)