Giving Upwork tips is easy. In fact, giving tips on anything is easy. For every problem you have, there are a million “27 tips to ________” articles you can read online.
Unfortunately they’re almost all useless. Think about it: If they were really helpful then most of our problems would already be solved. Instead we waste untold amounts of time devouring empty tips, hoping for some breakthrough that never comes.
Giving tips is easy….. Giving useful tips, that’s another story.
It requires a level of experience, expertise, and thoughtfulness most tip-writers either aren’t able, or aren’t willing, to put in.
That’s what Warren Buffett meant when he said “Wall Street is the only place that people ride to in a Rolls Royce to get advice from people who take the subway.”
Most of the people offering advice online are also taking the subway. And some of them are even jumping over the turnstile because they can’t afford to buy a MetroCard.
Sorry, but it’s true. Take advice from random bloggers and your life and career aren’t likely to skyrocket any time soon.
For instance, just this morning I googled “Upwork tips” …
Some of the tips I found were OK.
Others were a waste of time, but harmless…like “make your clients happy.” (Does anyone think a freelancer’s job is to make their clients sad?)
But I also found a bunch of doozies that that can cost you time, money, and in some cases, your reputation.
And I’m not talking about the stuff that’s buried on page 796 of google’s search results, either. All of this is stuff I found within the first couple of pages.
Let’s dig into some specific examples, and my recommendations for what you should do instead.
Bad Upwork Tip #1: Only Talk To Clients Who’ve Already Spent X-Number Of Dollars
A client’s spending history is a pretty useless metric. All Upwork clients start off at zero.
Some of my best clients had no Upwork history whatsoever when I first met them. Like this one…
This wasn’t even the only job I did with her. It turned out to be a very profitable relationship.
The same is true for this client…
Even if you see that a client has spent a small amount, they may be getting ready to start spending a lot more.
A lot of clients want to get their feet wet with small projects before they commit serious money. I call these “Sleeper Hit Clients” — they start off slowly but then they blow up into heavy hitters. It’s totally normal. How many people buy an Acura or BMW for their first car?
Right now I’m talking to an Upwork client who’s spent just a few hundred dollars in the past year. We’re having a serious conversation even though my price is $250/hr.
Maybe their business is growing, or maybe they’re just ready to pay more for higher quality work.
The point is, why should I care what they’ve done in the past? If you knew a stock was going to go up, would you buy it right away, or would you sit there and think about its previous track record?
I’m not sure if the conversation will go anywhere. But it never hurts to exchange a few messages with a client and see if there’s a good fit. You’re risking nothing and your upside is huge.
If your competitors want to pass up great clients over some arbitrary number, let them. Their loss is your gain.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: When you see a job you’re interested in, ask yourself, “Can I add value to this project?” If the answer is yes, start a conversation with the client and see where it goes.
Bad Upwork Tip #2: Do Some Free Work For A New Client To Get Them Interested In You
When I read this tip my jaw practically dropped to the floor. I had to double check that the article I was reading was really about Upwork tips…because following this advice can get you kicked off of Upwork.
But even aside from keeping your (and your clients’) Upwork account in good standing, doing free work isn’t a good way to build your freelancing business.
20 years ago free work wasn’t such a bad idea. It was a decent way for new freelancers to build up a portfolio of work.
But today that entire concept is totally obsolete. Why? Because sites like Upwork, freelancer.com, and Fiverr have tens of thousands of entry level jobs that pretty much anyone can do. So it makes 1000x more sense to get paid for all of the work you do — even if you’re just starting out.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Use my Crystal Ball Technique. You’ll get paid for your work and start attracting clients in droves (even if you’re new to freelancing). Win-win. Try it.
Bad Upwork Tip #3: Search For Jobs Using Keywords And Filters
Whenever I get an email from someone complaining that they can’t find any good jobs on Upwork, I always ask them to describe EXACTLY what they’re doing.
Their answer is always the same: They’re not even seeing half (or more) of the jobs listed because they’re using filters and keywords to narrow down their results.
They do this in the name of “saving time.”
Yes, you save a few minutes. You can also save time by skipping showers and sleeping for 3 hours a night. Does that mean you should do it?
Clients are human. They don’t always post a job that cooperates with filters. In fact in many cases they don’t.
Different clients use different words to explain what they need (copywriting vs. sales writing, website designer vs. WordPress designer, etc.). Or they misspell something.
Sometimes they post an “intermediate” job when they really need an expert. Sometimes they post an “expert” job when a beginner could do the job just as well.
When you try to save time with keywords and filters, you miss out on tons of opportunities. It’s better to sift through 100 jobs that aren’t a good fit for you, than miss out on ONE great client. Otherwise you’re doing what Shark Tank’s Daymond John calls “tripping over dollars to pick up pennies.”
Great clients are worth a lot of money to you. Think about how much a client might be worth over the course of two or three years…
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: Look at all the jobs in the categories you’re interested in. You don’t have to read every word of them, just skim the headlines until you find one that sounds good. It’ll take you 10 extra minutes and you’ll leave the “time savers” in the dust when you find great clients that are invisible to them.
Bad Upwork Tip #4: Avoid Hourly Jobs — Only Do Fixed-Price Jobs
There’s a lot of silliness surrounding this topic online so I want to set the record straight.
Some people have this belief that a fixed price job — one where you get paid a flat fee for the entire project — is somehow “better” than an hourly job (where you get paid by the hour).
Their argument is that you shouldn’t get paid for your time — you should get paid for the value of your work.
And sometimes that’s true.
If you can help a client increase their profits by $100,000 a year with one hour of work, then you should charge more than an hour’s worth of your time for that.
But in a lot of cases, charging by the hour makes sense. Look at this Upwork job I did as an example:
This client needed some work done, but they weren’t sure how much. “No problem,” I said, “I’ll just charge you $130 per hour, and we can do as much or as little as you need.” They agreed.
As you can see it turned out very well. And I’ve done even more repeat work for them since then.
Easy and profitable as this situation was, I still see freelancers making their lives difficult by trying to apply “value based pricing” where it doesn’t make any sense.
To show you what I mean:
Back in 2014 I wanted to hire a writer to help me start a new website. I said, “Look, I have no idea how long this will take, or what kind of results it’ll get. But I’m happy to pay you well for your time. What’s your hourly rate?”
He responded by saying he couldn’t work on an hourly job. He wanted to charge me for the value of the work he was doing. Except I had no idea what that value was, which made that impossible. Square peg, round hole.
I ended up paying one of his competitors $75 an hour to do the work instead. Which one of those freelancers do you think got the better deal?
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: If you think either hourly or fixed-pricing makes more sense for a particular job, let the client know. Most of the time they’ll be happy to go with your recommendation, especially if you can explain why it’s in their best interest. But in general you shouldn’t worry about whether a job is fixed or hourly — you can be very successful on Upwork doing both types of jobs.
What’s your best Upwork tip? (plus a cool prize for the best one)
Yes, there are a lot of useless tips out there. And even some harmful ones.
But do you know what we can do? We can put a lot of good tips out there to balance it out. What better place to start this than right here at Freelance To Win?
So here is what I’d like you to do: Please share your best Upwork tip in the comments below.
It can be something for newbies, something more advanced, or anything in between.
Please help me make the internet a better place for freelancers and aspiring freelancers (and Upworkers). The world needs you.
Even if you started yesterday I still want to hear from you. Just because you’re new doesn’t mean you don’t have something valuable to add.
Drop your best Upwork tip into the comments and let’s get the conversation going.