Note from Danny:
Today’s post on improving your Job Success Score was written by Steven Young, Freelance To Win’s “mad scientist.” When it comes to the technical side of winning on Upwork, Steven has been my go-to person for years.
The proof is in the pudding…
Not only does he have a perfect Job Success Score himself (with over $100k in earnings), he also charges — and gets — higher hourly rates than any other Upwork freelancer I’ve seen (see for yourself; full disclosure: I’ve been a client of Steven’s myself, and he is now a full time employee at Freelance To Win — but as you can see he routinely receives hundreds of dollars per hour from other clients.)
Steven is also one of the most generous people I’ve ever met! I’ve watched him single-handedly dole out tens of thousands of dollars in referrals to other freelancers, often asking for little or nothing in return.
In short, he is truly a pillar of the Generosity Economy we’ve been cultivating at Freelance To Win since the beginning. Now I’m excited for him to share his knowledge with YOU. Take it away, Steven…
Over the years, we’ve gotten THOUSANDS of emails from readers wanting to know more about how Upwork’s Job Success Score (JSS) works and how to improve it. In fact, it’s one of our most frequently asked questions.
Upwork hasn’t released the exact formula they use to calculate Job Success Scores (to prevent freelancers from trying to game the system), but the good news is that your Job Success Score is NOT as mysterious as most people make it out to be. We’ve done a ton of research and testing behind the scenes, and today, I’m going to share some specific strategies to improve your score.
First, a couple of things to keep in mind:
- You’re in control. Your Job Success Score is not random or arbitrary. Upwork uses a specific algorithm to calculate every freelancer’s score. That doesn’t mean you can just “flip a switch” and improve your score overnight, but if you follow the right steps, you can always improve your Job Success Score — often in just a few weeks.
- Keep things in perspective. The score-boosting strategies I’m about to share are effective because they’re designed to show clients that you’re a talented freelancer. As a result, many of these tips will not only improve your Job Success Score, but also help with more important goals like getting hired by more clients, finding better jobs, and even charging higher rates.
Ok, let’s dive in to how you can improve your Job Success Score (and keep it consistently high):
#1: Check if your Job Success Score really needs improvement
Your Job Success Score is NOT the be-all end-all of your Upwork career.
I’ve seen freelancers with a 100% score who are barely scraping by.
On the flipside, there are plenty of freelancers in the 70%, or even 60% range who are doing fine.
That’s because when clients are reviewing freelancers, they aren’t looking solely at Job Success Scores. Your proposals, profile overview, and hourly rate are taken into account too. Even a score of 100% is only one small piece of information that makes up a much bigger picture.
But there’s another reason you shouldn’t get too hung up on the number: you don’t need a perfect score to be in the top tier of Upwork’s freelancers.
In fact, Upwork doesn’t make any functional distinction between freelancers with a Job Success Score of 90% to 100%. If you have a 90% or above, clients are considered to be “consistently delighted” with your work — and that’s enough to get you some pretty awesome perks, place you in Upwork’s pool of Top Rated freelancers, and get your profile seen by every client looking for a freelancer in your field.
When clients search for freelancers, Upwork offers 3 options when filtering for Job Success Score: Any job success, 80% & up, and 90% & up.
There’s no “95% & up” or “100% only” option, so as long as you’re at 90% or above, you will show up in every relevant search.
If you’ve noticed a small fluctuation in your Job Success Score, chances are you can probably afford to stop obsessing about it and instead focus on producing high-quality work that your clients love.
#2: Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback (but do it the right way)
Client feedback makes a huge difference in your Job Success Score.
After a project is closed, there’s a short window of time when a review can be submitted. It’s perfectly acceptable to send your client a friendly reminder asking them to leave you a review.
Danny has a great script I like to use after I’ve completed a project:
Hi <CLIENT NAME>,
Thank you for a great project. Are you able to leave me a quick review so that others can see the type of work I do?
Posting a review for me benefits you too, because the best freelancers are more likely to work with a client who leaves a review, than one who doesn’t. So this will make it easier for you to attract top freelancers anytime you need to.
I know how busy you are, so if you’re not able to, I completely understand. Thanks again!
You can personalize this with details about the project if it makes sense. Sometimes I’ll even add in a compliment about how interesting the job was, or how cool the client’s company is (make sure it’s a genuine compliment though, clients can tell!).
Keep in mind that the best clients are busy people. As much as they may want to leave you a review, some of them are going to forget or put it off until it’s too late. That’s OK — some of my best jobs never got reviews. The last thing you want to do is drive clients away by being too pushy, so just send this one friendly reminder and move onto the next job.
#3: Get repeat work from clients who already like you
Upwork’s algorithm sees repeat work as a signal that you’re a successful, likeable, and talented freelancer — and your Job Success Score will reflect that.
Remember that you don’t need to wait around and hope your client decides to hire you again. Earning repeat work is well within your control. Here are some simple ways to increase your odds:
Build a relationship
When you show clients you care about helping their business succeed, they’ll trust you to do a great job and are more likely to hire you in the future. You can suggest ideas to improve their website, send helpful links to relevant articles, or simply just be friendly.
Suggest new project ideas
As an outsider, you may see things your clients need that they don’t notice themselves. At Freelance To Win, there have been many times where we’ve hired freelancers for one project, and when once they got to know the business, they suggested ideas for improving it. If it was a solid suggestion, that freelancer got hired for the job.
Be creative with project management
This one is probably a no biggie for your client, but can make all the difference in the world to your Job Success Score.
Let’s say a client hires you to design a website and an ebook cover. Rather than keeping the job open until you complete both projects, ask the client to close the project after you finish the website, leave you a review, and then rehire you for the ebook cover project under a separate contract.
They can do this by going to the “My Freelancers” tab, finding your profile, and clicking “Rehire.”
This shows Upwork the job you’re doing is a new project, not a continuation, and will get you a repeat client boost.
Keep in mind, clients may not have a lot of experience with the Upwork hiring process. To avoid confusion, you may want to explain why you’re asking the client to create a new project — I usually say that having separate jobs will help keep things organized and also give us both a chance to offer each other public feedback.
Note: If you already have a good Job Success Score, don’t feel like you need to split up your big jobs. When you’re starting in a better position, it can pay off to keep contracts going for a while. Upwork does take project length into account, and they give your score a boost for any active contracts that pass the 3 month mark (and you get the boost without having to close the job).
(To see more of my strategies for finding long-term clients on Upwork, you can check out this blog post.)
#4: Avoid getting penalized for “good” results
This next tip is one of the most interesting I things I found in my research. I’m going to show you some of the inner workings of the Job Success Score formula and reveal why some freelancers lose points for seemingly no reason (spoiler: there’s always a reason).
To better understand your Job Success Score, you first need to understand something called a “Net Promoter Score”.
Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a popular metric used by companies to measure customer satisfaction.
The way it works is super simple:
Companies ask a single question, “On a scale of 1 to 10, How likely are you to recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague?”
All the answers are put into a basic formula, and the result is your Net Promoter Score.
To see how this ties into Job Success Score, let’s take a peek at Upwork from the client’s perspective…
When a project is marked complete, in addition to awarding stars and writing a public review, Upwork also asks clients to privately rate the freelancer. Other than the “Reason for ending contract” dropdown, they’re asked just one question:
Yup, it’s the question for Net Promoter Score. Behind the scenes, Upwork tallies these private ratings and incorporates them into your Job Success Score.
Luckily, even though the formula for Job Success Score is a secret, the formula for Net Promoter Score is public knowledge. Here’s how it works:
Depending on what number people choose, they’re put into a different category:
Anyone who chooses a 9 or 10 is considered a “Promoter”
Anyone who chooses a 7 or 8 is considered a “Passive”
And anyone who chooses something from 1 to 6 is considered a “Detractor”
Then, the number of people in each of these 3 categories are plugged into the following formula:
(Promoter Ratings – Detractor Ratings) / (Total Ratings) * 100
So if you survey 10 people and all 10 are Promoters, you get a perfect score of “100”. If all 10 are Detractors, you get the worst possible score of -100. Simple enough, right?
The counterintuitive part comes when you factor in Passives, which can actually hurt your score.
Here’s a freelancing example:
Let’s say you’ve completed ten jobs and all your clients rated you either a 9 or a 10. That would give you the best possible Net Promoter Score of “100”. But on your eleventh job, you get your first 8. Now your score drops to a 91. Here’s the math:
(10 Promoters – 0 Detractors) / (11 Total Jobs) * 100 = 10 / 11 * 100 = 91
Clients don’t know how Job Success Score is calculated, so you may get a good review from a client who privately rates you “only” an 8/10. Depending on your history, that 8 could lower your Net Promoter Score just enough that it also hurts your Job Success Score a bit.
When freelancers complain about losing a few percentage points of Job Success seemingly out of nowhere, it could really be a case of clients giving an 8 or below rating in private feedback. Your Job Success probably won’t drop from just a single 7 or 8 rating, but if you want to improve an already low score, you need to convert as many Passives to Promoters as you can.
Ok, so we’ve covered how Net Promoter Score is factored into your Job Success Score. But it goes even deeper than private client feedback.
In Upwork’s official help center, they give a rough formula for how they look at Job Success Scores:
Look familiar? That’s right, it’s Net Promoter Score again! And it isn’t just factored into your Job Success Score — it’s actually the entire basis for the Job Success Score formula.
Luckily, Job Success Scores are a lot more lenient than Net Promoter Scores. Having a few “Passive” contract outcomes (like clients not leaving you a review) won’t immediately drop your score down. But if you get enough of these results (maybe none of your recent clients left you a review), then penalties will start to kick in.
While it’s technically called a Job Success Score, you may want to think of it as a Job Amazingness Score. Don’t get complacent with decent work and average results — being an “ok” freelancer isn’t enough to get a 100% Job Success Score. If you really want to succeed, you need to provide clients with OUTSTANDING service. Which brings me to the next tip…
#5: Find opportunities to over-deliver at every stage of the project
Going above and beyond for your clients doesn’t mean you need to bend over backward. There are many easy ways to go the extra mile.
Here are just a few ways to really impress your clients:
Offer multiple options when possible
Clients love when you show that you put a bit of extra thought into their project. You could offer a couple of options for headlines / subject lines, logo sketches, website templates — this only takes a few minutes but shows the client that you care (and you can bet that none of your competitors are doing it).
Friendliness is just as important as professionalism in online freelancing. Show your clients that you enjoy working with them and are eager for their business to succeed. Keep your messages upbeat and helpful — your clients will appreciate your engagement and look forward to seeing your finished product.
Clients want to feel like they are the center of your universe. One way to show them they are (even if they’re not) is by quickly replying to their emails and messages. It usually doesn’t take very long, and it’s something you need to do anyway, so why not do it right away? With the Upwork app, you can get message notifications straight to your phone, making it super easy to leave a response wherever you are. Sometimes I’ll respond with something as brief as: “Just saw this, I’ll get back to you ASAP” which is enough to put their mind at ease and leave a great impression.
This doesn’t mean that you need to be available 24/7 (please don’t think I want you to monitor your email at 4am on a Saturday), but I’ve heard too many Old Pros spread the terrible advice that you should play “hard to get” and wait at least a day before responding to anything.
Give proactive updates
One SSFU student took on a project that had a 2-week deadline. But it never occurred to him to send the client a short status update every few days (which would have taken about 3 minutes to do). Although he delivered great work at the end, the client said that they wished they’d heard from the freelancer at least once during those 2 weeks.
(For more tips on how to overdeliver, check out this blog post: Kick-ass on your first freelance writing job.)
#6: Don’t rush into new contracts too quickly
One of the best ways to ensure your project is successful is to get all of your ducks in a row right from the start.
As tempting as it can be to accept a contract the second you get an offer, you’ll want to discuss the major details with the client before making things official.
Deliverables, deadlines, and billing should be agreed upon in writing before kicking things off to make sure that you and your client are on the same page. If you don’t already have something in place, here’s the exact script that Danny sends out at the beginning of all his projects:
Hi <CLIENT NAME>,
Before we start working together, I just wanted to recap the details of the deliverables and terms you and I have agreed on.
FINAL DELIVERABLE: Write a 500-word blog post about productivity hacks
COST: $100 (to be paid upon the completion of the final deliverable)
WHAT’S INCLUDED: A first draft of the post, plus 2 minor revisions if needed
MILESTONES / DUE DATES:
- I’ll send you the first draft of the post by end-of-day on <DATE>
- I’ll send you the final deliverable (completed post) by end-of-day on <DATE>
Please note that in order to guarantee these due dates, you’ve agreed to brief me on the project by phone on <DATE/TIME>. I’ll also need your feedback on my first draft no later than <DATE> in order to ensure I’m on track to send you the finished draft (final deliverable) on <DATE>.
If this project requires any additional work above and beyond the scope I’ve outlined above, I’m happy to do it for you at my hourly rate of $___.
Thanks again, looking forward to working together! Once you officially hire me I’m happy to get started right away.
If for some reason things fall through or the client becomes unresponsive before confirming the details, it’s way better if it happens before you start the contract. Waiting for a client to confirm details before officially accepting a job will protect you from having to close a contract without payment.
#7: Close out inactive jobs as soon as possible
If you already have a contract open but your client has gone AWOL, your first instinct might be to leave the job open and hope they come back.
But according to Upwork, that could hurt you in the long run. As a general rule of thumb, if a client is unresponsive (say, no contact for over 2 weeks) and no payment has been exchanged, you should go ahead and close the contract.
Closing an inactive contract with no payments made will still hurt your Job Success Score a bit, but it’ll be better for you than leaving it open for months with no activity. (There’s a lot more leeway if a payment has already been made, and this rule doesn’t apply to those situations.)
Now, keep in mind that most high-quality clients are very busy. Just because they don’t respond to you in a day or two — even a week or two — doesn’t mean they’ve ditched your contract.
Another SSFU student, Casey, once had a client go nearly two months without providing her feedback. But instead of close the job, she kept it open for 2 reasons:
1) She had already received the first milestone payment, and
2) Since she put effort into building a relationship over the course of the project, she knew the client was probably busy with her five kids while they were off from school.
This is an extreme example, and there aren’t many cases where a six-week absence will still turn out alright. The point is to use your judgement. One closed contract with no review won’t hurt your Job Success Score as much as it would if you left it open and inactive for months.
#8: Go on a job-hunting spree to “drown out” bad contracts
Upwork’s algorithm is smart (and forgiving) enough to know that even the best freelancers hit an occasional snag. That’s why it looks at your RATIO of good projects, rather than allowing a single bad project demolish an otherwise great score.
For example, if you‘ve done over 50+ projects, one negative review won’t have nearly as big an impact as a freelancer who’s done less than 10.
If you’re looking to raise your Job Success Score quickly, it’s better to take on a couple of smaller projects that you can complete quickly (and get reviews for) than to sign up for one big project that you won’t be able to finish for a few months. The more successes you have, the less a negative review will hurt.
If you’re a writer, skip the ebook jobs and find something for a single blog post. If you’re a designer, look for someone who needs a single infographic made rather than a 78 slide PowerPoint presentation. If you’re a programmer, try to look for clients who just need technical consulting instead of signing up to create an entire mobile app.
This strategy requires some balance. While you want to apply to several jobs in a relatively short time-span, you still need to be selective. Visit potential clients’ profiles and check their hiring history. How have other freelancers rated them? Do they seem enjoyable to work with? Try to work with clients that other freelancers have reviewed positively.
#9: Use Top Rated perks to defend your score
Upwork rewards freelancers who have maintained a Job Success Score of 90% or above for a certain amount of time by giving them Top Rated status. These freelancers are given special perks that range from private job opportunities to specialized Upwork support.
One of the biggest benefits of the Top Rated program is the ability to remove a client’s review from your profile AND block that review from factoring into your Job Success Score. Use this perk wisely — you can only remove one contract every three months and every ten jobs.
To get a review removed, you’ll have to email Upwork’s freelancer success team. For more information, check out Upwork’s help center article on the topic here.
#10: As a last resort, go on the offensive
Sometimes, even when you do everything right, you just run into some bad luck. While rare, it’s good to know what to do if this ever happens to you.
Luckily, Upwork can be very forgiving in these situations — they know that not every client is easy to work with, and sometimes projects just don’t work out. If a client has a history of leaving consistently negative reviews, skipping out on payments, or going long periods of time without contacting their freelancers, their feedback won’t affect your Job Success Score.
If you feel like you were treated unfairly during a job, you can help protect both yourself and the marketplace by leaving the client a review that clearly explains what they did that was unfair.
You can also respond to a client’s public review directly on your profile, so that when future clients check you out, they’ll see your side of the story at the same time. Remember: great clients will take the whole picture into account, especially if there’s minimal negative feedback on your profile, so it’s worth it to follow through on these steps if you truly feel like you were wronged.
Upwork may decide to investigate a difficult client, and in some cases they won’t count the negative review against you (especially if the client gets multiple negative reviews from other freelancers saying similar things). They may also remove the negative review if the client is found to have broken Upwork’s terms of service.
#11: Wait for negative reviews to disappear on their own
Your Job Success Score doesn’t always take your entire work history into account. Instead, it calculates a separate Job Success Score for your 6-month, 12-month, and 24-month work history on a rolling window every 2 weeks. Whichever is the highest score of the three gets displayed on your profile and is the one that clients see.
This means that if enough time passes (at least six months and 1 day), a piece of negative feedback will be dropped from your history. This can have a HUGE impact on your Job Success Score, and all you need to do is wait for it.