Seydi asks the following question:
Hi Danny, I started freelancing about 2 months ago and so far, it’s going okay. I have a complete profile and a 100% job success score.
My main goal at this point is to be able to work on Upwork full time. The one concern I have is that there is uncertainty in terms of work in the future. That’s why I would like to land long term jobs that are 6 months+ and 30+ hours per week.
I was wondering if you could advise on how to increase my chances to land such jobs.
Congratulations — sounds like you’re moving in the right direction. Getting long term clients on Upwork is one of the best ways to turn freelancing into a stable source of income.
Long term clients allow you to:
- Spend your time doing work you enjoy, instead of wasting days on end reading job posts and writing proposals
- Earn more money (every hour you spend looking for new clients is an hour you aren’t getting paid)
- And even have more freedom and more control over your own schedule, since you won’t have to work as much as someone who spends half of their time finding clients
Since this is a question I get asked often, I’ll give you a process that’s worked well for me, and many FTW students as well.
The #1 barrier to finding long term clients
People are predictable creatures — most of us tend to solve problems using obvious answers.
When we want to find long term clients on Upwork, we start looking for the big jobs from clients who need long term work.
But there’s a big problem with this approach.
The people looking for the “big jobs” get one thing right — and one thing wrong.
What they’re right about is that there are tons of Upwork clients who want long term relationships with freelancers they can trust.
What they miss is that very few actually say that upfront.
For example: I recently hired a lawyer to advise me on a small issue.
I didn’t say, “Can I hire you to be my long term lawyer for all of my business needs for the next two years?”
Instead, I asked, “Can you please help me with this issue?”
For the most part, that’s how clients approach freelancers.
What happened next was also fairly typical: He did a great job, and I rehired him to work on two more things for me.
One is something that suddenly popped up (and who do you think I called when it did?), and the other is an important issue he brought to my attention.
It’s likely we’ll end up doing a long term deal, where I pay him a certain amount of money every single month.
So when a client asks “Can you design my logo?” or “Can you write a blog post?” or “Can you help me with an excel spreadsheet?”, there is a ton of potential repeat business waiting on the other side of that question.
The mistake is when people look at the small job and just see that one small job. That’s missing the forest for the trees.
So the best way to get a big job on Upwork is to do a small job — and do it well.
This is 100x easier than looking for big jobs because:
- Small jobs are easier to find, since there are more of them
- You can get hired quicker, because it’s less risk for the client than hiring for a big job
- Small jobs are often easier to win because they’re less competitive
- And it’s easier to succeed because you only have to focus on one small task
All of the long term clients I’ve found on Upwork started out as small jobs. In many cases, they were very small…at first.
One client initially hired me for a tiny job that paid $165. But they ended up becoming my biggest client — a relationship that’s been worth tens of thousands of dollars per year.
Once your clients see you’ve done a good job, they will naturally want to hire you for more work.
Not all small jobs are created equal
Does this mean that if you do enough small jobs you’ll automatically get lots of repeat business?
Certain jobs — and certain clients — are more likely than others to create a long term income stream for you.
One of my first Upwork clients was a great example of this.
He was a businessman who needed someone to edit a recommendation letter he’d written for one of his employees. He was a nice client to work with…but he didn’t have much need for a writer like me.
He contacted me with the occasional odd task, but it wasn’t enough to impact my bottom line by more than a few dollars each year.
So you need to look at each client and ask yourself, are they likely to need more work from me in the future?
But be careful not to judge too quickly. It’s easy to read a job description and dismiss it as “just another small job” if you don’t use a little imagination.
Let’s look at another one of my clients, who initially hired me to write the About Me page for her website.
A shortsighted freelancer might look at a job post like that and think, “Well, she only has one About Me page, so this isn’t likely to turn into a big job.”
But she was a successful financial planner — with a growing business. And guess what? People like that need lots of writing!
Btw, you do not need to be a writer to find long term clients on Upwork.
There are plenty of people who need a never ending amount of work from designers, voice over artists, video editors, programmers, and much more. You can see some examples of non-writers who’ve done very well on Upwork here, here, and here.
The key to long term relationships (on Upwork or anywhere else)
The real reason that long term clients give you more stability isn’t for the reasons most people think.
It has nothing to do with how many hours you’re working, or how many months the client thinks they need you for.
It has to do with trust.
When you build trust with clients they will never want to let you go.
How much clients trust you is even more important than the amount of skill you have.
I’d much rather hire a pretty good freelancer who genuinely wants to help me win, vs a more skilled person I don’t trust.
Trust gives you an enormous advantage.
There are very, very few people in this world who know how to build trust with others.
Even many genuinely trustworthy people often have no idea how to show it.
Watch the video below — it’s from my mentor, Ramit Sethi. Pay special attention to the first 5 minutes, where he interviews Charles Green on what kind of rewards you can get from your clients when you go from ‘freelancer’ to Trusted Advisor. Then, I’ll show you a specific example of how trust can lead to lots of long term jobs on Upwork.
How a failed task led to a long term Upwork job
More than a year ago, I hired Steven (a digital marketing freelancer) to help me to promote this blog post on Facebook.
It was a small job. I paid him $100.
What’s really interesting is that the Facebook ad we ran didn’t succeed. I lost money.
According to conventional wisdom — “If you don’t get results for your clients then you’re sunk!” — that should have been the end of our relationship.
But I immediately rehired Steven for more work anyway. Can you figure out why?
As you probably guessed, it’s because I trusted him. I knew I’d eventually get a great return on my investment because he’s smart and, more importantly, he was focused on helping me succeed.
Not in the same bullshit way every company says “We’re dedicated to our customers’ success!” With Steven, and other great freelancers, it was more like I was dealing with a friend who genuinely wanted to see me win.
My wife and I even flew him and his girlfriend out to Omaha to hang out with us for a few days.
What’s your story?
Have you been looking for long term clients on Upwork? If so, what will you do differently going forward?
Or maybe you’ve already found one or more long term clients you love. I’d love to hear about that too.
Either way, please leave a comment and let us know. Others will benefit from your insights and experience, so let’s talk about this!