Ben loves designing and developing websites. But marketing himself? Not so much.
“I’m a developer, not a salesman. I hate dealing with the ‘business’ side of freelancing.”
When he first started freelancing, Ben spent dozens of hours each month trying to find new clients.
“I had a spreadsheet with thousands of businesses I would cold call. Most said no. But even when someone said yes, that was just the beginning of the sales process. Then I’d have to drive to their office to meet with them, usually multiple times. I’d waste days trying to close them, with no guaranteed payoff.”
Selling wasn’t just making Ben’s work less enjoyable — it was also cutting into his productivity.
“Since my family and I spend a lot of time volunteering, I only freelance three days a week. If I have to spend one of those days chasing down new prospects, it really adds up.”
Finding rockstar clients on Upwork
Initially, Ben wasn’t sure if Upwork was his best bet for finding new clients.
“It seemed pretty competitive. I’d see a job posted just nine minutes ago, and eleven people had already applied. Many of them were bidding $20 for jobs that should pay $500. So I shook my head and went back to cold calling.”
But after reading Danny’s email newsletter, he decided to give Upwork a second look.
“It was a total mental reframe. Danny made me realize that all those fast, cheap bidders meant that most of the ‘competition’ hadn’t even read the job description — much less sent the client a personalized proposal. Now instead of being discouraged, I was excited to get out there and apply to jobs.”
A few days later, Ben landed a $1,500 job designing a travel-related WordPress site.
“Lots of people can design and build websites. But I went a step further and addressed the client’s specific needs in my proposal. I mentioned that I’d lived in the Caribbean, which showed him I understood the travel aspect of his project. He hired me even though I had no Upwork history or reviews.”
Taking Upwork to the next level
With his first profitable gig under his belt, Ben decided to take the next step and join Secrets Of A Six-Figure Upworker.
“Since Danny’s free material worked so well, I decided to bite the bullet and pay for the course. I figured that if it helped me get even one job I wouldn’t have otherwise, it’d be totally worth it.”
That decision helped Ben quickly accelerate his success. Within just a few days, he’d been selected for another project — this time doing branding work for a real estate developer’s website. Ben’s price tag? $5,000.
“I looked up his company website before writing my proposal. I was able to find out his name, which helped me make a personal connection. From there, I moved him to a Skype call, and quickly closed the deal.”
Ben was especially excited to get access to jobs outside of his local area.
“It turns out the client is located in British Columbia — a 6 hour drive from my hometown in Alberta. How could I ever have connected with him if not for Upwork? I’m really excited about all the new possibilities Upwork has opened up for me.”
Freelancing smarter, not harder
When comparing Upwork with “traditional” methods for finding clients, Ben says it’s no contest.
“Before, I would get one client for every thousand people I cold contacted. On Upwork, I get one client for every four that I reach out to. First of all, because my proposal is directed to their needs, and also because they are already looking for a designer/developer to begin with!”
He also loves being in control of the process, another big perk of using Upwork.
“Instead of calling random people and hoping someone says yes, now I get to see exactly what the client wants, how much their budget is, and then I can decide if I want to write them a proposal.”
Ben’s days of having to constantly market himself are now behind him.
“I’m starting to see the value of using Upwork more and more. Whenever a project is coming to an end, I can log in and find a new one, so I never have to hit a dry spell. As a freelancer, that’s a great feeling.”
Skyrocketing his rates
Like many freelance web developers, Ben often thought about charging more for his work. But he’d been unsure of whether or not he could pull it off.
“Blogs make it sound easy to raise your rates. But most people struggle with self value.”
At first, he’d shoot for smaller jobs. “When you’re used to doing $500 work and you see a $5,000 project, you tend to think, ‘that’s for someone else.’”
But after completing Secrets Of A Six Figure Upworker — and seeing other web developers in the course raising their Upwork rates — Ben built up the confidence to raise his rate to $85 an hour. “It helped me put a higher value on what I do. I learned the importance of positioning myself to command higher rates, and how to do it. It’s been very exciting to see those efforts paying off.”
Ben also had a surprising realization that most designers never think of: Raising his rates isn’t just better for him — it also benefits his clients.
“Freelancers who charge too little usually try to make up for it by pumping out as much work as possible. But the quality suffers. Charging more lets me put out better quality work, and not get burned out.”
Working to live — not living to work
Though Ben thoroughly enjoys his work, he doesn’t want it to be at the center of his life. Instead, he sees money not as the end goal, but as a tool he can use to build a great life for himself and the people around him.
“My goal isn’t to be rich. It’s to make a living. And the less time I can do that in, the better. To me, the goal should always be to make more money in less time. That’s the attitude my wife and I want to pass on to our two boys.”
With Upwork’s steady supply of clients at his fingertips, he now has plenty of time to pursue his other passions: Spending quality time with his family, traveling, and doing volunteer work.
“We all volunteer together. We teach free bible courses, and offer special programs to people in need. We went to the Dominican Republic and taught deaf students who didn’t have access to schools for the audibly impaired. Our goal is always to make a positive impact wherever we can.”
Ben is so passionate about using freelancing as a lifestyle tool, he’s now showing his sons the ropes of web design so they can follow in his footsteps.
“The next thing we’re teaching them is Upwork, so they’ll be able to make more money in less time, too.”
To find out more about Ben and his work, check out his website, pageandpixel.co.