When Mike graduated from Temple University, he knew one thing for sure: He didn’t want to get shackled to a 9-5 job.
“I’ve seen too many friends get stuck in the day to day grind of trying to make a living. Climbing the corporate ladder just never appealed to me. I’ve always wanted to be my own boss, make my own schedule.”
In addition to avoiding the long hours and soul crushing office politics of a regular job, Mike desperately wanted the freedom to travel.
“As a junior in college I signed up to study abroad in London. The experience was so incredible that I repeated it in my senior year, this time in Hong Kong. I was hooked.”
After graduating, all Mike could think about was finding more opportunities to satisfy his new-found wanderlust.
“I was like, ‘OK, I can’t stay in college forever. I’ve got to figure out how to get myself abroad again.’ That became my ultimate goal. To accomplish it, I needed to find a job that would give me that freedom.”
Easier said than done
Initially, Mike didn’t have much luck finding work that didn’t require him to show up to an office everyday. Meanwhile, his family was getting tired of waiting for him to start his career.
“I was getting a lot of pressure from the people around me to just get a job — any job. They said, ‘Even if you don’t like it, it’s your first job. Suck it up!’ I was getting ready to throw in the towel.”
One day, Mike’s brother-in-law suggested he give Upwork a try.
“I’d never heard of online freelancing as an option in college. I was intrigued.”
He created an Upwork account to look at the job listings. Having studied film in college, he focused on the Video Production category — and was surprised by what he found.
“I remember thinking there were enough freelance video editing opportunities to keep me traveling for years. How could I not have known about this before?”
Off to a rocky start
Joining Upwork was easy enough, but when it came time to start applying to jobs, Mike came face to face with some psychological barriers.
“I found it pretty intimidating at first. There were all these jobs available, but I wondered, am I really qualified to do them? Sure, I studied film in college, but I didn’t have much real world experience with video.”
He also worried about competition.
“I noticed a lot of Upwork freelancers who’d been in film production for decades. Many of them had lots of work history on Upwork. I didn’t know how to compete with them starting from scratch.”
After weeks of trying, Mike had yet to land a single gig.
“I submitted waves of proposals. But the only thing I got back was ‘application denied’ notifications when they chose another freelancer. Discouraging doesn’t even begin to describe it. It really sucked!”
He thought about lowering his rate, but he had already set it at his rock-bottom, $15 an hour.
“Best case scenario, I could beat my competitors and win these jobs at 10 bucks an hour. What would be the point? I couldn’t see a way to make a real living doing this. I was back at square one. I felt lost.”
Looking for answers
Even though his efforts hadn’t yet paid off, Mike refused to give up. He decided to buckle down and figure out a way to succeed.
“I Googled ‘how to be successful on Upwork.’ The first few articles I found seemed to all be regurgitating the same vague advice, like ‘Charge what you’re worth!’ I was like, ‘OK, but how?’”
Little did Mike realize he was only one click away from finding the winning formula.
“The third article I read linked to Freelance To Win. That was the game changer right there. I read through Danny’s Upwork Hacks and it was the best source of advice I found in all my researching — by far.”
But hacks were only part of the story. Seeing others succeed on Upwork showed Mike that success was within his reach, too. So he decided to join Secrets Of A Six-Figure Upworker.
“When I saw how successful Danny’s students had been on Upwork, I thought, if I could do even half as well as some of them, I could work from anywhere in the world, without any worries.”
Armed with a proven system
After going through Secrets Of A Six Figure Upworker, Mike was able to leap confidently back into the Upwork arena.
“When I first saw all those video job postings, I felt like I wasn’t good enough for any of them. But now I was convinced I could do it. I wanted to jump in right away.”
Within just a few days, Mike had already scored his first amazing client.
“I used Danny’s Crystal Ball Technique — yes, it works for video editing, too! I included a super short Cover Letter, and the client got back to me within a few days. I didn’t need to do any selling. He was just like ‘Yeah great, I want you on.’ It wasn’t even a question, there was no interview at all. I was blown away.”
One Upwork client led to another, and another. Soon Mike was happily juggling several jobs at once.
“For about a month I was taking in a steady stream of small, low commitment projects. It was great because there was no pressure, and I was building up a solid work history. After that, I kept on winning more and more jobs.”
(Mike was so good at selling that he convinced me to hire him too. Now he edits all the audio and video for my podcast and course.)
Rapidly increasing his rates
With the security of a full work schedule, Mike decided to try increasing his hourly rate.
“Lots of my competitors were charging peanuts, like $10 an hour. But SSFU taught me to focus on giving clients value, and charge what I’m worth.”
He gritted his teeth and doubled his hourly rate to $30/hr. Almost immediately, he locked in two new clients.
“They were both happy to pay my new rate. And they gave me a lot of work, too. I’m still working with both of them.”
Mike’s initial hesitation was replaced by pure elation.
“Just a couple of months in and I’d already doubled my rate. I couldn’t believe it was happening so fast!”
Looking back, Mike realizes that his initial lack of success had nothing to do with his experience level or his hourly rate.
“I wasn’t conveying how I could help the client. My Upwork proposals were about me, me, me. I can do videos, I am excited for this job. And that was one of the key things SSFU taught me. Now I’m always asking myself: ‘How can I provide value here?’”
Following conventional wisdom, Mike initially thought it was crazy to charge more than your competitors — especially more experienced ones. But now he has a mindset that allows him to confidently command a solid hourly rate.
“If you can position yourself as a person who can bring value, good clients won’t care what your rate is. If they’re just looking for someone cheap, then you’re not a good match and you can walk away. There are millions of people out there who are happy to pay what you charge. You just need to know how to get them.”
Part-time hours, full-time income
Today, Mike has created a steady stream of freelancing income, without the drag of the typical 40-50 hour work week.
“I work about four hours a day, Monday through Friday. That gives me enough time to keep learning new things and improve my skills, but I’m still making a great income. Some weeks I’ll work 30 or 40 hours and sometimes I’ll work less, but I have the security of knowing that I can get more work any time I want to. I couldn’t be happier!”
He’s also become something of a legendary figure among his friends and relatives.
“My parents and siblings are still processing it, like they can’t believe it. They’re amazed, but very happy for me. And my friends see me as this total bad ass entrepreneurial hero.”
Now that he’s built up a successful freelancing career, Mike is finally gearing up to start traveling again.
“Next year I’ll be living in Japan. I plan to stay for six months, and then who knows where I’ll go next. Wherever I end up, I’ll be able to keep working as an online freelancer while I go across the world. It’s a dream come true!”
Note from Danny: I was so impressed with Mike that I ended up hiring him myself! He’s now a team member here at Freelance To Win. However this post is about his previous success on Upwork as a student of my course, Secrets Of A Six-Figure Upworker.