Mareike had just finished veterinary school and was ecstatic to already have a job offer lined up in a new country.
“Once I received my doctorate degree in Germany, I got a temporary job in Peoria, Illinois. So I moved to the United States knowing that the job would last only two years.”
Before she knew it, her two-year contract was up and she was facing another big move. But Mareike had fallen in love with her new community and wasn’t ready to leave her new home behind.
“After my job ended, I started looking for something similar to do. I had a couple of interviews but quickly found out that there weren’t that many options in the field I’d specialized in, microbiology.”
Nearing the end of her rope, Mareike started looking high and low for a way to stay in Illinois.
“I was constantly searching online and at one point, I came across a mentoring program. I signed up for it and chatted with a fellow microbiologist. He recommended that I put my German language skills to use since most American microbiologists and veterinarians don’t really have that skill.”
Trying her hand at something new
Mareike took her mentor’s suggestion to heart, realizing that he might have given her the answer she was looking for.
“I started searching for jobs that combined German language and microbiology. That’s when I found out about Upwork, a freelancing platform with thousands of translation jobs.”
Even though Mareike had never heard of Upwork, she quickly saw why so many freelancers were using it.
“I liked Upwork because of the convenience — clients post jobs and you just have to browse through. You also don’t have to worry about handling payments since Upwork takes care of all of that for you.”
Plus, Mareike already knew that she was cut out for the freelance lifestyle.
“I immediately felt comfortable with freelancing. It felt similar to doing a PhD, which I did quite well with — you have to motivate yourself and set your own schedule. Freelancing let me be my own boss, and I really enjoyed that.”
Best of all, Mareike realized that if freelancing on Upwork worked out, she could stay in the city where she already felt at home.
“Freelancing on Upwork meant that I could be location independent. I wouldn’t have to relocate by myself and start all over again in a new city, where I wouldn’t know anyone. With freelancing, I could continue working where I already felt so at home.”
Getting her foot in the door
Excited to have so many job opportunities at her fingertips, Mareike quickly found one that fit her unique skillset.
“Of course, I didn’t have any experience with professional translation. But I found a translation job that had to do with nutrition and supplements so I was able to use my medical background when applying.”
Fingers crossed, Mareike submitted a proposal…
“I ended up winning the job! Even though it was my first time doing professional translation, the client was really happy with my work. In fact, we still work together today.”
With her first job completed successfully, Mareike took off running and began applying to lots more translation jobs on Upwork.
“I started getting more jobs on Upwork and was able to progress fairly quickly even though I was brand new to the field of translation. Pretty soon I had successfully completed several jobs on the platform.”
Climbing the freelance ladder
Mareike was ecstatic about being able to break into a brand new field so quickly while working from her home in Peoria. But she was frustrated that she wasn’t charging nearly as much as she really wanted to.
“My goal had always been to reach premium clients… those who are willing to invest more time and whose primary concern is not price but quality. But I was having some trouble getting those clients. So I started looking for information that would help me reach that level.”
While looking for advice on building her freelancing business, Mareike stumbled upon the Freelance To Win blog.
“I was extremely excited to find Danny’s 5 Upwork Hacks. They were really eye-opening and thought-provoking. It was so different from all the other advice I’d come across.”
The hacks were just the beginning. Before long, Mareike was ready to take charge and lift her freelancing business to the next level.
“I figured that to get to a higher level and to attract high-quality clients, I needed to reinvent myself a little. In particular, I wanted to change the way I handle the business and how I communicate with clients. And I had a feeling that Secrets Of A Six-Figure Upworker could really help me do that.”
Learning the secrets of a winning proposal
After joining SSFU, Mareike immediately started seeing specific ways to improve her freelance business and get paid what she deserved.
“I liked that there were plenty of actionable steps detailing what to change and how to improve. For example, learning how to write great proposals was one of the most helpful parts of the course.”
Mareike realized that she needed to overhaul her approach to proposals and communication if she wanted to reach the kind of client she was looking for.
“Before I went through the course, my proposals were mostly canned. I usually started out with something like, “I’m a professional English-to-German translator”. Going through the proposal lessons, I realized that spelling it out like that didn’t really help me come across as a professional.”
But knowing what needed to change was only half the equation. The next challenge was actually making those changes.
“Once I knew what not to write, my biggest problem was figuring out what I should write. Luckily, the course went deep into the psychology of great proposals and how our clients’ minds work. It was also really helpful to see examples of real winning proposals.”
Using the proven system outlined in SSFU, Mareike quickly revamped her thought process when writing proposals.
“Now, I make an effort to understand what my clients need and what’s important to them. One of my favorite techniques from the course is to give quick tips in my proposals, like what file types might be appropriate for the project. Things like that go much farther in showing clients you’re a professional, rather than just saying it.”
Edging out the (more experienced) competition
Mareike put her new skills to the test and quickly won a HUGE job — one she never would have even applied for before taking the course.
“Soon after I completed SSFU, I found a job posting for a patent translator specializing in technology for over $10,000. I didn’t have experience in that field, but I used some of Danny’s techniques to make my proposal stand out from those who may have sent canned, ‘me-focused’ proposals.”
Despite her lack of experience, she showed the client that she cared about their project. That went a long way in earning her client’s trust — and their business.
“I really enjoyed working with this team because they encouraged me to take the time to ask them questions. I felt like I was given the chance to do my best work — that’s much more rewarding for me.”
Mareike’s clients were so impressed with her work that they came back to her with bigger and bigger projects.
“We’ve built a great relationship and have continued working together. In fact, we’re just about to start on our fifth project, which will be very large with over 100,000 words.”
Going from average pay to top-tier rates
Mareike had already experimented a bit with inching up her rates, but she wasn’t about to stop there. Armed with actionable steps and newfound confidence, she quickly doubled her rate.
“Before joining SSFU, I was able to get my rate up to $30/hr. So I was able to raise my rates quite a bit on my own. But going through the course taught me specific steps that helped me more than double that — now, I’m charging $75/hr.”
These days, Mareike focuses on finding jobs that fit her skill set and setting herself apart from the competition.
“In addition to raising my rate, I also became much more selective about the clients I worked with. I started sending out fewer but better proposals and it didn’t take long for me to see a difference in the types of clients I was attracting.”
Now, her schedule is packed with clients who are ecstatic to work with her. In fact, she’s so busy that she hardly has the time — or the need — to look for new clients.
“I sent my last proposal over 3 months ago and I’m already booked through the next month. It’s really nice to not have to worry about sending out proposals all the time. My time is obviously much better spent doing billable work than trying to find billable work.”
Enjoying the finer things in life
Mareike’s success allows her to splurge on the things that bring her happiness. And more importantly, her flexible schedule means she can spend time actually enjoying those things, too.
“Last summer I moved to a nicer apartment because I’m able to spend a little more on rent now.
I also adopted a dog and I’m so glad that I’m able to spend so much time with her — way more than I would’ve been able to had I stayed in a 9-to-5 job.”
When she’s not working, her flexible schedule gives her the chance to spend time recharging with her favorite activities.
“I love to hike, and I’ve met a bunch of great friends through hiking clubs in my neighborhood. This year, I’ve had time to do a lot of hiking and running. I even trained for a marathon. Starting a freelancing career allowed me to stay in Illinois, where I already had friends who love to do the same things as me.”
Nowadays, Mareike doesn’t have to worry about supervisors, cubicles, or schedule demands anymore. Freelancing lets her be in charge of her own work life — and that’s just the way she likes it.
“Freelancing is a closer fit to my character and the way I like to work. I enjoy being my own boss and deciding what my work environment is like. For example, my desk at home is next to large windows overlooking downtown Peoria instead of a windowless office like at my old job.”
There’s no better feeling for Mareike than doing work she loves at her own pace, and knowing that her clients appreciate her effort.
“Overall, I’m very satisfied with my work. I like working with people who are looking for the same things as me. I like to do serious work and even though I’m probably not the fastest person out there, I’m very detail oriented. I’m happy to have found clients who are looking for this kind of work.”