Upwork: Getting Started & Building a Winning Profile 9

Upwork: Getting Started & Building a Winning Profile

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UpworkLyft and Uber might be the first platforms that come to mind when you think of the gig economy. Apps that require gig workers to use their vehicle to deliver products and services have been at the forefront of gig economy news in recent years.

However, platforms like Upwork are moving into the spotlight as both experienced gig workers and newcomers seek ways to use their skills and make money on their own terms while avoiding the vehicle wear and tear that comes with passenger and delivery apps.

If you heard that Upwork is a great side hustle or full-time gig. You heard right! I made five-figures during my time freelancing on the side with Upwork and it is the platform our tax firm uses to hire talent.

Upwork can be a huge source of income if you have beginner, intermediate, or expert skills in any of the following categories:

  • Development & IT
  • Design & Creative
  • Finance & Accounting
  • Admin & Customer Support
  • Sales & Marketing
  • Writing & Translation
  • Blogging, Social Media, and Building Websites
  • Mobile App Development
  • Optimizing Existing Content For SEO

View a full list of remote jobs HERE. The opportunities are nearly endless.

To get started you need to build a strong profile and adhere to the platform’s best practices.


  1. Upload a high-quality, professional profile photo. Your profile photo is the first impression you make on a potential client and it makes (or breaks) their decision to read more about you.
  2. Create a brief introduction video to showcase your personality, highlight your skills, and build trust.
  3. List your skills, certifications, education, and employment history. Do not leave these sections of your profile blank. They are especially important when you’re new to the platform and don’t yet have any project history or reviews.
  4. Build a portfolio. Provide samples of work that demonstrate your skills if you have them. As you complete projects within the platform, certain clients will allow you to display completed work on your portfolio as well.
  5. Take a few project-based assignments to get work history and client reviews on your profile as soon as possible.
  6. Proofread and update your profile regularly. Use Grammarly to catch simple errors.

Why is this important? As a client, I look at a candidate’s profile picture first, and then I check for client reviews. If the freelancer is new to Upwork, I’ll rely heavily on their skills, certifications, and employment history. Use every section of your profile to tell a story about the value you can provide.


Upwork has stellar security and payment protection protocols in place, but you must adhere to their policies and procedures to be covered.

  • You can accept work for an hourly rate or project-based (fixed) pricing.
  • For hourly gigs, always use your work diary to track time as funds are uncovered by payment protection with the manual tracking option.
  • For project-based gigs, you and your client will agree upon delivery milestones. Clients review and approve work as it’s completed and you should not move on to the next milestone until you’re given the green light.
Upwork: Getting Started & Building a Winning Profile 7


You’re charged a fee based on lifetime billings with each client. Be sure to follow up and apply for future projects with your clientele as this will reduce your service fees over time.

The service fees are:

  • 20% on the first $0-$500 earned with a client.
  • 10% on the next $500.01-$10,000 earned with a client.
  • 5% on $10,000.01 or more earned with a client.

View Upwork’s Freelancer Service Fees Policy HERE.

That said it is important to factor service fees into your hourly rate and project bids. See, “How To Set Your Freelance Rate: The Comprehensive Guide.”


Freelancers are given a limited number of “connect tokens” each month. These tokens are used to submit proposals for jobs. On average, submitting a proposal will “cost” 1-6 connect tokens.

You can complete certain tasks to earn additional tokens or purchase them for 15 cents apiece.

Proposals are similar to cover letters, and they play a significant role in booking projects. Address the client’s specific needs or problems in your proposal. Highlight experience and skills that are related to their needs and include a client testimonial if you can.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you get started.

  1. Only apply for jobs you are qualified for and do not take work you can’t cover. This is a freelancer website and it’s relatively easy to find commitments that work for your schedule and skillset; no need to go beyond that.
  2. It might help to book a few flat-rate projects before transitioning to contracts that pay an hourly rate. This will allow you to familiarize yourself with the process and gain a few reviews.
  3. Submit proposals to businesses that have already hired on the platform and have reviews from other freelancers.
  4. Read job descriptions carefully to determine if it matches your skillset and to find any specific instructions. Many clients will ask you to include a specific word or phrase in your cover letter.
  5. Price for value. Bid no less than the client is offering, but if you are highly skilled in the services they’re seeking, then it’s fair to bid up to 10% over their budget.
  6. Leverage video. If you’re confident enough, send the client a brief video introduction or demonstration of the value you can provide. Be sure it pertains to their expressed needs.
  7. Communicate and be responsive. Strive to respond to clients same day if it’s during regular business hours or by the next day.

See, “How to Create a Proposal That Wins Jobs” for further guidance.

Your last step is to determine how much time you will dedicate to submitting proposals each week. You won’t book every job you apply for, but you will build momentum and lock in some great projects through consistent outreach.

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