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How to Start Your Freelance Career With Upwork

For a while, I’ve avoided posting about online freelance marketplaces, but this take on it from freelancer, Jake Jorgovan, answers the real questions freelancers have so you can know who should use it, when and how, as you build a freelance business. Plus, a recent report states that 10% of businesses (up from 3%) are now interested in hiring from these platforms. Listen to the podcast here…and let me know if you agree….

When many people hear Upwork(formerly oDesk), they immediately think of outsourcing jobs overseas for $3 per hour.

For years, I thought the same thing.

Yet when I decided to start up my freelance web design business, I was amazed to find that oDesk was actually a great source of getting early clients.

My goal with this post is to share with you who should be utilizing Upwork (oDesk) and how you can get started.

What is Upwork(oDesk)?


Upwork is a job posting sites. Individuals from all over the world post jobs or projects that they need help with, and freelancers anywhere can apply.

These companies are global, so in a large part these platforms are associated with outsourcing jobs for low dollar amounts to individuals overseas.

Yet there are freelancers and creatives from all over the world, including America, that are getting their career started with Upwork(oDesk).

Who should be using Upwork(oDesk)?

  • Freelancers who are early on in their career and struggling to get their first few clients
  • Freelancers who are afraid of selling and negotiations
  • Freelancers who want to work remotely

Who should not be using Upwork(oDesk)?

  • If you are steadily generating over $4k per month, then you should not consider oDesk
  • If you are niched vertically and offer services to a specific target market (healthcare, fitness, education, etc.), then you should not consider Upwork


How much money can you actually make on Upwork?

Results can vary depending on your service and portfoli. From my experience, within 2-3 weeks on Upwork I was generating a few hundred dollars a week. Within about two months I was generating an average of $1000 per week. The maximum I ever generated was just under $1400 in one week.

How much should you charge?

  • Regardless of your experience, the minimum you should charge on Upwork is $20hr.
  • If you price yourself any lower you are putting yourself in competition with individuals overseas who are working for extremely low rates.
  • The maximum I was ever able to steadily charge on Upwork was $55hr. When I raised my rates beyond that, I saw the amount of clients willing to hire me drop dramatically.

How do you get started on Upwork?

  • Set up a profile and then go through all of the guided steps to get your profile to 100% completion. This process will take about 4-5 hours and you will have to take a series of tests in your area of expertise.
  • Once you have your profile setup, you will be given an application quota of 20 applications. Applications expire after seven days.
  • My recommendation is at first to keep your application quota maxed out and regularly apply for new jobs.

How do you win jobs on Upwork?

  • Write real cover letters.
  • There are a lot of individuals on Upwork who just copy and paste the same cover letter to every job opening. Don't just do this
  • The simple act of writing a real cover letter about the job posting will do wonders to help you land your first few clients.

How do you know when it is time to move on?

Upwork isn’t a great long term solution, but it can be that boost you need to get things going at the start.

As build your marketing machine, you will begin to become less and less dependent on Upwork.
To this day, I still keep my profile up on Upwork and even at a rate of $85hr I am occasionally hired for small projects.

While Upwork is not for everyone, it helped me and several other creatives I know get our career started.

Listen to the podcast I did with Ilise Benun and, if you are interested in learning more, this more detailed blog post includes an example cover letter.

Jake Jorgovan is a freelance web designer and publishes a weekly newsletter focused on helping creatives get their freelance careers started at www.jake-jorgovan.com

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