Why Can’t I Get Work at Upwork But Others Can?

DISCLAIMER: This post may contain “affiliate” links to products and services I recommend. I’ll receive a small commission if you decide to purchase one of these products or services. I only recommend products I genuinely believe will help you in running your freelance business.

It boils down to how freelance sites work. They are designed to surface the best freelancers on their platforms.

That doesn’t meant you’re not good if you’re struggling to get any traction. It means if you’re new to Upwork you’re at a big disadvantage.

But, it’s also not hopeless. With the strategy I’m about to show you, you can quickly gain momentum and rise to the top where getting work is a whole lot easier.

Think of this like an “Upwork Fast-Start Guide”.

The benefit of following this formula is you virtually eliminate the advantage veteran Upwork developers have so you can:

  • Rank higher for relevant freelancer searches and get in front of more potential clients…
  • Eliminate the natural skepticism a potential client will have about your profile not being as “robust” as other developers…
  • Strategically grow your presence on the platform until you end up ranking high on the list for the biggest search terms…

Here’s why this formula works…

Imagine you’re shopping for a new computer. Let’s say you’re looking for a fast computer that can handle a lot of HD video editing.

You’ve narrowed your search down to two options.

The sales page for computer 1 reads like this:

“High powered computer that can handle the most resource-intensive tasks with ease.”

And, the sales page for computer 2 reads like this:

“A 3.2GHz Quad-Core Intel I-7 process with 16MB RAM designed specifically for editing massive HD videos with ease.”

Almost universally, people will instinctively choose the second computer because it’s messaging is aimed right at what they’re after.

This is the advantage you have as a new developer on Upwork.

Most of the well-established developers on Upwork market themselves as “generalists” and have generic profiles. They’re marketing themselves as the “high-powered computer”.

You can out-maneuveur them by marketing yourself as a specialist which will accomplish two things on Upwork:

  1. Cause you to rank higher for specific keywords because your profile is more relevant to that search
  2. Appeal to potential client’s instinct to choose the more targeted option

This is critical when you first start because you simply cannot compete with those developers based on the authority algorithms Upwork uses.

They have a longer job history, more reviews, ratings and so on.

And, they’ll continue to suck up all the work and leave none for you unless you implement this fast-start formula.

So, here’s what to do:

1. Choose Your Target

Pick a very specific niche to go after. Don’t market yourself as a “web designer”. It’s too broad and dominated by established developers.

Instead market yourself in specific terms…

  • “ajax developer”
  • “jquery developer”
  • “html and css guru”
  • “mobile website specialist”

I marketed myself as a “WishList Member Developer” who built (only) membership sites using WordPress and WishList Member.

I was able to rank in the top 3 consistently for the keywords “wishlist member” and won most of the jobs that came through for that term.

The way to do this is to think of 3-5 aspects of web development that you enjoy.

For example: jQuery, WordPress themes and AJAX forms.

Then, go on Upwork and search the job posting for related terms. I’ve found that a new job posting once every 24 hours is usually plenty of potential work to sustain what I want to make each month.

Look at the different terms and decide on the one that is the best combination of what you enjoy, volume of jobs, and potential revenue.

2. Market Yourself as a Specialist

Relevance is how you’re going to win in the beginning. So, now that you’ve chosen a targeted niche to go after you’ll want to build your profile around that niche:

  • Your title should include your main keyword (WordPress Theme Developer instead of Web Designer)
  • Your keywords should all be related to your niche
  • You should naturally sprinkle relevant keywords throughout your description
  • Your portfolio items should all be projects related to this niche
  • Any test, certifications, skills, etc… should all be relevant to the niche

Everything should point to you being an expert in this very specific area of web development.

Not only will you rank higher in searches but you’ll be more appealing to clients looking for specifically what you offer.

3. Build Your Job History

With your niche targeted and your profile set up, don’t sit back and wait for jobs to come to you. You need to start building your job history so you can gain authority like the more-established Upwork developers.

Search for job postings related to your niche and bid aggressively. At this stage, it’s not about making money… it’s about building your profile.

Here’s a quick tip…

When you bid on a job you can bid whatever price you like while keeping the price on your profile the same.

So, keep the your profile price at your ideal rate. But, in the beginning don’t be afraid to discount your rated in order to get the job when bidding on individual projects.

Just be sure to say in your proposal something like: “I’m new to Upwork and wanting to establish my credibility here so I’m willing to take this job at a 50% discount on my regular rate. Any future jobs will be at my regular rate.”

That way, if a client is really impressed with your work they know that they’ll be paying your regular rate going forward and it’s easy to transition them over.

No… not all clients will hire you again because of that.

But, many will… and regardless getting the job will help you build your authority on Upwork so eventually you no longer need to discount your fee.

As you get more work, you’ll begin to notice your profile ranking higher for relevant searches and more job invites flowing in.

At that point, you can then consider reworking your profile to target larger, more general niche if you wish.

Although, I never did because I liked working the projects I was getting.

If you follow this formula, you’ll be much more likely to have success on Upwork and get clients instead of wondering why everyone else is getting them and you aren’t.

First Steps…

We’ve covered a lot… what do you need to do to get started with this formula quickly?

I like to think up a few niches I want to target and do the searches on Upwork to see how many jobs are there.

It gives me a good indicator of the kind of volume I can expect and whether a particular niche is viable or not.

So, write down 3-5 web development niches you’re interested in, head over to Upwork and search the available jobs to see what’s available.

(Photo by: flickr.com/photos/sybrenstuvel)

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John Morris

JOHN MORRIS

I’m a 15-year veteran of freelance web development. I’ve worked with bestselling authors and average Joe’s next door. These days, I focus on helping other freelancers build their freelance business and their lifestyles.

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