Upwork Detailed Guide: How to be a successful freelancer on Upwork?

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Table of Contents

What is Upwork?

Upwork is a freelance marketplace where companies post jobs/projects and freelancers apply for them. According to Upwork’s stats, there are over million jobs posted a year, and 14 million freelancers from more than 180 countries are earning more than $1 billion a year through Upwork.

Actually, Upwork is a result of two platforms that merged together. Odesk and Elance. Both freelance marketplaces that I was using at that time.

I remember when both platforms merged in 2015. It was good for me because I could focus my efforts only in one site and build my reputation there.

I have both freelance and client account on Upwork. Having an account as a client helped me a lot to learn how clients are thinking, what they value in a freelancer, and even small things like what they see first when reviewing applications.

How Does Upwork Work?

As I said earlier, you as a freelancer apply for the projects you liked. You agree with the client about all details like payment (it could be a fixed price or per hour), deadlines, and etc.

When you’re hired and the contract is started, the client sends the money to Upwork and the amount is hold on Escrow (if it’s fixed price contract). After you finish the job and submit the project, the client checks it, and if all is good he approves it, and releases the amount put in escrow.

Can you make good money on Upwork?

Yes. There are many million dollar companies on Upwork who are looking for freelancers and they can afford to pay your rate. There are many freelancers who are doing pretty well on Upwork.

making good money on upwork is easy

Upwork fees

Freelancers are charged a sliding fee based on your lifetime billings with each client (across all contracts you’ve ever had with that client company). Service fees are the same whether the contracts are hourly or fixed-price.

  • 20% for the first $500 you bill a client across all contracts with them
  • 10% for total billings with a client between $500.01 and $10,000
  • 5% for total billings with a client that exceed $10,000

In other words, the more money you make from the same client, the less fee you pay to Upwork.

If you bring your own client to Upwork, then you will not pay any fees! But you will need to send an email to BringYourClient@upwork.com with the The contract ID, and the fees will be removed.

Upwork Review – Is it worth your time?

There are plenty of negatives reviews about Upwork on the Internet. Most of them are written by freelancers who had negative experience with clients in the Upwork platform. I’ve read many of those angry review posts about Upwork.

Most of the freelancers have these complains:

  1. There are only low paying clients in Upwork
  2. There is too much competition with freelancers willing to do the job for $3 per hour
  3. High Service Fees

Let me answer these complains:

  1. There are good and well paying clients in Upwork. I’ve worked with a few million and even one billion dollar company in Upwork. And for such companies it is not a problem to pay the money you deserve.
  2. Freelancers who charge peanuts: They’re not your competition. You’re not competing for low paying clients who are choosing cheap freelancers. Your goal is to build your profile and reputation in order to get clients who will appreciate your work and pay you accordingly.
  3. Well, if you make $500 and Upwork takes $100 (20%) of it, it hurts. But your goal is to work with clients that pay you more than that. If you get a client who pays you $3500 a month, then after just 3 months you will be paying 5% fee per month. (5% fee for contracts that you’ve made more than 10 000 dollars).

Is Upwork legit: How to avoid scams?

Upwork is a legit site but there could be met some scammer companies who are looking for free work. Such companies are rare but still it’s good to be prepared and to know how to avoid scams on Upwork.

  1. Check client’s profile. They should have their payment method verified. Check their rating and feedback by other freelancers.
  2. Never work for free. Some clients will ask you to do a free sample in order to test your skills. In my opinion, do not agree to work for free even for a test project. Companies that respect freelancers will be happy to pay you even for the test project.
  3. Make sure that the client has deposited the money on Escrow before you get started. If you’re working per hour, I suggest that you download and use the Upwork time tracking app which has an hourly protection for freelancers.

If you ever suspect a scammer on Upwork, do not forget to flag them.

flag scam job ads on upwork from this buton

How to build the perfect Upwork profile?

The ideal Upwork profile consists of all elements: Good Title and description, photo, video, your portfolio, experience, certifications, employment history, tests that you’ve taken and skills. Let’s cover each one.

Add a portrait photo

it's important to have a pro looking photo for your upwork profile

That’s a very important part of your profile which often gets underestimated. Go to a pro photographer and get a portrait headshot. Smile one the camera and make sure your clothes are not too shabby.

Use photofeeler.com to see what people about your photo.

Test your photo for upwork at Photofeeler

Looks like I’ll have to grow some beard to look more competent. At least I look likable 🙂

Add Your Title


Add a title that describes what you’re doing in a few words. A few rules to follow:

  • Use Keywords: Use words that clients are searching for when looking for freelancers.
  • Describe your skills
  • Be Specific: For instance, if you’re a designer do not write just “Designer” but something more specific like “Logo designer”
  • Or be creative and stand out (see the example below)

page one Upwork

Write a good description

Here I show an example of a good description for Upwork profile.

That’s a good description in my opinion. It should be short and to emphasize on your strengths. Do not forget to include a bunch of the keywords that you think clients are searching for. This will come naturally, just think about your skills and mention them in your description.

Add a strong opening sentence. First sentence is crucial and it should catch clients attention if you want to get noticed. See what clients are seeing when they search for freelancers:

Do yo
Do you see why first sentence of your description is so important? You’ll get more invitations if you have a strong opening sentence.

Add an Introduction Video

Upwork gives you the opportunity to add an introduction video. It should be short and to describe who you’re, what you can do for your clients, what others say about you (testimonials) and anything that makes you look good in your potential client’s eyes.

Add a portfolio

Upwork Detailed Guide Google Docs (1)

For some professionals like designers the portfolio is a must. And designers know that well. Anyway, even if you’re not a designer, make sure you show some of the projects you’ve worked on or at least the results that you’ve achieved.

In my case I showed results that I’ve achieved for my clients.

My potential clients are interested in getting their websites on the top of 1st page and getting traffic to their site, so that’s what I’m showing them.

seo results georgi todorov

Add your skills

add your skills

Do not forget to add your skills to your Upwork profile. I think it helps you because your clients can find you easier when searching for a freelancer by their skills.

Take tests on Upwork

take tests on upwork

That’s important especially if you’re just getting started. Also, there are some clients who require certain level of English language or other skills that can be proven by you if you’ve taken tests.

Upload your certifications

certifications Upwork

If you’ve acquired certificates that proves your skills, it’s good to upload them. For some specialists like for example Adwords experts it’s important to show that they have Adwords certificates.


Do you have an education that’s related to the service you’re offering as a freelancer? If “yes”, just list it there.

Employment history

If your employment history has anything to do with the service you’re offering as a freelancer – list it there.

Link Your Accounts

link your accounts on upwork

Add links to your accounts in other sites like Behance, DevianART, GitHub. In my case, I’ve just linked to my Twitter account because Facebook is too personal, and there is no Linkedin as an option. But if you’re a designer who has a profile on GitHub or a designer who has a profile on Behance – link your accounts, it will get you some credibility in your clients eyes.

Rate your experience level

expert or

It is entirely your choice and depends on your self-perception. Do not worry about that too much. You can change it any time. I began as an entry level, went through intermediate and now I switched to Expert.


add your categories

Add your category or a few of them.

Get some 5 star feedback

How to get good feedback on Upwork?

Get 2-3 small projects that are closely related to your service. Do not look at the price. Decrease your rate if needed. Your goal is to get good feedback. Finish the work in perfect timing, and with great quality. Ask your client for the feedback.

You can even hint your client about what you want written in the feedback.

Little trick how to get good reviews on Upwork.

And the result: George T Off Page SEO Blogger Outreach Big Editorial Sites Linkbuilding Upwork Freelancer from Sofia Bulgaria (1)

How to find well paid jobs/projects on Upwork?

That’s the most important part from the whole article. You do not want to take just any Upwork job. You want to take Upwork jobs that are well paid!

Let’s consider that you’ve taken 2-3 good reviews on your profile. Now you’re ready to start looking only for top clients.

The problem is that there are thousands of job posts on Upwork. The good news is that you can easily filter the good from the bad.

How to tell if a project is well paid?

how to find well paying projects on upwork

Go to the Upwork Job Search field. And write a keyword which is related to the service you’re offering. (Again, test with different keywords to find the best results for you).

find well paid jobs on upwork

Then, use the filter and Upwork will show you only the best. Working per hour or fixed price is completely your choice but keep in mind that you can always negotiate with the client and switch from hourly payment to fixed and vice versa. That’s why I’ve ticked Any Job Type.

Can you guess why we tick Any Budget? That’s because there are clients who can afford to pay you what you want but they do not know what the price would be. When they post a job, they’re prompted to put a budget by Upwork. And they often put $5 or $20 like a placeholder budget. Of course, after you talk with them, they can change it to $2000. I have seen many job ads like that. One of them:

Freelance Ignore 5 Budget Jobs Online Upwork

Send fewer proposals but in higher quality

At the beginning I thought applying for jobs is a numbers game. I used to send 10 or 20 low quality proposals a day. And this tactic was not very successful.

It’s much better if you focus on a fewer job posts but really put efforts when applying.

Never send a canned proposal. It may save you some time in the short term, but it’s not good for you in the long run:

  1. You’re not that interested in that job
  2. And probably you’re not giving your best if they hire you
  3. Also, you’re not a good communicator and they do not feel you can listen to them.

How to apply and get the project?

Always try to make your proposal personal!

I’m receiving between 50 to 100 proposals per job ad. And 95% of them are not personal. They’re just copy-pasted canned responses.

Let me give you an example. I was looking for bloggers who have their own blogs.

Talking about her skills and experience. It has nothing to do with my job post. Maybe she even didn’t read it.
Talking about her skills and experience. It has nothing to do with my job post. Maybe she even didn’t read it.

And a good example:

I can definitely tell that she read my job ad, and she understands what I need. Needless to say I hired her and we’ve been working together.
I can definitely tell that she read my job ad, and she understands what I need. Needless to say I hired her and we’ve been working together.

Your goal is to read the job ad and to come up with a custom (not canned!) proposal which shows them that you understand what they want. Your proposal should be more about them, and less about you.

Answer screening questions

26% of all job ads have screening questions.

Answer screening questions to the best of your ability. I dare to say that they’re even more important than your cover letter. Why are they so important?

Taking time to answer their questions shows that you’ve invested time to apply for this project and you’re serious. But also, when you answer questions, you cannot use a canned response, you’re answering exactly what they asked about.

Upwork Detailed Guide Google Docs (1)

As you can see, I asked all applicants to answer the 5 questions above.

Looking for a linkbuilding partner (1) (1)

The first few words of the answer of the first question is visible for the client when they’re checking all applicants.

How to beat your competition at Upwork?

Believe me, most of the freelancers there are not your competition. The fact you’re reading this article shows that you want to perform better than average. You can easily beat them if you take freelancing seriously and put your heart into it.

A few things that will help you to beat the competition:

  • Have a good communication with your clients. Answer their concerns fast. I’ve installed the Upwork app on my phone and any time a client sends me a message I get a notification.

How to have a good communication with our clients as a freelancer.

I spent two minutes to write an answer. The client is happy that they can rely on me. All clients have a fear that the freelancer can disappear. And when you’re answering their questions promptly it means a lot for them.

  • Follow their instructions. It sounds obvious but there are plenty of freelancers who do whatever they think is right and do not follow instructions. At least, if you have your own vision about something – discuss it with your client.
  • Put efforts and deliver HQ work. Again, this one looks obvious but you cannot believe how many freelancers are delivering low quality work. I have a client account on Upwork and often need different services like for example “content writing”. A few times I’ve caught freelancers to try cheating by plagiarising content. You’re risking your entire reputation and future on Upwork by doing poor work. Just one poor review and any next client will be suspicious about you.

Upwork Payment: How to Withdraw Your Money?

How to get paid on upwork (money withdraw methods listed).

You can withdraw money directly to your local bank account. You have a few more options:

  • PayPal
  • Payoneer
  • Wire Transfer
  • Skrill (only for US accounts)


You can certainly make good money on Upwork. You need to put efforts in building your reputation, having the right approach when applying for jobs and communicating, and finally getting the job done on time and with perfect quality.

Let me know if you have any questions. Tweet it to @GeorgitTodorovBG

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