UpWork (formerly oDesk) is a good place to start with and we have built a thriving business around it (TriCore InfoTech Pvt Ltd oDesk Profile - 43,000+ hours of work done with 98% job success). There are plenty of jobs being posted regularly on UpWork and being a freelancer/agency, you could find many jobs to apply that match your skillsets. Though, it wouldn't be an easy path to flourish unless you are committed to work dedicatedly and do not give up after initial failures. Like many other freelancer website or other sources to grab projects, UpWork has also its pros and cons.
Hurdles you should expect while getting started on UpWork:
- Tough competition: As soon as the job is posted you will see tens of people applying for that job in no time. Even though upwork is now offering limited Connects to apply on jobs, I didn't see much of decline in application on the jobs. So, there is a chance that your genuine response would get lost in midst of generic applications.
- Low conversion rate: Average conversion rate is not very exciting on UpWork. After applying on many jobs, you might get responses from couple of clients and that also doesn't guarantee you getting the project. After conversation is started, chances are higher of getting the project but still you might loose it just before starting. So, don't be too optimistic until you have the actual contract started!
- Building reputation: It will take some time for you to find projects, complete them successfully before deadline and get positive reviews. But you need to strive for it and build good reputation because after that conversion rate will increase for you. Patience and perseverance is key here.
Tips to get success on UpWork while getting started:
100% profile completion: Profile should be fully completed with
- Title that matches your skills
- Profile picture having your face clearly visible
- Descriptive Overview showing summary about your total experiences, your expertise and any other specialty you can offer over other freelancers
- Portfolio items added
- Take some tests and display result on profile
- Honestly add the skills and your rating for the skills
- Self decided hourly rate which you think you are worth for
Entirely completed profile creates a good impression on the employers as it offers insight about freelancer and they tend to consider such candidates more.
- Generic reply is big No-No: Don't fall for preparing generic coverletter and send it to all the clients while applying on jobs. Most of the times generic coverletter will be discarded in no-time as employers can figure it out in a second. Giving general details about your skills and capabilities is fine but your coverletter must start with job-specific details. Go through the job description carefully, read it multiple times, prepare list of the things you understand, create flow of how you will tackle the issues and if possible, what will be overall time to complete the mentioned tasks. If job description doesn't have tasks but general details then provide information about similar projects you have done in past and prove that you have experience working on such things. Very important, don't hesitate to ask questions whenever required. Let employer know if you do not understand anything in the job description. Employers will be more than happy to provide further information if you can convey that you have read job description thoroughly, understood tasks well and serious about your work. In the herds of generic coverletters, job-specific application is sure shot way to stand out in competition and increasing your chances to get noticed by the employer.
- Time and Cost estimation: If requirement is given clearly then it is highly expected to provide time and cost estimation in your application. Almost all of the employers posting job on UpWork would have specific budget in mind for his project and if you can match their expectations then chances are pretty higher to grab that project. It is not that easy and will take some time to start reading employer's mind but as you experience, you will start realizing what is client's expectation in terms of time and cost without him telling directly. Another crucial point is to be realistic in estimation. Quoting too low might loose your interest in the project after work is started and quoting too high will never convert the client. While getting started on platform, you might work for little lower rate but it shouldn't be too low that you do not feel working for the project after confirming it. My another blog giving tips on how to quote for project might be helpful.
- Be communicative: Communication is the key for success of any project. Be in constant touch with client through upwork messages, skype, email or any other medium you choose. Once project is started, give regular (possibly daily) updates to client on what has been done, what you are going to do and what are the hurdles you are facing. Keeping client in loop as you progress will make client fully aware about what is happening in the project and he might point out quickly if you are loosing track somewhere which will save time and energy at both the ends.
- Always aim for 5 Star rating: In the initial phase of your journey you surely can't afford anything less than 5 star rating for any project. When there isn't big work history to showcase on your profile and rating is also bad then probabilities of getting considered by employer will be pretty lower. So, before ending the contract make fully sure that client is 100% satisfied with your work and he is going to give you 5 star rating. If he is not happy, then go extra mile to please him but try to get 5 star rating. It will be good investment of your time and energy.
Overall, it requires honest efforts to succeed on UpWork but if you do not have other sources to get projects then it's one of the best options to start with. Remember, there are no shortcuts to success. Keep trying and you shall win!
P.S.: Though this post is written keeping upwork.com in mind, the points mentioned would stand true for other freelancing sites too like freelancer.com, guru.com, peopleperhour.com and such.