In previous articles, I explained how to use platforms like Upwork and Fiverr to your advantage when starting a new content writing career. Now, I can’t claim any expertise with Fiverr, but my experience with Upwork has been extremely positive. (See my Upwork profile for proof if you like.)
I’ve billed over $21,800USD on the Upwork platform, and most of that was during the last three months.
Last month was especially lucrative. I grossed $6245.84 in March of 2020, just using the Upwork platform. It’s not ridiculous money, but considering that I started content writing on Upwork in my spare time while I was getting my MBA I’ll definitely take it.
Continue reading below to learn how you can start making thousands of dollars per month by content writing on Upwork.
Content Writing on Upwork: Getting Accepted
Before you can start writing content on Upwork you’ll need to be accepted to the platform. They don’t accept just anyone. Upwork is trying to position itself as an elite freelancing service, a place where major enterprises can come to find the best talent. Therefore, it’s a perfect place for content writers who can claim some sort of special, prestigious, or unique characteristics.
Professionals who seek to write content as a side job are perfect candidates. If you’ve got a university education (especially from an elite institution), a Master’s or professional degree, a PhD, or professional experience you’ve got a great shot at making it into the Upwork clan.
University-educated teachers, accountants, lawyers, doctors, engineers, nurses and medical technologists are all solid applicants for content writing on Upwork.
Don’t skimp on the effort in building your application. Treat it seriously. Put your best foot forward, include all of your professional experience, and discuss all of your educational qualifications and skills.
If your application is rejected, take some time to examine what may have gone wrong and try again. The Upwork platform is lucrative enough to make trying again more than worth it.
Content Writing on Upwork: Building A Profile
Once you’ve been accepted, complete the entirety of your Upwork content writing profile. Verify your identity, connect your payment accounts, and post a professional picture. Check out Upwork’s tips on how to best complete your profile and get started.
Building a profile on Upwork is similar to building out your profile on a network like LinkedIn. Think of the entire profile as an ad, with you as the product. Before you can build the perfect ad, you need to know who you’re building it for. So ask yourself, who is your perfect client? What does he or she look like? What does he or she do for a living? Is she a personal finance blog operator? An e-commerce site owner? A bookkeeper trying to start her own website?
You may be tempted to make your profile appeal to as many people as possible but that would be a mistake. Anything that attempts to appeal to everyone will ultimately appeal to no one. So, to keep it simple for yourself, do the following:
- Pick one or two qualities or characteristics about yourself that make you stand out from the content writing crowd on Upwork. They don’t have to be completely unique, just rare enough that most people don’t share the trait. For example, you may be fluent in Russian, have attended an elite university, worked at McKinsey, or be a member of a profession.
- Imagine your ideal client and explain, in your profile description, how you will solve that client’s problems. For example, if you’re targeting e-commerce site owners, explain how your experience in marketing will help them move product.
You’ll notice that in the screenshot at the top of this article my profile mentions my two distinguishing characteristics: my Ivy-league education and my profession. I then go on to mention how I deliver on short timelines and at my clients’ convenience. Finally, I mention three areas of expertise (business, law, and finance) that are aligned with my education and professional experience.
Content Writing on Upwork: Finding Your First Client
Now that you’ve got your profile up and running it’s time to find your first client. At this stage, it’s important not to cast your net too wide or too narrow. In the latter case, your search will likely yield no results. In the former, you’ll wind up with a lot of unanswered pitches and unsatisfied clients.
I’ve found a couple of good rules of thumb for picking jobs to apply for when beginning to write content on Upwork:
- Apply to jobs that were posted very recently
- Apply to jobs that specifically mention new freelancers are welcome
- Apply to jobs that mention subject areas in which you are an expert
- Apply to jobs posted by clients with ratings less than 4/5 stars
- Apply to jobs posted by clients who don’t provide feedback to their freelancers
- Apply to jobs that require subject matter expertise you don’t have
- Apply to jobs that indicate requirements you don’t remotely meet
- Apply to jobs when the language of the advertisement suggests the client is unreasonable, unpleasant, or difficult to work with
I cannot emphasize responsible client selection enough. Choosing the wrong client at the beginning of your Upwork career can be a serious, even fundamental, mistake. It can severely and permanently undermine your ability to make money on the platform. While you don’t need to be overly cautious, it’s imperative that you do not choose clients who regularly criticize their freelancers or provide negative reviews. This behavior is evidence of unreasonable demands, unclear communication of expectations, an inability to work productively with others, or an inability to properly vet freelancers.
As for your pitch to each client, ensure that you customize each letter. Don’t copy/paste a generic cover letter for every client. You may as well not bother. Instead, with each pitch, ask yourself:
- What problem is the client trying to solve with this job?
- Why am I the best Upwork content writer to provide a solution to this problem?
Include the answers to those questions in your cover letter.
So let’s say you’ve got your first client. If you’ve been deliberate about your profile positioning and carefully selected who you’re pitching to, you’re off to a great start with that client. There should already be alignment between your skills and their needs. The only thing left to do now is to actually do the work.
In the near future I’ll deliver another article about how to write content on Upwork and how to deal with the ins and outs of the platform. But, for now, suffice to say that you’ll need to use common sense and adopt a client-first mentality. That means:
- Answering client messages promptly and fully
- Responding quickly to requests for edits, re-writes, and changes
- Politely requesting clarification if and when client expectations are unclear
- Taking every possible step to ensure that the client gets what he or she expects, or more
Remember, your goal isn’t just to get paid, it’s to get five-star feedback at the end of the engagement. Each five-star engagement makes it that much easier to get your next client, increases your credibility and perceived skill, and improves your negotiating position.
If you’re willing to bring the same professional attitude you bring to your day job to content writing on Upwork you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the reactions you get from clients. Unprofessional and flaky behavior by freelancers is a plague on online platforms and clients are often refreshed to receive quality service.
Hopefully I’ve been able to shed some light on how to go about catching your first few clients on Upwork. It’s not rocket surgery but you want to tread carefully at the beginning because a few bad reviews out of the gate can sink your chances of making money in the future. So keep the above-noted advice in mind, choose your clients carefully, and deliver quality work. You’ll do just fine.