Sometimes it seems that everyone and their cousin has an Upwork horror story. Clients from hell, vicious Upwork moderators, and unfair treatment abound in these tales of freelancing woe. Now, I’m not saying that everyone has a positive experience on Upwork. As with any other service, many do not have a great time. But a lot of the horror stories seem to be caused by a lack of knowledge regarding how to use Upwork effectively.

I suggest in this article that 90% of running a successful freelance service business like content writing is client selection and management. Continue reading below to see our favorite tips on how to select and manage clients, and get that coveted “Top Rated” status.

My current Upwork Job Success score.

How To Use Upwork Effectively: Selecting Clients

I’ve already written an article on where to find content writing clients in which I discuss the importance of careful client selection. I won’t repeat everything I talked about in that article, but I will reiterate the importance of screening clients based on their job posting, pre-engagement behavior, and past feedback of other freelancers.

It’s a sad but true fact that some clients are simply impossible to please. Luckily, these people usually make themselves known pretty early on during a relationship. It’s rare that a bad client slips through a discerning freelancer’s filter if they’re paying attention. At the risk of repeating myself, a huge part of using Upwork effectively is client screening.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that a few bad eggs won’t make it through your defences. When this happens, all you can do is do the best job you can, document everything in writing on the Upwork platform, and hope for the best. If you’re Top Rated you can use your status to delete the occasional bad review and you might need to fall back on that ability.

How To Use Upwork Effectively: Managing Clients

how to use upwork effectively

In addition to avoiding bad clients (who are, in my experience, thankfully few and far between), you’ll need to avoid turning a good client into a bad one through bad or negligent behavior on your part. Many of these tips will be of no surprise to those who have worked in service industries before, but for those of you who havent, follow these rules religiously.

Always Underpromise and Overdeliver

Starting with your pitch and whenever you speak to the client, always promise less than what you believe you can deliver. If you think you can get the article done by Wednesday promise it by Friday. If you think you can manage 1000 words, promise 800.

The key here is setting expectations. Remember that the crucial factor that determines a client’s happiness with your work is not the quality of the work measured against some objective standard. It’s the quality of the work measured against the client’s expectations.

As the freelancer, you play a huge role in setting those expectations through the representations you make. Don’t fall into the trap of overpromising in order to land a gig or to please a client. Learning how to use Upwork effectively involves becoming an expert at setting and exceeding client expectations.

Respond Quickly and Often

Nothing sours a freelancing relationship faster than failing to respond to messages from the client. Regardless of your excuse, your client will not be happy if you go dark for several days or, worse, weeks. Recall that freelancing is a business like any other. How would you react if you sent a message to your lawyer, accountant, doctor, or a government official and didn’t receive a response for four days?

Some people make the mistake of treating a side job like it’s a side job. They don’t give it the priority it requires. While you obviously can’t neglect your other priorities to answer messages on Upwork, you should remember that your client doesn’t care if content writing is your side hustle or your main source of income. They just want to see the job through successfully. Using Upwork effectively means dedicating the time and energy you need to do your job well.

So, ensure that you’re pushing Upwork alerts to your phone and check in on the website at least once a day. Ideally, you’ll do this even on weekends (since a lot of clients are active on Saturdays and Sundays). Substantively answer client queries as quickly as possible (and always within 24 hours). If you can’t give a full answer immediately, message the client back with a quick, “I’ve received your message and will respond by [deadline]. Thanks!”

Watch Your Tone

how to use upwork effectively

After years of practicing law, I developed what my wife called my “email voice.” This was a short, curt, and sometimes blunt approach to how I communicated in writing with other people. Until she pointed it out, I never realized how rude I unintentionally appeared to the people receiving my communications. When I changed how I wrote, I was amazed to see the impact it had on the responses I got from people.

Remote work relies heavily on text messages and emails. There’s not a lot of face-to-face contact. As a result, the way you present yourself in writing is a hugely important component of using Upwork effectively and maintaining your professional relationships. You should pay careful attention to the details of your messages to clients. The punctuation, capitalization, and word choice all matter.

This is especially true for content writers, who are expected to effectively use language to convey the ideas of their clients. There’s a reason I identified content writing as the best side job for professionals. It’s because most of us already have the skills necessary to effectively communicate in writing. Use them.

Be Authentically Complimentary

Because clients on Upwork usually can’t see you face-to-face, friendliness has to be communicated explicitly. Whenever your client does something you appreciate or like, tell them you appreciated or liked it. If they offer to be flexible on a deadline, thank them for it and explain why it’s helpful to you. If you intend to give them five stars after an engagement is complete, tell them so and indicate why.

How To Use Upwork Effectively: Final Thoughts

Client selection and management can’t be reduced to a science. There’s a fair bit of what people commonly refer to as “soft skills” involved. But the principles discussed above will go a long way towards ensuring that you have positive relationships with your clients that result in repeat business and positive reviews.

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