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“Do or do not. There is no try.”

Yoda

Yesterday, I promised to describe how to capture your first client in 72 hours. Today, I begin following through on that promise. Follow these steps, and you’ll almost certainly have your first paying writing client within 3 days.

Now, I don’t want to oversell this short series. It’s not going to contain anything groundbreaking. I’m going to take you through the simple process I went through when I got started writing. Over the next three days, we’ll go through the basics of starting an Upwork account, how to position that account to attract clients, and how to apply for jobs on the platform when you’re just starting out.

Most of the value you extract from this series will come from the things you do, not read. So don’t just read this article. Go through the steps included within and comment below on your progress. I want to hear how you’re doing.

So, without further adieu, here is how you land a freelance writing client in 72 hours.

Prerequisites

You’re going to need a couple of things to get started with this process. In short, you’ll need the following:

  • A desktop or laptop computer connected to the internet.
  • A phone capable of receiving text messages.
  • An address
  • An ability to write*

*Your writing ability doesn’t need to be world-class. It just needs to be at a point where its not painful to read. Anyone who regularly writes English in their day-to-day life, inside or outside of a full-time job, should have this ability. We’re going to be targeting low-hanging fruit at the beginning, so you’ll have time to develop your writing skills as you go on.

Day 1: Applying to Upwork

If you’re going to follow my method to landing your first client, you’re going to need to get an account on Upwork. Upwork doesn’t let just anyone join. You have to pass their screening process in order to post to jobs on their portal. I’ll take you through their application process and explain what it takes to be accepted.

We’re picking Upwork rather than another portal because it’s highly popular, contains a mix of low- and high-paying clients, and has clients from all over the world. It also happens to be the portal that gave me my start, so I’m partial to it.

For those of you who already have an Upwork account, my apologies for the redundant content. I invite you to come back tomorrow when I go over how to refine your profile and attract new clients.

Get Started

Navigate to the Upwork website. Click the Get Started button.

upwork sign up

Once you’ve clicked the button, you’re taken to this page:

upwork sign up

I strongly suggest that you sign up with a professional email address. To make things easy you for you, you can sign up for GSuite for a few dollars a month. Because Upwork relies heavily on AI to sort the wheat from the chaff, many suspect that accounts created with a public email account are more likely to be rejected than those with a professional email account.

So, do yourself a favor, get an email host, and punch it into that Work email address box.

Complete Account Setup

You’ll then be greeted by this screen:

upwork sign up

Highlight the Work as a Freelancer button and fill in the information accurately. Choose a professional-looking username. After you click Create My Account you’ll be asked to verify your email address. Do so now.

Upwork Sign Up: Expertise

Now is where you’ll have to begin making choices and using your brain. You’re first taken to the Expertise screen. Here you select one of a number of different skill categories. Go ahead and select Writing.

You’re then asked to choose up to four types of work. Make sure that you choose exactly four. You don’t want to pick less because there’s no need to pigeonhole yourself at this early stage. Choose the four types of work that you’re best at.

Next, you’re asked to choose up to ten skills. Use the following two keywords to help find skills related to writing: “writing” and “content.” Make sure you select, at a minimum, content writing and writing. It’s absolutely critical that you select all ten skills. It’s equally critical that you select skills that have to do with writing. Take a look at what I picked for my test run:

Upwork Sign Up: Expertise Level

You’re next given an opportunity to choose your experience level. If you write English every day at your job or as a hobby, I would suggest you just choose Expert in this section. This is as much for Upwork’s sake during the application process (since it stands to reason that they’d want an expert more than an intermediate-level freelancer) as it is for marketing purposes.

Never choose Entry level. After all, if you were “relatively new to” writing English, you wouldn’t be looking to be a freelance writer.

Upwork Sign Up: Education

Enter all of your formal and informal education in the next section. Make sure that you include all of your education: online and offline. Do you have a course from Coursera or Udemy? Add it. Do you have a professional certification? Add it. It goes without saying that you should add all offline, formal education.

Upwork Sign Up: Employment

As with the education section, make sure that you include all of your employment. Include volunteer work, work done informally, freelance work, and any other paid or unpaid employment. Don’t miss anything.

Upwork Sign Up: Languages

In this selection, select English. Then, unless it’s a complete lie, select the Native speaker option. You can feel free to select a less fluent option, but don’t be surprised if Upwork rejects your application. After all, why is someone with less than native-level English trying to get hired as a writer?

Upwork Sign Up: Hourly Rate

For your Hourly Rate choose a rate that reflects your value. As a rough idea, I’d suggest you go no lower than $30 as long as you write English on a daily basis and are either a native speaker or bilingual. The reason you don’t want to go too low is that you don’t want to communicate to Upwork that you bring only a small amount of value. They’ve got legions of people working for pennies on the dollar cluttering up their portal. Don’t be one of them.

If you really have no idea what to charge, just put $35 in there and be done with it.

Upwork Sign Up: Profile

And we finally come to the nub of it. The title and profile section. A well-designed title and profile will increase your chances of being accepted to the platform and ensure you’re able to land clients after you’re accepted.

Your title needs to be a concise statement that captures attention and communicates the value you bring.

Your profile can be quite lengthy. You should address at least a few issues in your profile:

  1. The problems you can solve for your clients
  2. The niche you occupy
  3. The qualities that set you apart from other writers

If you’re having difficulty with this section, leave a comment below and let me know.

It’s important not to half-ass it at this point. Your title and profile are probably the most important parts of your Upwork account. They will determine if you get selected for jobs and how often. I’ve written previously about how to create a strong profile, most recently in this article about Content Writing on Upwork.

upwork sign up

Upwork Sign Up: Photo

This one should be easy. Choose a clear, professional headshot and add it. If you don’t have a clear, professional headshot or photograph, go have one taken and add it. Whatever you do, don’t add an unprofessional or unsuitable photograph.

Upwork Sign Up: Phone Number and Location

This should be no problem. Enter these accurately and move along.

Waiting is the Hardest Part

You’ve reached the end of the process. Now, all you have left to do is wait. Upwork promises to get back to people within 24 hours of their application, so sit tight for a day.

While we wait for your acceptance to come through, get a headstart by reading this article on how to use Upwork effectively. Tomorrow, we’ll cover how to refine your profile to get that all important first client.

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