If you’re looking for freelancing jobs online, you must sign up on Upwork. Jobs for beginners are plentiful here, as it is one of the best freelancing sites or outsourcing websites online.
In the article below, Nick Tubis, Founder and CEO of FreelancingClients.com offers secret Upwork hacks for freelancers to help you stand out from the competition and differentiate yourself so you can build a successful career as a freelancer on Upwork.
Nick is a serial entrepreneur and has been a driving force of the freelance economy. He is also a Forbes strategist on Freelancing. His company has helped thousands of people escape the 9 to 5 and build their own freelance businesses from over 25 different countries.
Previously Nick founded LiveVoice which was one of the fastest-growing virtual reception companies which were acquired in 2017. He also founded OrderSolutions which disrupted the restaurant industry and is now one of the fastest-growing restaurant call centre companies in the United States.
Nick has interviewed and worked with 20 of the world’s highest-paid freelancers that have made 10 million dollars on just Upwork alone.
His students have been able to land meetings and deals with companies like Amazon, Hilton, Samsung, Papa John’s, AutoZone, Tom’s Shoes, Wells Fargo, Verizon, Stripe, and hundreds of other notable brands.
In this interview, Nick offers some excellent tips on branding yourself as a freelancer. You’ll learn how to get work on Upwork and how to bid on Upwork projects.
Nick also offers insider Upwork hacks to help you choose a niche, create the best Upwork profile and land Upwork jobs for beginners.
One of the biggest mistakes that I see freelancers make is they try to go on, let’s just say a freelancing platform like Upwork or Fiverr or whatever it might be, and they try to do everything right, but they struggle to land their first client.
And the answer is always the same. It’s because of branding and that they don’t have any reviews, so clients don’t trust them. And nowadays, if you don’t have reviews, everything is so public.
Clients won’t trust you and client attention spans are so short now. If you can’t build trust with them and grab their attention, they’ll probably move on and hire someone else.
So the thing I’ve always told my clients and students is, let’s focus on getting reviews, getting five-star reviews, getting testimonials, getting case studies instead of just focusing on getting clients and making money because the money comes from the reviews, the brand.
It’s like whenever I go to the store, I will literally look for the brand I like and just be invisible to anything else because I have such an affinity with that brand. So probably the biggest thing is building a brand as a freelancer.
If you want to get clients and if you want to build a real business from home, you’ve got to establish, establish your brand.
A couple of years ago, I was growing our restaurant call centre business. At the time, I started writing blog posts every week and started posting best practices for hiring a call centre or how to increase upsells, just things that were within my space.
And I was shocked by how many clients were reaching out to me. I wasn’t even trying to get clients, but you build the brand, you position yourself as an authority and it was amazing.
So whatever you can do to provide value as a freelancer and instead of trying to take, but just to give to people, your ROI will be huge.
Nowadays I’ve noticed a lot of clients are sceptical, it’s hard for them to believe you until you help them. It’s hard for them to trust you.
I’ll give you an example of freelancer I interviewed who’s very successful in India. She’s made hundreds of thousands of dollars on Upwork. And she told me one of her best strategies was she would go on Upwork and she would see a job that she wanted to submit a proposal.
And all she did is use a tool called Loom to do a little screencast. And she would make a little video providing value in the proposal. And she stood out from all the other freelancers.
And that was her big secret to getting attention and getting clients because clients are just sifting through proposals over and over again. But then here’s this one that stands out and adds value. So, even if she charges more, they want to hire her because it shows that she cares.
And again it goes back to what you said – it’s the brand. All this goes to building the brand. So videos are great, blogs are great. I’ve done videos with my face in them. I’ve done videos with just doing my screencast. I’ve done blog posts and also I’ll give you another example.
I have a free training program for freelancers that I started doing just for this. It’s called Freelance University and it’s totally free.
You can go to FreelancingClients.com and sign up and every single day I’ve created a five-minute video with one big idea that a freelancer could apply that day to help them. And my strategy, my motivation is I want to help people.
Number two, I know if I help people, they’ll want more and buy all of our courses and our higher-end content, but that is a strategy.
I do it all in advance. So I’ll write the scripts or the episodes a month in advance. I do 30 episodes of Freelance University, which topics to uncover and then go shoot them all at once, so it’s really efficient and then I’ll just have my team go post it and we’ll put it all over social media.
I actually learned that from someone who’s a big productivity guy named Darren Hardy, who’s been a mentor to me and he does something similar with his own free training program called Darren Daily, which is awesome.
But again, it’s all designed to add value, solve problems and, and I’m a big marketing guy. So what that does is it pre-frames your audience to have a bond with you. It pre-frames them to trust you.
So if you want more clients, if you give value first, your chances of landing that client are a hundred times more than if you just try to sell someone cold. They don’t know you, they don’t know anything about you, they don’t know if you can help them.
Some people don’t like being on camera. Some people don’t like videos. What you can do is you could transcribe, you can make a video just for yourself that no one sees. And then you can use a service called Temi Transcription Software. It’s 80 cents or something like that.
And then you just transcribe what you write and edit it and then you could get a freelancer, if you’re not good at with designs, and make it look nice and then you have something you can share with people. And it builds that bond. So I’ve done all of that. And hopefully that, that adds some value.
So we put Freelance University on all kinds of different channels. But the cool thing is if you just go to our website freelancingclients.com, you could just opt-in and then every morning you’ll get that email with a video from us.
What hasn’t worked for me is when I’ve tried to go for a sale or get a client without helping them. And I’ll tell you a story.
When I first started freelancing clients a while ago, we used to have a sales team and we used to try to sell on the phone.
And clients, rightfully so, would be a little sceptical cause we hadn’t helped them and they were, well, you know, can you help me with this, this and this?
And I know salespeople do this all the time and this was a big mistake. This is why I’ve kind of changed the path with freelance university putting out content.
Because information is everywhere now, and if you’re not adding value, you’ll never be able to build a brand and it is competitive today. This is just another lesson that that has helped me, and it also I think will help a lot of freelancers.
When I started this OrderSolutions call centre business, I had previously been in the call centre business with live voice and it was really competitive. It was not like we just make money day one. It was a grind and we had tons of competitors all going off to the same clients.
And the thing that really helped was when we started the restaurant call centre business, is I did a lot of research on different industries and I was like, you know what, I’m going to stand out.
The easiest thing I can do is just focus on one industry and I’m going to become the best at serving that one industry.
And this is directly related to freelancing because as a freelancer, you’re serving businesses or the majority of them. So, if you can specialize in your branding, you’re ahead of 99.9% of freelancers.
I’ll give you another example. I hire a lot of freelancers, and I hired a guy recently who I pay a lot of money who just does Facebook ads because a lot of our students want to do Facebook ads.
The problem with that is so many people offer that service. But what if you can be the Facebook ads person for real estate agents and you understand that, then you can charge a lot more for your service.
I mean, because you have the specialized knowledge of the industry or for me, I sell online courses. So, if I would pay someone twice or three times as much that understands the online course business for Facebook ads because I’ve made that mistake.
I’ve hired people and then I figured out that I know more about it than them and they can’t provide value.
So I guess the lesson is if you can specialize with your brand – and it doesn’t have to be just one, it could be a couple of different niches or services or industries – you’re ahead of 99.9% of the competition because most people won’t specialize.
I’ve done all the networking events and I found them to be very expensive, inefficient. Yes, you meet people that are really smart.
But if you’re looking at it as, I want to spend $2,000 go to this expensive conference, fly all the way over there and hopefully I’ll get a ton of clients, that’s not the best strategy I recommend.
One thing that I’ve done is use LinkedIn to network with people without leaving home or anywhere and not trying to sell or anything, but just being complimentary of what they’re doing and trying to get people on the phone and network has worked extremely well.
That’s how I’ve met a lot of really successful people. Because what I found is if you’re not salesy, but complementary and you’re trying to help people, very successful people will talk to you.
I had a girl from the Philippines send this detailed report recently, and I was blown away. I almost felt so bad. I felt like I have to talk to this girl and help her because she gave me so much value and I have to reciprocate.
So when you can help people and network with LinkedIn, with Facebook, you don’t have to travel. I’m just big into networking online. I also think Facebook groups are really good.
I have a Facebook group that’s public that anyone can join. It’s called the Freelance Community. There’s nothing for sale. Basically people just share ideas about how to get clients or what’s worked for them. And that’s a great way to meet people.
If you want to be in business, you have to be putting out content and be the person who can put out the most content that helps people, and from my own experience, I’ve lost that battle too.
In my last business, there was a call centre company that does billions of dollars and that’s what they focused on early. They focused on putting out content and concept, whereas most of the other competitors were just trying to sell and get clients, sell, sell, sell, get clients, and they’re now going public.
And so the point is that if you can just put out content, it might start off slow. When you’re putting out organic content, you’re not going to just wake up the next day with a million YouTube subscribers or things like that.
You’ve got to just keep going and just say, all right, I’m going to do this for six months and I’m just going to keep posting on every social channel and it will build over time.
People talk and if people like it they’ll share it. But 100% it is a requirement if you want to charge premium prices and not be viewed as a commodity. Putting out good content that actually helps people will put you ahead of 99% of the competition.
I have an eBook called the Freelancer Client Acquisition Blueprint that I could send you. I’m actually thinking about writing a book on freelancing this year. I haven’t started it, but that’s something on the, the New Year’s resolution.
Today, if I took a new freelancer, I’m just going to use Upwork because that’s where I believe is the easiest way to get started when you know how to use it correctly.
I would have them set up their Upwork profile, and I’ll give you a little sneak peek on a tutorial I did because this is really interesting. Most people don’t know about this.
So Upwork is a two-sided platform. There is the client-side of the platform and then there’s the freelancer side and the interface that you see is totally different actually, and most people don’t realize this.
So what I figured out is if you sign up on Upwork as a freelancer, you have limited visibility in what the other Upwork freelancer profiles are saying and what work history they have.
So if you just do this one thing, all you do is you set up the Upwork client account. So you set up a freelancer account and a client account and you could actually have them enter in, are locked.
And I just go back and forth from one to the other. And then what you’ll do is when you’re in your client account, you click the find work tab and then you’ll see all these different filters.
This works if you’re not sure what service you want to provide or what niche you want to get into. So then I look through the categories and let’s just say I choose a web developer for example.
Then, what I would do is go to the filters and you’ll see stuff like how much the freelancer’s profiles bid on Upwork because Upwork verifies all their earnings.
And then I would only want to see freelancers that have built a thousand hours on Upwork and that are charging more than $60 an hour or U.S. dollars. And then I would either turn on the button that says U.S. only or U.S .off.
If I was based outside the U.S., I turn it off because I want to see what people are doing outside of the U.S. If I was in the U.S. I’d leave that on.
And then Upwork’s algorithm starts spitting out top Upwork profiles that meet that criteria to have great reviews and you’ll see people that are making hundreds of thousands of dollars on Upwork. And then what you do is look at their profiles, see what services they’re doing.
And here’s the coolest part – if you scroll down on a profile and you see the work history tab, what that means is literally, is not what they’re saying they can provide, but what they’ve gotten paid for. You can see how much they got paid for.
So you might see that someone an eBook for realtors. And if you had that skill set, you might be, Oh, I can do eBooks for realtors on my profile. You know you’ve got something that’ll get their attention. This will give you a huge head start because a lot of freelancers that get into our programs have no idea what services to offer.
They kind of know what skills they have, but they don’t know what services or what niche to get into. This will help you find your niche within a day, and over time you can change it.
Then the second thing I would do is really important because a lot of your listeners might have been having a hard time getting their first client on Upwork.
And the reason they have a hard time is not that they’re not skilled enough or they don’t have enough experience, it’s because they don’t have the reviews.
So it’s like when you go on Amazon. The first thing I do when I go on Amazon is I look at a product and how many reviews does it have. If it doesn’t have any reviews, I’m not going to buy it.
So what you can do is focus on getting five to 10, five-star reviews from existing clients outside of Upwork. I would try to get them to hire you. I would give them a deal on a project.
I would go on Facebook groups and I would say, “Hey you know, I’m just getting started on Upwork. Here’s what I’m really good at. I will do this at a discount. I’m really looking for reviews because I know it’s going to help me long-term.”
I would do that. I would leverage anywhere I could to get those reviews. Because when you get five to 10 on Upwork, that’s when you get that job success score, which is the way Upwork rates their freelancers.
There’s mean without a job success score, it will be a little difficult to get clients to reach out to you and you will have to just keep reaching out to them. And, if you do those first two things, you’re on your way to doing very well.
It’s about reviews and it’s about being in the right niche. And then, there’s a lot more stuff, advanced stuff that you can do with the agency, without sourcing all kinds of stuff.
But, those two things should help a ton. I’ll give you an example. One of our first clients, his name’s Nick Brian. He had tried Upwork before, couldn’t land one client.
And this kid is very smart. He’s worked at some of the top startups. He’s an amazing developer and he couldn’t get one. He was like, I hate Upwork. It sucks, blah, blah, blah.
I’m like, Nick, just do what I say for four weeks. If it doesn’t work, you know, we’ll give you your money back. And what we did is, all right, Nick, let’s focus on getting reviews. You have no reviews. That’s the problem.
Four weeks later, he made $40,000 so fast. He’s doing $100,000 a month. So those aren’t typical results, but he’s one of our most successful students.
We also help clients outside of Upwork, like with email and go after higher ticket clients. But it just shows you that this stuff really works. And again, reviews and getting the right niche helps.
Upwork has gone public recently and they had a lot of capital. So they’re advertising aggressively, not to freelancers but to businesses. So I expect more and more clients, higher quality clients coming to Upwork.
And well if you’re not on Upwork, I really recommend signing up because Upwork acquired oDesk and Elance, and I see them as being the Facebook of freelancing where they’ll acquire any up and coming because they have billions of dollars.
So, I think it’s a great platform if you know how to use it the right way. And I just want to say you can do it. It’s not rocket science. It doesn’t matter if you’re not the smartest person or the most skilled or experienced.
I spent a year interviewing 20 of the world’s highest-paid freelancers from all different countries, India, the West, UK, and what fascinated me about that whole process is these people are not the smartest people, but they figured out how to get clients. They’re very strategic.
So if someone wants to listen to my interviews, I actually sell them for like less than a cup of coffee at freelancingclients.com. They’re fun, they’re entertaining. It’s a lot of content there. And it’s like gold for freelancers.
Did this interview help you understand how does Upwork work? Want to learn more about freelancing on Upwork? Sign up on Freelance University and check out Nick’s interviews with the Top 20 Freelancers.
About the author:
Priya Florence Shah is the author of Devi2Diva, an emotional self-care book for women. In the book and online course, you’ll learn how to throw off the shackles of your own limiting beliefs, come into your power and design your destiny.