Upwork is one of the most popular freelance platforms, with millions of clients posting jobs and freelancers bidding on projects. But how does Upwork actually work? This guide covers the key steps for getting started on Upwork and successfully navigating the marketplace as a freelancer.

Creating a Compelling Freelancer Profile

Your Upwork profile is your resume and sales pitch, so craft it carefully to appeal to clients. Highlight your skills, experience, portfolio samples, achievements, and reviews. Use a professional photo and outline your background in your overview section. Complete your profile fully for better visibility.

Taking Skill Assessments

Upwork uses standardized tests to verify freelancers’ expertise. Completing assessments in your skill categories raises your profile credibility. Many clients filter for freelancers with verified assessed skills. Schedule relevant tests in web development, design, writing, virtual assistance, and more based on your focus areas.

Searching for Jobs to Bid On

Browse and search through posted jobs based on type, pay, duration, keywords, client history and other filters to find good matches. Look for projects where you are confident you can deliver quality work for the client. Avoid ultra budget jobs with low pay rates.

Submitting Proposals and Quotes

When you find a promising project, submit a custom proposal explaining why you are an excellent fit and your approach. Provide a quote outlining your rates and availability. Set clear expectations around deliverables, timelines, and communication. Use Upwork’s proposal templates or create your own.

Communication and Interviews with Clients

Clients review submissions and select top candidates to communicate with further. Be responsive over messages and interviews. Ask clarifying questions to ensure you fully understand the client’s needs before agreeing to a contract. Establish rapport and trust.

Getting Selected for the Job

Once the client chooses you for the job, you’ll receive a notification to officially accept the offer and terms or request modifications to the contract. Carefully review project specifics like payment terms and milestones before accepting to avoid issues.

Doing the Agreed Upon Work

Complete the work outlined in the project contract diligently by the deadlines agreed upon. Maintain regular communication with the client to provide status updates, ask clarifying questions, or request feedback on progress submissions.

Getting Paid for Completed Work

Bill for and submit completed project milestones or deliverables through Upwork’s platform. Clients approve and release escrowed milestone funds. Or Upwork automatically pays fixed price jobs within 5 days of submitting work. Ensure you agree to verified payment methods.

Leaving Feedback After Project Completion

Once the contract ends, you and the client should leave feedback scores and reviews about your experience. Good feedback helps win future jobs. Notify clients when you send a review request, so they remember to submit feedback too.

Building Your Reputation Over Time

As you complete more jobs successfully, your profile stats, reviews,repeat clients, and earned badges will grow. This improves your reputation so you can raise rates and win bigger better-paying projects. Deliver outstanding work consistently.

Frequently Asked Questions

What percentage does Upwork take from freelancers? Upwork charges freelancers a service fee of either 5% or 20% depending on account tier. Rates drop through high lifetime billings.

When can I withdraw money earned on Upwork? Funds become available usually 5 days after submitting work, once the waiting period passes. Then you can withdraw at any time.

What happens if I have a dispute with a client? Try to resolve minor issues directly. For larger disputes, contact Upwork who can freeze payments and investigate what happened.

Can I bring on subcontractors to help complete projects? Yes, you can outsource to subcontractors but the client must be made aware and approve of any subcontractors you use.

How many jobs should I bid on to land my first contract?
Expect to submit 10-20 proposals before landing your first client. Bid selectively for jobs perfectly matching your abilities.

What makes for a compelling profile versus competitors? Great work samples, specific skill keywords, niche focus areas, client reviews, badges for tests passed, and a professional personal overview.

With the right strategic approach, Upwork can become a steady source of remote freelance income in your field of expertise. Consistently deliver excellent work to build your reputation over time.


  • Gio Watts

    Gio Watts brings over 10 years of digital marketing experience to his role as marketing manager at Walletminded. In his current position, Gio oversees brand marketing, campaign management, and audience growth initiatives. Prior to joining Walletminded, Gio held marketing roles at several ecommerce and SaaS startups, most recently serving as senior marketing manager at CloudTable Inc. There, he specialized in paid social advertising and content marketing. Gio holds a bachelor’s degree in business marketing from the University of Oregon. He is a certified content marketing specialist and frequently guest lectures at his alma mater. When he's not devising omni-channel marketing campaigns, you can find Gio coaching youth basketball and indulging his passion for live music.

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