So, first of all, I want to give a bit of a disclaimer. I am not, in any way, giving an endorsement of the Upwork platform. I am simply relaying my experiences that have turned my freelance career into a powerhouse, and because Upwork is a super-popular freelancing platform, it is the best bet for new freelancers to get started.
So, I have been freelancing ever since I became a paralegal in 2012. While in college, I discussed with one of my law professors the pros and cons of being a freelance paralegal, and the positives outweighed the negatives, so I decided I would go that route. The most powerful draw for me was the opportunity to gain experience with just about any discipline of the legal field that I wanted instead of staying with one law office and working in one field of law.
I jumped into the freelance world with little experience but a ton of references. Again, while in college, I became close with many of my law professors, and each one was gleefully happy to write me a letter of recommendation to show to potential attorney clients. I started to slowly gain experience working with attorneys all over the state in everything from criminal law to real estate litigation to mediation and basic trial preparation. I also started my own local service helping people in my immediate community with family law issues, such as divorce, custody, paternity, and just about anything else that the law permitted me to do with direct client interaction.
Then, I decided that I wanted to start writing in addition to my work as a paralegal. So, earlier last year, I decided to go ahead and register on Upwork. I put my absolute best into creating my application profile after learning that Upwork staff has to approve each potential freelancer before going live on the platform. I was easily approved, and thus, I started to look around at the available jobs.
My first contract was with the owner of a website who needed content written. He paid me a very fair rate, and I was quickly able to show him that my writing skills were second to none. He ended up extending the initial contract out, from $100 for the first job to over $1700 by the time I was done with everything he needed content for.
Next, I started with a long-term contract in which I wrote blog posts for a business and marketing company. That contract lasted for about 5 months, but during that time, I picked up one of my first hourly paralegal contracts that still is in force to this day, along with some other small jobs.
As time went on, I strove for complete client satisfaction, to the point that my lowest feedback score from a client was 4.75 out of 5.00, and the rest were all perfect scores. This led me to become part of Upwork’s “Top Rated” program, and ever since then, my career has absolutely skyrocketed, to the point where many clients offer me contracts without ever even speaking to me personally, and many of these have since led to fruitful, lucrative long-term contracts that I still work with today.
I am to the point to where I am about to be able to hire another freelancer to work with me on some of the more tedious parts of my contracts. This is incredibly exciting to me, in that it has always been a dream of mine to be able to create jobs in my community.
The takeaway here is the speed with which I have attained the level of success that I have reached. It never would have happened without Upwork’s brilliantly put together platform. The ability to reach potential clients is incredibly simple, and best of all, you get a total of 60 free “connects” per month. Each job that you apply for takes up 2 “connects,” so without paying a dime, you can potentially apply for up to 30 gigs per month. When you first start out, I suggest doing a search through your job feed for the term “entry-level,” and you will find all sorts of beginner jobs that pay very little but will allow you to quickly build your feedback on the platform. Once you have built a good reputation, it’s pretty easy to get the higher-paying jobs. At this point in time, I have such a good reputation that I am finding myself turning away potentially thousands of dollars PER WEEK because there is no way I can take on extra work at this moment. I refuse to give less than my 100% all to my clients, so I have to turn these offers down, which I guess is a good problem to have.
So, getting started with Upwork, it is very important to create your initial profile in a very professional manner that gives very detailed descriptions of your abilities. This is because, as I mentioned, your initial profile must be submitted for review before you are approved for an account. If you create something that is vague or minimal, you will get rejected with a message that they are not looking for freelancers with your skill at the moment.
Once your account is approved, if you follow the advice above, you WILL get jobs. Every 2 weeks, the system runs your account through an algorithm that assigned you a “Job Success Score.” It takes awhile for you to get the first JSS score because your history takes awhile to build itself. The more of the small “entry level” gigs you work, the faster you will get a JSS. Many of the good, long-term, and high-paying gigs require you to have a JSS score of 90% or more, and once you have reached 90%, your opportunities are endless.
Remember, part of what I do involves helping freelancers to get established. I will be publishing many posts that will assist you in getting started, but aside from that, I offer 1-on-1 sessions to help you to better understand the scene and make the most out of your new freelancing career. I understand that it can seem daunting and just plain scary to give up the promise of a bi-weekly paycheck and a position at a corporation in exchange for taking on the responsibility for your own success. However, the fact is — freelancing is the future, and if you get in on the scene now, you will be well prepared for the soon-to-come paradigm shift in the world’s workplace. I would never advise you to quit your job until you have built your own presence on whatever freelancing platform you choose. That means that you may have to work your job during your normal work hours and work your contracts when you get home. I’m also not going to sugarcoat it and tell you that it is easy. It’s not. It is process that is full of hard work in order to make it worth your while, but eventually, if you still with it, you can easily match the income that you make working at your 9-to-5.