How to Land Your First Freelance Writing Job on Upwork


How to Land Your First Freelance Writing Job on Upwork


I wrote for Upwork for a couple of years before I started a blog – I joined when they merged with Elance.

I earned a decent income of about $3,000 per month which I was happy to make, but since I wanted more, I decided to create a website.

The only hurdle to overcome is registering an account and getting your first job on Upwork.

This guide will help you achieve that.


What You Need to Know about Upwork

Content mills like Upwork are a great place to start when you’re a newbie with no experience. They give you experience, boost your profile, build your confidence, and help you grow as a freelancer.

What is the need of starting a writer blog when you have no experience, then abandon it after 3 months because you’re not motivated to keep blogging? Being a newbie, you likely don’t know how to market yourself, how to write proposals, and even how to write correctly.

Hence, it’s better to start writing on Upwork before you start a blog.

Although Upwork was introduced in 2015, it was created by the merger of two previously big sites: Elance and oDesk. Now, the site helps freelancers earn more than $1 billion from the millions of jobs posted annually.

freelancers earn more than $1 billion annually from Upwork

Besides, the site offers escrow payment protection for both hourly and fixed-price jobs. You’ll not worry about unscrupulous clients taking off with your content without paying.

And you get a variety of payment methods so you can cash your payment conveniently:

But it’s not free. There’s a sliding fee ranging from 5% to 20% (you pay a lower fee if you get a client paying more than $500).


The Secret to Succeeding on Upwork

Upwork looks so great, but getting in isn’t as easy now as it was in the past.

Nowadays, the site frequently rejects applications by newbies. I’ve had lots of beginners asking me to help them register an account.

And it gets worse.

Even freelancers on the site can have their accounts suspended without notice.


upwork account suspensions


After researching on the issue, I came to discover that the trick lies in the most fundamental understanding of what Upwork is and how it works. Having this knowledge will help you get on the site, and also getting your first job fast.

Lacking this knowledge is a sure recipe for disaster.


If you understand what Upwork is and how it works, you can help the site achieve its objectives which will, in turn, help you achieve your goals.

So, what is Upwork?

Upwork is a two-sided platform, connecting freelancers and clients by facilitating matching, communication and payment. That means the site tries to achieve a balance between the number of freelancers and clients.

Hence, the easiest way to get on Upwork’s good books is having a client whom you previously worked with directly, inviting you to work through Upwork. In fact, Upwork has a special Bring Your Own Freelancer (BYOF) option just for this.

Even top-rated freelancers can enjoy a 0% fee with the site’s ‘Bring Your Own Client‘ offer.

Ultimately, what will make Upwork accept your freelancer application is a profile that shows you have something valuable that clients on the site need and, most importantly, few or no other freelancer on the platform can offer.

Why would they accept you if a whole bunch of other freelancers on the site can do what you do, or no client on the site needs?


Getting Your First Job: From Registration to Bidding

Remember that everything you do – including your registration and profile setup – will contribute to getting your first job in Upwork.

Therefore, you must handle every step of this process carefully.


Step 1: Background Research

You should never apply to Upwork without prior background research on the site.

This research is necessary to find out what skills Upwork clients need and how competitive the freelancing environment is. That information will help you identify a viable and unique niche within the site.

Start by researching the types of jobs on the site. This will show you what skills clients need.

From the Upwork home page, click on the down arrow next to the tab on the top left corner labelled, “Find Freelancers”. You’ll get a drop-down menu. Click on the “Find Jobs” option. Then click on the tab and press “ENTER” on your keyboard.

You’ll get a list of jobs on Upwork like this:


research on jobs in Upwork


Pick the category on writing and read through as many jobs as possible. Remember to note down the skills required for those jobs.

Now, research on your competition.

Select the “Find Freelancers” option in the top left corner tab.


research on freelancers in Upwork


Pick the “writing” category and read through as many freelancers’ profiles as possible. Note down their skills, work experience and professional qualifications.

With that information, you’re now ready to craft a compelling profile.


Step 2: Create a Powerful Profile

Your profile is the most valuable article you’ll ever write.

This simple compilation of words will contribute to your entire career earnings. Every single client you approach will likely check your profile while reviewing your job proposal.

Above all, Upwork won’t even accept your application if your profile is below par.

So, how do you produce a superb profile like this?


sample profile


By including these critical features of an excellent profile:

  1. Write a highly targeted headline based on your niche: After identifying the most in-demand and unique service, specify what it is in your headline.
  2. Place your key selling point in the beginning: Find out what one thing makes you stand out from all other freelancers in your niche and place it in the beginning.
  3. State your niche clearly in the beginning: Include relevant keywords within that niche, to help clients find you when searching for freelancers.
  4. Include the most relevant skills in your niche: Don’t mix up skills in multiple niches. You’ll reduce your chances of appearing at the top when clients search for freelancers.
  5. Keep it brief: After writing your profile, edit and trim it down as much as possible. You can even hire an editor for this.
  6. Never include irrelevant information: No one wants to know about your hobby unless it shows your dedication to the specific niche you’ve chosen.
  7. Make it presentable: Alternate long and short paragraphs. Add lists and subtitles, especially if you have a lengthy profile.
  8. Only include essential aspects: You don’t need to list down every single job or qualification.
  9. Take relevant tests in your niche.
  10. A professional profile photo: Your photo must portray a professional yet friendly look.
  11. State a reasonable hourly rate: Consider how unique and viable your niche is. Normally, people will pay more for something that’s in high demand but low supply. You can even use a rate calculator to determine your rate.


Step 3: Select Jobs Carefully

Once Upwork accepts your profile, all you have to do is find a job within your niche.

Upwork gives you only 60 connects per month, which you can use to bid on 30 jobs.

Also, Upwork can suspend your account if you bid on too many jobs without getting hired. Some writers even had their accounts suspended after bidding unsuccessfully on just a handful of jobs.

Therefore, you need a highly targeted strategy for selecting jobs which give you the highest chance of getting hired.

Here’s how to do it:


a) Select jobs within your niche

Pick jobs that fit in with your profile, such that you can easily apply the details in your profile when bidding.

If you pick a job that any of the millions of other Upwork freelancers can do, your chances of getting hired are one in a million. But, when you select a job that only a few hundred other freelancers can do, your chances drastically increase to one in a hundred.


b) Use keyword and category search to find the right job fast

Using keywords and categories, you can create a job feed that will appear on your homepage dashboard.

Start by clicking on the search sign next to the “Search for jobs” tab. When you get to the jobs page, select the category you want (using the “filters” tab), and enter any relevant keyword in the “keyword” tab.

Finally, click on the “Save search” tab.


creating a job feed in Upwork


c) Use headlines

Skim through headlines to find the right job fast. Using keywords within your niche might not be enough; complement that with a quick evaluation of the job description headlines.


d) Use special keywords

Increase your chances of getting hired within your niche by searching for jobs related to your location, native language, and even gender. For instance, a client may need content about kids fashion written by a lady.


e) An exception outside your niche

Perhaps the exception you can make to bid for a job outside your niche is where a client wants to hire many freelancers and doesn’t require extensive skills. Perhaps, the client might need 20 freelancers, and quite a number of jobs get only 20 freelancers bidding. That gives you a high chance of getting hired.

Also, look out for clients in other niches who need writers within your niche. Maybe a client wants content on sports from a finance writer.


f) Identify genuine clients

You can choose to focus on jobs by clients who have a verified payment method and a good hiring history. They are more likely to be genuine clients.


client with good hiring history and verified payment


Step 4: Write a Winning Proposal

A proposal for a writing job is similar to a profile.

But there’s one key difference.

Whereas a profile focuses on you, a proposal focuses on one specific client. The more you focus on the client, the more valuable your proposal will be.

Hence, a great proposal starts with an in-depth understanding of the client’s needs as stated in the job description. Read the job description and identify every detail required, especially the most important requirements.

When crafting the proposal, include these critical aspects:

  • Clearly, state the unique value you’ll offer
  • Show exactly how the client will benefit from your service
  • Demonstrate your understanding of the client’s business and industry
  • Highlight your expertise and experience related to the client’s job
  • Pre-empt and address any questions the client may have
  • Offer to discuss further concerning the job

However, the most powerful strategy to prove that you can actually do the job is to demonstrate your ability practically. This is possible when you know the client’s website. You can critique a bit of the client’s site and suggest a few options to improve the existing content.

Here’s an example of a sample proposal.


sample proposal


Ultimately, what your client wants to know is, “Why should I pay you the amount of money you’re asking for.” The client will select a freelancer who offers the greatest value based on the freelancer’s fee.



You can turn freelancing into a predictable science rather than mere guesswork, simply by understanding all these insights about getting a job on Upwork.


How has your experience been using Upwork? How long did it take you to land your first freelance writing job on Upwork?
    • Mercy MmboneGbadebo A.
    • November 21, 2018

    I tried it all as a beginner writer but i still have my applications rejected. It’s my third try…

    • Reply

      Hey Gbadebo,

      You have to send many applications. Don’t send one application and wait. Just send as many as you can and out of them, at least someone will write back.

      Be sure to follow the advice written here. Good luck.

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