Until recently, many Ukrainian freelancers continued to work on Russian exchanges, receiving the bulk of orders from there. But after the start of a full-scale war, the question arose of how and where to leave the platforms of the eastern neighbor. And the natural solution for many was Upwork — one of the most famous Western platforms, where some Ukrainian freelancers have been working for a long time.
Want to learn more about Upwork and other Western freelance exchanges? Read the article " Overview of foreign freelance exchanges: Upwork, Freelancer, Fiverr ".
To help newbies enter the service correctly and start successfully earning, Collaborator organized a webinar called "Upwork Clients - the path from 0 to 50K". The partner of the online lecture was a number of digital services, including the hosting provider and domain name registrar Cityhost.ua.
We have written an article based on this webinar and are posting it on our blog. Here you will be able to familiarize yourself with a short extraction of the materials after reading the article in 20 minutes (we checked). If you want to watch the webinar in its entirety, here it is.
The moderator of the conversation is Ihor Rudnyk , head of Collaborator.
The lecturer is Mykyta Vdovenko , co-founder of the nn.partners company. He has been engaged in marketing for six years, five of them in lead generation. Specializes in financial products (loans, insurance). Has been working on Upwork since 2018, has achieved TOP RATED PLUS status. He cooperated with large insurance companies from the USA, worked with an advertising budget of up to 2 million dollars.
In 2020, together with a partner, they founded the company nn.partners and created an agent account on Upwork, using it to attract clients from Europe, Canada, the United Kingdom and the USA. The information that Mykyta Vdovenko shares in his lecture is based on the empirical experience of both an ordinary freelancer and a company.
The introduction to our lecture will be a brief overview of the characteristics of Upwork and the prospects that open up to freelancers.
Benefits of Upwork
To begin with, let's talk about the positive features of this platform that attract freelancers from all over the world.
Quick access to the foreign market
Among the obvious advantages is an almost instantaneous entry into the international market. We can often hear from large agencies that have become successful in the local market that they cannot go abroad for years, despite all efforts. Upwork allows you to do this within a week. Of course, big clients will not appear immediately, but it is enough to register a profile — and your business is already visible all over the world.
Growing demand for marketing and other digital services
Now, in 2022, we can note the growth in demand for the services of marketers and other specialists in the digital sphere. And, on the other hand, the interest of customers in the services of freelancers is growing.
If we look at the numbers from Upwork statistics , we can see that 59% of companies surveyed plan to use remote freelancers in the next six months, and 60% of companies plan to increase the number of freelancers in the next two years. At the same time, 19% of all marketing work is already performed by remote freelancers. Mid-level companies are interested in working in this direction more and more, so the demand for services is growing.
The possibility of earning in dollars
Upwork is an opportunity to earn in dollars, that is, in a stable currency. You can withdraw money to Ukraine from this platform.
The easiest withdrawal method is Payoneer, it allows direct integration with the platform. Pros — free registration and the ability to create a map and link it to your profile. There is also the option of withdrawing to PayPal and direct transfer to a bank account.
Payoneer can be a good option for beginners, but it has its downsides. For example, high commissions that become noticeable on large volumes. Later, you can register a sole proprietorship or another form of entrepreneurship and make a direct transfer to a bank account.
Disadvantages of Upwork
Well, where can we go without cons? They are not critical, but these points should be taken into account when starting to work on the stock exchange.
Dependence of the account on customer reviews
Reputation on the site is a major asset. You have been building it for a long time, investing time and effort in its development, but every negative feedback sharply pushes the account down the top. Unfortunately, not all customers are decent, someone may just hold you hostage, threatening to ruin your reputation. Even if the customer is wrong, they can write a negative review and that adds to the stress.
Your success is built on "rented land"
For example, you know that Upwork has banned people from the Republic of Belarus and Russia from working on its site. This is fair, but at the same time an indicator that the platform can prohibit access to everything you have built over the years of work. You should not make it a fundamental source of income, because in the long run it can be dangerous.
Now let's consider the main functionality of the service, pay attention to the most interesting, useful and popular functions that allow you to find customers faster and reach a high level of earnings.
The first thing worth talking about is the Project Catalog. This is a new functionality of the platform, a similar concept works on Fiverr.
Upwork originally started as a platform where you can hire a specialist on an hourly or project basis. Now a model of cooperation has appeared on it, when a specialist provides a holistic service. It is the only complex that has a beginning, a specific set of propositions, and an end predicted by time and result.
What does it look like from the side of a potential customer? He enters a keyword, chooses one of the proposed specialties and gets to the catalog of already formed projects, from which he can choose an artist and his service. For example, conduct a full site audit, develop a marketing strategy, optimize the site for search engines.
Consultation (Consultation Projects)
Consultation Projects as a separate product is also an innovation on Upwork. Previously, there was no such option, and consulting took place within the framework of work on the project, or it was necessary to agree on it separately. Now the service is placed in a separate category, and if you wish, you can earn money separately from consulting.
Fixed Price and Hourly Contracts
The most popular and effective filters when searching for orders are Fixed Price and Hourly Contracts. They allow you to choose the most optimal format of work and payment.
How you use the platform is up to you. Some focus on projects with a fixed fee, some on hourly services. You can focus on only one format if you see that it works more comfortably for you.
Half of your success on the stock exchange depends on how correctly you have designed your profile. This is your business card and the only channel through which you can create a first impression. Let's consider life hacks for designing a profile, thanks to which you will look like a real professional.
There are two types of profiles on the site. In the General Profile, you concentrate all your skills and experience. For example, you are an expert in paid advertising, you know everything about advertising in Google, you have worked with Facebook and Tik-Tok, you know how to work with Google Tag Manager, with analytics, etc. And even if you have a completely different experience in several areas, it can be described in such an account.
A Specialized Profile is designed to highlight one key competency across your entire experience. You probably have some Core Skill (the central skill) - the site thinks there may be two of them. For example, you can choose from all the Google ADS skills listed above and create a specialized profile based on it.
For example, this account has three profiles — Marketing Automation, Search Engine Optimization, and All work. The first two are just specialized profiles, and their hourly price tag is higher than the basic one. These are the fields in which a person is a pro, so he can set the price higher.
Your profile is a landing page
Basically, your profile has the same meaning as a landing page. Clients search for services by keywords, the internal search engine selects relevant answers for them, and after a person goes to your profile, he must perform a conversion action - write a message, offer a job. Therefore, profile optimization follows the same laws as the landing page.
It is important that the skills (tags) you choose when creating your profile meet the needs of potential employers. When creating an order, the customer chooses several tags that reflect the essence of his work. As a freelancer, you need to choose a tag cloud that will hit the query as much as possible and become the most relevant to your services.
Tip: Find your niche
When I started my journey on Upwork, I took on different jobs and at the time I didn't have a niche. I did not understand why to limit my competence. I specialize in digital marketing and naively thought that I would qualify for more work that way.
But, having discovered such a phenomenon as a niche, my partner and I gained new experience — a higher rate, long-term projects, established processes for finding clients and managing relationships with them.
For example, I've worked with various marketing tools, but I have a specific experience that a number of other professionals do not have: working with financial and insurance products. And when I sharpened my specialized profile in this direction, the response to offers became simply crazy. This is what a niche provides. This is what distinguishes a specialist who tries to hit sparrows with a cannon, from those who have found their chip and aim at one point.
It seems that we are all competitors in the marketing field, but in reality, this is not the case at all. A niche allows you to create your own unique cell, in which you have very few competitors. It is profitable, you do not rub elbows with anyone. For your potential client, this is also an advantage, because he is working with a person who will definitely help him.
When we found our niche (I'm in finance, my partner is in e-commerce) and designed our proposals and profiles accordingly, the work on the site took on completely different colors.
Tip: Make the most of the new features
Upwork promotes those who use their new features to the top profiles. The platform wants to test its innovations, so it encourages freelancers who are ready to experiment. I highly recommend checking out all the new features — for example, now Project Katalog and video previews in your profile. As soon as something new appears, use it immediately.
Tip: experiment and monitor the data
The profile has a tab called My Stats where you can see reports on your profile views and other metrics related to the niche you are working in. These indicators need to be monitored, because the first attempt at creating a profile may not be as successful as you would like. If there are few orders, change something in the profile, write new descriptions, edit the portfolio, add cases. It's a continuous process until you find your place. After each change in the profile, you need to look at the statistics and analyze how it works.
A profile is your business card. But the first experience of communication with the client takes place in the form of an application. Its quality is the decisive factor that will lead the customer to your account.
Personalization of applications
One important life hack is to send personalized offers. There are people on the site who send offers to everyone in a row. For example, they have a bot in Telegram that automatically sends messages based on certain tags. And it usually annoys customers. Someone might get an order out of it, but it's usually very small and unsatisfactory projects.
Why? Customers are looking for a solution to a specific business problem. And whether you understand well what they want, whether you can show that you match the request in terms of skills and experience, depends on the probability that you will get the order.
A good example of a personalized application might be the following message:
"Congratulations! I read your application, I see that you are looking for help with the search engine optimization of your electronics store. I just specialize in SEO in the field of e-commerce. Here's how many years I've been doing it, here's a case from another electronics store, here's a review they left me."
We often hear from colleagues in the shop that conversion to their offers is 1-3% of reviews. And in our country, this figure is about 30%. We send few offers, but they are all personal. Niche and personalization are the two pillars on which success in finding orders rests.
An interesting point, which at first glance seems to contradict the previous one, is the recommendation to automate personalization.
In practice, writing a proposal is long, it can take a whole day. Therefore, we have patterns that we have developed empirically. I'm using a letter that has placeholders.
For example, the title: "Hello! I see you're looking for ______ (placeholder).” And then there are specifics, for example, a person needs optimization of an advertising account in Google Ads.
The next block: "And I specialize in _________ (placeholder)." And then I talk about the experience I have in this area.
I also have these descriptions saved in my notes, and I copy and paste them. Next, I will tell you who we have helped in similar cases. The point is that most of this letter is made up of blocks that I described sometime before. I assemble it as a constructor and send it. At the initial stages, it takes some time, but then enough developed material appears, and the process becomes easier.
Don't try to sell with the first touch
A letter with an offer can end in different ways. You can write "Let's cooperate", or you can ask a question at the end that will make the client think and answer.
Our funnel is built as follows: after a person has read our proposal, he enters the profile, then answers a question, then goes on a video call, then an audit or another intermediate stage takes place, and then a deal is concluded.
We do not try to sell the deal in one touch (except for very small projects), but we follow a multi-step path. I recommend ending your letters with questions that engage the recipient in the conversation. In insurance, it might be "In which states are you licensed to sell insurance?" or "What products do you work with?" It is easy for a person to answer such a question, he does not promise you anything, but you have already started communication with him. If the dialogue has started, there's a good chance you'll be slapping hands.
But even if you don't make a deal, this strategy has another plus. Each time you send a proposal, you use up connections. The site gives a certain number of points for free applications. And the more often clients respond, the more free connections the platform gives you.
There was a story when I started with 90 connections, and the response was so high that my number of connections did not drop for a long time. And in three months, it grew to 120 in general, despite the fact that I sent proposals every day.
Mydanchyk rewards for efficient work with applications.
Is there a lot of text to write in the application?
There is no established length of the application, it is always individual. For example, we had a long-term order with a large UK company that started with 4 or 5 sentences. The customer called us almost immediately and we concluded the deal very quickly. And for someone, we wrote long letters, because the client had such a request - describe your experience, what budgets and tools you worked with, and so on. Let's look at the situation. It doesn't matter how long your application is, the only thing that matters is its relevance.
Experiment and don't give up
This is important because you probably won't get it right the first time. A lot depends on the number of attempts. If you keep looking for best practices, reading experts, watching colleagues on the shop floor, talking in chat rooms, trying and doing, then at some point you will start to get good, and after a certain period of time, you will start to get good.
Once you've crafted your profile and created an application template, all you have to do is try again and again, sending inquiries and gathering experience. Over time, you will slightly optimize and refine your application, improving it. There are no more super life hacks.
I will share the conclusions we made while working with Western clients.
First, communication is fundamental. The duration of the relationship with the client depends on how effectively you communicate, explain your actions, and comment on the results of your work. These are the same people as you and me. They just want to understand what to expect, in what terms, with what results. Half of your success depends on communication.
Our communication is also built in several stages. At the sales stage, we formulate expectations, orient the client to terms and results, and manage these expectations during the work process.
For customers from any country, honesty and professionalism are important, and for Western customers, this is generally a very important thing. Nobody likes inflated expectations and promises that are not fulfilled. Be as honest as possible, even if you have no experience. If you think you can make a promise and then figure out what to do with it, we don't recommend it.
Proactive management of expectations
For example, you started working, formulated expectations with the client, but in the process of work you realize that something is not going according to plan. What is the most correct in this situation? Schedule a call with the client, prepare data, analysis, present them to the client and explain that some unaccounted factors have started to act and they affect the result. Clients are mostly adequate people, they will understand you.
But if the client himself starts writing and asking, "What's going on? We seem to have agreed on something else" is a potentially conflict situation, you don't have to wait for it to happen. The success of your customer relationship depends on how actively you manage expectations. Nobody likes unpleasant surprises.
Build expectations around your availability
Be available in terms of communication and set expectations about your availability. It is good if at the beginning of your relationship you told the client when you can be in touch. For example, a client is in New York and you have a big time difference. You need to agree with him that you are on call from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. New York time (in Kyiv, this is the end of the working day). If he decides to contact you at 4:00 p.m., it will be deep night in Ukraine. It is your responsibility to communicate such points to the client.
Try not to lead to conflicts
A situation where the client had expectations and they were not fulfilled is already a conflict situation. He comes with complaints and you have to make excuses. If communication is deadlocked, you run the risk of getting a bad review.
When you see that something is wrong, your task is to integrate yourself into this process before the client draws any conclusions and has time to get angry or upset. Even if what happened is your fault, but at the same time you act honestly, professionally and proactively and voice the problems yourself, it is greatly appreciated.
Based on these qualities, even if you make some mistakes, you will be treated with understanding. At a minimum, such actions will help the client quickly adjust his plans and agreements with other people.
These are the main points to know when starting to work on Upwork.
In the finale, as promised, we write answers to questions from the webinar audience.
What kind of income can a new user, for example, a mid-level seo specialist with minimal English, earn? How to determine which rate to set?
Regarding the minimum English, you will need to choose a job that requires little communication. You can focus on Project Katalog, offer a maximally described fixed set of services, which do not require many clarifications.
By rate - look in the catalog for projects and profiles of freelancers of your level with similar offers. You will see how much money people with the same services and schools as yours are asking for. Pay attention to geography, because a freelancer from the US may have a higher hourly rate just because they are from America.
The service is intangible, you yourself decide how much it costs and how much it is able to help the client in solving his problems. From how well you know the value that your service brings to the customer, you can formulate a fair price.
You said that feedback is the most important thing. What if I register my customers for accounts and receive feedback this way?
The most important thing is not reviews, but reputation. It consists, on the one hand, of feedback on the site, and on the other hand, of the so-called Job success score. For example, customers can leave a good review, but the Job success score is not 100%, but, for example, 95% or 80%. In addition to the public one, the freelancer has a closed review and many other factors that affect the reputation.
Once you've started building your profile, you can ask your previous clients to give feedback by leaving a Linkedin link. The platform contacts them, verifies that they are real customers, and that's how you get reviews from people outside of Upwork.
Note the profile status called Rising talent. You need to try to get it, it gives an advantage in rendering and visually distinguishes you from other talents.
From the very beginning, you need to find a job that you are sure you will do well and the client will be satisfied with. In this period, it is not important to make money, but to build a reputation, so it is better to take cheap and simple orders and get good reviews.
What if a customer wants to call me but my English is A1?
Your English level will be indicated in your profile. You can tell yourself that you text but don't call. You just need to say directly and honestly that you will not bring any benefit on the call and the most effective way to communicate with you is by text. In this situation, you can use Google Translate.
How to get Top rated plus status?
I just competently filled out the profile according to Upwork's recommendations, looked at the best profiles of other freelancers, took something from there. It is necessary to use all the functions of the profile as much as possible, to fill in all the cases in the portfolio. I did this a long time ago and maybe some rules have changed. I recommend looking at the help.
If the client suggests switching to Whatsapp or Zoom to continue communication, is that okay?
This is normal after you have entered into a contract with the ground rules. By the way, I recommend that you know and do not violate the rules of Upwork, otherwise you may be banned and you will lose all your work and reputation. According to some rules, the platform has a zero tolerance policy — if you violate these points, they will not care and will simply ban you forever.
Regarding communication outside the site, the rules clearly state that you can only communicate anywhere after you have entered into an agreement . In the early stages, this will be noticed by the site, because the correspondence and the telephone numbers are visible. There is a separate item in the contractor's assessment: "the freelancer offered to work off-site." And you can complain about it.
Are there any Telegram bots or other tools to automate Upwork? For example, to track orders by some key or for auto-response.
They exist, we even used them for a while, but have completely moved away from it. These bots are on the first page of Google and are easy to find. But they throw up irrelevant information. It is faster for me to find the information I need through the filters on the site, than to constantly look at this bot and then still need to filter the data I receive. This is double work.
And about the automatic sending of applications — this is a very bad practice, I will repeat it again. Maybe for some maximally unified product, it will be suitable, for example, for Project Katalog, but for voluminous and expensive tasks, it is definitely not an option.
What is the difference between a regular freelancer account and an agency account (web studio, marketing agency)?
In any case, you will have a personal account from which you will already start working with an agency account. All artists from the agency account are specific people, they have profiles.
If you work from an agent profile, the customer still sees a specific person who fulfills the order. But the rating and earnings will be credited to the agency, not to the freelancer profile.
For example, my partner and I worked on Upwork before and both had TOP RATED statuses. When we created the agency, our experience was summed up and immediately gave the profile the status of Rising talent.
In the agency's account, projects look a little different, a slightly different payment model, different levels of payment protection. But if you look in general, the development of both types of accounts does not have radical differences.
What will you do with your maxed out account after you retire? How to properly rent out your account and receive profit from it?
This is a good question. I haven't thought about retirement yet, and I don't really know what that should look like. But in general, if you look in the direction of the agent profile, then people can apply from someone else's account. You can't do this from a regular freelancer profile, but in an agency, for example, my partner can submit an application from my account and vice versa. Accordingly, upon retirement, you can introduce a new person to the agency who will submit applications on our behalf, and they will log into our agency account. And, accordingly, all the profit will come to him.