A freelancer who has made over $600k on Upwork shares 3 great jobs for beginners
As a freelancer who has earned over $600,000 on the Upwork platform, I am regularly shocked by all of the incomplete and bad advice out there written by bloggers who don’t know what they’re talking about. This is why, today, I wanted to write a fully comprehensive article on Upwork, for beginners. Written by someone who has been in your shoes, and understands the inner workings of Upwork’s algorithm better than most.
In my opinion, the following are some of the best job categories for beginners on Upwork: Data Entry & Transcription, Customer Service and Virtual Assistant or Admin Support.
|Data Entry & Transcription
|Great for fast typists.
|Customer Service Rep
|Great for people who enjoy helping others. (Especially if you’re bilingual!)
|Virtual Assistant & Admin Support
|Great for adaptable problem solvers.
IN THIS ARTICLE
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Is Upwork viable for beginners?
Upwork, for the uninitiated, is the world’s largest freelance marketplace. Its main competitors are Fiverr and Freelancer.com. And, yes, it can be a great place for beginners.
Admittedly, having specialized in-demand skills like sales, content writing, social media management, SEO, email marketing, web design, video production or tech as well as some sort of real-world experience will likely give you a better shot at long-term success on the platform. Regardless, there are still plenty of in-demand jobs on the platform right now that requires no experience, no college degree and no special skills. However, it is important to note that while not required, even the smallest amount of experience will put you ahead of the competition.
But the age-old dilemma remains … How do you gain experience when you have no clients? Well, do what I did, they fake it ’til ya make it. In the early days of my freelance career, I used to do “pretend” freelance jobs where I acted as my own client, and my own freelancer, to beef up my portfolio. Make up your own pretend companies and your own pretend work. Also, consider aiming for smaller jobs – or even doing favors for families and friends – even if the pay isn’t great. Some experience is better than none.
3 Easy Upwork Jobs For Beginners
Now, let’s take a look at three industries where I see first-time freelancers and beginners regularly excel. We will examine the basic skills each of these require and a rough idea of the expected pay range.
1. Data Entry & Transcription
Data Entry is exactly what it sounds like – entering data into a computer, a database, or a word processor. Oftentimes this process includes transcribing audio files or copying information from one form to another. I’ve personally seen freelancers on Upwork charge anywhere between $5-$40 per hour for this kind of work. While no formal training is required for data entry jobs, touting speed and accuracy will put you ahead of your competition.
If you’re not already a fast typer, practice. The average person types just 40 words per minute (WPM). Try to aim for closer to 60-70. If you manage to achieve 100 WPM you can consider yourself ranked amongst the top 1% of typists. And be sure to mention impressive accolades on your profile such as (these are just a few examples):
- Can type up to 70 words per minute
- Fast and accurate
- Can work with a multitude of word processors and systems
- Bilingual – fluent in both English and Spanish
- Next day turnarounds
2. Customer Service Representative
Customer Service Professionals wear many hats. Sometimes they answer calls, sometimes they manage chat and e-mail requests. Sometimes they even manage and monitor online communities like social media or forums. I find it quite difficult to find talent who specialize in Customer Service on Upwork and suspect it could be a great niche to get into – or at least a great skill to add to your resume.I’ve personally seen Customer Service pros making between $5-$30 an hour on the platform. A few key messages to portray on your Upwork profile for this niche should include:
- Types of communication you’re comfortable with (i.e. phone, chat, e-mail, social)
- List of languages spoken fluently (the more the better)*
- Your ability to adapt to new systems and processes
*Pro-Tip: Promoting the fact that you are fluent in multiple languages is a way to get a leg up on most U.S.-based freelancers. Not to stereotype, but the education system doesn’t typically push learning a second language here in the States – at least not at a conversational level. Bilinguals represent only about 23% of the U.S. population. Having translation abilities is a strong skill on this platform.
3. Virtual Assistant & Admin Support
This one is my favorite niche on the list. It’s great because it’s an all-encompassing category and is always in demand. Virtual Assistants are basically remote support professionals. They offer a variety of miscellaneous services including making appointments, responding to emails, receptionist-style duties, invoicing, lead generation, research, personal errands, paying bills, note-taking and proofreading, and general assistance with daily tasks, just to name a few.
I’ve personally seen Virtual Assistants making between $6-$30 an hour on the platform. I can personally attest to what a difference having a Virtual Assistant makes in your business. I employ one in my small business. She works about an hour a week, handles my invoices and performs some basic proofreading for my websites.
When seeking Virtual assistant jobs, make sure you include the following on your profile:
- Types of services you offer (proofreading, note taking, etc)
- Platforms you’ve worked with (Microsoft Word, WordPress, etc)
- Examples of how you’ve made a difference in the lives of your clients
Tips for Upwork Beginners
Whether you’re a new or experienced freelancer, it can be difficult to land your first job on the platform. I get it, it took me almost 2-weeks to get a single response and I was an experienced freelancer when I joined the platform. Luckily, I have a few tips and tricks that might help.
Look for entry-level projects in your field or tasks you can complete quickly
Smaller jobs provide an easier “in”. Just think about it from a client’s perspective. Most would rather not take a huge financial risk on someone who is brand new to the platform and unvetted. Also, most seasoned Upworkers – like myself – aren’t wasting their time applying for small gigs anymore. So you’re mostly only going to be competing with other newbies.
Plus, the more quickly you complete that first job on the platform, the more quickly you can secure that first 5-star review. And landing future jobs is exponentially easier with at least one or two good reviews on your profile. If you feel applying for small jobs is beneath you, consider it a marketing expense. I only slummed it on the first couple of jobs, and later went on to make over $600,000 on the platform. Swallow your pride.
Look for recently posted jobs
In my personal experience, being the first in line often increases your chances of being hired. Many clients begin reviewing proposals within minutes of creating the job post. It’s much easier to stand out in the crowd when there are fewer applicants.
Look for freelancing opportunities on the weekends
Look, I get it. I hate working weekends too. And that’s precisely why you should consider doing it – at least until you’ve secured that aforementioned first 5-star review. Because I’m not on the platform competing with you. In fact, there will be very few Top-Rated high-earning freelancers online to compete with you on the weekend. This means the client will also likely end up with a smaller stack of proposals. Look, if your profile is top-notch, your proposals are solid and you have a robust portfolio, the rest of really just a numbers game. Make the numbers work in your favor.
Pro-Tip: If you are working the weekend, let the potential client know that you can “start today” or “finish this weekend”. Few clients can resist a generous offer like that!
Look for red flags (like scope creep)
Finally, while I’ve written about my personal red flags for bad clients in length before, I wanted to briefly touch on it again here. While it’s not a great idea to be too picky in the beginning, you also don’t want that first 5-star review to turn into a 1-star because you had a bad experience with a mean or crazy client. And the best way to avoid negative outcomes is with a bit of prevention. For example, I typically shy away from job posts where the:
- Job description differs from the actual job.
- Job description is excessively long.
- Client sounds like a micro-manager.
- Words “rush job” are used.
- Client complains previous freelancers.
- Client asks for free samples (this ain’t Costco).
- Actual budget or price differs from the posted rate.
Why Beginners Struggle to Land Jobs
As a freelancer who often coaches others, I see beginners making the same mistakes over and over again. And they often blame the platform when they should be examining their own mistakes. If you’re struggling to land jobs on Upwork it’s probably because you’re committing one or more of these no-nos …
- Your profile is lacking or unprofessional
- Your proposals are lacking or unprofessional
- You aren’t reading the job posts
- Your proposals are too generic
- Your portfolio is lacking or unprofessional
- You haven’t given it enough time
- You haven’t applied to enough jobs
Can you make a living on Upwork?
Finally, we end on an exciting note. Yes, you can make a living on Upwork. In fact, if you play your cards right, Upwork can make you quite wealthy. I and several other Upworkers in my professional circle like Josh Burns ($1 million earned) and Evan Fisher ($2 million earned) are raking in cash from this platform. I get so many invites that I turn down more clients than I take on.
And while each of us has our own strategies and theories about how to find success on the platform – we also all have three basic things in common. We all started at $0 earned, with zero feedback on our profiles and we didn’t give up.
As I always say, real success requires takes a lot of time, trial and error. Have patience, my Upwork padawans. Because I am a living testament and can personally assure you – success is possible.
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