How I made money on UpWork

How I made $5,000 in 1 month on Upwork

With a mountain of debt staring us in the face, I decided that reducing our budget wasn’t enough. I needed to bring in some additional income to speed up the process. So I started a side job.

Not to brag, but I’m fairly good at what I do for a living. My first challenge was figuring out a way to market that skill and use it to earn money outside of my primary job.  After that, I would need to find my initial clients without using the connections at my 9-5 (a big no-no).

I figured my options were:

  1.  Create a website, logo, brand, content and then advertise. This would take time and money.
  2.  Find a company that has an excess of clients who needs my expertise and start working immediately.

The first option could prove beneficial over time as I build a client base but would take a great deal of time and effort and money.

Option two would result in quicker access to customers and almost no advertising money. This seemed ideal for my situation.

How I started making money with UpWork

That’s when I found UpWork.

UpWork is closer to Option 2, but has elements of Option 1 involved as well.

In short, UpWork connects freelancers (like myself) with Clients (customers) who need work done. Luckily enough, my particular skill was in need! Cha-ching, more money to pay off debt.

Like Option 2, UpWork has an excess of customers who need work done immediately, and similar to Option 1, I would be my own boss and able to charge what I want.

Also, I don’t have to work during business hours, and I decide if a task is worth the effort or not. The clients are mine, and I can talk outside of UpWork, build relationships and get referrals.

The negative? UpWork does collect a fee for being the middle man (It’s 5%-20% depending on how large the job is).

My first month on UpWork – $5,000

So how did I do?

Well darn, the title of this post gave the secret away, but yeah I did pretty well. I earned a little over $5k, though a good chunk of it went to UpWork and their “service fee.”

You’ll see I landed a couple of smaller fixed price projects (Under $250) and a few jobs earning $25 per hour. My whale of a project was the $4,000 gig I landed and am still working on.

We are still trying to determine which debt to use this money on. Feel free to leave suggestions in the comment box below the post – I appreciate every suggestion and take it into consideration. Our original thought is to pay off the car.

(The gray background are contracts that have now ended. The white background is contracts that are still ongoing.)

upwork making money

Step by Step Guide for Freelancers

The rest of this post is for anyone else who wants to learn how to try UpWork as a side gig as well. If you just came to read my experience, it pretty much ends here.

Here is my advice for freelancers who want to make money on UpWork.

The Internet has made it incredibly easy for people with skills in various domains of activity to make money from the comfort of their home. Designers, writers, academic writers, photographers, web developers and accountants – they can all be found on freelancing hubs.

Do you have a special skill or talent but you can’t seem to get a job? Get enrolled on Upwork and try your luck, you’ve got nothing to lose. Here’s how to get started on Upwork.

  1. Create an account

Head over to UpWork.com. Navigate to the top right of the screen and click “Sign Up”, and then choose “Work.”

  1. Complete your profile

Add your work history, your skills, the awards that you may have won throughout the years, your areas of expertise and your prices.

Maybe you worked as a freelancer before without even knowing it. Add everything you’ve ever done to your profile. It will give people a hint of your professionalism and determination.

There are too many freelancers that think: “This probably doesn’t qualify as a skill” or “I’m only a writer, even though I’m also interested in playing guitar and graphic design” That’s stealing your own thunder – take pride in everything you do.

  1. Search for projects

Upwork provides projects pertaining to hundreds of categories, so you can rest assured that you are going to find work. You have absolute freedom of choice, which means that you will be doing only what you like.

The vast majority of people do things they hate, that’s why going to work is such a tedious chore. And most money hippies want to leave ASAP. With Upwork, you’ll be supporting yourself through your very passions, which is no small matter.

  1. Apply to your projects of choice

UpWork does limit thea number of jobs you apply to; About 30 to 35 per month. Apply only to jobs that you feel confident about and that match your skills.

Also, make sure that you don’t use the same application over and over again for every client. Every application must be personal, detailed and appropriate for that specific project. If it’s too general, then no one will take it into consideration because it doesn’t respond to their needs.

Don’t say “I’ve been a writer for the past three years and that’s why you need to hire me.” This phrase won’t convince anyone.

Read every job description carefully and see what the client needs. Then, when you craft your application, you can offer the solutions to their problems.

If someone needs a finance article, tell them that you’ve written about finances in the past, that you know the subject and maybe even offer some tips on how to make the article a top-notch one.

Also, make sure always to include samples of work that are in concordance with the topic of the project. Let’s take the same example with the finance article; you’re going to attach one or two articles that you’ve written on a similar subject.

I’ve won a majority of my jobs by using common sense.

  1. Collaboration proposals

If you liked working with a client, you could agree to a long-term collaboration. That means that whenever he/she needs something done, you’ll be the first person to know. That’s more money for you, as well as a chance to master your skills in that particular field.

  1. Don’t take more jobs than you can handle 

You are going to be genuinely hyped by the sheer amount of work that you are asked to do. However, don’t give in too fast– it’s fantastic to make more money but overburdening yourself will only decrease the quality of your work. Stress isn’t a growth factor for productivity.

  1. Get paid

There’s no risk of being tricked by clients since the hours you’ve spent working for them are tracked by UpWork, and they are visible for both of you to see. UpWork also keeps the clients money for the work in an escrow account.

Thanks to this you enjoy full and unwavering transparency. You can choose to be paid through a variety of payment methods, like PayPal, Direct Deposit or Wire Transfer, for instance.

IMPORTANT! Don’t work for low prices      

Making money on Upwork is very simple and a great side gig, but don’t cut yourself short.  It is a natural thought that by lowering prices you would crush your competition, but in fact, you’d be crushing yourself.

It is natural to think that by lowering prices you would crush your competition, but in fact, you’d be crushing yourself.

Upwork charges service fees for freelancers; those fees are between 5% and 20%, so you must make sure that you get a good amount of money at the end of each project.

Another important piece of advice: don’t take a job that you’re unprepared for. For example, if someone is searching for professional Photoshop artists, don’t take that job unless you have professional Photoshop skills.

It’s not enough to know how to work with two layers and how to crop elements from an image and put them in another one. That’s lying to yourself as much as it is lying to the customer. Your reviews, needless to say, will plummet to the ground.

Also, don’t take a job with a terrifying deadline if you can’t pull it off. Try to talk to each customer and reach a common ground deadline-wise. If it’s too short for that amount of work, make him/her understand – it’s he/she who needs your help, not the other way around and it’s to his/her benefit to have a professional job done right.

UpWork Reviews are everything

Reputation is your life source on Upwork. Don’t make mistakes that might damage it. Be honest about your capabilities, improve your communication skills and do your best and that only.

You can make a fortune if you respect these tenets; by contrast, you’re not going to have a snowball’s chance to get work if you try to cheat your way to success.

Given that the platform is the host of thousands of freelancers, it would be good for you to enter discussions on the UpWork forum and read the blog articles, too. There may be important news and vital pieces of advice from veteran freelancers in there that will help you develop your services even more.

In time, you will be able to build a database of faithful clients, and you’ll be making good money. After some more time, hard work and constant practice, you can become the expert that everybody is looking for and the freelancer that everyone aspires to be. With all these being said, freelance your way to success!

I’ll keep adding tips and stories about my time on UpWork as I learn more. Add your email address below, and I’ll let you know when I post something new!

4 thoughts

  1. Easy choice on what to pay off: CC6, CC7, and the Furniture Loan. This pays off just over $4700 of debt at ~25% interest, and frees up $75 + $100 + $276 = $451 in payments, while paying off the car would be paying off debt at ~6% interest and would only free up ~$350/month.

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