I manage to find long-term, higher-paying freelance writing clients as an Upwork freelancer. Crazy, right?
Upwork.com (the new combined brand that’s the result of the oDesk-Elance merger) really is one of the best places to go if you want to be severely underpaid as a writer (it’s usually the first place people go when learning how to make money writing). But it also can be a great location for finding good prospects who are lost and confused in the never-ending search for quality writers — if you know how.
I’ve pulled clients who pay $100 per hour (and up) from this bidding site, and regularly use it to find strong new prospects. That’s despite the fact that I only check in once or twice a week, for a few minutes at a time.
You can find great pay on UpWork, too, by changing the way you approach a few elements of the site. These elements can help you avoid cheapskates and save you the time and frustration that usually goes along with navigating bid sites.
Here’s how I became a successful Upwork freelancer:
Shift your perspective
Put yourself in the shoes of a company that’s probably new to hiring freelancers online. They don’t know where to go, so they Google “hire freelancers” and bam … there’s UpWork. They create an account, post a job, and wait.
Your job as a successful Upwork freelancer is to find these prospects — the higher-paying, focused organizations that know they need to hire someone, but don’t know where to look.
To be clear, don’t even entertain low- or mid-range clients on UpWork. You don’t want to waste your time and energy on anyone who isn’t willing to offer higher levels of compensation.
Set your standards
The key to finding these companies (and scaring away the ones that will waste your time) is setting standards on your profile.
Be explicit in your Upwork freelancer profile. If you won’t work for less than $150 per hour, then list that as your rate. This alone wards off a lot of the lower-end companies looking for someone to write a 10,000-word white paper for $7.35.
Second, limit who you communicate with. Do NOT communicate with any job poster that has fewer than three dollar signs next to the description.
Yes, this eliminates the project-based listings (I tend to steer clear of those) and most of the jobs on the site. But that’s OK, because you’re looking to connect with potential clients with a specific mindset: “I am willing to pay higher rates for the most experienced freelancers.”
I primarily work with B2B healthcare companies, so I only look at offers from businesses in that ￼niche. This is a higher-paying field, so that effectively cuts out a lot of the bargain basement companies.
This standard keeps you from wasting time sifting through low-paying jobs.
Vet the prospect
Once you zero in on a prospect that has potential, you still want to be selective.
Good clients usually know what they want done and who they want to do it. The higher-quality posts read more like full job listings, explicitly stating the desire for someone experienced in either their industry, the type of work they need completed, or both.
When it comes time to apply, keep things short and let your work speak for itself. I don’t write long letters of intent for these jobs — usually just a few sentences demonstrating that I actually read their full description. I’ve found that what gets the most attention is my asking to discuss their company goals (not just project specs) right out of the gate. Believe me, this will set you apart from lower-end Upwork freelancers.
I also include links to my portfolio and credentials, along with a phone number after my signature. Many of these clients are medium-sized businesses looking to connect quickly, and the back-and-forth of UpWork’s messaging system can put them off.
Here’s a sample I’ve used:
I’d love to talk with you more to find out what XXX’s goals are. As a healthcare B2B content strategy consultant and freelance writer, I can meet your needs in this job, but can also recommend other, possibly more effective methods for growing your business. I am a Copyblogger certified content marketer, so I have been trained in the proper use of headings, story-telling, language, and problem-solving in the online content creation process.
You can read some of my writing on different healthcare topics here (http://www.bsminfo.com/author/megan-williams) and also view my work and portfolio at LocutusHealth.com. Below is information on my practical experience in B2B health, my current work, and my overall outlook.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to give me a call at XXX-XXX-XXXX. Have a great week.
Content Strategy Consultant, MBA
I have 10 years experience in revenue cycle/IT consulting for hospitals, an MBA, and I run Locutus Health Communications, a content strategy company dedicated to the B2B healthcare space. I’ve also been certified in online content marketing by Copyblogger Media and have been creating online content for over a decade.
I write on healthcare IT (EHR, data analytics, security, cloud storage, MU/HIPPA, etc.) at BSM Info. I also create in-depth content for my clients ranging from blogs and articles, to website content and white papers.
My understanding of the culture of the industry and constant contact with advancements and trends allows me to create work that is connected, in-depth, and engaging. I specialize in revenue cycle, healthcare IT, and startup content.
Most importantly though, I believe B2B content in healthcare will benefit from a shift in tone…a shift to one that is rooted in the seriousness and formality of the industry, but that still understands the need for humanity and a more editorial feel.
Suggest further projects
Each job started as a small piece, a blog post here and some web content there. But by targeting the right companies, positioning myself as a highly skilled and strategic freelancer, and starting the discussion about bigger projects from the get-go, I’ve used those initial projects as a springboard to bigger projects that earn me $100 to $175 per hour.
For instance, one company asked me to rewrite their About page. I agreed, and made sure to mention case studies in our early conversations about goals. And guess what I just finished earlier this week? A case study for that company.
So if you’ve completely abandoned bidding sites, consider reconsidering. The high search rankings of these sites can work in your favor, if you’re willing to be selective and specific in the types of opportunities you entertain. You, too, can earn $100 per hour as an Upwork freelancer.
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