Freelancing in the United States 2015
For years, freelancers have been an important (and often overlooked) segment of the American workforce.…
One of the biggest complaints I hear from people who read my book is: “Upwork only has a bunch of $1 per hour data entry jobs. I can’t believe you actually made a career on Upwork (aka oDesk).”
To these comments, I usually respond: “You have to invest time into identifying high-paying opportunities – or those that could lead to high-paying engagements.”
When I say this, I typically get a blank stare.
In this post, I’m going to show you how to find high-paying jobs on the Upwork marketplace. (It is possible.)
Let me start by giving you the secret to finding the highest-paying jobs on Upwork: take advantage of job filters.
When logged into your Upwork account, click “Find Work.” Click on a job “category” or enter a search term into the “Search for Jobs” box. On the left side of the page, you should see something like the following image. Learning how to use these filters is your key to identifying better Upwork jobs.
Your instinct for finding clients might be similar to shopping on the Amazon marketplace: identify the nearest search box, type in a keyword, and press “Enter.” I’ll admit that I’ve probably taken this approach, too. In fact, I’m sure that I’ve identified and won several jobs this way.
However, the problem with a “search only” approach is that it relies upon proper spelling and explanation by the client. For example, let’s say that you’re an SEO expert. You do a search for “SEO,” and you begin applying to jobs. While you may come across many decent opportunities, aren’t you ignoring clients who have failed to use the exact phrase “SEO”?
In short, browsing jobs by category and using the search box in tandem is probably the best approach.
Most freelancers are probably interested in both hourly and fixed price jobs. If I were to ramp up my own prospecting tomorrow, I would consider both types of work. Having completed dozens of successful oDesk (now Upwork) contracts, here’s my quick take on this topic:
Fixed price jobs can be a potential land mine if you don’t know where you’re stepping. Before prospecting for fixed price jobs, you should consider the following:
Once you’ve answered these questions, I suggest you then use an Upwork “Budget” filter to exclude those below (and perhaps above) your service tier. I personally set my lower limit at $250, but it was lower when I was just getting started in freelancing. I would probably also filter any job over $1,000, as I find it’s virtually impossible to properly scope a marketing project that is over $1,000.
When clients post Upwork jobs, they are asked if they are looking for a freelancer who is an:
Which level best describes you? Realistically, “Entry Level” is probably not going to pay what you’re looking for. I would recommend that most US-based contractors uncheck “Entry Level,” unless he or she is interested in seeing $3/hour job posts. (Don’t sell yourself short!)
Here’s where many freelancers make a big mistake: they fail to use this filter. Arguably, this is one of the most important pieces of information that is at your disposal as a freelancer.
Do not work for clients with “No Hires.” Let another freelancer take the risk on new clients. Your freelancer success score is way to valuable to risk it.
If you’re looking for sustainability as a freelancer, then it’s best to start with longer term projects. Filter out short-term work by utilizing the “Project Length” and “Hours Per Week” filters.
Personal preference: I would un-check “full time,” as I am not for-hire on a full time basis. This is for you to decide, however.
One final secret to finding the best paying Upwork jobs: sort your results by “most dollars paid.” This is how you identify the clients who are the most serious. Money talks.
Have a secret not discussed in this post? Comment below and tell the world!
Disclaimer: Obviously, this post is not a guaranteed strategy for freelancing success. It’s just my own personal perspective on how I go about identifying the best Upwork opportunities.