Anushka asked me this question on Facebook, “how do you get such good rates that too on upwork?”
This question is a symptom of a prevailing mindset among freelancers that you can only earn poor rates on Upwork. Here’s what some freelancers say on Reddit,
So the consensus it seems is that Upwork is terrible in terms of the rates you can get from clients. But is that really so? Below are my latest stats ON upwork, where my asking hourly rate is $62.5 / hour. Keep in mind that I have several direct clients outside of Upwork, in addition to my own software product and my oracle forum, so I can’t devote my full time on Upwork.
So why do I get above $60 / hour rates (and in some cases above $75 / hour rates) on Upwork while people say that it’s a “race to the bottom“.
The simple answer is that I am bidding for the person and not the project. I scan for a client, who is professional, respects my time and understands that one only gets what one pays for. And when I send them my cover letter / proposal, I present such value that my price becomes worth every cent.
This is the obvious “secret” to success in most things in life. Choose the person you work with very very carefully.
The argument against this is that, Sadik, I am out of work and I am in no position to choose clients. I have to take whatever I can get.
To that I say, if you are in this position, where you are Freelancing to survive, you have to consider looking for a traditional job and just freelance on the side, so that your survival does not depend on it. Freelancing is like running your own business. And no matter how good you are, to be successful will take some time. If you don’t have the means to survive the initial struggling time until you break through, you really have to re-consider the choice to Freelance. And if it’s not a choice and you really have no other option, you have to find a way to fight out the initial period.
As a side note,
The quickest way to success is to establish yourself as “very good at what you do”. You need references for that, and social proof is an excellent persuading factor for new clients.
I have talked about this in detail in this post and in my Upwork Proposal PDF. In short, create a product with your skill and give it away (or even sell it) in a way that you can get exposure. Find communities, authority websites around your skill set and create something really useful which people in your niche can use and then use these links as your references. Write great proposals, and do an excellent job. Over time you will get more work and more feedback / testimonials.
Back to point, “How do you get good rates on Upwork?”
Upwork is a marketplace. It is a “bazaar” of sorts and you are a vendor. Any type of person can walk into the bazaar. And at upwork, indeed all manners of clients walk in. What you have to do, is choose whom you want to bid for. Again, note the emphasis on “whom” and not “What”.
Additionally, you have to be willing to also work in an area peripheral to your core skill set. Which means you have to be willing to learn new things. Now scan for all projects in your wider area of expertise. The following are the indicators I use to search for a professional client.
Language in Post
No it’s not about their grammar. The most important factor to look for in a client’s language for his requirement is “valuing the work”. It’s a bit intangible to define and comes more with experience as you read many requirements. Are they asking for the moon but their budget is pennies? Do they come across as arrogant or they seem courteous? How does their attitude come across?
Of course it’s not possible to 100% determine their work ethics from one requirement post, but as you do it regularly you get better at it.
Budget, Expert Level
Is their budget listed as $25 but their requirement very vast? And is their budget very low but they have chosen the three $$$ Expert level?
There is one important disclaimer here. Many times, clients who are not very tech savvy can make a mistake in entering their budget or in choosing the Expert / Beginner / Intermediate level. So take this with a grain of salt. But it’s an indicator. Along with their language, an analysis of their choice of budget and their choice of freelancer level can help you understand what the client could be like.
Country, Amount Spent
Again this is not a definite indicator, but something to look at. How much money have they already spent? Which country are they from. Mostly this is only useful to understand if they have experience in hiring freelancers or not. Often clients who are new to the system are better. So this works both ways. Also look at if they have their payment verified or not.
Below every project requirement, Upwork shows “Client’s Work History and Feedback“. This is one of THE Best ways to determine their attitude. What have they gotten done already? What was their past work like? And then click on the Freelancer’s name who got their work done and read the exact review the client left for that freelancer. That will tell you what their general attitude towards Upwork freelancers is.
Google the client
If you asked me to rank which was the most useful among all of the above in determining the client, It is this. If you receive an invite from the client on Upwork, upwork shows you their name. You can google them and almost always find them or their site, which let’s you know what kind of a professional profile they have.
If it’s not an invite, almost 90% of the time, in their project requirement, you have some info which can help you google them. A business owner who makes money is more likely to be a better client than a hobbyist looking to execute an idea.
Once you have determined, how good the client is or not, and also have some kind of information about their possible budget / finances, you can have an indicator of whether or not they are good for the rate you are looking to earn.
Even if you can’t determine how good the client is, if you do the work above, you will at least weed out the very bad clients. This is very important in preventing a bad situation in the future. Their language, their choice for requirements, their past history, their online profile elsewhere etc will give it away if they have a bad attitude.
Once you have done the work above and determined that you want to fight it out to get the job, you now have to focus on your proposal. The general advice, as I have said several times on this blog and elsewhere is to present such value that you cannot be ignored. This is done through crafting your profile perfectly, writing proposals with the correct persuading triggers and proving yourself as “perfect for the job”. Read this and this article for some insight on how it is done.
Eventually, the bottom line is where do you want to go? Are you presenting yourself like Apple or Lenovo? Tesla or Honda? Target the right kind of people, provide immense value, ask for good rates, do great work, be energetic and friendly and fun to work with and yes you can charge the highest rates for your industry.