In my last post, How to Set up Your Upwork Account? I went through the process of establishing your Upwork account. I left things at the point where Upwork was asking me to create a profile. In this post, I will go through the critical step of building and perfecting your Upwork profile.
I cannot stress enough the importance of your profile. You are competing with 12 million other freelancers for gigs. All right, many will work in different fields to you, and many of your direct competitors will be inactive or busy. But, you will still face much competition, so you have to create a profile that is an advertisement for yourself.
The first question Upwork asks you is, “What are the main services you offer to clients?” They provide a selector box with Upwork’s main categories. Select the one that best describes the type of work that you wish to perform.
That selection brings up a series of boxes which expand on your major category. For instance, in my case, I chose Writing as my main category. Upwork then provided me with ten specific types of writing and told me I could select up to four types.
The next question Upwork asks is, What skills do you offer clients? Although this first appears to be an open-ended question, when you click in the box a list opens up. Click on 3-4 that apply (if any do). You have to come up with a skill that would fit in the sentence, “I am expert in _______”.
I found a bug when entering these skills – first time around, they wouldn’t accept any relevant writer’s skills. If you encounter the same bug, change to a different job category, and then return to the one, you want.
Finally, on the initial screen, you pick your experience level. This decision does have an impact on what you can charge, but you do have to be realistic. By all means, click on Expert if you are very experienced in this type of work but don’t overestimate your capabilities.
As it says in the next screen, the information in your profile determines whether Upwork accepts you. So fill it in a thorough and honest way.
You will need to upload a photo to the next screen. Make sure it looks professional – preferably a head-and-shoulders shot, wearing professional attire.
Upwork then asks to give yourself a professional title that describes the services you offer in a couple of words. As with any copywriting, this needs to be clear and help you stand out from everybody else.
You then have the opportunity to write a couple of paragraphs as your professional overview. Make this your main summary. It may be the only opportunity you have to impress a busy company executive looking for freelance talent.
Once you have written an excellent professional overview, you need to fill in some further details about yourself. You have the chance to talk about your educational achievements and past work history. Remember that you are competing on an international stage, so you need to select your level of English skill.
You then set your initial hourly rate. Remember that 20% of what you charge will go to Upwork as a fee, so remember to allow for this. You do need to be realistic here. Don’t forget, you are competing with people who have worked on Upwork for years. You are also competing with people in low-wage countries. That does not mean that you have to sell yourself short, but it is best to be conservative as you begin your Upwork journey. Your rate will be in $US, so that may benefit you depending on where you are from (it has helped me as a New Zealander). I began at $US15 per hour and was able to raise it before long, once I had some Upwork experience showing as evidence of my skills.
Finally, you enter your initial availability and contact details. When you are happy, you click on the Review Application & Submit button and wait to be approved. From memory, it didn’ take long for Upwork to accept me.
Adding to Your Upwork Profile
Once you are up and running, you will want to go back and tidy up your Upwork profile. You want to ensure that you shine, while still telling an honest story.
It would be an excellent idea to add any existing samples of work to your Upwork portfolio. Although I did not have any blog posts to show when I started, I had been a teacher for many years before this. I had written workbooks for my students, So I uploaded a couple of my books to my Upwork portfolio. While it is unlikely that anyone would look at them now that I have many blog posts to show, the books were handy at the beginning. They were evidence that I could write.
Note that Upwork has a rule that you cannot include personal contact details in your profile. That means that you cannot show your phone number, physical address, email address, Skype name or anything else similar.
You really should highlight your best skills – as long as they are relevant to the types of jobs you are hoping to bid for. I am a perfectly capable cook, but there is no reason for me to mention that on my Upwork profile!
If you have relevant past work experiences, include them. Explain what your role in any particular project was. You may have to think about the skills you have, but you have probably built up quite a few transferable skills over time. I can now be thankful for all of those old school report-writing skills I built up in my teaching days.
Regularly Update Your Upwork Profile and Portfolio
If there is one thing I have learned from writing this blog post, it is the need to be continually updating your Upwork profile and portfolio. I have to spend time shortly updating mine as I have discovered it is now well out of date. You only have to highlight your best work, so remove older inferior examples as you gain better ones with which to replace them.
Once you have been on Upwork for awhile, you will be able to use Upwork contracts as examples for your portfolio. Be aware that Upwork emails the person for whom you performed work. They have to provide permission before you can use their work in your portfolio. This is particularly important if you carry out any sensitive work. In my case, I have to be careful when I ghostwrite, as quite a few of my clients do not want me to tell anybody that they did not do writing that they published under their byline.
Consider a Video
Upwork recommends that you upload a short video to your profile. I must admit that I have never done this – I am probably too camera shy. However, having a video where you introduce yourself adds a personal touch to your profile. It is useful for showing that you can speak excellent English ( a requirement of many Upwork clients).
Ideally, your video should last for about a minute. In that time, introduce yourself, and give a quick overview of your skills and talents, as well as the types of work that interest you.
Fill in Any Obvious Gaps
Finally go back to your Upwork profile and fill in any weak sections. Have you included your educational experiences and any qualifications you may have? Have you written about your past employment experiences? Polish your portfolio to make it look enticing to somebody with whom you could potentially work.
Make sure that it is not too long. While you want to make yourself look suitable for a job, you do not want to bore people. You need to tell all of the essential details, but no more.
Remember that you can, and indeed should go back at regular intervals. You can fine-tune your profile at any time and add any new experiences and employment.
In the third part of this Introduction to Upwork series, I will look at How to Grab Your First Upwork Gig.