Step-by-Step Blueprint for Getting Your First Freelance Clients

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You’ve got skills that could be earning you more than TWICE what you make at your day job. 

It won't require tons of experience or take years of grunt work, either.

This guide will show you how.

Packaging those skills and offering your skills as a service is easier than ever before, and if you know how to position yourself as the best the earnings potential is high.

To begin, you’ll need to narrow down your skills into specific topics.

“Marketing Copywriter,” for example.

This is the easy part of the process and also the most fun.

Write down everything you do today or have done in the past to make money.

Also, consider what you enjoy doing, have a passion for, and are good at.

You don’t have to be the world's best at these things, but remember that you do have to deliver results when you get hired to do these activities! 

I have no problem admitting that I can't recommend any other freelance marketplace other than

Upwork is simply the best for new freelancers to find clients quickly and get paid well. 

Upwork has eight high-level skill categories you can fit yourself into.

Upwork Skill Categories

When you know what skills you want to use to launch your freelance business, the next step is creating a freelancer profile on Upwork.

I used Upwork to launch my freelance business and so have thousands of other freelancers.

There are other options out there like, but Upwork is more user-friendly and more businesses look for freelancers on Upwork versus so you’ll have more opportunities using Upwork.

Building your Upwork profile isn’t rocket science but there is a structure you’ll want to follow to WOW visitors to your profile.


Your goal should be to sell yourself in a way that makes sending you an invitation a no-brainer for the hiring manager.

It all begins with your tagline and profile photo.

What are your one or two skills you’re above average at and love doing? That’s exactly what you want as your title.

For example, my title on Upwork is “Conversion Copywriter specializing in SaaS, eCommerce, and Events.”

As for your profile picture, it goes without saying that representing the best version of yourself is smart...

Use a high-res professional headshot and for god sakes look happy in the photo. No one wants to hire a grump.

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For the tagline, less is more.

Project managers (the people doing the hiring) search for talent based on the skills mentioned throughout your profile and tagline, so hone in on the one to two skills you want to offer only.

Next, you’ll have to fill in your freelancer profile to sell yourself.

You won’t get a job if hiring managers can’t understand exactly what you’re good at, so again, try to be specific when promoting your stuff.

The body of your Upwork profile is really a sales page.

If you don’t have experience writing sales copy it’s worth investing in someone (like a freelancer on Upwork!) to review your profile and make it POP after you take a crack at it.

Eventually, you’ll get hired, get reviewed, and get stats that hiring managers can see about your work history on your Upwork profile, which will take some weight off the copy on your profile.

But when you’re first starting out as a freelancer and all your stats are at zero: zero hours worked, no ratings, zero dollars earned- all you have is the description of your skills to make you stand out.

If you haven’t viewed Upwork from a Client's point of view, stop right now and sign up for a Client account on Upwork.

Search around, make a fake job posting, and let freelancers apply so you can view proposals from the other side.

What do you notice about proposals as the hiring managers see them?

Did you notice how only the first few sentences of the freelancer proposals appear in the list view?

How did you feel about the first proposals you received vs. the ones that came in days after you posted the job?

I’ve been on both side of Upwork as a freelancer and client and found that proposals I receive early tend to win the project more often.

As a freelancer on Upwork, you’ll want to apply to projects ASAP and captivate the hiring manager.

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How to apply for jobs on Upwork and get hired

Hiring talent is always a process, even on a freelancing platform like Upwork.

So when you’re applying keep that fact in mind.

Applying and winning jobs is a PROCESS. If you try to rush through the process you won’t get hired.

So don't try to rush. 



The Art of Applying for freelance jobs on Upwork. Step by Step:

1. Search for relevant jobs.You know, the ones you can actually execute.

2. Apply early and often (at first).

Launching a freelance business will take time. Be patient.

You want to build your client base and earn jobs quickly at first to build momentum, but that might not happen as fast as you’d like.

It’s a numbers game, especially in the beginning. The more you apply the more interviews you’ll get.

Once you have reviews and stats built up you can be pickier.

3. Be detailed in your proposals but don’t be needy.

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Hiring managers are looking for freelance help because they don’t have the resources for their project.

Those resources are most likely time and talent. Just don’t waste their time. Err on the side of concise.  

4. Be confident in your proposal. This goes back to not being needy.

Hiring managers can sense confidence in your writing and whether you “sound” like you know what the heck you’re talking about.

5. Don’t lie.

You must possess the skills you’re proposing because, other than straight up bad karma for lying, employers will seek proof.

6. Ask thoughtful questions straight out of the gate.

This will 100% make you stand out, sound genuinely interested in the client, and get a response.

The proposal is the first step in the hiring process and the second step is a response from the employer, so asking questions in your proposal is arguably the most important tip.

7. Respond quickly to every message. 

Every. Message. 

Employers want to know you’re available when they need you.

You can position yourself as readily available by responding quickly to every message.

This is by far the easiest way to gain an edge over your competitors on Upwork.

Going that extra mile to respond quickly really makes you stand out because nobody wants to wait.

I’m both a client and freelancer on Upwork so I know the importance of fast responses.

When a freelancer responds quickly I know they’re customer focused, which is a prerequisite to working with me.

"After the client responds to my proposal, how do I win the job?"

Engage the employer in a continuous conversation.

You do this by asking relevant questions about the project AND telling them exactly what you need to be successful and do a knock-out job for them.

If you only take away one item from this guide, take away this: Winning jobs on Upwork is not about you.

It's all about the client.

Winning freelance projects is a client-service game. So stay focused on the client during the hiring process.

The easiest way to prove your genuine interest in the client is by asking them questions and being upfront about the requirements- their requirements and yours.

"How much should my hourly rate be when first getting started on Upwork?"

Your rate depends on your experience.

Generally, when first starting out you’ll win more jobs if your rate is lower than average. That way you’ll be competing against less experienced freelancers and win more jobs.

That’s right, I said lower. Relative to the Upwork market that is. You gotta put the ego aside to start making money fast. 

You’ll want to work for low rates at first just to win jobs in the beginning.

Upwork segments freelancers with hourly rates of Low, Medium, High.

That means if you “fight below your weight” or set your hourly rate low at first you can earn more work because there will be applicants with less experience than you applying for the same jobs.

If that sounds confusing that’s because it is.

Take my advice and set your rates low just for the sake of earning your first job, crushing that job, and getting your first rave review and 5-stars.

If you follow the steps I've laid out you won't be working for a low rate very long anyways. 

After your profile is set up on Upwork and you’re ready to start freelancing and making money, begin submitting proposals to relevant jobs.

Let’s recap the key takeaways:

1. Decide what you can offer clients as a freelancer

2. Create a knock-out freelancer profile on Upwork

3. Sign up as a Client on Upwork to see Upwork from a client's POV

4. Search for relevant work

5. Submit proposals and engage employers

6. Win jobs, do the work, and GET PAID!

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