[Updated July 18, 2019: Upwork removed Skills Tests this July]
Question: What do students (including a student from Marawi), cum laudes, undergraduates, master’s degree holders, nurses, teachers, single moms, call center agents, senior citizens, PWDs (persons with disability), veteran employees (with 10-20+ year experience), OFWs, and other professionals (including a lawyer, sales manager, team leads, art directors, senior CS trainer, tax accountant, and GMA-7 music composer) have in common?
Answer: I’ve personally helped each one of them (at least 700 to 1,000 workers as of March 2018 — and still counting!), and they all have successfully used or are currently using the following Upwork profile approval checklist and tips which I’m going to share with you.
Is Your Upwork Profile Rejected 100 Times?
Did you get rejected over 100 times like some of these workers? No problem! I’ve helped workers who got 50 to over 100 Upwork profile rejections!
This simple checklist works so well that it will guarantee your profile approval success even if you apply only a few of what I’ve mentioned on this list!
It’s really simple. But first, you must understand…
Why You Need an Approved Upwork Profile
Joining Upwork is harder these days. Upwork has become stricter in the past few years as more freelancers join the platform. New members’ profiles must go through an approval process before they can apply to jobs available in Upwork.
Thousands of Upwork profiles have been rejected and this checklist has helped a lot of workers who are essentially “newbies” looking to enter the online freelancing industry.
Before You Proceed
Do you have an old oDesk or Elance account? oDesk and Elance are the predecessors of Upwork. If you do, try your best to find the login details for your old account. oDesk and Elance accounts do not need to go through the approval process. If needed, seek help from Upwork chat support to get your old account moved or reactivated in Upwork.
In any case, getting a rejected Upwork profile eventually approved isn’t “seriously very difficult” as some workers have told me.
No Profile Yet?
If you don’t have an Upwork profile, you need to register on Upwork.com. Read my FAQ “How can I join Upwork?” to learn how and then review this article.
Where to Find Your Profile and Profile Link
Log in and go to the Jobfeed page. On the right sidebar below your picture, you’d see “View my profile”. Your profile link is also there (the URL or link itself).
On mobile, find Desktop Format > View my profile
Your profile link would look like this:
https://www.upwork.com/fl/[your name] or
https://www.upwork.com/freelancers/~[series of numbers and characters]
How to Edit Your Profile
Go to Find Work > Profile > Edit Profile
You can edit each section from this point on.
Once you’re done, click Done Editing and Re-submit profile.
But before you do, read further…
How Will This Checklist Help You?
The goals of this profile approval checklist are:
- to get your rejected profile approved fast so you can apply to jobs sooner
- to increase your hiring chances and get you hired faster right after approval (based on feedback, many freelancers got hired — some of them multiple times! — after using my checklist and following my advice)
You’re Profile is Approved When…
You get an email saying your profile is approved or published. This email would come minutes or hours after you resubmit your Upwork profile.
Some workers don’t get an email within 24-72 hours. If this happens to you too, don’t panic! Try to submit a job proposal. Being able to submit a proposal means your profile has been approved!
Now, let’s move on…
Upwork Profile Sections
Familiarize yourself with these sections so you can navigate the profile faster.
Many parts of the profile are self-explanatory, so I only included some in this edited screenshot:
“Minor” Profile Sections
I consider a few profile sections as “minor” because they’re either less important or optional. These sections include Time and Location, Video, Education, and Other Experiences.
You must use your real, full name.
Time and Location
While this is a minor section, you should make sure that it’s accurate.
You can add a video to your profile. But this part is optional.
Like Time and Location, make sure this is accurate.
If there’s anything else you want to add that doesn’t fit the other sections, you can add them here.
In my case, I mentioned my volunteering work, as well as skills, positions, and awards I got in high school.
Now, let’s go to the…
Upwork Profile Approval Checklist That Guarantees Success
Is your Upwork profile still rejected? An Upwork profile rejection is not the end of the world!
I know this based on my experience helping workers who had their Upwork profile rejected, and they got rejected as much as 30 to over 100 times!
Proven Upwork Profile Checklist Since 2012
What follows is the checklist I’ve used to help workers get their profiles approved.
This is the same checklist I’ve used since I joined oDesk (now Upwork) in 2012.
I don’t have an exact count of how many got approved using this (I get at least 30-60 new messages from workers asking for help weekly as of the time of this writing — July/August 2017). You can check my feedback to find many of them.
1. Check Capitalization, Spelling, Punctuation, Spacing, and Grammar
This is the easiest problem to fix in your profile — and yet many ignore and fail to.
Some profiles I’ve checked are well made but severely lacking in this department. I’ve helped several workers get their profiles approved just by fixing this part alone!
For instance, many call center agents spell “customer service” as “costumer service”. Soon after fixing this simple mistake (among a few other mistakes), at least one call center agent got his/her profile approved!
For capitalization, you should ensure “I” and proper nouns are capitalized. I’ve seen freelancers capitalize words or phrases that are not proper nouns, like “Biggest Call Center Company in the Philippines” or “Top Online Apps”, while others fail to capitalize proper nouns or terms, like “microsoft excel”.
For punctuation, make sure you are using punctuation marks properly. Most people lack punctuations like commas, while a few have excess punctuations at the wrong places (the freelancer may have forgotten to delete these excesses).
Many do not add a space between paragraphs too.
2. Remove Common Skills or Positions
These would include “data entry”, “typing”, “data encoding”, “data encoder”, and “encoder”. If you have these words in your Profile, I suggest you remove them or replace them with other more specific words.
For example, if you’re a data entry specialist who uses Microsoft Word well, put “Microsoft Word Specialist” instead of “Data Entry Specialist”.
3. Profile Picture
You should use a clear, full-face, professional picture. This sends a message that you’re serious about your online jobs search. Choose a front-facing picture with your best smile, if possible!
Some people have used their graduation pictures. I’ve advised them to replace it with a professional one instead.
The image background should ideally provide a good contrast.
4. Job Title
This is one of the most important sections of your Profile. It must tell the clients, in 70 characters or less, what your skills are.
If you offer a variety of skills, use this space to declare what you do best.
If you’re a master at certain skills, feel free to add the words “guru”, specialist”, “veteran”, “pro”, “expert”, or use what some clients like, “ninja”. For example, “Customer Service Specialist”, “Graphic Design Veteran”, or “Excel Guru”.
Remember to maximize the space — you have a 70-character limit (use wordcounter.net to check). Separate your skills with “/”, “,”, or even “|”.
Example: “Customer Service Specialist | Excel & Shopify Guru”.
5. Skills Cloud
The Skills Cloud is another place to showcase your skills.
Clients are able to search for freelancers by skill-based keywords (like “customer service”), so maximize the space provided here. You can choose up to 10 skills or so. Pick those that best represent your skills.
Do not add low-value or common skills here like “english spelling” or “data entry”. Doing so is like saying “I can breathe and do addition or subtraction”.
It’s ideal to have a checkmark beside the skills you’ve added here. A checkmark means you’ve taken an Upwork skills test on that respective skill (see #9 below). Here’s an example:
Note that many skills don’t have corresponding checkmarks or skills tests.
I consider this the extended version of the Job Title.
Here, you have much more space to inform clients about specific details of your skills.
Write with a positive, confident, and professional tone. Write about your work ethic and what you can do for clients.
Make it easy to read. Use short paragraphs. Each paragraph must focus on one topic. Add a space between paragraphs. Feel free to use bullet points.
Use proper formatting and write normal paragraphs. For example, I don’t recommend this kind of formatting I’ve seen in a few profiles:
This is the visual part of your profile.
Whether you’re experienced or not, showcase how good you are by uploading work-related documents, screenshots and samples, awards, and certificates. You can even add a link to your blog or websites you’ve made.
For freelancers looking for voice jobs, you can also add a link to your voice recording here (use Vocaroo).
If you have received certifications for certain skills, add them here. Otherwise, you can upload them to your Portfolio.
This section, although important, can be optional too. Many approved profiles have an empty Certifications section.
9. Skills Tests
[Note: This tip about Skills Tests is no longer relevant because Upwork has removed this section of the profile on July 2019. But you should still take the Upwork Readiness Test]
I consider this as one of the most important parts of the Upwork profile.
For undergraduate but skilled workers like me, you can shine by doing well in this section. If you don’t have any work or online job experience, you can use this section to impress potential clients too.
Find the Skills Test page here or go to Find Work > Tests
Use the Search tool on this page to find relevant tests. Take ALL tests related to your skills.
Your profile must have at least 4-5 tests. The more Upwork skills tests you take, the better. And by getting top scores (like 1st place, 2nd place, Top 30%, etc.), you’re proving to yourself and your potential clients that you’re really skilled.
On the other hand, if you get “Failed” or Below Average” test results, it means you need more practice or still lack the required skills. It’s best to hide these test results.
I’ve personally taken over 60 tests in the last 5 years, and I’ve continued to take tests afterward. Below are just some of my test results:
The odd thing is, my Skills Tests section alone is much longer than 70% of rejected Upwork profiles shared with me!
Take each test seriously. It would take one to six months before you can retake many of the tests.
Each test takes 5 to 40 minutes, depending on your skills.
10. Employment History
Many workers ignored this section or failed to spend enough time on it.
If you have previous work experience, you should add them here.
Add relevant dates and details about your position.
You can use this section to generate ideas for your Job Title.
11. Hourly Rate
Provide a reasonable hourly rate, one that is consistent with your skills and experience. You can start with $3 to $10 per hour. Remember to consider the Upwork fees when deciding your rate.
Be professional about this and all parts of your profile. I’ve seen many freelancers (with poorly-created profiles) put in a really high hourly rate. Take your profile seriously so your potential clients would take you seriously.
Fill it to the brim. Your profile is your first opportunity to impress your clients. Make the most of it! I’ve seen hundreds of profiles that are almost empty, and yet they wonder why their Upwork profiles are rejected!
Type your name carefully. I’ve seen two-word names typed as one (example, “Juan Miguel” typed as “JuanMiguel”). The worst thing that could happen is you’d have a problem with withdrawals from Upwork if you have stated an incorrect name (name mismatched with your bank account name).
Use clear, simple language. Don’t use words or terms that only you can understand. Ordinary people should understand most, if not everything, in your profile. Remember that many clients are NOT experts in their field or business. Write clearly. Write not to impress, but to be understood.
Use proper terms or industry jargon. Don’t add terms like “PLDT Company”, Quickbook” (for accountants), “Adobe Light Room” (for graphic designers), “facebook”, or “microsoft xcel”. Use proper terms and jargon with correct spelling.
Be specific. Specify all details necessary. For example, instead of saying “I’ve used Microsoft Word, etc.”, you should specify everything. When you add “etc.”, you’re being lazy and unprofessional. Clients do not have crystal balls! 😂
Be consistent throughout your profile as much as possible. Be consistent with the skills you specify, even with minor things like capitalizing words.
If you say you’re a Python or frontend development expert, you must prove it in your Skills Tests section in one way or another.
If you say you have 6 years of experience, some parts or your entire profile must corroborate that fact (example, the 6-year experience is highlighted in your Employment History details).
An ideal profile is one where the stated skills are consistent across the profile: in the Job Title, Skills Cloud, Overview, Skills Tests, Portfolio, Employment History and other sections of the profile. If you’re good at Microsoft Excel, all or most sections of your profile must consistently highlight this.
Show, don’t tell. This is related to the previous tip and is worth mentioning as a separate tip because hundreds of workers I’ve helped ignore this. Instead of saying something, it’s better to prove it.
If you say you’re a Microsoft Excel expert, prove it in the Skills test, Certification, Portfolio, and/or in other sections. Prove it in all profile sections if you can.
Be concise. Remove useless or redundant words or sentences.
Examples of useless ones: saying “I’m computer savvy”, “I can type”; “I’m familiar with the internet”. Don’t mention these. It’s like you’re proudly saying “I am human and I can breathe”. If you want to work online, it’s required that you can type and are familiar with the internet. Remember that you found Upwork through the internet to begin with.
In the Overview, don’t mention redundant details like your name, location, school, or work experience. Your name and location are already mentioned above the Overview, while your school details should go to the Education section. And your school isn’t too important to foreign clients (they care about your skills much more). Your work experience should be added to Employment History.
Mind your niche. Are you offering skills that many clients look for? Your answer and reaction to this important question will make a huge impact on your career.
Make a list of all your skills. Focus on those with the most demand. If you’re not sure, ask friends, workmates, other workers, or do a research online. [In the near future, I’ll create an article about finding your niche]
If your skills are not in high demand, you must be prepared to learn new skills, or at least do a review. You have to keep up with the changes happening right now (and in the future) in order to survive and thrive.
Once you’ve identified your niche/s, you must highlight it/them in these sections of your profile, as much as possible: Job Title, Overview, Skills Cloud, Skills Test, Portfolio, Employment History, and Certifications.
Don’t cheat and add fake or unnecessary information. Many freelancers are asking for cheatsheets for the skills tests. Many online workers are adding fake details on their profiles too. By doing so, you’re lying to clients and yourself. It’s also illegal to do so, and so don’t be surprised if you get suspended in Upwork.
Don’t add contact details to your profile. The client is supposed to contact and hire you through Upwork.
Mind your submission time. Resubmit your profile in the evening, from 11 PM onward (Manila time; that’s GMT+8 for foreign workers. You can use a timezone converter like this). I have a theory on why this works, but I don’t have insider proof. Regardless, the important thing is that this really works! Submit during weekdays only.
Trial and Error. If you don’t get approved, you just need to keep trying. Before you resubmit your profile, you have to make substantial changes to your profile. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time.
Don’t underestimate minor changes. Sometimes simple minor changes could be the key to getting approved. I know this based on my experience in helping some workers.
Trial and error is my final bonus tip because this is the last thing you need to do to get your Upwork profile approval. This really works, even for workers who got 50 to 100+ Upwork profile rejections (before asking for my advice) — based on my experience in helping them!
See some of my feedback here:
Still Got a Rejected Profile in Upwork?
Did you get another Upwork profile rejection after following my tips here?
Make sure you really did follow all my advice in this checklist article. Based on my experience, 60% to 90% of workers who asked for my advice and got rejected again fall into two camps:
- they did not really follow all my instructions (I manually reviewed their profiles; some got approved anyway, but many don’t) and/or
- they cannot follow some of my tips (for example, many weren’t able to get good skills test results due to lack of sufficient skills).
How do I know this for sure? Well, I take screenshots of their profiles. So I know for sure if the worker really did make changes or not.
As you can see, I’ve got a list of over 200 screenshots as of February 2018. This list does not include the profiles I’ve helped get Upwork approval since 2016.
Make sure to review the entire checklist and tips here, and remember that trial and error really works!
Here’s John who recently messaged me with good news — he followed my advice and got approved just 5 minutes after resubmitting:
“di ko nga inaasahan pag sumbit (submit) ko wala pang 5 mins nag reply agad”
Remember to continuously improve your profile by using the above tips and checklist.
Stay positive! If my checklist and tips have worked for over 300 online workers, from various walks of life, they will work for you too!
Your ability to follow instructions is one factor that will allow you to get approval and succeed in Upwork.
Follow my checklist and tips (100% if possible) so you can get your profile approval as soon as a few minutes or hours from now.
Readers have found these helpful too:
- Avoid Scammers and Time-wasters: Filter Upwork Clients Like a Boss
- Top 13 Worst Mistakes Upwork Freelancers Make That You Should Avoid Starting Today
- Discover The Secret to Getting Your First Upwork Client
- Fill out the OnlineJobsPlus Freelancer Directory form
- Upwork FAQs
- Ang Pinaka’s Top 10 In-Demand Online Jobs
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