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Secret to getting your first Upwork client

Photo by London Scout on Unsplash

You have the skills. You have the experience. But for some reason, you’re struggling to get your very first Upwork client. Do you want to know the secret to how you can find yours?

Well… the truth is there is no secret. Or it’s not as hard as it seems.

I’m going to tell you the actual secret to help you land your first client (and the next ten or 50!) — the same secret I’ve used (and many others have) in the last five years.

It is very simple, but it may take some time to implement (depending on your skills), and it is…

Submitting Proposals

That’s really the secret. You need to submit proposals, and you need to do it well and consistently.

Submit Relevant Proposals

By “do it well”, I mean you should submit proposals to Upwork jobs that fit your skills.

For example, if you are a call center agent, you should apply for jobs related to your skills. It could be telemarketing, lead generation, technical support, and related skills.

If you are good at graphic design, then you should find jobs related to whatever your design skills are. It could involve logo or cartoon creation, product design, or maybe t-shirt design.

Submit Consistently

By “consistently”, I mean you must submit proposals on a regular basis, until you get hired.

For many workers, that means submitting proposals on a weekly and monthly basis, for at least 1 to 12 months. Some get lucky and get hired in a matter of months, but I’ve heard some workers found their clients after more than 12 months. It really depends on many factors.

Should You Pay for Connects?

Connects in Upwork are like (optional) tokens you buy to be able to apply to more jobs.

I’m not in favor of paying for Connects. In fact, I’ve never paid for it ever, even though it only costs $1 each.

I joined oDesk (previous name of Upwork) over 5 years ago precisely because it’s free to apply there, unlike in other online jobs platforms.

But things have changed in Upwork in the last few years. These days, workers can only apply to a much more limited number of jobs, unless you buy Connects.

For new freelancers, buying Upwork Connects is really optional. The decision is yours.

Should You Wait for the “Right One”?

What I mean here is being passive and waiting for your client to come to you. Should you?

It’s better to be an active seeker. Find the jobs that you like, and apply.

Sure, you can wait for clients to come to you, but this should be a minor part of your client acquisition strategy, especially if you’re just starting out.

Ready to Quit After Sending 20 or 100 Proposals?

While I would agree that 20 or 100 proposals are many, it might not be enough, in your case, to justify quitting.

To give you a perspective, I’ve sent over 2,400 proposals in the last five years, most of which have been submitted in my first three years.

Upwork proposals archive

My Upwork Proposals. Over 2,400 and counting!

I must admit that I prefer short-term jobs and I’m very picky with my clients, leading me to decline many offers then and until now. So the number of submitted proposals would vary widely from freelancer to freelancer.

Guess how many of those 2,400 proposals helped me get hired? Only 150 or so. That’s just 6% hiring success rate! And yet I survived and succeeded!

If I did quit early in the “game”, I wouldn’t have the chance to excel and receive three awards from Upwork.

My point here is…

Put the Odds in Your Favor

Don’t be passive and wait for clients. Make the effort to submit proposals.

Think about it: if you submit zero proposals, you won’t get hired at all.

If you submit a few proposals each month, your hiring chances will be up a bit. But don’t expect too much.

If you submit 30 proposals each month (consuming all your free Upwork Connects, in effect), your hiring chances will increase.

It’s Only a Matter of Time

Take the time to submit relevant proposals consistently. I guarantee that it will be well worth your effort.

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