As many millennials can often relate to, Alex found himself somewhat lost halfway through studying for his Bachelor of Science degree. Needing a little extra cash, one evening down the rabbit hole, he uncovered Student Gems, a website of odd jobs and part-time gigs for those who study.
A keen football enthusiast, he managed to bag himself a part-time job running the Twitter account of a sports product website. His intrigue heightened after receiving numerous messages through Twitter about larger wholesale orders. This intrigue moved him on a path that would open his eyes and educate his mind about the world of paid advertising on Google.
Alex soon realized clicking on paid ads from Google often lead you to what’s known in the industry as ‘landing pages.’ Whereas company websites are more about welcoming you and telling their story, landing pages, branded but separate from the company’s website, are very specific. There’s a clear path for the user to follow, such as signing up for an email list or purchasing a particular product.
After a little digging, Alex uncovered Unbounce, a software package that allows you to build and implement landing pages. He now had a clear goal to work towards, making companies more money through paid advertising, and a specific tool to use. But with only a handful of part-time jobs from Student Gems to his name, Alex knew that to make this a viable business, he needed clients with more capacity and ambition.
In the summer of 2015, Alex enlisted himself on Upwork, one of the largest freelance platforms on the web. His first six months, however, were the toughest to navigate through. As a new freelancer, treading water in a sprawling ocean of services and experts, getting discovered was very difficult. He initially had to lower his rate and take smaller, lower-paid jobs, sometimes only one or two a month, to build his positive review score. However, after six months, the wheels of consistency began to turn.
Good reviews naturally lead to more visibility, and Alex’s unique offering of creating ‘expert landing pages in Unbounce’ allowed him to carve out a niche slowly. In time, client testimonials and stats were added to his profile as more jobs came through the door. It took twelve months of hard work, but Alex was ranking as the number one English speaking landing page designer in by late 2016. Now, he could raise his rate and be more selective about with whom he worked.
Alex admits there are many ‘quick and easy’ jobs on Upwork, but spend enough time sieving through the opportunities, and you will find the nuggets of gold. Those are the clients you should strive to build a long term working relationship with. This notion very much backs up the 80/20 rule, with Alex stating that a vast majority of his income comes from only a handful of repeat clients.
At around the 18-month mark, Alex exceeded $50k of income via Upwork. Now, he only works with clients who are series about long term relationships, not the ‘do it quickly and cheaply’ types.
He’ll happily admit that making Upwork work for you is not an overnight fix, and it does take months of hard work. There are, however, certain things you can do to make your path to consistent income less of a meandering affair.
1 – Firstly, Alex attributes his jump from one to two jobs a month to constant inquiries down to getting in those first five stars reviews and keeping your job satisfaction score above 90%. There is no ‘ten steps’ plugin here; you should lower your rate initially, keep applying and, when the first couple of jobs come in, be sure to do a good job. A negative review in your early stages can hinder, even kill, your ability to be successful on Upwork.
2 – Secondly, he emphasizes the importance of putting relevant case studies in proposals. Clients, naturally, will receive offers from scores of potential freelancers. They are not going to want to read the generic spiel of ‘I can deliver a quality product,’ or, ‘I’ll work as hard as I need to hit the deadline for you.’
If you’re applying to design a website for, say, a sports product retailer, show them a website in your portfolio of a sports-based website, not just a generic website. If you don’t have one, try and put something simple together. The more you can visualize their idea, specifically addressing their needs in your cover letter, the higher the chance you have of being selected.
3 – And finally, Alex puts most of his success on Upwork down to his ability to specialize his service. He says to take the skill you have and specialize either by tool/software or industry. So he doesn’t create landing pages, he creates landing pages in Unbounce. A copywriter, for example, isn’t just a generic copywriter; they’re a copywriter in the travel space or the food industry.
Once you have a little more traffic on your profile, try to experiment with different headings and offerings. After all, your title is the first thing potential clients see when they’re scrolling through the lists of freelancers.
So there you have it. That’s how Alex, a self-taught digital marketing specialist, made $50k+ on Upwork.