My Upwork Freelance Experience

I first encountered Upwork (then still oDesk) in 2011, when my brother sent a link to them on Skype. I was just starting to work on Russian exchanges, and I thought - why not try also on a foreign exchange. But then it all ended in nothing. The results were weak, and, disappointed in freelance as such, I gave up this business.

He returned to Upwork only two years later, when he found out that there are those who are seriously engaged in freelance, and live well on this. This time I decided to focus only on foreign customers, because according to the first experience they had more budgets, and they also valued their and my time more. So I ended up on Upwork again.

Where am i now

Since then, he has held more than a hundred negotiations at Upwork, has collaborated with many customers. Now it’s easy for me to sell my services for $ 45 - $ 50 / hour. Last time a customer’s search took less than a week. Communicated with three customers at the same time. Two new ones who themselves came to me, and one client with whom we had already collaborated.

Starting point at the beginning of the path

What is now is very different from what it was when I just started working on Upwork. At first, I had to work in conditions where potential customers, if they made contact, ended up ending the negotiations with the same words “we found another contractor”. I had an empty portfolio, a lot of experience as a software developer and little experience in web development. And since I wanted to focus specifically on web development, there was essentially nothing to show potential customers. Also, I had no experience in spoken English. I could more or less read and write in English, but not speak.

First customers

When there is no reputation on the exchange, the first thing that comes to mind is to get a few positive reviews first. Small tasks with a fixed payment are best suited for this. Where did I start. It turned out to be quite simple. I wrote letters to several clients who needed to solve small problems in the region of 5-10 dollars, and received two tasks. As I later realized, only developers from India and Pakistan apply for such tasks, and customers already have strong beliefs about the low quality of their work. Therefore, when someone else appears among them, he automatically attracts attention. As a result, I completed those tasks and received the first positive feedback.

Finding your first hourly order

There are no problems finding small orders on a fixed payment, but living on such orders is harming your health. Of course, this is the easiest way to get positive feedback from customers when there is no reputation on the exchange. However, for serious results, you need to look for hourly contracts for a long time.

My search for the first hourly order looked like this:
  • monotonous viewing of tasks filtered by keywords;
  • sending letters to those clients with whose tasks I was sure that I would cope;
  • then either silence or a reply-letter- "thank you, we chose another artist."

The low responsiveness of letters and the lack of progress are already annoying. It was necessary to change something. I could be as confident as I could in my abilities to complete the task at the highest level, but if you look at yourself from the perspective of a client, then there is not a single evidence of these grandiose abilities. What can be offered to the client so that he still gives a chance? I’ll try to ask in letters to send me a small test task for an hour. On the one hand, this will allow the client to verify for free my ability to cope with this. On the other hand, this does not oblige the client to anything. The tactic worked fine. After several such letters, they sent me a test task. I completed it, and on the same day I received the first hourly contract for Upwork.

Communication in English

It so happened that for all the time I did not have to communicate in English as part of freelance (I mean voice communication). I even got the impression that this is a haven for the deaf. All discussions of tasks I have are in correspondence. In teamwork, participants discuss everything in Skype - hip-hop. Now my spoken English has become much better, I can conduct a discussion with my voice, but all the same, when I write to a client out of habit that I prefer correspondence, this does not cause any misunderstanding. In addition, it is very convenient when, following the results of negotiations, the history of discussion of the project, tasks and other issues remains. If I or a client forget something that we agreed on before, a search in the history of correspondence helps.

Time Zones

I have been living in Southeast Asia for a long time, that's why I interact with clients from Australia and Europe without any problems. With Australia, the difference in time zones is very small, and I communicate with European clients in the afternoon, when they have morning. Problems only arise with customers residing in the United States. It is very difficult to work with them when the time difference is twelve hours.

Side projects

To maintain my professional growth, I learn something new all the time. But I can’t thoroughly study the theory without immediately putting it into practice. Therefore, from time to time, I take breaks between clients to create experimental side projects. With the help of such projects, I manage to learn something new and improve my portfolio. I find an idea of ​​a product that would be interesting, depended on something that I had not yet encountered, and would be useful to others. So I have a natural need to immerse myself in theory in order to solve the problem. During this time, I made several popular open source applications and libraries. Customers like the results of the experiments - this has a positive effect on the decision to cooperate with me.

Finding a Niche

When I started working, I was doing everything that a web developer could do. He made websites, applications in many languages, on any technology. The orchestra man who promised to solve any problem, just let me know. When I gained experience in various aspects of web development, I was able to get to know myself better, to understand what I like to do the most. As a result, he began to narrow his focus, focusing on what he liked to do and exclude what he liked less. A narrower specialization began to attract customers in my profile. So I began to receive the most interesting projects for myself.

If I started to work on freelance now from the very beginning, would I immediately focus on something? No, I didn’t. I would likewise repeat such a transition from broad to narrow. Otherwise, I would not be able to find my niche, and would have to do now not my own business, without any growth.

Customer network growth

During these two-plus years of freelancing at Upwork, I have managed to build wonderful relationships with many clients from different parts of the world. Many have become regular customers who occasionally come up with new projects. Such a network of contacts with customers, which I was able to build up during this time, allows me no longer to worry about the fact that overnight I can be left without orders. I recently took a short break at Upwork, and on my return I sent former clients a short message stating that I was back in business. During the first day I was sent several answers with suggestions.

To summarize, I want to appeal to everyone who thinks about working on a foreign exchange, but is afraid of something or doubts - do not be afraid and do not doubt! I really hope that this article will help you decide to take the first steps on Upwork, find your niche and confidently go to success.

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