How we started working on Upwork (personal experience)

    I heard about the existence of foreign project exchanges for a long time, but before the economic crisis struck in Russia, I never looked in the direction of foreign customers in general: there were enough Russian orders, I stopped a serious language barrier, and I did not think that my specialization could be in demand there (My specialization is the implementation and customization of one domestic CRM). With the depreciation of the ruble, I began to look for new markets for the services of my team, and decided to try upwork.

    After trying, I regretted that I had not tried it before. Looking ahead, I’ll say that I like the work culture of foreign customers. Hourly work there is, indeed, hourly work, and not work according to your favorite standard hours in Russia. This makes upwork orders more profitable than Russian orders with a slightly lower hourly rate.

    My experience is not great yet - that’s what happened in my personal account for 4 months of work in my spare time from my main activity:

    But, I think, my post will help those who want to, but are afraid to start working on upwork, yet:

    1. How I overcame the language barrier.

    I studied English at a university. However, this language has never been given to me: I had a good vocabulary, but a terrible pronunciation, and there were always problems with listening.

    In January of this year, having firmly decided that I needed English now, I found a tutor for myself, and we studied with him 3 hours a week and I studied independently for 3 hours a week. Combining this with my entrepreneurial activity was very difficult - these 6 hours seemed an overwhelming addition to my already busy schedule, so after a while I realized that either I should already feel the profit from my English, or I should give up this venture.

    At the end of April, I switched from theory to practice - I registered an account for myself at that time oDesk, filled out a profile and started looking for the first order. In my profile, I indicated that my level of English is basic. At the moment, my basic level is verified and confirmed by the exchange staff. This check happened somehow strange. Some unknown person knocked on my Skype and started a conversation with me on an abstract topic from work in English. I also wrote to him in English that if he is not going to order anything from me, then I am not interested in wasting time on him. Right after that, an icon appeared in my profile that my English was verified.

    2. First order

    The first order I took literally the day after registration. It was a small order with a fixed price. I set the price 2 times higher than the customer’s budget, hoping that the high price would draw the attention of the customer to my zero profile. The strategy worked - the order went to me, and after 2 days my first 5 stars decorated my profile.

    3. The first hourly order

    After receiving the first review, I considered that it was time to look for an hourly order, set a price of $ 35 per hour in the profile, and literally a few days later my first hourly contract was concluded. Like last time, the customer chose me because my price was about 2 times higher than the highest offered by other applicants, and in general I think that my marketing strategy does not work badly:

    Communicating with the customer in English was, frankly, more than difficult. We had to discuss the project not only in writing, but also verbally on Skype. However, to my surprise, the customer’s employees showed more patience and tolerance for my level of English - they repeated the same phrase 5 times in different words until we had a complete understanding. After skype calls, my head was buzzing, but my level of English grew noticeably every day (now I no longer need a google translator for correspondence). I realized that not a single tutor in the world can teach a language in the way that communication with a native speaker teaches.

    Another problem was with the time zone of the customer. The customer was from Australia, and when I woke up for him at 7.30 in the morning, his working day was already ending, and these morning discussions I was very tired.

    That contract also ended with a 5-star review, and I earned $ 775 on it for a month without interruption from the main activity, which I did not give up during my upwork experiments.

    Later, I introduced the specified customer to my team, and we took him to support - we continue to work with him at the moment.

    4. First success

    I consider the first success the day when the first foreign customer found me by googling my upwork profile. A customer from England found me himself and wrote me an email. Since I had not worked directly with foreign customers before and was afraid of fraud on his part, I said that I only work through the exchange, he registered for upwork, created a contract, connected me and 2 other contractors of my agency to it, and also became mine regular customer. By the way, British English is much more understandable than American and Australian, and the difference in time zones with England is very small, so I like working with this customer, and we have already done and continue to do a number of projects for him.

    5. Agency

    I already mentioned that I have a team and that at upwork I created an agency. It was the creation and development of the agency that was and remains my ultimate goal. In my team, for some time now I have not been a leading developer, although I started from this. My responsibility is sales and project management. Although I often take projects and personally for myself, so as not to lose qualifications. All my upwork customers initially get to know me as a developer, and then with varying success I try to replace myself with another developer from my team.

    Some customers willingly agree that another developer will work on their project. Some disagree, and depending on whether I am ready to part with them at all, I either continue to work on their project myself or part with them. In order to make customers more willing to switch from me to my lead specialist, we make a fork with him: the customer can work with me personally for $ 45 per hour or with my lead specialist for $ 30 per hour.

    At the first stage, when my agency profile on upwork was zero, I had difficulty finding contractors. Even those people who usually go into the fire with me and into the water doubted that this sheepskin was worth the candle, and they had to be convinced. New freelancers, who had not worked with me before, refused my invitations in a rather rude form, some of them then tried to work on upwork on their own, picking up my idea, and I could watch how their accounts died without developing. Now I no longer have problems finding partners, but I only work with those who have believed in me from the very beginning.

    My earnings as an agent are still far behind my earnings as a developer, despite the fact that I spend tremendous efforts on the formation and sale of team services, but I am not going to give up attempts, because this income promises to be passive.

    In general, money and customers are used for upwork, and competition is low. Customers do not consider Indians to be desirable performers, and they love specialists from Russia and the countries of the former CIS. Among other things, the upwork profile is perfectly indexed in Google, and provides, in addition to orders through the exchange itself, a stream of direct customers from this search engine. Searching for upwork orders is both simple and difficult at the same time, but much simpler than you think. Therefore, I recommend this exchange to everyone.

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