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Mastering the Upwork game with Copywriting

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NewManRising

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A quick introduction and background:

Around October 2018, I knew nothing about copywriting. I decided to go through and complete Lex' 15 day copywriting challenge/exercise thread. In fact, I was about on day 10/11 when I decided to get the balls to start sending in proposals to people on Upwork.

This is how it progressed:
1. Struggling a lot to get a job
2. Landed a few small jobs with clients that were paying $5-$10 for blog posts/articles, etc
3. Built up some feedback, and had more writing samples to show people
4. Changed my proposal approach to see if I could be more successful at landing jobs
5. Got the Rising Talent status, moved higher up the search algorithm and now get 1-2 invites daily
6. Raised rates, landed my first off-site ongoing job at $25 an hour
7. Feedback continues to grow, and I am eligible for Top Rated status in 8 weeks if I continue


Here is what I have learned and how you can become more successful:

Upwork is very saturated but there are a lot of people who are not very good. So you must position yourself as a good writer. And you will learn later that there are higher quality client's that are searching for good writers and will pay more.

In my experience, feedback matters. It helps you move up the search algorithm. But some people can land great jobs with zero feedback. I am just sharing my experience though.

There are a few things I learned that have made my hiring and interview success rate about 90%.

Your proposal must be good. You will have to work on this and constantly tweek it. We all know that it is said that you have to write a "you" focused proposal rather than a "me" focuse one. But it doesn't stop there.

Look at each job and read through it. If they attach files, link their website, or mention a particular task, talk about it in your proposal. These people want to know what you can do for them and you have to show in your proposal you have ideas.

Come across confident and like an authority. But, do not pretend you can do a job if you can't. I got caught once trying to bullshit some guy.

Keep your proposal conversational, brief, concise, etc. Outline how you will get through the project. Walk them through how easy and smooth the whole thing will be and how you can help them achieve it. Take charge. Some people don't even ask for my samples because they were impressed with my proposal and they had no doubts that I couldn't do the job. I even end my proposals telling them what to do, "send me the invite" or, "If you would like to move forward, hire me for the job".

Once I figured out how to write great proposals it made me more successful. But this is only one part of it. The other part is picking the right job.

If you see that 20-30 proposals have been sent, forget about applying. Especially if it shows they are already interviewing a few people. Your application won't even be looked at.

I would focus only on jobs that say less than 5 proposals have been sent and preferably with 0 interviews. It can still work with perhaps, 5-10 proposals.

When I have applied to jobs with less than 5 proposals, with little to no interviews, paired with a great proposal, I got interviews and jobs almost every single time.

A few other things I learned...

Don't be desperate and take any job. Over time you will get a sense of what type of work you like and what type you don't. You will also get a sense of what type of client you like and the ones you don't. This takes a little time to figure out. You have to decide what is worth your time and what you want to accomplish. And it is better to not take a job if something doesn't feel right to you.

I regularly decline jobs if I don't like it or the client seems a little difficult or clueless.

If you keep it up on Upwork, eventually, things will start to sell itself for you. People will find you. People will want to come back to you for work in the future. I am in a stage right now where jobs are not as much as a hassle anymore. And, I am getting closer to making some decent money. I know if I keep this up, in another few months, things will be really good.

My plan moving forward is to move offsite. Get a few regular client's where the pay is good. Not only that, do the type of work that I think is most impactful. In time you will learn what it is you want to achieve from this.

Going through this I am getting all kinds of insights in various niches, marketing, getting access to people's suppliers, etc. My sales skills are becoming better. I now have a pretty good grasp on how to talk to people the right way to give me the job. So, there is a learning factor you get out of this that can help you in the future.
It is not just copywriting. Don't give up, get better.
 

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Kybalion

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Good stuff! Did You have any trouble getting Your account accepted on UpWork?
 

RazorCut

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Congratulations and thanks for the detailed pointers. I think a lot of people following in your footsteps will get some great mileage out of your insights.

It also shows what can be achieved in a short space of time with nothing more than a computer, an internet connection, a willingness to learn from a great teacher (@Lex DeVille) and some serious determination. That's the entrepreneurial spirit right there.

It is yet more water on the flames of:

'The market is saturated',
'There is too much competition',
'I can't find a product to sell',
'I don't have any money',
I don't have any contacts',
'I don't have any skills',
I don't have this and I don't have that'.

Looking forward to your progress to Top Rated.

And for the naysayers freelancing may not tick all the Fastlane boxes but it creates the freedom to work on your own terms, at times that suit you, and at an hourly rate a lot of people would kill for. All this enables you much more freedom to build a Fastlane business whilst still earning a good living. Plus learning to write copy that sells is a tremendous skill to have as an entrepreneur.
 
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NewManRising

NewManRising

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Good stuff! Did You have any trouble getting Your account accepted on UpWork?
No. As soon as I signed up I had access. I remember them saying myaccount was going to be reviewed. But I went to work right away and I guess my account was approved. I don't even recall getting an email about it.
 
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NewManRising

NewManRising

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Congratulations and thanks for the detailed pointers. I think a lot of people following in your footsteps will get some great mileage out of your insights.

It also shows what can be achieved in a short space of time with nothing more than a computer, an internet connection, a willingness to learn from a great teacher (@Lex DeVille) and some serious determination. That's the entrepreneurial spirit right there.

It is yet more water on the flames of:

'The market is saturated',
'There is too much competition',
'I can't find a product to sell',
'I don't have any money',
I don't have any contacts',
'I don't have any skills',
I don't have this and I don't have that'.

Looking forward to your progress to Top Rated.

And for the naysayers freelancing may not tick all the Fastlane boxes but it creates the freedom to work on your own terms, at times that suit you, and at an hourly rate a lot of people would kill for. All this enables you much more freedom to build a Fastlane business whilst still earning a good living. Plus learning to write copy that sells is a tremendous skill to have as an entrepreneur.
Key things to know:
1. Yes, the market is a bit saturated. But you can stick out if you do it right.

2. Things will be rough in the beginning. No one knows you. You have no credibility. You have to earn it. Might have to take some crummy low paying jobs in the beginning or produce more samples.

3. You have to have a great proposal. It takes time to learn a good formula. The way I write them now I think they are very good.

4. I noticed over time as I was applying to jobs, the ones I did not get had tons of proposals submitted. So, I started applying to ones with low proposals (less than 5, or 5-10). Pay attention if they have any interviews going on. The thing is, these people most likely pick the first person the like. If there are 20-30 proposals and they are interviewing 3 people, it means they are already close to making their decision and won't be looking through the pile of proposals. You have to make sure you beat people to the job all while having a great proposal that will stick out. Once you get the interview you have to use your sales skills. This is something I have had to develop over time. Nowadays, my success rate of landing a job is about 90%.

5. Working as a freelancer, whether it is copywriting or something else, you are doing much more than some technical skill. You are building relationships, doing sales, marketing, etc. It might not be so obvious in the beginning but this is what it is. If you are freelancing, you are actually selling something. You are selling your skills. But it is not only that. It is selling a result.

6. If you can put in the work and rank higher than others you understand that you have pushed yourself apart from the pack of noobies and non-native writers. At this point you understand that now people are looking for you. Some people may not want to pay a top rated writer at $100 and hour. But they will find someone in the middle at a cheaper rate. The thing is, once you move up the search results you understand that you now have access to higher quality clients. These higher quality clients understand "you get what you pay for" and are willing to pay more money.
The people looking for writers at the bottom for $5 are looking for cheap labor. There is not really any growth potential here. That is why you need to move away from it quickly and no longer take jobs from these people. You want the higher quality clients that pay good and with better jobs.

7. Things start to sell itself. I do put in proposals but everyday I am getting invites. You start to see the potential and possibilities. If you are good you can even start to move offsite. The whole goal is to move away from the bottom away from the rookies and non-native writers.

8. Sticking with it and doing the work for a few months you go through changes. I first was timid and was worried, "what if they say no?" or "what if they don't like my work?". I thought to myself, if that is the biggest fear I have, then I am OK with that. When you think about it, if someone says "no" is it fatal? Or, if they don't like you work, worse thing that could happen is give them their money back. Once I got over this, I started making more effort in putting in proposals. If you do not apply for jobs then you make no money.

9. Doing this for a few months my skills have grown a lot. I have become a better writer, better marketer, and better salesman. And once you understand that it is more than just writing you start to see some real progress.

10. You can set your own rates. You have to earn this though. You have had to have gotten results for people and have some good feedback under your belt. I started out at $5/hour and slowly raised it to $16. Now I am at $18/hour. After the next few jobs I will raise it a few more dollars. The reason I feel comfortable doing this is because I know people will pay it and I earned it. You will intuitively know when to raise your rates.
 
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ZF Lee

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It is yet more water on the flames of:

'The market is saturated',
'There is too much competition',
'I can't find a product to sell',
'I don't have any money',
I don't have any contacts',
'I don't have any skills',
I don't have this and I don't have that'.
...or just find a local meetup.com session, find someone with a website or online presence, and start handing out samples or free work.

Something I'm working on now.

Good job, @NewManRising. Especially on picking your clients. You'll stand a better chance of having more detailed feedback from them.

In fact, the real ammunition to look for is not money, but reviews.

I read something by Joe Vitale.

There's a BIG difference between a review that says,

'OK, Bob followed all my steps nicely and did a great job.'

and

'Damn, I ran into this problem, and Bob took X step, which is pretty unheard of, even in a global freelancing market like Upwork. He even took the extra time to ask me many questions about my industry, even though he had experience in it before. Definitely recommend him!'

Sometimes 5 stars isn't all what's it seems.

Key things to know:
1. Yes, the market is a bit saturated. But you can stick out if you do it right.

2. Things will be rough in the beginning. No one knows you. You have no credibility. You have to earn it. Might have to take some crummy low paying jobs in the beginning or produce more samples.

3. You have to have a great proposal. It takes time to learn a good formula. The way I write them now I think they are very good.

4. I noticed over time as I was applying to jobs, the ones I did not get had tons of proposals submitted. So, I started applying to ones with low proposals (less than 5, or 5-10). Pay attention if they have any interviews going on. The thing is, these people most likely pick the first person the like. If there are 20-30 proposals and they are interviewing 3 people, it means they are already close to making their decision and won't be looking through the pile of proposals. You have to make sure you beat people to the job all while having a great proposal that will stick out. Once you get the interview you have to use your sales skills. This is something I have had to develop over time. Nowadays, my success rate of landing a job is about 90%.

5. Working as a freelancer, whether it is copywriting or something else, you are doing much more than some technical skill. You are building relationships, doing sales, marketing, etc. It might not be so obvious in the beginning but this is what it is. If you are freelancing, you are actually selling something. You are selling your skills. But it is not only that. It is selling a result.

6. If you can put in the work and rank higher than others you understand that you have pushed yourself apart from the pack of noobies and non-native writers. At this point you understand that now people are looking for you. Some people may not want to pay a top rated writer at $100 and hour. But they will find someone in the middle at a cheaper rate. The thing is, once you move up the search results you understand that you now have access to higher quality clients. These higher quality clients understand "you get what you pay for" and are willing to pay more money.
The people looking for writers at the bottom for $5 are looking for cheap labor. There is not really any growth potential here. That is why you need to move away from it quickly and no longer take jobs from these people. You want the higher quality clients that pay good and with better jobs.

7. Things start to sell itself. I do put in proposals but everyday I am getting invites. You start to see the potential and possibilities. If you are good you can even start to move offsite. The whole goal is to move away from the bottom away from the rookies and non-native writers.

8. Sticking with it and doing the work for a few months you go through changes. I first was timid and was worried, "what if they say no?" or "what if they don't like my work?". I thought to myself, if that is the biggest fear I have, then I am OK with that. When you think about it, if someone says "no" is it fatal? Or, if they don't like you work, worse thing that could happen is give them their money back. Once I got over this, I started making more effort in putting in proposals. If you do not apply for jobs then you make no money.

9. Doing this for a few months my skills have grown a lot. I have become a better writer, better marketer, and better salesman. And once you understand that it is more than just writing you start to see some real progress.

10. You can set your own rates. You have to earn this though. You have had to have gotten results for people and have some good feedback under your belt. I started out at $5/hour and slowly raised it to $16. Now I am at $18/hour. After the next few jobs I will raise it a few more dollars. The reason I feel comfortable doing this is because I know people will pay it and I earned it. You will intuitively know when to raise your rates.
Rep+ for nuggets. I believe Lex covered many of these points in his threads, but nice to see a fresh reminder again.
 

Devampre

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Nice thread and tips. I actually recently got approved by Upwork. However, I'm a little lost in terms of landing my first client. I understand that I need to improve on a few things:

1. I need to better showcase my abilities on my profile. (I'm thinking about adding a Youtube video.)
2. I need to write better proposals (I also don't know if I should send a separate text file or just stick to the "cover letter" when submitting.)
3. And lastly, I need to get some good testimonials. (I have some from Simbi, but I don't know if they are transferable to Upwork or if they will come across as a red flag to a potential client.)
 
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NewManRising

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...or just find a local meetup.com session, find someone with a website or online presence, and start handing out samples or free work.

Something I'm working on now.

Good job, @NewManRising. Especially on picking your clients. You'll stand a better chance of having more detailed feedback from them.

In fact, the real ammunition to look for is not money, but reviews.

I read something by Joe Vitale.

There's a BIG difference between a review that says,

'OK, Bob followed all my steps nicely and did a great job.'

and

'Damn, I ran into this problem, and Bob took X step, which is pretty unheard of, even in a global freelancing market like Upwork. He even took the extra time to ask me many questions about my industry, even though he had experience in it before. Definitely recommend him!'

Sometimes 5 stars isn't all what's it seems.


Rep+ for nuggets. I believe Lex covered many of these points in his threads, but nice to see a fresh reminder again.
Yes, I get a lot more of the latter type of comments. It is refreshing and motivating when you experience the fact that you really did help someone. When I read the feedback I am impressed and it only motivates me more. It proves to me that I really can do well.

Yeah, most of these points were already said by Lex. I guess you can consider this thread more like a case study that reiterates and confirms that these steps work. There is some nuances though that help with the success rate.

Good proposal + applying for the right job when the client is still in the prospect or consideration stage + sales skills to close the deal when being interviewed = increased success rate.

I recommend people learn some marketing too. Watch a few basic marketing courses. I take some courses on Coursera (dot com). You can audit the classes. Which means, you have access to all the material but cannot doing any graded work toward the certificate or specialization. There is also Udemy. All throughout these last few months I have been continually educating myself.

The other thing I learned is that you have to have the right expectations and I think this throws a lot of people off. It takes time to start to build traction. When starting from scratch there will be several months that go by that move very slow. It is just like some businesses that focus on content to build up traffic and an audience.

If you are a person with no copywriter, marketing or sales skills, there is a big learning curve. The first few months are learning and trying to establish yourself in the market. But once you get over this hump things start to accelerate. It is very important to understand this.
 
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NewManRising

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Nice thread and tips. I actually recently got approved by Upwork. However, I'm a little lost in terms of landing my first client. I understand that I need to improve on a few things:

1. I need to better showcase my abilities on my profile. (I'm thinking about adding a Youtube video.)
2. I need to write better proposals (I also don't know if I should send a separate text file or just stick to the "cover letter" when submitting.)
3. And lastly, I need to get some good testimonials. (I have some from Simbi, but I don't know if they are transferable to Upwork or if they will come across as a red flag to a potential client.)

Here is the thing: If in your cover letter you can talk like you know what is going on, then feedback and samples become less relevent. I always include samples though. The most important thing you have to do is prove that they can trust you. You have to remove their risk, you have to make them understand that you understand the full scope of the job and prove you have the skills to do it. Make it easy for them to understand and walk them through the process. Make suggestions, give ideas. Try to understand their goal and their sales funnel. Understand where is it in this funnel your work is coming in and throw out ideas. Because all clients want something: more sales, more email signups, more followers, etc.

You are doing a job that is helping them achieve that. Your ideas and suggestions are more important than the actual writing. The writing part of it is just bridging the ideas to making it a reality.

My profile is 100% complete. I think it is good but not very good. I am considering changing the main description.

I would recommend getting started anyway. Like I say, you may have to take a smaller job to build some feedback. But you want to move yourself away from this as soon as you can. You'll know when it is possible.
 

ZF Lee

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I recommend people learn some marketing too. Watch a few basic marketing courses. I take some courses on Coursera (dot com). You can audit the classes. Which means, you have access to all the material but cannot doing any graded work toward the certificate or specialization. There is also Udemy. All throughout these last few months I have been continually educating myself.
Hubspot also has free courses on email, inbound and their very own specialist courses (you need to be a paying user of their platform for the specialist courses though). And Upwork does have slots to include Hubspot certs.

Spotted many clients needing help on Hubspot, but they might want you to work on a team like a regular job by then.

Plucked from my own progress thread:

However, Upwork only allows certain certificates via that section:

  • Inbound Certification
  • HubSpot Marketing Software Certification
  • Contextual Marketing Certification
  • Design Certification
  • HubSpot Agency Partner Certification

I think you can put other 'non-certified' HubSpot certificates in sections like 'Other Experiences' and 'Portfolio' though. According to the Upwork forums, the folks are pushing for new certifications to get a green light from Upwork, such as the Inbound cert. However, it seems that the Upwork folks aren't exactly paying attention, judging from the angry comments lol.

Whether or not Upwork wants to allow new certifications shouldn't be the top biggie though. It still boils down to what the client NEEDS, and is looking out for.

I'm asking myself these:

Does he need a HubSpot certified guy? Or someone who knows how to use it very well? Certified and experienced are two different things very often.

It depends on your ideal client in mind, I suppose. Would you prefer working with someone that has an eye out for certified folks? Or hard-nosed clients who just want work done and practicality? Don't think there's an exact right answer here.



Links: Add your HubSpot certification to Upwork

Add your HubSpot certification to Upwork
 
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NewManRising

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Another tip to share with you guys:

If you get an invite to a job, take the initiative to start the discussion.
In the past, I would wait for them to begin talking to me. My success rate was a 50/50 at this point.

Here is why: If they are interviewing another 1-2 people, or none yet but you, you can coax them into deciding on you. This is a very critical point. Once interviews are happening they are moving closer to "deciding".

If you get an interview it means they are at least interested in you. So, at this point you can work to get them to be sold on you.

I have now made an effort that once I get the interview I will begin talking to them. They have not decided on you or anyone yet, but they are close. If you can talk like you are interested in their project and its success, ask them for details, their visions for the project, and so on, you will increase your chances of getting hired, even if they are interviewing others.

Don't wait.
 

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NewManRising

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So the formula for this is:

1. Try to submit your proposal when they are still in the prospect/consideration stage. Meaning, low amount of proposals and few to no interviews. Have a great proposal. Take time on it.
2. Once you get the invite/interview, they are moving to the consideration stage. Your job is to move them to making their decision no matter if you are the sole interviewee or they are interviewing 5 people.
3. Your job is to take the initiative at this time to close on them. Use your sales skills, and coax them into deciding on you over everyone else. If you wait, you are increasing odds against you because another person may win them over before you. Another thing that helps is be upfront about how much time you will need and how much it will cost them. In my experience, they seem to like this. Special note: Do not be super aggressive or desperate.
4. It also helps to make them feel in control of every aspect of their job. Remove all risks and doubt for them. Be pleasant and easy-going. But also be confident and genuine.
5. Learn to also let them take their time. As freelancers, we do not like when people put time pressures on us, are rigid, etc. This is a two-way street. Do not do this to them. Let them take all the time they need.
 
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