How I Became a Top Upwork Freelancer

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately on how I became a top Upwork freelancer. Upwork is the number one platform for freelancers and I did a lot of experimentation on how to become a top freelancer. You might have seen this picture on the home page.

top upwork freelancer

I joined Upwork a little over a year ago and there are over twelve and a half thousand marketers on Upwork. And I became top-rated through persistence, through testing their algorithm, through great communication, and through optimizing my Upwork profile. I’m going to show you some of those tactics today.

Upwork is doing an advertising campaign and they’re using me for the marketing category, and a few other freelancers in different categories.

Upwork top freelancer

Let me show you a little bit about how I became a top-rated Upwork freelancer.

Do a LOT of Analysis

First of all, what I did was I analyzed everything about the Upwork algorithm.  I’m not telling you to test everything. If you’re in the Freelancer Masterclass I’ll show you exactly the results of the tests but if you’re not in the masterclass, I’ll tell you that everything from the picture, to the title, to the first paragraph, to the portfolio, to all the reviews, all have a certain level of importance in the algorithm. What you should do is have a series of tests on a spreadsheet written out.

For example, I tested whether a video will give me better organic rankings than not having a video. I tested my profile for a month in the organic search and I typed in “marketing strategists” and I noted every single day where I was in the rankings for marketing strategies. One day I’d be in the 12th position, another I’d be in the 23rd position, etc.  If I typed in “marketing strategy” or any that I wanted any keywords to be found for. And I noted that position every single day on a spreadsheet. Then, for another month, I did it with the video component and I noticed an uptick of about 31 percent. So without a video in my profile provided 31% worse organic rankings for the same keywords, all other factors being the same. Keep in mind, that it was just for one brief moment in time. That 31% is not a linear number. If I tried that test again given how different my profile is now, it might be 12% or 40%. But the point here is that during the time of the test, I could measure a difference.

Another test you can do is on the title. You could test certain keywords in the title. What about testing keywords in the first paragraph and have them matching keywords with a title? There are tons of different tests you can do. I STILL to this day, am testing my profile.

It’s very important when you analyze something not to have more than one change. For example, if you wanted to analyze whether a video helps you or not, you can’t change a bunch of elements in your profile while doing the testing and then come to the conclusion that your ranking went up X percent.  Because you changed so many other elements, you don’t know if those other factors play a role in your video test or not. Only change one thing at a time so you know if there is a change in percentage that it has to do with that one change.

Never Stop Prospecting

It’s very important to prospect, even when you’re full of clients. If you stop prospecting you’re going to have dry spells.

And that’s the number one reason why many freelancers aren’t full time. Many of them aren’t full time because they don’t prospect full time.  What I mean by prospecting is be active on LinkedIn, post on social media, make new contacts, essentially expand your network! So you should have an end goal of expanding your network to 5, 10, 15 new prospects every single week. Start with a reasonable number (like 5), then expand from there. That means you want to touch base with new people that will potentially be clients. And that doesn’t mean selling them. I’m so tired of those cold emails “Hello sir, me top freelancer, I’ll guarantee you first-page ranking. Me like you long time. Wanna Skye?” That’s not prospecting, that’s spamming, there’s a difference.  Prospecting is not sending blanket e-mails to people.  You need to develop relationships. We teach you how to do this in the masterclass

Streamline Your Efficiency

You can’t become a top freelancer without being efficient. One of my favorite tools for being efficient is Teamwork. A lot of freelancers use Asana. Some freelancers use Trello. Whatever the case, Teamwork is great for me as it just aligns with the way I organize information. So consider using a project management platform like Teamwork to manage all your projects because there’s going to be a point where you take on 5 or 10 clients (or hopefully more) and you can’t keep all that information in your head. When I log into Teamwork, I see what tasks need to be done to keep my clients happy, to keep me on budget, and to keep me on schedule.

Be Creative

You don’t become a top Upwork freelancer for being cookie-cutter, you need to be creative. One of the best tools I use for standing out is Drift now has a video component that competes with Loom too.

For jobs I’m bidding on, I record a custom video just for them. I’ll say something like “Hey my name’s Mike I see you need a marketing strategist for your company. This is my experience blah blah blah.” If they give a domain in their job listing, even better, you can do a bit more research on their company. You can say something like “I see you’re located in the US, that’s where I’m based. Your website shows you have a team of 8 people but don’t have anyone in marketing, that is where I can help, yada yada yada.”

Try to customize the video as much as possible. It takes three minutes to do a video like that and it’s something that 99 percent of freelancers don’t do and can separate you out from the rest of the pack. Again I’ve done testing on this and it is one of the best jumps in percentage effectiveness I got.

Provide Value….Real Value

To be a top freelancer on a site like Upwork, you need to provide top value. That is, value that is given before the client becomes a client. This is the stage we call them a prospect. So in my case, my upfront value is a discovery call where I’m giving them something. I’m giving them some revenue-generating ideas they can try on their business. I get him on the phone, I show them my value, and I give them a custom spreadsheet of some inbound marketing tricks, hacks, and growth tactics they can try. It takes me about 20 minutes to customize something for them. But it’s showing them great value and all of a sudden, I’m someone they really want to work with because I have done more than any other freelancer they talked to and not only that, I displayed my expertise to them.

I have a designer who gives prospects a watermarked sample of some drafts. I have a UX designer who would do a website review screen share on Loom. So if you provide something of value to your prospect, you are more likely to get hired on Upwork. That’s how to become a top freelancer. Most freelancers are just like a billboard “Hi, this is what I do. This is how why you should hire me.”, that won’t get you very far.

Bridge the Digital World with Real Life

Someone who hires you deserves a gift, especially a long term client. I love giving gift baskets to new clients that secure a certain amount of work with me. Through my testing, I have proven that clients I give gift baskets to stay 3.5 months longer and provide a net profit of 22%. That means the lifetime value (LTV) of a client who receives a gift basket is on average, worth 22% more to me as compared to those who don’t receive gift baskets. Why is that? Probably because I am bridging the gap between me being someone they only see on their computer to someone who lives and breathes in the same world they do. I know it sounds odd, but if you talk to someone only through email and occasionally through phone, the relationship is different. In lieu of meeting them in person, mailing them a gift is the next best thing to bridging that gap.

I hope these tips help you on your way to being a top Upwork freelancer!

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