It’s time to start looking for work!
Disclaimer: I’m not being paid or anything to write about Upwork. I’ve just found it very helpful, and I wouldn’t be doing the work I am today without this site.
Continuing on from last week, you should be signed up for one of Upwork’s membership plans (again, I recommend just the Basic one) and have your profile all filled out and ready.
You should explore the tabs at the top of every page, especially the “Find Work” tab. “My Jobs” is when you already have contracts, “Reports” is how you look at your earnings and print out PDFs of all records, and “Messages” are any communications between you and (potential or current) clients. For now, let’s just focus on “Find Work”.
At first, your stream will be filled with any and every recent job posting, from animation requests to article writing to transcription services. It can be a bit overwhelming, so use the search bar at the top to narrow down the list. Once you do that, a new page will come up with the results. You can save your searches (as the button underneath helpfully) says, so only that search will show up in your Job Feed. You can add as many searches as you like. Mine, for instance, has “proofreader”, “skills:(copyediting)”, and so on. As you can see, you can search by generic keyword or by skills named in each job listing. So if you find a bunch of jobs you like with the skill, “content creation”, you can save that skill to your Job Feed so all jobs with that skill listed will show up.
Once you have found a job you want to apply for, just click on its title. Then you’ll see more details about it, like if it’s hourly or fixed rate (and if the latter, the price), the experience level the client is seeking, and most importantly, the details about the project. Be sure to read that description carefully, as many clients will want you to answer certain questions or put specific information in your cover letter. You can also see other Applicants and the client’s last activity on the listing – so if it’s been a few months, the job is probably not available any more.
When browsing the feed, you may have noticed a section underneath each description that says, “Client:” and then shows a dollar bill graph and stars. This is the rating for each client, with the stars indicating the amount of positive feedback they have received from their contractors, and the dollar bill, if green, shows that they have a verified payment method (required for hourly jobs) and the more full it is, the more money they have paid over time. Obviously, the higher the rating, the more reliable the client. Don’t be afraid to choose someone who isn’t verified or has no Upwork experience yet, but obviously use your best judgment if someone seems shady or when messaging, wants to move the project off Upwork. The site has a guaranteed payment plan for hourly jobs, and some protection for fixed rate, and heavily discourages payment via any other method. Especially if you’re just starting out, it’s best to stay on Upwork and use their services as required.
I’ll go into this a little more later, but briefly, an Hourly Job is just as it sounds. You should have picked a rate when making your profile, so when you apply for a job with an hourly rate, it will show up in the bid box. How does the client know how many hours you’ve worked? Well, you have to use their Team app, which is downloaded on your computer. Basically, it takes a screenshot of your desktop, the resulting pictures of which can be examined by the client, so they can see what you’re working on. It’s a way to keep you, the contractor, accountable, and if the time spent is approved, it’s a guaranteed payment every week. A Fixed Rate job doesn’t use this app, and you get paid as soon as the work is completed and submitted back to the client. These are obviously a bit more risky, as the payment is not guaranteed, but you can finish the project at your own time and pace.
If you like the project and client, and think you’re a good fit , click on Apply to this Job on the side. There you will put in your bid if it’s a fixed rate, or for hourly, your set rate will be filled in for you. If you hadn’t noticed already, Upwork has a 10% fee it takes from your rate, which is a little annoying, but they are a business, and it’s pretty much worth it for utilizing their site services. Once you’re satisfied with the price set, move on to Estimated Duration. In all honesty, very few people pay attention to this, as a client will tell you when they want the project to be completed. Still, use your best judgment when picking one (a short task should be “under 1 week”, etc.). Finally, write your Cover Letter.
This isn’t meant to be a resume (after all, they can check out your profile for that!), but a personalized pitch for the job. As the helpful pop-up bubble on the side suggests, prove that you read the description thoroughly (some clients want you to put a certain word or phrase in the Letter so as to avoid dealing with spam applications), and highlight all your strengths for the job. I usually put a brief overview of my past experience, mention my degree, and then a short summary about how I can help the specific project. Sometimes, there will be extra boxes besides the one for the Cover Letter, which are additional questions the client requests. Answer them as completely as possible.
One typical question asks about any Tests you have taken on Upwork. These are not mandatory, but highly recommended. I’ll go into more details on them later, but if you want to take any, you can find them underneath the “Find Work” tab at the top of every page, next to “My Stats”.
Once you have completely filled out the application, double-checked it for spelling errors and that you followed directions, and attached any file if so requested, then it’s time to click, “Apply”! Off your application will go into cyberspace to be read by the client. Then it’s just playing the waiting game until your application is either accepted or declined. It’s best to apply to as many jobs as you’re capable of (not too many; though unlikely, if they all hire you, make sure you can actually do everything!), and try not to use the same cover letter each time. For one thing, Upwork will pick up on it and send you a warning message about spam, and for another, clients are usually sharp on noticing copy-and-paste applications and may reject you off-hand.
We’ll continue this series next week on what to do once hired!
Questions? Advice? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Header image from Upwork.com