How To Get Your First Job At Upwork? (2024 Guide)

As one of the largest and most popular freelancing platforms, Upwork connects millions of freelancers with clients worldwide, spanning various industries and skill sets. 

Whether you’re a writer, programmer, designer, or possess any other valuable skill, there are opportunities.

However, newbie freelancers encounter challenges when navigating Upwork. Many Upworkers quit because they could not get clients after months of job hunting. 

This guide offers insights and strategies to help you land your first job on Upwork.

What is Upwork?

Upwork is a freelance marketplace that connects potential clients to freelancers with digital skills. The platform serves as a virtual meeting place for clients seeking talented professionals to complete specific tasks, projects, or ongoing work.

  • Clients post their projects on Upwork, outlining the scope, budget, and required skills. 
  • Freelancers‌ create profiles showcasing their expertise, work history, and portfolio.

Upwork uses a bidding system for freelancers. As a freelancer, you send proposals to potential clients showcasing your skills and portfolio using Connects. Connects are digital tokens created by Upwork for freelancers to use when bidding for jobs.

Upwork stands out as a freelancing platform because of its unique service pattern. To make freelancing easy, they have incorporated communication features, time tracking, and a secure payment system in their platform. 

Upwork also operates a rating and feedback system for clients and freelancers. They encourage clients and freelancers to submit honest reviews and ratings, allowing both parties to make informed choices when accepting a contract.

As a freelancer or a client, you can easily read feedback on a client or freelancer before sending or acknowledging a proposal. Also, through their algorithms, Upwork recommends freelancers for jobs that match their skills and experience.

5 Steps to Getting Your First Job on Upwork

Upwork is a popular freelance site with thousands of talented freelancers with your skills. Millions of freelancers are offering their services in different niches. Competition is super tough, and landing that first contract might seem impossible.

To get a job on Upwork, you should be able to communicate effectively. Communication on Upwork is not limited to just proposals. Your profile, portfolio, and skills should be engaging. They should draw the client’s attention. 

Here are a few tips to get your first job on Upwork. I applied them and rose from a newbie Upworker to one making $90,000+ as a writer.  

1.  Create and optimize your Upwork profile

The Upwork profile advertises your talents and expertise to a potential client. 

You need a profile that impresses the clients and demonstrates you have the skills to solve their problems.

These are the benefits of optimizing your Upwork profile:

  • makes you eligible for the Upwork Rising Talent badge and Top-Rated badge,
  • increases your profile views,
  • helps Upwork match you to relevant projects,
  • get direct invites from potential clients.

To get started on Upwork, you should have a strong profile showcasing your skills and expertise in the best light. Here are some guides to help you craft one:

Use a concise job title

As a beginner, it is best to keep things simple until you have gained some ground. 

Your job titles should be straight to the point and not too fancy. Avoid glorifying titles like “Expert”, “Proficient”, “Outstanding,” etc. They are unoriginal, and you’re left with the huge task of living up to those claims.

Instead, complement your job title with relevant keywords that help you stand out. For example, “Fullstack Developer | React | Python” describes an Upworker who uses React and Phyton to develop software.

Write an overview that will get you hired

How To Get Your First Job At Upwork - profile

Your profile overview is like the About page of a website. It gives clients a detailed description of what you offer. Moreover, an optimized profile is more visible when clients search for specific skills and talents.

This means that you have to be careful when drafting it. Make use of keywords that are necessary to your skill set and job title. 

Highlight the benefits of hiring you. Your clients want to know what they would gain if they hired you.

Avoid cluttering your general profile.

Upwork has made a provision for adding 2 specialized profiles.  You can use them to list your other talents or streamline your activities.

For example, suppose you are a Creative Writer with niches in ghostwriting, scriptwriting, and storytelling. In that case, your general profile can be Creative Writer, then divide your specialized profiles to accommodate your specialties.

Use of keywords that clients use to search for freelancers

This is quite important, especially if you want direct invites from clients without the hassles of sending in proposals. 

You could do a quick or detailed search to find the keywords that clients are most likely to use when hiring. 

Avoid packing your overview with keywords, as it reduces coherency and may appear suspicious or boring to potential clients.

Use a professional profile photo

Use a professional headshot of you that radiates confidence, friendliness, and trustworthiness. 

If you do not have one, you can use a close-up and decent picture. A good profile picture gives a good first impression.

Avoid overly retouched pictures. Do not use the pictures of anyone other than yourself. 

I’ll also advise you to avoid using AI-enhanced pictures. Be yourself. Originality is a key soft skill in the game of freelancing.

List relevant skills 

Upwork allows you to pick at least fifteen skills for your general profile. 

How To Get Your First Job At Upwork 0 skills

When choosing these skills, pick the ones that are relevant to your portfolio, job title, and skill set. Ensure that you pick the skills that are relevant and commonly searched for by clients. 

Freelancers whose skills match the “desired skills” set by clients have a higher chance of being hired. You can do a little research in your career line to see which skills are in demand. 

Create a compelling portfolio

As a beginner, your surest way to prove that you are worth your salt is to include samples of your previous works that show the quality of your expertise. 

Take advantage of this and choose excellent pieces in your area of specialization. Be creative with descriptions and titles. A great portfolio is guaranteed to attract clients,

List your certifications

Include your certifications that are related to your skills. Upwork allows only two external certifications. You may include others through Credly.

Credly is a software application that manages verified digital certifications. It allows its users to create and share digital badges upon completing a training program. 

Include your employment history and education

To build credibility, include your educational background and employment history. If you do not have an employment history, you can input your volunteer services and internships. 

Set hourly rates that fit your experience level and skills

A high hourly rate may discourage potential clients, while a low rate may attract the wrong kind of clients. 

So, what’s the best rate to set?

Instead of guesswork, use this approach.

  1. Google ‘[job title] hourly rate Upwork‘.
  2. Click the result from Upwork.
  3. Look at the bell curve distribution.
How To Get Your First Job At Upwork - hourly rates

Most Upworkers set their rate between the minimum and maximum limit.

Learn more about earning potentials at Upwork in this article.

Get endorsements from previous employers and colleague

Testimonials from your former employers, colleagues, and mentors go a long way in boosting your profile. 

Send a message to them and encourage them to leave a positive testimonial for you. Upwork approves testimonials that are honest, coherent, and not generic.

Include a video introduction of yourself

Record a video of yourself and publish it to YouTube. You can share your skills, experience, or past projects. Then, submit the link to Upwork for approval.

Adding a video adds a human touch that might engage clients browsing your profile.

To be a step ahead of other beginners, your profile should be top-notch. It should be one hundred percent complete, compelling, and detailed.

Here are some points to remember when crafting a profile.

  • Make it more about the clients. Let every part of your profile advertise the unique values you have for the client. 
  • Keep your overview concise and straightforward.
  • Study your competitors.
  • Most importantly, be honest.

Optimizing your Upwork profile allows you to build a long-term and profitable freelancing career by unlocking Upwork’s hidden economy.

If you want to work with high-paying clients without sending endless proposals, grab this eBook.

2.  Search for jobs strategically

Clients post thousands of gigs every day on Upwork. However, the competition for these jobs among freelancers on Upwork is tough. Every niche is saturated.

It can be daunting for a new freelancer who is just learning the ropes on Upwork. Yet, it is possible to get a job on Upwork.

Many freelancers on Upwork got their first job within a few weeks of joining the platform.

You can achieve this, too. All you need is the right strategies and a determination to succeed.

Here are some tips you should consider:

Apply to small/low-paying jobs that few want to do

The hardest part of Upwork for a beginner is getting the first job on Upwork. This is because Upwork does not verify an account until you get your first contract.

Most clients are suspicious of unverified accounts with no review/rating, so they often overlook them.

This can be a bit frustrating.

So, the best way to get around it is to apply for small or low-paying verified jobs with fewer applicants. 

These are jobs with budgets of $5 – $50. They may not be worth the pay, but getting one quickens the process of verification.

Moreover, delivering an amazing job could get you your first positive review and, perhaps, a five-star rating. 

These two achievements are necessary if you aim to get better clients in the future. 

A verified account with a glowing review breeds trust and curiosity in a client. Apart from these, delivering excellently can turn a one-time client into a long-term client. 

Doing smaller jobs helps you build a good reputation, establish relationships with new clients, and increase your chances of getting hired by bigger clients. 

Use the filters on Upwork

How To Get Your First Job At Upwork - job filter

Upwork provides you with the opportunity to narrow your search when looking for a job that matches your skills and interests. 

This helps you save on Connects – the digital token you use to bid on jobs.

By using the filters, you can apply for new and genuine jobs with fewer bids on them. It is better to apply for jobs with fewer proposals as it increases your chance of getting hired.

To filter jobs on Upwork:

  • Type the specific keyword on the Find Work option.
  • Click the Advanced Search option.
  • At the left side of the Search Results page, click on the filters that suit your needs.
  • Click on the Save Search button at the top of your search results.

A saved search would automatically return job listings without setting the parameters again. You can save more than one search with different filters and keywords.

Avoid scams

Upwork is filled with genuine business people and scammers. 

These scammers target new accounts, taking advantage of their naivety. 

Working with scammers on Upwork is a tricky business as you may end up not getting paid for the work you do or even losing your account due to Upwork’s strict rules against fraudulent activities. 

Here are some tips to avoid being a victim of fraudsters on Upwork.

  1. Do not apply for jobs that promise unreasonably high payments for simple tasks.
  2. Do not accept a client’s request to take a job out of Upwork. Clients who wish to take the contract out of Upwork must pay a conversion fee.
  3. Do not pay for a job. Any job that requires you to make a financial commitment before proceeding is a scam.  
  4. Do not start working for a client until your client offers a contract.

Learn more about spotting and avoiding Upwork scams here.

3. Send proposals 

As a beginner on Upwork, sending good proposals is the basic way to get a job on Upwork.

It may look easy, but sending proposals on Upwork is a bit different from the normal job applications you know. Your proposal needs to be unique and outstanding to get the client’s attention.

A good proposal combines human psychology with basic copywriting and persuasive skills. This means convincing the client that you’re the right candidate for the job.

However, overly verbose proposals may bore the client.  

These hints could help you write a proposal that will help you get a job on Upwork.

Send personalized proposals for each job.

Avoid copy-and-paste templates. They sound insincere and reflect your lackadaisical approach when applying for a job.

Clients are more impressed with personalized proposals as they give them the impression that you read through the description and that you pay attention to details. 

Try to address your potential clients by their names. It captures their attention and makes the application more personal.

To get a client’s name, read the feedback from previous employees. Most freelancers include the names of their clients when leaving feedback.

Keep the proposal short, simple, and straightforward

How To Get Your First Job At Upwork - proposal.

Follow these steps to keep yours concise. 

The first paragraph should address your potential client’s core problem and how you can solve it. This way, your client knows you understand them and, therefore, can get the job done. 

The second paragraph should further explain the methods you will use for the job, the tools you will use, and the time frame for execution and delivery. 

The last paragraph is usually for the ending. It should include a Call To Action, links to previous works done, and a closing address. A CTA encourages the client to reach out to you sooner and be creative when drafting one. 

Always include relevant past works/portfolios

Many Upworkers fail to secure an interview because they didn’t include past works in their proposal.

Your past works show the client that you’ve done similar projects and will likely succeed in their tasks.

For example, if you’re applying for a logo design job, adding several logos that you’ve done gives the client an idea of your style and approach.

Download my FREE eBook to learn how to write job-winning proposals

4. Prepare for interview/discussion

If you have been invited for an interview, then congratulations, you made it past the first stage.

Once you are scheduled for an interview, do a little research on your client’s profile, website (if any), job history, and job description. 

Study their interactions with previous freelancers and their requirements for the project at hand. These will help you tailor your responses to meet their expectations.

During the interview, maintain confidence and casual professionalism. Demonstrate your knowledge and expertise in the job.

Clearly outline your approach to the project and explain how you plan to deliver results and meet deadlines. Be prepared to discuss project timelines, milestones, and payment terms.

Communicate your rates and job description clearly. This is to avoid being underpaid or overworked.

Also, ask questions about the project and your client’s expectations. It shows that you are proactive and interested in delivering the best results.

Remember to keep all communication on Upwork before, during, and after the contract.  

5. Accept the contract

Congrats, you’ve won the job.

A lot of freelancers get so giddy over the first jobs that they forget to cross-check the contract description or remunerations. 

When you get the contract, check if the payment is the same as the agreed fee, especially if it is a fixed-rate work with milestones. The amount in the Escrow account should be the amount you agreed on per milestone.

The next step is to draft a brilliant acceptance message for your new client. It helps build a good work relationship with the client. 

Now, your actual work begins. 

Ensure that the work aligns with your client’s expectations and meets the project requirements. If in doubt, ask questions.

Maintain regular communication with your client and be willing to make revisions that are within the agreed limits. Also, be mindful of deadlines.

Clients are more impressed when freelancers submit deliverables earlier. This way, they have more time to review, offer suggestions, and make corrections.


How long does it take to get a job? 

As a new freelancer on Upwork, there is no guaranteed time frame for getting a job. You may get a job within the first few days, after a few weeks, or even a few months. However, applying the tips I shared can improve your chances of winning a job.

How many proposals should you send?

Your proposal is the first way to establish communication with a potential client. It’s best to send as many as you can until you get a job. 

Some Upworkers send 5 proposals and expect to land a client. In most cases, you might need to send more than 10 before landing your first job.

Can you get jobs on Upwork without Connects? 

Yes. It is possible to get a job without Connects. This happens when you get a direct invitation from a client to send a proposal. 

You’re not required to apply with Connects or even boost your Connects as your proposal goes directly to the client’s inbox on Upwork. 

That said, clients are more likely to invite experienced Upworkers rather than new ones.


  • Kenny Lee

    I'm an engineer-turned-writer who helps tech businesses increase online visibility with SEO-optimized content.

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