My Upwork Adventures

First Attempt

I registered on Upwork in spring of 2017.

Most of my mates more or less involved in freelance and outsource development were saying that the time had already gone and there was no way to start on Upwork due to incredible competitiveness there.

It seemed to be true. Furthermore, I was scrolling through the jobs posted there and most of them looked like bullshit for meaningless amounts of money.

I've spent about a month, sending proposals without any success. Profile with an empty job history was a real barrier and I gave in.

Second Attempt

After about three month I decided to give a second try.

I've spoken to a couple of my friends who were rather successful at Upwork those days. Advice was not something I needed actually. A living example, a proof that it was doable and worth doing. That was something I really lacked.

Star Trek: First Contract

This time I was bidding and sending proposals as usual but surprisingly landed the contract rather quickly.

Suddenly on the bidding screen I saw a message saying something like: "Freelancers with skills similar to yours usually bid higher. Recommended amount is X".

I called it "an invisible hand of the Upwork market". I bid that exact amount and immediately got the interview. Then we had a call, discussed the details and I got the contract.

Coincidence or unbelievable match?

Top Rated

It took me about half a year to achieve 100% success score and Top Rated status.

Top rated perks

For me personally, there isn't much profit from it, except the fact that the account becomes a little bit more attractive.

At also allows to bring non-Upwork clients to Upwork with zero commission and use Upwork as an automated invoicing tool.

One more feature is an ability to delete one client's feedback per year. That may be useful in case of your sudden freelance failure.

Accidentally, I've come across one more feature that Upwork provides for top rated freelancers. It's advertising.

Yeah, it turns out that Upwork puts top rated freelancers everywhere and that's a rather pleasant thing.

How I lost my top rated status

I haven't worked through Upwork for the whole 2019 and haven't been active there at all. As the result I've lost top rated status. Unfortunately that will probably cause difficulties with landing jobs in future.

Good news is that I'm going to get it back soon.

Is Upwork worthy?

Definitely yes for at least two reasons.

  • Upwork is a marketplace that is literally crawling with clients and freelancers. And it's really global. When I select mobile app development filter I get updates in the jobs list every 10 minutes.  
  • Upwork sets the game rules that are helpful for both sides to play fair
  • Upwork provides invoicing tool for clients and freelancers. Both hourly and fixed ways of payment are rather good.

I've heard about a lot of complaints about Upwork fee. C'mon guys, it's better to give 10% to Upwork then 70% to a crooked disappeared client. I consider the fee to be just a marketing expense.

Market overview

Disclaimer: the thoughts below are related to mobile app development. iOS development, to be more exact. Though I believe that software engineers prices are more or less equal for web development in general. No matter if it's web frontend, backend or mobile apps.

Photo by Igor Oliyarnik / Unsplash

It's true that with the help of the internet, the market has become global and you can seamlessly work on the same project with guys from different parts of the globe.

You can even work for guys from the richest countries in the world and earn for a very good living while staying in not that expensive places and spending less.

Not exactly. Even though we imply the equality, it doesn't really happen even in this borderless world. The whole market of software developers is implicitly divided into pricing regions depending on the origin of the developers.

India, Pakistan

These guys are charging up to 20$ per hour.

Russia, Ukraine

The market is somewhere between 20-35$ per hour. I suppose that it is also true for all ex-USSR countries.

China, Vietnam

I don't know much about these guys. I've heard that, they charge about 25-30$.

According to the fact that I get a lot of offers to rent my Upwork account from Chinese developers, Upwork is not too much legal there.

As for Vietnam, seems like there is not so many freelancing devs there.

South America

Almost no stereotypes about South American freelancers are known to me. I've heard that they usually charge about 25-35$ per hour and speak English almost natively.

But at the same time, I've met quite a lot of guys on Upwork from South America with rate as much as 40$ per hour.

Europe

That's around 40-50$ per hour. It seems that Upwork is not so popular among freelancers from Europe.

My guess is that European freelancers in general cannot benefit much from locational arbitrage. Taking into account risks of freelance compared to social guarantees and decent salaries of ordinary full time jobs.

USA, Canada

They start form 50$ per hour and go up to 120$ and I suppose that's not even close to a limit.

The problem is that it's hard to get out of bounds and earn higher than the common rate that is mainly determined by the freelancer's place of origin.

Upwork hidden economy

Arctic Icebergs in Ilulissat, Greenland :: Instagram: www.instagram.com/mlenny/ Copyright by Mlenny Photography :: Blog : www.mlenny.com :: istockphoto.com/portfolio/mlenny
Photo by Alexander Hafemann / Unsplash

Upwork hidden economy is one more popular myth about Upwork.

According to it, the jobs, posted publicly, is only a tip of an iceberg that are usually the most weird and least paid.

The most delicious jobs are private. Those wealthy clients use Upwork just as a hiring tool. They invite and hire without exposing the jobs to the majority of freelancers.

Another part of the hidden economy myth is everlasting clients. Saying that most wealthy clients have already found a pool of the best freelancers in the world and work with them forever without any need in hiring new freelancers, and probably you.

My overall number of jobs is not large, so my stats is not so relevant. Anyway, only half of my contracts were initiated by clients via invitations. So the myth is probably true for at least 50%.

Landing top-notch highly paid jobs at Upwork

We have spent all this hryvnias for new notebook "Lenovo Legion".
Photo by Roman Synkevych / Unsplash

The world and the market is so large, that even a tip of an iceberg may be enough for you personally.

I'm sticking the idea that there are well-funded projects and not so well-funded projects. If I want to make a good living, I should look for well-funded projects and avoid all the rest.

There is no purpose of bargaining or competing with other developers, dumping the rate. You either match the client's financial capacities and his will to pay for an outstanding service or not.

Pricing

When bidding, one of the key things is to get out of the bounds defined by the place of origin and go beyond the pricing stereotypes.

It works the same way as market making on financial markets. The closer you put your offer the best prices, the faster you match the buyer.

If you are not in a hurry you can wait and get better price with better funded project and more suitable client.

Secret technique of writing outstanding proposals

taking a picture of hanging lights
Photo by Dustin Lee / Unsplash

I don't believe that crap recipes from the internet with some secret sauces of writing proposals. (In fact, I just don't believe in any secret sauce, in general)

Once I subscribed to one of the frauds copywriter who promised to show recipes of his magnetic proposals. What happened next? He has been spamming me with his same crap for 3 years now, asking me to get his paid subscription. I've seen his cover letters examples and that was just an ordinary bullshit.

My proposals

  • I've tried sending the same template letters (with minor changes) as proposals to all the jobs I applied for.
  • I've tried writing super-warm personalised cover letters
  • I've tried super short cold letters, like:
"I can do and it will cost a minimum of X, depending on the requirements and more detailed specs. Write me if you are interested. Best regards"

Can you guess which of them worked best?

All of them! I've managed to get interviews and then jobs with all kinds of proposals above.

What does it all mean

You can either match the client or not. (Yours Sincerely, Cap Obv.)

Everything depends on how serious the client is with his intents about the project. If your proposal is simply rational, polite and professional that's all you can do to get the interview. Remember Pareto fellow?

All the rest is magic game of Mr. Chance and probability.

Some statistics

As you probably know, the process of getting a job at Upwork is

  • Invitation to a job (in case it was initiated by client, otherwise next step)
  • Sending proposal as a respond to a job post (in case of invitation, the proposal is automatically accepted by client)
  • Interview with the client during which you discuss the job details
  • Offer (in case of match)

I've looked through my archived proposals, interviews and jobs. There are a lot them, so the numbers ARE relevant.

I've got the following stats:

Conversion of a proposal to an interview: 38%

Conversion of an interview to a job: 9%

Overall conversion of a proposal to a job is only 3%

What's on the clients' mind

As you might have noticed, my success rate of the interviews is rather low. That's because  I'm too much careful in choosing projects and clients.

As I've already mentioned, everything depends on how serious the client is with his intents about the project.

There are a lot of possibilities that the client is just a dreamer who came to Upwork to craft a spaceship. Or he may just be looking for a ballpark estimation for the project.

It's possible that after a long discussion and creation of detailed specs of the project he just disappears. Yeah, shit happens.

All you can do is to be careful with job posts and interviews and avoid stories that show signs of smelling badly.

Instead of conclusion

Upwork is just another place without magic cracking tools.

For me personally, it turns out to be a just a coin toss. Dice game, where I can slightly tune the probability by changing the price, writing proposals more carefully, improving profile... and trying to pick the right projects.

P.S

If you enjoyed the article, I would be very grateful if you share it with your friends

You can also become a subscriber to be aware of all upcoming updates.

You can also subscribe me on:

Facebook

Twitter (eng)

Twitter (ru)

Good luck and have fun!