How to get approved on Upwork (even if it has been denied before)

How to get approved on Upwork (even if it has been denied before)

One of the most frustrating things with Upwork is when you’ve finally decided to give it a shot and created an account…

Only to be denied access without knowing exactly why. Despite the fact that they are advertising for new freelancers to join.

In this article, we’ll look at how to get approved on Upwork even if you have already been denied access.

There are a few options you can try out… let’s dig in!

How to get approved on Upwork: solutions if you didn’t get approved

The most common reason I’ve noticed for not being approved on Upwork is that there are too many of the same type of freelancers.

I’ve seen examples where it appears as if it is a canned, standard, answer no matter if it is relevant or not. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter since it doesn’t move us forward either. We still need to solve it.

There is no guaranteed way to get your account approved but fear not, there are a few different things you can do.

Get invited to a project from a client

One approach is to get invited for a project by an Upwork client using the Bring your Own Talent-feature.

how to get approved on upwork - bring your own freelancer example

A somewhat controversial approach to this is to get a friend to create an account and hire you. The question is whether you get full access to the platform after completing one project or if you have to complete multiple.

I wonder if it is possible to take it one step further and create one’s own account and hire yourself.

Have a blog or professional presence helps

I’ve had a few different Upwork accounts over the years and at one point I created one using a professional email address and blog like the one you are reading now.

To my surprise, it was smooth sailing and the account was instantly approved. The problem here is that all the time Upwork was supposed to save us will now be put into setting up a blog and professional email.

If you are interested in pursuing this approach, the best balance appears to be buying a cheap domain and professional-looking email address followed by signing up for Upwork with that email address. 

If that doesn’t work, it might help to buy hosting (basically, what allows us to set up WordPress and have pages on the website instead of just an empty .com-domain), install WordPress (can usually be done automatically by the hosting provider), and then use one of the free templates to whip up a basic one-page site describing your freelance services.

This can also be done with platforms like Wix which is easier to use if you are not a technical person.

Just be cautious not to spend too much time on the design, since that can be a neverending process to perfection even though it is unlikely to make a real difference as long as it just looks like it didn’t come out of Windows 95.

Windows 95 website in 1996 in Internet Explorer 2.0 - YouTube

Fill out everything in your profile

The whole point appears to be that Upwork wants professional freelancers that do good work, since that makes the clients happy and Upwork look good (and increases repeat business).

The challenge that many clients have is that the majority of freelancers act unprofessionally by for example being unreliable and uncommunicative. It makes Upwork look bad.

Another approach we can use to appear professional is to fill out everything in our Upwork profile.

One of the most underrated elements is the employment history. Many of us don’t see a direct comparison between previous jobs we’ve had and freelance projects.

It is a great way to show our experience, especially if you highlight a certain project and it’s results. That could also be cases you’ve worked on at university. 

For example, during an internship, I was working on ad campaigns and managed to decrease the cost while increasing the performance.

That is highly relevant to share as a Facebook ads freelancer even though it wasn’t a job or a freelance project, it still ties directly back to what I might help clients with.

If you don’t have as direct an example to share, the key is to focus on highlighting why it is relevant. If you’ve been working on editing images for a relevant business, you might have learned what works best in marketing campaigns for that particular type of customer or business.

If you feel as if you don’t have anything to show in your portfolio, put together a few sample pieces based on the projects you’d like to work on. If a client asks deeper about it, you can always work to improve it if you think it might be relevant (although, I’ve only rarely seen that clients ask about it).

You can also add testimonials from past jobs like the testimonials we might have on LinkedIn from co-workers or former bosses.

They don’t have to be from Upwork clients. They could even be from other projects as long as they show things like professionalism and reliability.

In my experience, certifications are one of the more overrated things but if you want to fill some in your Upwork profile but don’t have anything you’d like to share, you can always take some.

There are so many online programs that offer certification and some of them are even free. But don’t get stuck in taking too many.. it can be a great way to procrastinate 😉

It all comes down to showing Upwork that you are an asset and that they would be lucky to have you on the platform. Good freelancers make clients more likely to hire them again and thus Upwork earns more.

A good idea is to think about the type of client you’d like to work with and then what they are looking for. That way, you can craft a narrative showing how you are different and why they should work with you instead of a similar-looking freelancer.

We can do that by researching relevant businesses and even speaking with them, to learn about their challenges. That allows us to present solutions in our profile and proposals that fit them perfectly because we can get really specific — and that’s what no one else bothers to do.

If all fails, I guess another approach is to search for projects on Upwork, since you don’t need an account for that, and then contact the businesses outside the website if they have shared contact info or website.

For example, by searching on google for “PROJECT TYPE”. 

That allows you to use google to search for content within the website (or any other freelance site).

I don’t recommend taking projects off of Upwork to save on the fees since it’s a beneficial service we pay for to save time but it is possible.

The process of approving your Upwork profile

I’ve noticed two different processes when creating and approving an Upwork account. Keep in mind that this might change in the future as it already has over the years.

Normally, we sign up for an account and fill in our information as described above. Occasionally, we’ll be approved almost automatically, other times not at all and sometimes we’ll be invited for an interview with a customer service rep.

That is a strange experience since we have to be on camera with them like on a Skype call yet they are only using voice. I’ve noticed some freelancers being approved only for that to be reverted back and forth several.

The questions they ask tend to be fairly general and seems to be more about seeing if you are a normal human being more than anything else.

The interview seems to be brief and last about 5-10 minutes.

What to do if you can’t get your Upwork profile approved

Upwork is a great choice to learn freelancing with training wheels but it isn’t the only way to land clients out there. If you’ve tried all of the above with no luck, it might be time to consider another option. 

There are a number of other approaches for you to consider. I outline them and go through their pros and cons here.


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