How to get work on Upwork with no experience: I began freelancing on Freelancer.com before Upwork was invented. At the time, I had no experience and I was still in school.
I still remember how nerve-wracking it was on those first few phone calls with potential clients not having a clue what I was doing.
I earned my first few hundred dollars pretty quickly, so it worked out just fine but I wouldn’t recommend it.
Approaching it that way makes everything harder than it has to be. You have to work twice as much learning how to offer your freelance services in a way that attracts clients WHILE learning that service you are selling at the same time.
There are a lot of hidden emotions involved in offering services you don’t feel completely confident with yet. Especially, if clients ask for your thoughts on something and you have to research it first to develop an opinion.
Luckily, I developed an approach that works well for this type of situation…
How freelancers usually land work on Upwork
To succeed, we first have to look at what other freelancers do to land clients, so you know what you are up against. Then how you can outmaneuver them when you don’t have any experience.
There are two core elements that matter to land clients:
Step one is: What can you help with?
Clients pay for value. It’s a vague term thrown around everywhere these days, so let’s dive deeper.
Value in short means solving their business challenges. The tricky part is that clients don’t pay the same for every challenge. Imagine what they might pay to get their shirt ironed compared to doubling their sales.
Since the latter of the two creates more money for the business, they will probably pay more for help with that.
You can offer them value by solving their problems. Most of us are able to solve a bunch of different challenges for clients without any particular expertise.
That might be things like
- Researching leads for a client
- Organizing data
- Posting to social media or uploading content onto websites
Since these types of tasks don’t require much experience you won’t earn as much as if you have years of specialized experience but they are a terrific place to begin.
And because they don’t require much expertise, that means clients often hire for something else than experience…
Step two: Are you the right person to help?
The second step is to build a personal connection with the client, so they feel like you are the right person to help. Trust is the currency of freelancers and many clients value trust and reliability equally with expertise for some projects.
Obviously, if the project is something that requires a specific type of expertise, they are unlikely to hire just anyone without that specific type of expertise.
On different projects, you can use other elements of human psychology to land the project. Besides trust, that could be: being easy to work with, having good communication, reliability, drive, and attitude.
Trust is the foundation that will make or break this, so let’s look at that first. Common examples to display trust are:
- Case studies/portfolio
- Show that you understand their problem better than other freelancers
- Win with drive and attitude (clients sometimes hire for attitude over skills thinking skills are easier to learn)
Since you might not have all of these weapons available to you, let’s look at how you can leverage some of these elements to your advantage.
How to offer your services without experience
In a normal situation, you’ll sell based on experience but if you can’t, you can show how you’d go about helping them with their project and win based on attitude instead.
You can display that by outworking the competition and do extra work right from the beginning when you submit your proposal. Your future clients will be pleasantly surprised that you did.
For example by giving them examples or a step by step process of how you’ll handle their project. If you have a project where you have to gather leads, begin by finding a few leads as an example and add them when submitting the proposal with a nicely formatted spreadsheet.
It’s an easy way to stand out. By showing that you did something extra upfront, they will be impressed by your attitude because no one else bothers to do it.
I’ve found that it’s great to share a bit about what you did during the process. Not only will it help them get to know you better but you’ll also be able to get feedback that you can use in the proposals you’ll send in the future.
The tricky part is that if you aren’t careful about how you phrase your explanation, it can come across as douchebag-y rather than helpful.
I can’t list every possible good or bad phrase you could use but you can use a basic framework: before you submit your proposal, imagine you were in their shoes and needed help with the same project.
What might they not be saying?
Is someone else on the team bothering them because they haven’t gotten that project done yet? Is it difficult to pick the right freelancer because everyone seems the same?
Are they concerned that a freelancer might collect shitty leads for them so they have to start the process all over with someone else?
You might not get it right all the time but when you hear back from potential clients, you’ll know you did something right. You might even want to ask them what they liked about your proposal. Over time, you’ll get better and better and thus get more responses.
When you’ve prepared your proposal and your “extras”, you might add comments like:
“I’ve attached a few examples of leads to make sure I did it in the way that you prefer. You mentioned that you only needed the name and emails but I took the liberty of adding the social media links and number of followers so you can get an idea of their size. Would you be able to take a look and share your feedback?”
What’s going on here?
By sharing your thoughts behind the work, you show that you’ve worked to imagine what the client needed the most even if it might be incorrect.
Consider any popular Hollywood movie where the hero always fails a few times before winning at the end. We don’t like the hero for failing, we like the hero for trying because we can relate to the struggle. This is your version of trying and if you get it right the first time, that’s just bonus points to you.
You also show that you are comfortable with feedback, which makes them more open to a long-term relationship. It is common for any client and freelancer to have to work out the best way to collaborate in the beginning.
There is only one approach I know that works well for how to get work on Upwork with no experience: go above and beyond to impress them.
That means thinking long-term, so you’ll get more projects from them in the future because they like working with you. It means putting the client before yourself.
It takes a lot less work to get more projects from existing clients than having to find new clients all the time, so it is usually worth it. Think about what you can do, that no one else is doing to impress them like crazy.
At one point, I worked with a client on an email sales funnel. To make sure they were impressed, I also wrote a sales page to go with the emails and set up the entire thing for them in their system free of charge. I didn’t tell them that upfront but I did it as a nice surprise to them.
If you collect leads, you might give them 25% extra leads or give them extra information they might need about those leads.
Or if you design logos, you might give them five variations instead of two.
Or if you have to organize some data, organize it in different ways, show them, and ask them to pick the approach they prefer the most.
I’m sure you get the gist.
Another point that I can’t emphasize enough is to focus on being reliable. Most freelancers are flaky as hell and it’s an instant turn off for clients because you can’t trust that things get done.
This is perhaps the number one point and if you do nothing else, focus on being reliable and doing whatever you said you were going to do. You’ll be so far ahead of other freelancers, you won’t believe it.
How to get work on Upwork with no experience: The perfect project
With freelance clients, you’ll often run into two types: one needs help with certain expertise to solve a problem and doesn’t know how to do it.
Another knows how to solve the problem and might even be good at it but doesn’t have the time to it. This type of client often has the process mapped out and needs someone to follow it step by step.
If you have no experience, it’s easier to earn money by working with the second type of client. In exchange for the lack of expertise, you can offer reliability and be easy to work with while learning how to do that type of work from someone good at it.
After a while, you can offer it to the first type of client as an expert (when you become one).
You could also focus specifically on projects that are urgent because the clients might be willing to take a chance on you because of the urgency.
Either way, you’ll have to give them a deal they can’t refuse. You’ll benefit from getting on calls with them to understand how they think about their business and understand their problems better.
That way, next time you send a proposal you’ll have a better idea of which of the following examples you can use to land the next client.
Some of the ways you can offer them a great deal are:
- To solve their problem quickly (especially good for urgent projects)
- Offer a discounted rate
- Give extras.
I’m not a fan of discounting work because you’ll train clients to get used to getting discounts. But in the beginning, you’ll learn more from getting clients with discounts than none at all.
A popular question is if you should do free work.
Everyone has their own take on it. Some say it’s OK to do for your dream brands and others say you should never do it. My point of view is that you can do it for clients that are already paying you.
Don’t tell them about it, just do it for them as a nice surprise. You can always tell them that you wanted to see how XYZ would look, so you tried a few different approaches and wanted to hear what they think.
When you give free work “to get experience” without any payment before, the client isn’t invested and might drop the project at any given moment (e.g. by ghosting you from one day to the next).
That happens often and means neither of you will get anything from a half-completed project.
On the other hand, if they are already paying you, you are doing marketing for your freelance business, and betting that you’ll land more work from those clients instead of having to find new clients.
- To land freelance projects, there are two core elements: a problem that the client needs help solving and someone they can trust to help them solve it.
- By focusing on attitude and doing extra work instead of experience and skill, you can outwork people that are more experienced than you and land great clients.