When we look for Upwork jobs for beginners, many of us feel inadequate when we look at other Upwork freelancers with more experience, better testimonials, case studies and more confidence.
It makes us question why a client would ever hire someone like us… and the most popular answer? It is only possible if we discount our rates.
That feeling is near and dear to my heart. When I began freelancing, I had no clue what to do and I didn’t believe that I could do it but somehow I convinced myself to give it a shot.
It changed my life as I began to discover a different way to live. One that didn’t include a traditional 9-5 job but instead, the freedom to live and work in paradise with no boss and nowhere to be. The same can be true for you — wherever your paradise is!
After failing to win jobs, I landed my first client by looking for projects from the same country as I, thinking they would prefer someone speaking the same language. It worked and I earned my first $30.
In this mini guide, I’ll show you how you can get the upper hand and win jobs against more experienced freelancers on Upwork — and without lowering your rates.
First, we’ll look at examples of specific Upwork job ideas that are great for beginners followed by how to beat out more experienced competition with three examples of leverage, you can use that they might not have access to.
Last, we’ll look at what to expect if you have a little bit of freelancing experience from random projects and now want to land projects on Upwork.
3 examples of great Upwork jobs for beginners
Let me start by saying that of course, if you have your own freelance idea by all means go for it.
The ideas I’m about to show you are if you don’t have any ideas or don’t know where to start. They are particularly good for beginners since you can often avoid a phone call because the projects are small.
Upwork beginner job example one: Lead gen research
Lead generation research is pretty self-explanatory. As the words say, we help businesses find information about other businesses, influencers, etc. usually used for partnerships or sales by the client’s team. It often includes finding the company name and email.
Example job description
What is required to land this type of project
The short and sweet version is to offer the client a free sample of three leads put together based on the client’s requirements in a spreadsheet.
Some freelancers choose to attach them directly with the proposal while others tell the client about it in the proposal and ask them to reply something simple like “yes” before they start to make sure they are interested.
Either way is fine and you can fine tune it as you go but the key is to offer the free sample. I’ve hired for lead generation projects several times and offering a free sample stands out so much that it even beats a better proposal without. EVEN if the rest of the proposal is somewhat garbage because the client gets to see the work first hand before they make a decision.
Of course each project is different but in general, these projects tend to focus on gathering correct emails and contact info for certain businesses, influencers, publications, etc. so someone can reach out to do sales or partnerships.
Sometimes, we also need to qualify the leads, meaning that they have to fulfil certain criterias such as yearly revenue or monthly traffic. That means it is key that the leads and information we find is accurate.
Tools that might be relevant for these projects are hunter.io or Rocketreach for finding people’s email addresses. We can also use sites like similarweb.com to get an idea of the website traffic for a certain site.
Upwork beginner job example two: transcription or translation
Transcription can be relevant for interviews or podcasts for businesses that want to publish a written version on their website next to audio or videos of the same content as it can help them show up on Google search.
Translation from one language to another is a great choice as well. Especially, if you speak an obscure language that isn’t that popular since it can be difficult for clients to find help. Of course, that requires you to speak two languages so if you don’t, you can ignore this example.
Example job description
What is required to land this type of project
Since this is written work, we’ll often need to show examples of similar projects we have transcribed or translated before.
If for example you find a transcription project you are interested in, I suggest doing a small project that is similar so you have a highly relevant sample to show them. It can be as simple as transcribing a small section of a relevant interview.
After having applied for a few of those jobs you’ll have examples to cover most projects on Upwork and you won’t have to continue creating new ones.
The same goes for translation. You can simply translate a small portion of a relevant video or audio interview and use a sample taster.
These projects often don’t require much except good language skills and attention to detail. Sometimes it is possible to use Google doc’s Voice Typing tool but it is definitely not perfect.
The same is true for the Translate Document feature as shown just above the Voice Typing button in the screenshot.
Upwork beginner job example three: Write blog/SEO articles
Writing SEO articles means to write articles with the purpose of having them show up on Google and drive traffic to the client’s website. Usually, you don’t need to know anything about SEO in advance as they will often train you based on the way they prefer to have it done.
Example job description
What is required to land this type of project
For blog/SEO articles, we definitely need to show relevant examples. We can use the same technique as above to quickly put together a portfolio by creating a small sample that is relevant to the project we apply for. For example, 300-500 words on a similar topic.
It’s challenging to land projects writing articles without samples but they can help you avoid the phone call during the pitching process because they tend to want to do a small test project of a few articles first to see if it’s a good fit.
Clients looking for help often know SEO well and will provide a checklist or basic framework for how to structure the article so it works well for Google.
That means you have to focus on writing correctly in the language and follow their guidelines for structuring each article.
The benefits of all of Upwork jobs for beginners
Some of the benefits across all of these projects are that we tend to be able to avoid getting on phone calls, which many new freelancers are afraid of (and with good reason). Often because they are either writing-heavy or smaller projects that don’t require that much communication.
Be careful with jobs that say “open to beginners” since the price is often low. Also, ignore the beginner level (beginner, intermediate, expert) since clients don’t know what they need so that selection is often random.
Now that we have a few ideas of what kind of projects we can go after, let’s dive deeper into how we can win them as a beginner without experience.
How to beat out more experienced freelancers and win Upwork jobs as a beginner (without lowering your rate)
Now to the big question. To land a client when we are competing with other freelancers, we have to be different. Everyone does.
Most established players set themselves apart by showing off their testimonials and attractive case studies.
It can feel overwhelming, like slaying a Hydra, when we are starting from scratch. And most new freelancers chose to compete by lowering their rates in exchange for testimonials.
That is not the best decision, especially if we have experience freelancing off of Upwork as those case studies and testimonials count too. We are not starting from scratch just because we are joining a freelance website. Pricing is usually the laziest way to try to be different.
It’s one of those things we tend to do because everyone else does it. The problem is that it lowers our motivation to continue and trains the client to get a discount. Lose-lose.
Instead, being proactive, overdelivering on your client’s expectations and impressing them with specific details in the proposal gives the client a great impression and makes them want to speak more with us.
It works well no matter the project but in particular with the project examples I shared above since any beginner can do them without much training.
The key is to show that we are trying hard and are motivated to do a good job for the client. To many’s surprise, most freelancers don’t do that and so even if you are a beginner you can win by showing that you go out of your way to do a good job – even if it isn’t perfect.
Past experience, testimonials and case studies are just one way for clients to judge if we would be a good fit to complete their project because they don’t know how else to judge it. To mitigate that, we can give the client other ways to judge it by – for example, our drive and excitement.
Hollywood superhero movies are not popular because we can’t relate to what it is like to be Batman or Superman but because we can relate to the struggles that they face.
Similarly, clients tend to be able to relate to the effort we put in to impress them, even if we are a beginner and make a few mistakes. Often because they have done the same in the past when they first started out.
I didn’t believe it the first time I heard it, so I imagine most people reading this won’t either. It sounds too easy and simple.
Look, I get it. It is hard to believe that there can be a place for freelancers to earn money while not doing a good job. The thing is that clients sometimes don’t have any other options.
One way to look at it is this: I love middle eastern food and in my city there are no particularly great choices. So if I want a middle eastern dish, I can only pick between a somewhat ok solution or none at all. Sometimes I pick the somewhat ok solution but if I had better options, I’d switch immediately.
Clients feel the same way about freelancers. As soon as a great one comes around, they’ll make the switch. And a portion of clients will prefer it even if it costs more.
For example, next time you speak with a client or send a proposal, end it with a question like this “have you worked with freelancers on a similar project before? How was your experience?”
I bet that you’ll quickly see a pattern somewhere along the lines of “we got the job done but communication was not great”.
Best of all, most freelancers don’t ask that so when we do, we show the client that we are mindful of them and their project.
With that out of the way, let’s dive into three examples of things you can leverage to find Upwork jobs for beginners and beat other freelancers with more experience.
3 ways to beat more experienced freelancers and win Upwork jobs
Example one: take urgent projects
One of my favorite tricks is taking urgent projects since more experienced freelancers often think that adhering to crazy deadlines are beneath them.
Whether it is or isn’t doesn’t matter but it allows us to swoop in and help out last minute. Particularly on weekends where many other freelancers are off.
Example two: leverage your language or country skills
As mentioned, I used my language skills to land my very first freelance project online so I know how well this approach works.
Of course if you are from a large country like the US or India, you might want to narrow it down even further by either language, state or perhaps even city.
Example three: timezone
Another idea is to leverage your timezone. It is often seen as a disadvantage but I can think of two examples where we can benefit from it.
One is that we can paint a picture for the client where we can work on the project while they are asleep, so they can wake up to a fresh project update in their inbox. I’ve noticed that clients tend to love the idea because it feels sexy.
Another one is to offer customer service help across uncommon timezones. For example, if a client has a digital business in America with customers all over the world and the nature of the products means that they benefit from offering help 24/7.
Few freelancers in the US want to work nights to cover that shift but guess what, it is perfect for someone in Asia since they will be awake when the US is asleep anyway.
Recently, I had a great experience with one of the business tools I use. I needed help with something and I got a response within an hour because they had service reps in the Philippines ready to help me with the US and Europe were asleep.
All of these ideas should be plenty for you to take a stab at and win Upwork jobs even if you are a beginner.
What to expect when applying to Upwork jobs for beginners
Sometimes I hear from people that have had a freelance project or two fall into their lab. Maybe they had an uncle who needed some help for his shop or something.
That worked out pretty well and now they are looking for more work and think about freelance websites like Upwork. The most common question I see is what the expectations are and if they are any different from the projects they know.
How the expectations on Upwork are different
In my experience, Upwork clients expect more case studies or proof of results, they hire faster and the projects available tend to be more hobby-related projects than real businesses.
Let’s break that down.
Upwork clients expect more case studies and proof of results
This seems totally counterintuitive and was confusing to me at first. I’ve found that Upwork clients are WAY more focused on case studies and proof of results in past projects than clients that I simply emailed out of the blue. Even though the Upwork projects were smaller and the hourly rate was lower.
It seems almost ridiculous — totally backward — since I earned significantly more money in my experiments with cold emails compared to Upwork.
My very unscientific guess is that many of them are afraid of scams or unqualified freelancers and so they are trying to verify that the freelancer is good based on past history.
For marketing projects, I’m guessing that’s why many switched some years ago from wanting screenshots of ad account performance (something I’ve never seen bigger businesses outside Upwork ask for) to wanting to see the same on a live video call.
I imagine it might be because there have been a lot of one man agencies popping up that hire Upwork freelancers to do the work and then use their case studies to sell it. A ridiculous business model.
In my experience, the more clients are concerned with past results, the smaller the business is and the more likely they are to be spending their own money rather than their business’. I’ve found that it is a good telltale of an inexperienced client.
In comparison, bigger and more established clients tend to be easier to work with since they are used to contractors and staff making mistakes from time to time, as we are all human and that is unavoidable.
Many of them also treat it as an experiment and rightly so, whereas new founders tend to feel more desperate and that the project has to work at all cost. A surefire way to fail in any business as it is normal to try a bunch of things to figure out what works.
Upwork jobs tend to be hobby-related projects rather than real businesses
That brings me to my next point. My guesstimate is that 90% of all the Upwork projects I’ve been bidding on are hobby-businesses. The way you can tell is if they don’t have any customers yet. With no customers, there is no revenue and so there is no business.
They are either straight up someone’s personal project where they don’t make any money yet or it’s a tiny business that makes a little money.. Nothing that would be able to get us enough projects in the long run to quit our job.
Those are good clients to start out with if you feel afraid of pitching bigger businesses. They are generally less professional (for good and bad) because they have less experience hiring. That also means that they are less experienced in managing teams and being organized.
Upwork is focusing more and more on bigger businesses but keeping them in their private talent cloud that we have to be invited to join.
It makes perfect sense. They (and the freelancer) earn more money because the projects are bigger and so they want to make sure that whoever is working on those projects does a good job.
If I was Upwork, I’d probably do the same. That leaves the rest of the freelancers to fight for the scraps along with the occasional bigger client that somehow found it’s way there.
They hire faster
That being said, Upwork clients do tend to hire faster in my experience. One part is that the projects often are smaller (so less decision is required) and another thing is that they put up the projects ready for hire, whereas when we reach out to businesses cold, they haven’t.