I have something to tell you.
Many writers have dismissed Upwork (formerly Odesk) as a bidding site that pays writers peanuts.
However, for the most part, such freelancers have never known what it takes to earn a living from this world class freelancing platform.
I have landed several good clients on this platform but let me pull out a case study for you of one client I worked with between March 2013 and September 2015.
I joined Upwork around 2011 but did not complete my profile at all (a mistake committed by most freelance writers on Upwork). The outcome? No single client hired me despite the fact that there were thousands of jobs available I qualified for.
So my account lied dormant for at least one year until 2012.
Fortunately, I met a friend who told me he was making good money on the same site creating content for clients. With his help, I found out what I was doing wrong.
After tweaking my account, it took about two days to start getting hired by clients. The first client was impressed by my output and gave me an impressive feedback plus high rating.
Two other clients hired me immediately after that to create some content for their websites. One was a short term contract while the one was a long term contract that involved creating blog posts for Apple.inc.
Fast forward to March 2013 and I landed a client with a huge, long term project. Here is what you need to know regarding what made this project successful for 2 years and 6 months.
Kicking off on the right footing
Were it not for the initial efforts I put in to make my upwork profile shine, I would not have landed this project.
I had to tweak everything from my profile picture and portfolio to skills tests and writing strong cover letters. These efforts lured in the first few clients who left a positive feedback that finally landed me this long term project.
The first task is a big deal
Most clients would be interested in trying your service before they commit fully. This client was no different.
And one thing a professional writer should always do is to work on a paid test. This is whether the pay will be lower or equal to that of the actual project.
I did my test carefully and upon completion, the client sent me a list of 19 more keywords to write about.
In your first test, do your best because that will determine whether you’ll get the project or lose it to another quality writer. Therefore, when working on your first task (whether a test or a real job):
- Write interesting content
- Write short sentences
- Use simple, easy to understand language
- Write engaging content
- Write well researched content
- Write factual content.
- Write 100 percent original content
- Use the given keyword as required
- Stick to the client’s instructions
- Deliver the task before the deadline
Writing what fascinates the audience, not you
Every website targets a certain audience. The audience here simply means people from a certain geographical area with a specific problem that the website (and its content) is trying to address.
You need to have this in mind so you use a language, illustrations and examples that resonate well with your audience.
While some websites may offer a specific service to their target audience, others may simply provide useful information and resources on the service thus helping the audience to locate service providers on their own.
Finding the voice for your audience is extremely paramount. After writing relevant content for the client’s audience, I received more projects for different sites because most of the sites offered services for people in the same country.
High quality content
Every serious client requires a quality freelance writer. At the end of each month, my client could send me feedback suggesting that he liked my quality and was willing to increase the volume of work and rates.
Quality is something you can improve on daily as you keep writing.
- So what does quality writing entail?
- Short and easy to understand sentences
- Short paragraphs (1-3 sentences long)
- Flawless content; one devoid of grammar and spelling flaws
- Well-researched information that can be supported by proven facts and/or figures
- Purely unique/original content
- Relevant to the keyword or topic given
Raising rates over time
Ok. Here comes the interesting part.
Well, we started a bit too low at $5 per 300 words but a few months later, the rate per piece was 5 times this (read $15 per 300 words). Of course, each month, we had some articles for 500 words and 700 words.
I agreed to start writing at a low rate for three main reasons. First, this was a long term contract and I knew there was room to revise the rates higher, over time.
Second, I was just building up my portfolio in my writing career and I needed exposure. This exposure could only come by getting published on reputable sites and this client had a good number of those.
Third, this was a bulky, long term project hence it makes sense to price it a bit differently from the way you could price a one-off project.
So, how did I raise the rate? Well, by asking for it after some time interval. And the client did not object to this because I kept improving on quality.
As you may have noticed, this was a large volume of work. Nevertheless, I was to submit all the articles on time – a few days towards end month.
Since this is not the only client I was writing for, I had to ensure I remain busy but sane at the same time. Timely delivery is critical in any freelancing project.
This is because it does not only show your professionalism but your productivity as well.
Good and frequent communication
Our communication was mainly through email and Skype. This was so frequent at first but after the first year, everything was clear and there was more of working and delivering projects than talking.
To sustain a long term client, you need to be in constant touch regarding the work you’re doing. When the client emails you, be there to respond quickly.
When they schedule for a Skype session with you, always respond promptly. It could be a discussion about a new project for you!
Once in a while, you may be called upon to make a few changes to some articles you did. It’s always important to respond accordingly.
Working with the client’s co-workers
For the entire period, I was working through the client’s editor and we formed a great professional relationship.
I was also in touch with his customer service representatives not to mention his web marketing and SEO team. We moved to a virtual project management platform and worked on different projects together.
What’s my point? If a client introduces you to other people they work with, be happy about it and work closely with them. And be nice to everyone. I ended up getting hired by these guys to work on some other projects!
Like I had mentioned earlier, I was working on different projects with a number of clients and this made it necessary for me to outsource part of this long term work. In fact, the client had told me he had no problems with outsourcing provided it didn’t compromise on quality.
When you have plenty of work, outsource but be careful to whom you are giving the project to. If you give to novice writers, you’ll mess the quality and possibly lose the contract.
Therefore, pick excellent writers to assist you and work with the same people for consistency in writing style.
Upwork is a great platform for freelancing work if you know how to go about it. You can still sign up and earn nothing for years unless you give it the right approach.
When applying for projects, look for those clients with long term projects. Once you land a long term client, follow the points explained here and you will succeed.
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