You can be successful on Upwork – here’s how

Thanks to FYF community member Gary Harvey for this insightful contribution about Upwork success …

The opportunity has never been greater

Freelancing is a growth area. Freelancer earnings are up. Opportunities are up. And competition is up… which is why you need to read this article.

Upwork now pays out over one billion dollars a year to freelancers. You want your share? You want to beat out the competition?

Then use these strategies. I know they work because I used them to get the “Rising Talent” rating at Upwork, and then later the “Top Rated” badge. They are the strategies I continue to use in all my writing. Read on to see why they worked for me and how they will work for you.

Treat every job like it’s paying you big bucks

And why should you do that if they’re only paying you apprentice wages?

Four reasons.

1, Start as you intend to continue.

2, It’s good practice.

3, It’s a sign of good character.

4, If you do low-grade work, who’s going to pay you the fee schedule you aspire to? Those who deliver rubbish work should get paid rubbish wages. Simple as that.

Which is why I strongly recommend that every time you deliver work, it’s the very best work you can produce.

It’s okay to work slower than you want if you’re delivering quality to your client. As you gain experience, both as a writer and in the topics you’re writing about, your speed will pick up.

Ask the client questions – show you care

Because I did this, my first client wrote that I cared about the work I was doing for him. Greg’s exact words were “Gary was invested in the project as if it were his own”. Public feedback like that is immensely valuable.

He drew that conclusion because I kept asking questions. Why did I ask about so many things? So I could understand.

I was new (and he knew that). There was a lot I didn’t understand — about Upwork, about his company, and about voice (did he want the writing to be conversational or formal, and at what educational level?).

I also had questions about how to submit my work, about how he wanted me to use the keywords he supplied, and did he want me to submit my work in text, .doc, .docx or .pdf?

So many questions.

By understanding his business and the purpose of these writing tasks, I was better able to meet his needs. And that’s what you get paid for. Lightening their load by meeting their needs.

By following that strategy with every writing gig, 100 percent of my Upwork clients gave me 5 stars. That’s right. Every job, 5 stars.

Every contact with your client is characterized by courtesy and professionalism

If you want to be recognized as a professional, act like a professional and write like a professional. Every time.

Use proper English. That means using upper case when it’s needed. It means using good grammar, and appropriate punctuation and paragraphing.

Aim to make every email a showcase of the quality work you always deliver. I cannot imagine a client being unhappy to receive a slightly more formal response, but I can easily see a client firing you if you send him a poorly thought out, hastily thrown-together email that breaks the rules in the paragraph above. Right?

In short, be polite and business-like every time you interface with your client.

Proofread everything three or four times

how to be successful on upwork

You’re judged by the words you send your client. So run the spell checker over them. If you learned British English and are writing for an American client, make a special effort to use American spell checker. Your British spell checker won’t do that for you.

Find an American one. Or open Google and type “defense or defence” to find what’s used in the States.

But spelling isn’t all you need to examine. Check the flow of the words. How? By reading your text aloud. Yes, read it word by word, out loud. Why?  Because when you read silently, your clever brain will fill in the words you meant to write. You won’t see the missing words. But your client will. He doesn’t know what you meant to say. He only knows what you actually wrote.

There’s another trick that can help here. Paste your words into a text-to-speech app and listen to what you wrote. Your ear won’t fill in any missing words.

You can easily find free spell checkers and text-reading apps on the internet.

If you have a friend who will read your stuff, ask them. You want to know if anything — yes, anything — that stops them as they read your work. Their “criticism” might hurt but suck it up, and fix the sentences that didn’t work for them.

There is no substitute for proofreading. Make sure your words never leave home without it.

Deliver your work one day early

Not too early, mind you, or your client will think it was an easy assignment and he overpaid you.When you get the writing assignment, plot out your time and tell your client when you expect to deliver. Include research, writing, and polishing time, as well as 1-2 days of padding so you can deliver early. If the matter is complex, then you’ll want to include contemplation time as well, to give yourself time to figure out the angle you will take.

When you get the writing assignment, plot out your time and tell your client when you expect to deliver. Include research, writing, and polishing time, as well as 1-2 days of padding so you can deliver early. If the matter is complex, then you’ll want to include contemplation time as well, to give yourself time to figure out the angle you will take.

Ask your client for feedback you can add to your portfolio

If you’re writing for an Upwork client, that feedback will go on your public record which is why I always asked for a five stars rating and a positive comment. Yes, I asked for 5 stars. Every time.

Yes, I asked for 5 stars. Every time. And I asked for a positive comment.

And I asked for a positive comment. Since I’d already delivered the best work I knew how to do, I thought it was entirely reasonable to ask them to post a positive comment. Five stars

Since I’d already delivered the best work I knew how to do, I thought it was entirely reasonable to ask them to post a positive comment. Five stars is great but if all they write is “good work”, that doesn’t help me much. And it doesn’t help future clients decide to work with me. So here’s the type of message I sent to my first client:

So here’s the type of message I sent to my first client:

“Hi Greg. The attached article is due tomorrow but I thought you’d appreciate getting it a day early.

I’ve run it through Copyscape and I can confirm it is 100% unique.

I hope you feel it meets your requirements. If it doesn’t, please let me know what needs fixing and I will take care of the re-write promptly.

If you do like it, I’d love to see 5 stars from you. I’m sure you know how vital it is for beginning freelancers to get strong ratings for their early jobs, so if there is anything in my article that would hold you back from awarding 5 stars, please let me know.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to work with you. It’s been an education and a pleasure.Gary.”


See what I did there? The key concept here is to ask if anything would hold him back from awarding 5 stars, then promising to fix it promptly.If you’re submitting work via Upwork, send a draft – and don’t ask for payment yet

If you’re submitting work via Upwork, send a draft – and don’t ask for payment yet

In Upwork, there is a link that allows you to attach a file to a message. When you’re working with a new client, use it. When he’s happy with your work, submit it again via the “Submit for payment” button.

Every time a client applauds, save the best quotes in a PDF to include with every pitch

As well as being a writer, you’re also a marketer. If you don’t blow the trumpet, who will? Take pride in your work, and don’t be shy about telling others how well your writing has been received by earlier clients.

And that’s it. The strategy I used to get my writing career started. Now, it’s your turn.

About the author:

After writing about all manner of topics with Upwork and for other clients, Gary Harvey has now settled into the natural health niche. As well as writing about healing through nutrition at, Gary is busy preparing to launch through which he will be providing quality Private Label Rights content to owners of health sites all over the web.

This post may contain affiliate links which means if you click on one of these links I’ll receive a small commission. This is at no extra cost to you and, in many cases, I’ll get you exclusive discounts. Your support helps me to make more content like this to help you – thanks.

This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. Gary

    I let the Natural Health Joy domain go, and my focus has returned to fiction writing.
    You can see my first five stories at
    But I still endorse the advice I give in this article… in case you were wondering.

    1. Les Blythe

      Hey Gary, good to hear from you again, and best of luck with the new venture!


  2. Doreen Gibson

    As a freelancer I always have a keen eye out for articles relating to freelancing.  Freelancing is very dear to me because that is what I make the most money from online.  Thank you for the tips regarding working on Upwork great tips.  Looking forward to more great articles.

    1. Les Blythe

      Thanks Doreen, glad you enjoyed the tips.

  3. Sukumar Thingom

    I must admit I’m hearing of Upwork for the first time. But from the looks of it, Upwork sounds like a good opportunity for budding writers and people looking for an extra income from their craft. Nowadays, even bloggers are outsourcing the content writing to professionals to free up some time for them to concentrate on other aspects of their business. For someone who’s never been into the freelancing thing, it’s quite a mystery how things work inside, how the deal is struck, how the writing work is executed based on the client’s preferences and audience type. This article gives a sneak-peek about the behind-the-scenes work. Very informative post. 

    1. Les Blythe

      Thanks for your comment, glad you found the post interesting.

  4. Bibian

    That’s a very nice and well analyzed post on how to be successful on up work, I rate it four and half star. I don’t really know there’s other freelancing platform apart from freelancer and fiverr. This is actually my first time coming across it, I love writing a lot and I believe with this guideline of yours It’s going to work out for me.

    Does it take time to set up an account with up work?

    1. Les Blythe

      Hi Bibian,

      Yes, as with any platform it takes a little time to set you account up. It’s a good idea to spend some time on your profile and be sure to make it relevant to what potential clients are likely searching for.

      Show them how you can solve their problems and you won’t go far wrong!

  5. larry

    Hey Gary, it always good to read experiences and advice from professionals like you. I have tried Upwork before but it didn’t really work but thanks to you, I now know why. 

    I have one question though, What do you think about other programs such as writershub and freelancer are they as good as Upwork. I’d really love to get your advice. Anyway it’s great to meet you and thanks for the great article.

    1. Les Blythe

      Thanks for your comment Larry.

      There are quite a few alternatives to Upwork, but Upwork is the biggest freelancing platform in the world and I find they have the largest selection of quality jobs available. By all means try other platforms and see what works best for you.

      There is more than enough work available on Upwork if you approach it in the right way…

  6. Jim

    Thanks Les for allowing Gary to publish this informative article for you as a guest. I don’t know much about ‘Upwork’ and I’m not really that interested in becoming a writer. I’m far more interested in have blogs written for me. I did try out a person at iwriter but unfortunately there first article wasn’t passed as being unique. I then tried out an other writer and that one’s ability to write in English was very minimal. I just wondered if you could tell me a little bit more about Upwork. What sort of charges do they have and do they have specific writers for specific Niches? Thanks Jim

    1. Les Blythe

      Hi JIm and thanks for connecting.

      Upwork can be a good source of writers for your blog posts, but you do have to be selective. The equation you’re trying to balance is a tricky one, especially if I have my writer’s hat on for just a moment 🙂

      You see, I advise writer’s to up their prices as quickly as possible and not undervalue their services. At the same time, you have blog owners who often (not always) are only interested in getting content as cheaply as possible.

      There’s an old saying that you only get what you pay for, and I think that’s true when sourcing a writer to an extent. There are writers trapped in the rut of writing for peanuts who are scared to raise their prices and, unfortunately, they will never make a decent living!

      What you pay a writer on Upwork is ultimately your call. There are some high value niches such as technology, IT, medical and so on. There are some VERY high quality writers on Upwork, and, quite frankly, some others who shouldn’t even be attempting to write for a living.

      So, to answer your question on Upwork charges, it’s up to you what you pay.  You really need to post a job and weigh up the responses you receive. Maybe make a shortlist and offer a paid test to select your writer.

      When all said and done, if both parties come out of a collaboration happy, it’s a win-win all round.

  7. Andy Zeus Anderson

    I love your tips on professional writing. I use tools like Grammarly and multiple online dictionaries when dealing with content for overseas clients. I have never employed Upwork to find clients and have only done around a dozen writing jobs outside my own blogs but my confidence is definitely rising and your tips are brilliant. I especially like the read it out loud or use a text to speech converter to read it for you. I never thought of that. Thank you.

    1. Les Blythe

      Hi Andy,

      Glad you found Gary’s tips useful, I’d like to thank him again for his contribution!

      I also use Grammarly and text to speech in word for my final proof readings. You should develop a routine for checking all your professional work as it makes a huge difference to your chances of picking up repeat business.

      Just one more tip, consider using Copyscape and giving clients a free Copyscape check as an additional service. It shows them your work is unique (according to Google and Bing) and is a very easy value add service to include.

  8. Michel

    Thank you for a most informative article. 

    I have often looked at doing this type of work, but fear it will take me away from writing for my own websites. Although you do get paid sooner, I prefer to work on my own business for the long term.

    I enjoyed reading your tips for providing the work, especially the asking of questions and doing the work properly as if it was for yourself. I think many people nowadays just do everything slap dash and in a hurry without taking the time to check through their work first. Then they wonder why they aren’t doing as well as they thought they should.

    Proof reading! How we all hate to do it, but I find even the fourth time that I read an article I still find something that must be corrected. Sometimes it helps to read the words out loud as you get a better feel of how it is going to read for others and it forces you to read slower, avoiding skipping over errors.

    1. Les Blythe

      Hi Michel,

      You’re right, it’s important to concentrate on writing content for your own website to develop it as a long-term, sustainable source of income. With that said, you might want to consider having more than one source of income – that’s a sensible strategy.

      I do recommend getting one thing right at a time before moving on, and I’m sure, once you get your website to a certain stage, you’d be able to find the time to work on a second income stream, then a third…

      Thanks for your comment!

  9. Godfrey

    Thanks, Gary for this very informative post. I am a newbie on Upwork and I am currently working on getting to where the likes of Les and you are. I must admit, your Upwork profiles are just superb.

    With this post, my dos-and-don’ts list just got wealthier.

    I will keep checking for more of such gold.

    Thanks a bunch, Les and Gary!

    1. Les Blythe

      Hey Godfrey, thanks for the feedback, much appreciated.

      You’ll find your Upwork profile is pretty much always a work in progress as you get more experience and do more client work.

      Keep at it and I’m sure you’ll see massive success.

      All the best,

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.