I recently started an online freelancing challenge. The aim was to start from scratch and become a successful freelancer. I got some amazing results.
Instead of doing it alone, I decided to do it with many others in one of the best Facebook groups in Kenya – Awesome Transcribers in Kenya (or just ATK) that has over 50,000 members.
This is a group that not only deals with transcription tips, but also other legitimate ways on making money online. I founded it back in June, 2014 when doing a transcription challenge (yes, I love doing challenges).
It has some of the best and most helpful members when compared to many other Facebook groups. We even have GoTranscript admins in there. Other notable members include Spike Wyatt of SpikeWyatt.com, Sheeroh of WorkOnlineKenya.com, Sam Gichuru of Kuhustle.com and David of FreelancerInsights.com.
There are many other bloggers and top freelancers in there. How cool is that?
In fact, I appreciate each and every member in that group. All are important.
In this post, I’ll show you how to be a successful freelancer.
You might also want to check out my recent Paysa interview on how to maximize your career as a freelancer.
Let’s start with details on the freelancing challenge.
What was the freelancing challenge all about?
The challenge was simple. I was to do the following:
- Become a newbie in Upwork, iWriter and PeoplePerHour
- Dust off and optimize my old Fiverr account that I hadn’t worked on for 2 years or so
- Look for work on online job boards.
In all these sites, I was looking for freelance writing and copy-editing jobs.
Since there were many people in ATK who also wanted to start from scratch, I decided to make it a challenge where I would show what I was doing step by step so that we could all learn from each other.
I totally believed I would make it since I had been a freelancer for years. However, I really wanted to see others succeed.
I loved the results.
A few days into the challenge, guys just couldn’t stop posting on the group the fact that they had landed a client in the different sites named above.
Many are still earning from the different sites they joined. The whole challenge was a smashing success.
I first actually wrote this post on August 17th, 2016. As usual, I keep updating my posts so that you get relevant info.
Below, I show you how to succeed in the various sites and the strategies I used. I also tell you what is yet to work and give you my final thoughts.
How to succeed as a Freelancer in Upwork
Upwork is a merger of the former oDesk and Elance.
I loved Elance and had made some decent amount there before this merger.
I hated oDesk since it was famous for all the wrong things – mainly low pay and difficult clients. A couple of friends kept talking about oDesk but I had never given it a good thought.
When they merged to become Upwork, things got better.
Upwork Market Research
I did quite some research on Upwork and came across great information from different sites.
Lots of guys in the ATK Facebook group also expressed just how much they loved Upwork and kept sharing tips.
Whoa! This site just had so much love.
After reading all this, I was convinced that it’s a great site to work with.
Upwork Case Study Results
By the grace of God, I have been able to get the results below from Upwork:
- 20+ jobs, some long-term
- Lots of 5 star reviews
- A job success score that ranges between 90 and 100%
- Top-rated status!
Upwork 2016 screenshots
Below are a few screenshots from my Upwork profile that I took in 2016 just after starting this challenge.
The screenshots above were taken in August 2016. Right now I have two awesome long-term clients who supply me with constant work every month. We’re already past the $500 mark with those two, meaning Upwork only charges me 10% commission. In fact, they have so far given me thousands of dollars worth of work. Some screenshots below.
Upwork 2017 Screenshots
When you get started with a client, Upwork takes 20% commission from your payment till you get past that $500 mark. I love Upwork and heavily recommend it.
My Upwork Success Strategy
Below is the strategy that I used to get to where I am in Upwork.
- Research: When starting, I always had a Google tab on. I constantly researched all aspects of this site i.e. profile, bidding, proposals, security etc. I used a lot of information from the sites I named above. This brought OPTIMIZATION! I simply love putting the right effort into things.
- Merging profiles: I merged my former Elance profile with Upwork. This brought MOMENTUM since I already had some few great Elance stats.
- Complete Upwork Profile: I completed my profile 100%. This brought CREDIBILITY. Don’t start working there with a half-baked profile.
- Testing: I tested different types of projects, rates, clients, countries etc. My online mantra is TEST AND OPTIMIZE. Testing always helps me to PLAN AHEAD.
- Skill tests: I did 5 skill tests. This brought REPUTATION.
- Using all connects: When starting, I made sure I use up all 60 connects (30 proposals) every month. THIS INCREASES PROBABILITIES. However, as I update this, I don’t bid every month since I already have many clients from different sources other than Upwork. I only look for new clients when my workload reduces.
- Targeting: I send my proposals to mostly “Intermediate” and “Expert Level” projects. This gets me into the sea of PROVEN, WELL PAYING CLIENTS. I still send to awesome, entry level jobs. For example, one of my long-term clients who pays $20 per 500 words had posted her job at the “Entry” level. In their country, experts are paid $50 and above per 500 words. So for her $20 was “Entry” level.
- Reinforced proposals: I strive to write great, heavenly proposals and attach samples, links and any other useful evidence. This ADDS VALUE.
- Rates: I bid at slightly above average rates. This shows CONFIDENCE but still enables me to build my REPUTATION.
- Diversification: I diversify with other sites. This SPREADS THE EGGS. Thus when not working in Upwork I still work for other clients/sites. In fact, I advise people not to depend on Upwork or any other site, but to look for their own direct clients.
I go deeper into Upwork success in my training. But for now, those are general tips that should get you going.
How to Succeed as a Freelancer in iWriter
Update: Note that iWriter is no longer as awesome as it used to be. It’s currently not accepting new writers and the jobs there are not as many as they once were. Hoping they improve things over there ASAP.
I already knew iWriter. In fact, I first joined this site back in October, 2011 when it was still new.
However, I had long stopped working there and moved on to other things.
Some guys in the above Facebook group were saying that it’s currently hard to get started in iWriter as a newbie.
So I decided to become an absolute newbie and see if this was true. It was not true, I was still able to rise to Elite Level as a newbie before I went back to my higher paying clients.
iWriter Market Research
I didn’t really need to do a lot of market research on this site. It’s more of a plug and play site. I had already written hundreds of articles in iWriter in the past.
iWriter Case Study Results
Here are my iWriter results:
- 32 articles written and 31 reviewed
- 4.8387 stars average rating (out of 5)
- Elite ranking
- I’m a favorite writer to 3 clients so far
- Zero rejected articles
Below is a screenshot of my iWriter stats.
You’ll definitely note that I don’t work much in iWriter. There have been few jobs there of late, therefore I keep myself out of the queue to give opportunities to other writers. Additionally, my article pricing is generally way above what most clients in iWriter offer.
However, I will still sneak back in there once in a while and write something. I still need to get to Elite Plus which is the highest level there paying around $32 per 500 words. To get there I need to have an average rating of 4.85 after 40 reviews. I need 8 more 5 star reviews for that (at the time of writing this).
My iWriter Success Strategy
Below is the strategy that I used to get a good rating real quick and earn in iWriter.
If you want to succeed in iWriter, here’s what you can do.
Strategy #1: Pick 150 and 300 word articles
Short articles will get you many quick ratings. Start with 150 to 300 word articles. Avoid going above 500 words when still new.
Strategy #2: Write for clients with high approval rates
Go for clients whose approval rates are as close to 100% as possible. If you’re a newbie, go for clients with an approval rate of 70-100%. This will increase the probability of your article being approved.
Strategy #3: Picking clients who give 5-stars
You only want 5-stars so you look for clients who give 5-stars. Simply check the client’s ratings. Those rated well are likely to rate you well if you do an excellent job.
Strategy #4: Excellent articles
There are no two-ways to this. You can’t get to Elite Plus if your writing is poor. Once you select an article, make sure you give it your all so that it’s worth the 5-star.
Strategy #5: Easy articles
Try look for the easiest articles to do so that you don’t spend too much time Googling and wondering how to do them. Take it quite slow as you build your profile. The relatively easy articles come mostly at night so kesha (stay awake all night) if you have to.
Strategy #6: Special requests
The above strategies will land you superb clients who send you special requests.
I got one special requester in 2 days! I considered it a big blessing since that doesn’t always happen. I would always ace her articles so that she would give me many 5 star reviews. She ran out of work after 5 articles but I’m glad I worked for her.
Whenever you get special requests, write impeccable articles. This way, that the client will be sending you work whenever s/he needs content written.
Strategy #7: The inbox trick
Before I start an article, I would open the “contact requester” link on a new tab. Once done, I would send a message there stating, “Hi. I have just submitted your article. If it has an issue, please request modification and I’ll edit it quick. If you love it, I’ll appreciate a 5 star review.”
I later realized that you don’t really have to do this for all clients. Clients with high approval rates, hundreds of articles written and 5 star ratings in iWriter most likely already know the importance of 5-star feedback.
Use your better judgment to know who to inbox.
Yes, simply ask and you shall be given.
How to Succeed as a Freelancer in Fiverr
Fiverr is still one fun site to work in. It is difficult to get a bad rating in this site if you’re good at what you do.
On the other hand, flow of work here can be unpredictable. The primary model of this site is that you set up your service description (called a gig) and wait for people to order them.
I had already worked with Fiverr a little bit a few years back. One goal of this challenge was to revamp my Fiverr account and start earning from it too.
Fiverr Market Research
I had a few friends from the Facebook group who were making it big on this site so I decided to take the plunge into it, again.
Fiverr Case Study Results
So far, here are my results in Fiverr.
- 15 jobs
- 14 gave me 5 star reviews and 1 gave me a 3.5 star
- 1 long term client who I still work for to date
You can check out some of my Fiverr screenshots here.
My Fiverr Success Strategy
- Set up an excellent Fiverr profile
- Create fantastic gigs
- Apply for jobs (submit offers to buyers)
- Deliver your very best
- Ask for feedback
- Be an excellent communicator
- Share your gig on social media and forums, especially where potential clients may be
For this case study, I only used number 1, 3 and 4 above since I had already done most of the others earlier.
Below are some other sources of online work that I tried out as part of this challenge.
I’ve not managed to get any client yet from PeoplePerHour. In fact, out of all the bids I sent, I only got one response. The client asked for my Skype ID (they allow it here) and after giving him he went missing. However, a few friends from the Facebook group have been earning very well here.
One friend tells me she earns well here from simple tasks e.g. writing a slogan.
I still bid there once in a long while.
This is an excellent strategy that you can use to land high-value clients who pay hundreds of dollars per article. I already have clients who come to me through my networks or blog, but when my workload reduces, I use this method to get high-paying ones. My best one so far paid me $200 for a 750 word article.
Here’s an excellent article that will take you step by step on how you can cold-pitch to earn thousands of dollars per month.
Final Thoughts on Becoming a Successful Freelancer
It’s been so much fun rebuilding a freelancing career. It has also been quite some work.
As mentioned above, I’ve had some level of success on these sites. I’m still not where I should be but I’m happy and content at how far I’ve come since March 2016 when I went back to freelancing.
What gives me great pleasure is that through this challenge, there were many more success stories. My definition of a perfect challenge is one in which many who take part in it succeed, and not only the challenger.
To be honest I didn’t really think I wouldn’t make it as a freelancer. I had already done it for years and I believed that my strategies were rock solid. I still have some of my old connections who give me constant freelance work. I also keep actively looking for clients, though mostly direct ones where no “middleman” site is involved.
Due to the fact that this was a public challenge, many learnt from me and I equally learnt from them. Big-up to all members of the Awesome Transcribers in Kenya Facebook group who made this a success.
My biggest prayer was to get as many people as possible into freelancing, and it worked just fine. I decided to air it all out here so that you, the reader can also make it.
What’s holding you back? Other guys just like you and I are earning as freelancers. Go ahead, make the decision and get going. If you work at it, you can also become a successful freelancer in a few weeks. You can get trained in case you want to fast track things. Check out my training details here.
Let’s continue the discussion on the comments section.