How to Become an Upwork Freelancer in 2020 (Upwork Algorithm Explained)

You’re probably here because you’re wondering how to get more clients and jobs on Upwork.

In this article, we’re going to cover exactly how to become an Upwork freelancer by understanding how the Upwork algorithm works. 

We’ll discuss how to use it to form a mutually beneficial relationship with Upwork, so you get more clients as a freelancer or agency owner. 

1. Single Focus Proof Branding

Upwork is a billion-dollar company. As a company, they are interested in you getting clients on their platform. Because the more clients you get through their platform, the more money they are going to make. 

Most of the algorithm is structured in a way where when you help the company, you get helped as well and get ranked higher. Not only in the search results with regards to keywords clients are typing in, but also for when Upwork sends clients directly to you. 

Upwork has virtual assistants (VAs) who work directly for Upwork. These VAs manually choose freelancers and agencies to work with clients. 

To succeed you need to:

  • Play the algorithm
  • Consider the human factor

2. Rank in the Keyword Results

Since clients are typing in terms like “Facebook ads” and “Google ads” and “full-stack developer” in the search bar, you will want to choose exactly what it is you want to focus on.

Let’s say you want to be a full stack developer on Upwork. You will want that displayed multiple times on your profile so that when potential clients type in related terms to “full-stack developer”, your profile has a higher chance of being at the top of the search results for those terms. 

You can even add relevant keywords to the URL of your Upwork.

Have the main keywords earlier in your profile, and other keywords in the content of the profile. 

3. Receive at Least $1,000 per Month on Upwork

I suggest receiving at least $1,000 per month through Upwork. If you don’t do this you’re risking your profile being flagged for inactivity and to be manually reviewed. 

If you have $1,000 that comes to you through your Upwork profile, then Upwork is going to recognize that you are a person of value to their company. You’re helping them build their platform as they’re getting a commission and you’re showing yourself to be an efficient worker. In their eyes, you’re efficient, and Upwork will, therefore, rank you higher. 

4. Response Rate and Communication Speed

To become an Upwork freelancer that Upwork recommends to its customers, you must communicate efficiently to clients and have a quick response rate. Upwork wants clients to contact you, rather than contact them, because this saves them money. When you save them time and money, they reward you for it. 

Respond to clients quickly, and contact clients quickly when they show up on the platform and post jobs. This will help you tremendously with ranking on Upwork.

5. Milestones Such as “Top-Rated” and “Rising Talent”

The next thing Upwork looks at is milestones like “top-rated” and “rising talent”. 

Once you have achieved these, then Upwork takes you more seriously. 

In their eyes, achieving rising talent shows them that you are rising quickly even though you are a beginner. This means it’s a safe bet for them to send more clients to you. They’ll make more money as a result, and eventually you’ll become top-rated.

Once you’re top-rated, you’re in the upper league of Upwork. While there are other aspects important to Upwork other than top-rated status, having it helps big time. 

6. Quick Proposal Submissions

When you’re submitting a proposal, you’re competing with a few dozen people also submitting proposals.

There are several things you can do to appear higher in the stack of proposals that clients get. The most important thing is to submit a proposal as quickly as possible after a job appears. 

If your proposal is more likely to get read and seen by the client, then you have a higher chance of them paying you as a freelancer or agency. 

7. Your Job Success Score (JSS)

On Upwork, it’s all about the 100% job success score. Make sure that all of your happy clients don’t leave any job open and always complete every project and leave you a 5-star review. 

They need to click “this job is completed” and close the project. Ideally, they will leave you a personalized comment alongside a 5-star review indicating to Upwork and people that view your profile that everything has gone well. 

If you're able to do this with all of your successful clients, you will accumulate a large number of testimonials and reviews on your profile, which helps you rank higher and looks good from a sales perspective.

8. Hire Rate

The next thing the Upwork algorithm looks at is your hire rate. Are you being hired frequently? And from all of the stuff you’re doing on Upwork, are you wasting people’s time? Is there too much communication? Or are you just contacting people, getting them on calls, and closing them on deals.

The sooner this happens and the faster you’re able to close clients for as much money as possible, the happier Upwork will be.

9. Total Money Earned 

If you have a long, multi-year track record on Upwork, and your clients are super happy, and lots of money has been earned, you’re more likely to achieve top-rated status, where you’ve made, say, $100,000 on the platform over several years. 

When you’ve accumulated a large sum of money through Upwork, they will treat you as a preferred freelancer or agency. 

10. Focus on a High Value, Lower Competition Service

If you’re selling something that has lower competition, and it’s sold for more money, you’re more likely to get higher-paying clients sooner on Upwork.

You’ll have less competition, and you’ll be able to get those high paying clients more easily. 

11. Hours Worked via Upwork

The total amount of hours worked on Upwork is not only an algorithm feature, but it’s also something that clients use in their search filter. 

If you have more hours worked and more money made through Upwork, you will notice that you’ll be able to get in more search results when clients use Upwork’s search filters for freelancers and agencies. 

12. Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced

Upwork also looks at whether you’re categorized as a beginner, intermediate or advanced level of skill. 

This is important because if you want to get the high paying clients that are nice to work with, and you want to make a lot of profit from them and provide a lot of value in return, you’ll want to be an ‘advanced’ person on Upwork. You don’t want to be marketing yourself as a beginner. 

13. Recent Jobs

It helps if you have a large volume and good quality of recent jobs, and overall a large sum of money you’ve recently earned.

More people will want to work with you, because you’re a hot commodity. 

14. Average Job Earnings

You’ll also want to look at your average job earnings. You don’t want to have too many low paying jobs that make you $50. 

You want to have larger average job earnings. This will rank you higher in the algorithm and people will take you more seriously when working with you.

15. Hourly Rate

Overall you will want to have a higher hourly rate. As high as possible without scaring people off. 

This will help you attract a higher quality of clients as Upwork will take you more seriously. A higher rate means you will be able to charge more, which means they will rank you higher in the algorithm. 

16. English Proficiency

You will want to have a good level of English. You’ll appear higher in the search results and you’ll also be better treated by the Upwork algorithm. 

Good English is very important. Whoever is managing your profile needs to be fluent or near fluent. 

The Bottom Line

To become an Upwork freelancer, you need to focus on providing proof of successfully completed previous jobs, provide a great quality of service to your clients, and ensure your profile is optimized for Upwork’s search engine so that your ideal clients can easily find you.

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Aleksander Vitkin

Aleksander Vitkin has helped over 700 people with a sincere interest in entrepreneurship and contribution, to start profitable businesses and quit their jobs.