How to Get Your First Job on Upwork

So you’ve signed up to Upwork but how do you get your first job on Upwork?

Don’t worry – you’re not alone in asking us this question.

Every day, we get a bunch of emails from Upwork newbies, telling us they’ve signed up to the site but aren’t being able to get their first job.

We get it. It’s a tricky place to be.

Clients want to see your Upwork experience but when you’re new, how do you get some feedback if no one is willing to give you a chance. It can feel like a bit of Catch-22 but don’t worry you won’t be chasing your tail for long.

Getting your first job requires a bit of perseverance as a newbie. You have to work hard to apply for jobs and stand out from the crowd. But perseverance alone won’t get you the job.

Here are a few things we believe will help you navigate Upwork and improve your chances of landing that crucial first job on Upwork:

1. Start with a Powerful Profile

Your success on Upwork will largely depend on how good your profile is.

Your goal is to wow clients the moment they land on your profile. Tailor your profile to showcase your skills in a glimpse and let clients get to know you even before they invite you for jobs.

Begin by picking a niche. This should be an area that you have experience in. Then ensure that your entire profile talks about your experience in this niche.

See also: How To Make (More) Money On Upwork By Finding Your Niche

Keywords related to your niche are very important because this is what clients use to find suitable freelancers. Ensure that you include relevant keywords in your entire profile, from the headline, to overview to skills.

So for instance, if you’re a writer; instead of selling yourself as a general writer pick a niche within the writing profession and build your profile around this niche. This could be copywriting, web content writing, blogging, business writing, creative writing and so on.

Since writing is a pretty saturated field, our recommendation would be to niche down even further if possible by picking an industry or area to focus your efforts on. For example, you could be a health and fitness blogger or a landing page copywriter.

This is an example of a freelancer who has no clear niche and seems to be a jack of all trades:

When reviewing your profile include the following sections:

  • Headline: This is the first thing that a client sees on your profile. This part will either make the client read the rest of your profile or move on to the next freelancer. The headline tells the client what you have to offer in a just a few words. Be clear and concise when creating a headline. If you’re a copywriter, that should be clearly stated in your headline. Don’t make the client have to fish for more information to understand what service you really are offering.
  • Overview: This is one of the most important parts of your profile. Make sure your overview introduces you unambiguously to the client by letting them know what you have to offer. The main goal is to show how you – even if you’re a newbie – are different from the other freelancers. Your overview should answer the question “Why should I hire you over the others?”.

An example of a good overview:

  • Profile Photo: Clients want to know who they will be working with. Besides getting to know what you have to offer, they want someone they can trust. So, it helps if they can put a face to the profile. A good photo of you smiling will do wonders for you.
  • Experience: As a newbie, you will not have past Upwork jobs to back up your skills (obvs). But this doesn’t mean that you don’t have any professional experience.
    To navigate this big hurdle, take advantage of the experience section to showcase your expertise. Make sure that you add all relevant work that you’ve done in the past to show clients that you have the skills and the experience to back up your claims. offline.
  • Build a Portfolio: Again, using your past experience to describe your expertise is a great way to prove that you have something of value to offer. Build a portfolio that displays your work.
    For instance, if you’re a web designer and in your past full time jobs you built a couple of websites – add links in your portfolio to the sites you built (be sure to ask for permission to do this from previous clients/ employers)
  • Hourly Rate: The importance of thinking through the hourly rate is that many clients will look at your rate and use it to judge your expertise. The rate you settle on should reflect the level and quality of work that you can provide.
    Do some quick research on Upwork to see what other freelancers in your location, in your area of specialisation are charging to help you decide the best rate for you. Your rate is not set in stone so you can always change it later.
  • Take Upwork Tests:  Add to the weight of your experience by taking tests within your area of specialisation to show that you’re indeed good at what you say you are.
    Go beyond the basic English skills test and take industry related tests. Once you’ve done the tests make sure you show them on your profile for clients to see. If you score poorly on a test, remember you can always retake it. So don’t let failing scare you from showing off your knowledge.

See also: How to Create an Upwork Profile That Gets You Clients, FAST

2. Send Winning Proposals

Now that your profile is up-to-date and stands out, it’s time to send out proposals.

A sloppy proposal will not get you the job no matter how great your profile is. A proposal is what introduces you to the client so it should showcase your skills, and also tell the client why you are the right fit.

Go beyond what is in your profile and give important details such as what skills you will employ in the job, similar jobs that you’ve done in the past, how much time it will take you to get the job done and most importantly, the value you will add to their business.

In short, your proposal should let the client know that you are a valuable asset. Your proposal should be clear, address the job and concise.

See also: Upwork Proposal Tips To Win You More Jobs

3. Keep Your Applications Short

Don’t kill the client with boredom by making them read your uber long proposal. Most will actually skip over it. Instead, try and work with two to three paragraphs.

The key to writing a good proposal is to keep it relatively short. Don’t beat around the bush, stick to content that is related to the job. Don’t get too excited and put your entire resume on the proposal.

The goal is to make the client interested enough to check out your awesome profile.

4. Read the Job Description Fully

One of the best ways to get hired for any job, offline jobs included, is to showcase your knowledge of the hiring company and the position being applied for.

While as an Upwork freelancer it may be difficult to find out all the deets about the company/client, the job description alone can be a good starting point.

Get hired by showing the client that you read and understood the job requirements. To do so, you must read the job description fully and understand the needs of the client before sending your proposal. Use the job description to show the client how you are going to use your skills to fulfil their needs.

If the job description has questions, make sure you answer them in your job application. Some clients will want to know if your read the full job description and will even have extra instructions for this so keep an eye out!

See example below:

5. Complete the Job Application

When sending your proposal, ensure that you work on all the other job application requirements such as the proposed bid amount, estimated time it will take you to complete the job as well as any other special questions the client has added in the application process.

6. Be Selective of the Jobs you Bid on

When you start off, you might think it makes sense to apply to as many jobs as possible – some even unrelated to your niche of choice. However, this will only slow you down in finding your first job on Upwork.

Instead, bid on jobs within your niche. By bidding on a job that you have a genuine interest in, you will easily be able to write a good proposal that will land you the job because you fully understand what is required.

Clients also appreciate a freelancer with expertise in one particular area and are more likely to hire you if they see you have relevant experience.

7. Apply to Recently Posted Jobs

Create your job feed and add categories related to jobs within your niche. Use this feed to find newly posted jobs and apply to them before more freelancers do. This means that the client gets to receive and review your job application before the competition gets too high.

Applying to recently posted jobs also gives you an advantage especially when a client wants to hire immediately. This means that they are not interested in reviewing tons of applications, but looking to find a suitable freelancer as soon as possible. Clients are most likely to notice the first few applicants even if they are a newbie.

Subscribe to Upwork’s RSS feed to receive email notifications whenever related jobs are posted. This will help you stay abreast of all new jobs and apply to them immediately.

8. Ask Friends and Family to Hire you on Upwork

The more jobs and reviews you have on Upwork, the more likely you will get hired. But what happens if you just can’t seem to find that elusive first Upwork job? Look outside Upwork.

You might have family and friends who want to work with you already. Ask them to hire you on Upwork. This way, you can build your experience and improve your chances of getting more jobs.

Remember to ask them to leave you feedback once you complete a task. Feedback helps to rank your profile higher making it possible for more clients to find and invite you to apply to jobs.

9. Be Flexible

As a new freelancer, you may have to accept rates that are less than what you’re used to getting paid. This is ok especially if you have little experience and close to no items in your portfolio. As you start off, think beyond the pay and go for more than just the money.

Remember having a list of clients and good feedback is more valuable in the long run than one job that got you paid a couple of bucks. You can increase your rate once you build a record of successful jobs and set it to what you are comfortable with.

10. Nail Your Interview

A good proposal will not necessarily get you hired immediately but will land you an invitation to interview for the job. Now, this is your last chance to get the job so you better put your best foot forward.

Here are 4 quick tips on how to nail an interview on Upwork:

1. Do your homework. Know your client and their business well before you get down to the interview. Some clients will add their company names or links in the job description so use this to do a bit of research on them. This will go a long way toward showing your clients that you’re well-prepared to handle their project.

2. Showcase your expertise. Identify your core skills that are a good fit for the job and express them during the interview. Prepare samples around these skills and offer them to the client during the interview to show them how the skills will align with their needs.

3. Focus on client’s needs. Use the interview to show the client you understand their needs and you know how to fulfil them. Give a few suggestions on opportunities that would benefit the client or a solution to a problem that they may have. You want to come off as proactive in taking initiative. This will definitely impress them.

4. Ask the right questions. Interviews are also a great time to gain deeper understanding of what the client hopes to achieve. This will help you determine whether you’re indeed a good fit. Remember, the goal is not to just land a client but to do a good job and get a good review. If you don’t fully understand the role, you’ll end up doing a not so impressive job. So take this chance to ask questions about the job.

11. Be Professional

Good communication skills are not expected of writers alone. Good grammar and communication is proof of professionalism and gives you more authority as an expert regardless of your area of practice.

Most clients will not compromise on the way you communicate. So be professional in all ways, from your profile, photo to the proposal, to the interview and even in job delivery. Remain respectful at all times and when you land the job deliver what you promised and in a professional manner.

12. Keep Learning

As you apply for jobs on Upwork, take note of the skills that clients in your area of expertise are looking for. If you need to learn a new skill to make you more valuable to clients, go ahead and do it.

Take a look at top rated freelancers and find out what makes them great. Read their profiles and learn from them. Check out the jobs they apply to as well as the feedback they receive. What is it that they did that impressed clients? Try and offer such value.

Getting that first job can seem like a tough hurdle but our number one tip? Don’t give up.

It can be a bit of trial and error and you may face a few rejections but keep trying and refining your process until you nail that first job.

Following the above tips will help you kick start your freelance career on Upwork and eventually make it a major source of income for you.

Your success on Upwork relies on your determination and focus. So keep your profile captivating, learn to write great proposals, stay professional always and most importantly don’t give up!

Ref: Fulltime Nomad

Upwork Profile Mistakes That Are Costing You The Job

We are huge fans of Upwork and believe that a good quality profile can go a long way towards helping you find and attract the right clients for your freelancing business.

If you haven’t already read it, we highly recommend that you read our article on How to Create an Upwork Profile That Gets You Clients, FAST. This will help you get all the basics right.

Followed all the guidelines and still not seeing results? Make sure you’re not making one of these rookie Upwork mistakes.

Make sure you’re not making one of these rookie Upwork mistakes.

Mistake #1: Creating a Profile as an Afterthought

This is one of the Upwork profile mistakes most newbies probably make, without even realising they’re doing it.

It’s exciting to finally start freelancing and it’s understandable that you’ll want to start applying for jobs as soon as you can. However, don’t start building your business from the top up. A good foundation is very important. Similarly, a good profile is the FIRST step to landing you good jobs.

  • Once you join Upwork, create a winning profile from the get go.
  • Put in some thought at every step of the profile creation process.
  • Don’t just add meaningless stuff to your profile just to be able to complete the process and start applying for jobs.

A good profile will always be your first impression because clients don’t just look at your application but will pay more attention to your profile.

Mistake #2: Being a Jack of all Trades Freelancer

At the beginning, you will be tempted to want to show clients that you can do everything possible. You probably think you stand a higher chance of getting jobs if you can do a variety of tasks.

The truth is quality trumps quantity, big time.

If you want to start landing high-quality and well-paying jobs immediately, then you have to sell yourself as an expert. There’s no way you can be an expert in 20 different fields. It’s important that you choose a niche. Something you’re really good at and offer that as your main service.

By choosing a niche, your profile stands a chance of ranking higher as you will be offering something specific that clients are looking for. Clients want to hire freelancers who are experts.

Once you choose a niche, build your profile around it. Show your experience in this niche through a well thought-out description, relevant work history and a portfolio that demonstrates your experience in your chosen niche.

See also: How To Make (More) Money On Upwork By Finding Your Niche

This here is a great example of a freelancer who has narrowed down their focus on one niche (email marketing). Both the headline and the skills they have listed address this:

Mistake #3: Using Keywords All Wrong

Keywords are the words that clients use when looking for the right freelancers. For instance, if someone is looking for a freelancer to create a business website for them, they will probably search for  ‘web designer’. The Upwork system will then pull all the profiles that contain the ‘web designer’ keyword and show them first to the client.

Most freelancers either don’t use keywords at all or use too many, across too many different areas.

Not using keywords at all means that your profile will never appear first in the search results. Too many keywords, on the other hand, will make your profile appear spammy, inexperienced and sometimes even considered irrelevant by interested clients.

  • Keywords are especially great when creating your profile headline.
  • Pick 1 or 2 of the most important keywords in your niche and use them to write your title.
  • You should also use these keywords plus a few others, on your overview thoughtfully. Be careful not to overuse them.

Here’s an example of Upwork’s search results:

Mistake #4: Writing a Boring Profile Title

Your job title (also sometimes referred to as the headline or tagline), is among the three things on your profile that a client will see first when it comes up in search results.

The other two are your names and a few sentences of your overview.

Your job title is your first shot at grabbing the client’s attention enough to make them read the rest of your profile. So it has to stand out.

Most people’s headlines are generic, boring and lack creativity. They simply don’t arouse any curiosity. So how can YOU write a job title that is descriptive, attention-grabbing, clickworthy and concise?

  • Focus on offering value. Don’t make your headline all about you, instead use it to show clients the value you will add to their businesses.
  • Go straight to the point. Don’t be ambiguous, let the clients know what you have to offer from the word go. Remember that Upwork has a character limit of 70 for the headline so keep it short by going straight to the point.
  • Stick to your niche. Pick a few skills that clearly show your expertise in your chosen niche.
  • Don’t forget the keywords. Remember to include 2-3 relevant keywords in your headline.

This headline clearly states value to be offered:

Mistake #5: Wasting Valuable Real Estate in Your Overview

The profile overview is the most important part of your profile. This will be the deciding factor for a client whether to hire you or not.

When writing your overview, don’t lose the client by wasting time on pleasantries or describing yourself. Go straight to showing the value you will add.

Simply answer the question “Why are you the best candidate?”. Put yourself in client’s shoes and ask yourself what would convince you to hire you?

Put yourself in client’s shoes and ask yourself what would convince you to hire you?

6 MUST-DO Tips for Writing an Impressive Upwork Profile Overview:

  • Start with the most important info:

Only the first two or three sentences of your overview will be seen in the search results. So you want to ensure these first sentences have the most important information that will convince a client to hire you.

  • Focus on your niche:

In order to show your expertise, focus on showing your knowledge in your chosen niche only. Don’t waste space in your overview talking about other work experience if it’s not relevant to your niche.

  • Include keywords:

Do a quick search of the kind of jobs you’re trying to land in your niche and see the phrases clients use in the job descriptions. Then pick a few and include them in your overview.

  • Use good grammar:

Good grammar is not just for bloggers and copywriters. Using correct grammar is the first step in selling yourself as an expert regardless of your area of expertise.

  • Use short paragraphs:

Break down your description in small, easy-to-digest paragraphs instead of one huge one. This will keep the client interested and prevent them from having a brain freeze.

  • End with a call to action:

Why are you interested in getting the client to read your overview? To be hired, obviously, right? So make sure you end your description by reminding the client, politely and masterfully, that you’re the perfect candidate and not to hesitate to hire you. Example of a well written overview:

Mistake #6: Lacking a Strong Portfolio

The portfolio is the part in your profile that you use to show your previous works. Most freelancers, especially those starting out, normally leave this part blank.

This is wrong because almost all clients will ask for samples. Save them some time by uploading a portfolio.

If you don’t have any previous freelance work to showcase, try and be creative. For instance, if you’re a freelance writer or web designer and you have your own personal website, then you could add this as one of your previous works. You could also use video to describe relevant work that you did probably in one of your full time jobs.

When creating your portfolio, use a catchy image that will attract clients even if it’s not related to the sample you’re adding.

Also remember to give each sample a catchy title that will get people to read it and also an accompanying a solid description of what the sample is about.

Portfolios are especially great for supporting your freelance rate. So don’t ignore this part of your Upwork profile. An example of a good Upwork portfolio from an email marketing freelancer:

Mistake #7: Not Having a 100% Complete Profile

Creating a good Upwork profile takes work and time. Most people don’t want to do this. So what’s the result? Zero clients or low paying jobs that will leave you frustrated.

  • Over and above a good headline, overview and portfolio, ensure that you have a 100% complete profile. Upload a clear and professional photo of YOURSELF. Not your cat or your friend or some abstract object, you. Add all your relevant skills.
  • Include your work experience. This means all previous job positions you’ve held that are relevant to your niche. Also, include any certifications that you have and your education background.
  • There are lots of tests on Upwork that you can take to showcase your knowledge in your niche. Don’t ignore these.
  • Take as many as you can and don’t just do them for the sake of it. Take them seriously, pass and publish the results so that clients can see them

To sum it all up

Success as a freelancer is all about how well you market yourself. A high-quality profile is your first step into attracting good quality clients on Upwork. Take your time to create a quality profile and update it whenever necessary.

Remember that Upwork might seem like a crowded place but if you make the effort to stand out from the crowd, there is plenty of work for you. So stay relevant, be unique and put the work in, right from the beginning.

Ref: Fulltime Nomad

Sites like Upwork & Freelancer – 16 Similar Alternatives

Freelancing platforms are a major source of clients for most freelancers and online business owners. Popular sites like Upwork have continued to be a source of steady income for many people in the freelance workforce.

Upwork and Freelancer are currently the biggest and most popular freelancing sites online. Upwork has 12 million registered freelancers and 5 million registered clients while Freelancer has 23 million+ employers and freelancers globally.

Both sites offer an array of freelance work opportunities ranging from graphic & web design, copywriting, software development, accounting, project management, virtual assistance, IT, translation, data entry, admin work, engineering, internet marketing, social media marketing, mobile development, product design, among so many others. You can practically find any job on these two sites.

While the success these two sites is undeniable, competition for clients is equally high. The good thing is that there are now lots of other opportunities to find work on some of the lesser known sites similar to Freelancer and Upwork.

Let’s take a look at 16 great sites like Upwork and Freelancer that you should consider using to find good clients.

Related Posts:

1. FlexJobs

FlexJobs is an online jobs platform that lists verified job postings. Jobs posted on this site are diverse and similar to those on Upwork or Freelancer.

What makes this site stand out is that the jobs are hand picked and verified reducing the number of scams on the site. This, however, comes at a small fee of $14.95 per month,  $29.95 for 3 months and $49.95 annually.

2. Guru

Guru is another online freelancing site connecting freelancers with clients from all over the world. Jobs on Guru are fit for any type of freelancer and are spread out to all industries.

To get started on the site you need to have a profile and portfolios of your past work. Take advantage of the daily job-matching feature to find new clients signing up on the site daily.

3. Craigslist

Your favoruite buying and selling platform, Craigslist, is also a great source of freelance work. The site has a job site that lists various job postings. The good thing about Craigslist is that you can such jobs within your locality using the geolocation filter.

4. Project4Hire

Project4Hire is popular with all types of freelancers and is similar to Upwork and Freelancer in terms of jobs available. One difference, though, is that you will be charged 5% of your earnings immediately you get awarded a project before you even start working on the job. Don’t worry though if the client doesn’t hire you, this fee termed as the Acceptance Fee will be refunded to your account. The site is a great place for freelancers with a bit of freelance experience to get high paying clients.

5. iFreelance

iFreelance is the place to be for coders, marketers, writers, and editors. What makes this site popular is that unlike so many sites like Upwork and Freelancer, iFreelance does not charge you a single cent for using the site, you keep 100% of your earnings.

6. Skillbridge

Skillbridge has set itself apart as the go-to freelance site for highly skilled freelancers and industry experts who are looking for short-term jobs. If you get accepted on the site, you either work remotely or take on a specific project only. If you are a seasoned freelancer with sought-after skills, this is the site of choice. The site was recently acquired by freelancing giant Toptal.

7. Ozlance

OzLance is dedicated to the freelancers interested in working with Australian and New Zealand professionals and business owners. The site features all types of freelancing jobs. The site limits applications to freelancers in Australian and New Zealand.

8. YunoJuno

YunoJuno attracts elite freelancers looking for high-end clients. To join the site, create a profile and apply to join. If accepted, you can apply for jobs listed in clients’ briefs. You’ll find jobs ranging from customer service to web development fields.

9. Toptal

Toptal is where highly qualified software developers and designers can find jobs with top tech companies and startups. The site also offers members the chance to network through the Toptal Community that holds meetups and tech events.

10. 99Designs

99Designs is a freelance jobs board that features jobs for freelance designers. To get hired, display samples of your work such as logos, websites, banners, business cards etc. on the site and attract clients. You can also compete in design contests and if you win the contest, you get the project money. This is a great way for new freelance designers to get started.

11. Fiverr

Fiverr offers similar job opportunities as most general freelance job sites. However, it works differently from all of them. Here, clients don’t post jobs. Instead, as the freelancer, you’re expected to create “gigs” based on the skills you’re offering. In short, you tell the client what you will do for them, the budget and the time it will take to complete the job. The client then decides whether they’re interested in buying your service. The site works best for freelancers offering “micro jobs” that don’t take too much time to complete. This could be for instance voice overs, reviews, logos, blog comments, etc. Fiverr projects used to be priced at $5 (hence the name) but this is no longer the case.

12. Text Broker

Text Broker is an online job listing with various freelance writing jobs for US citizens. The site is great for freelance writers with any writing skills. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert writer, there’ll be a suitable job for you on Text Broker.

13. We Work Remotely

We Work Remotely, just like the name suggests, lists remote jobs only. These jobs can be copywriting, customer service, design, programming, and many other fields. The site was inspired by the book “Remote – Office Not Required” written by the founders of 37signals. It helps freelancers to find jobs that help them live a digital nomad life.

14. Remote.co

Remote.co features a job board listing remote work positions available globally. Here you can find diverse job positions in tech, marketing, design and even admin roles. A lot of the jobs will be limited to US citizens only. Most companies using the site to find freelancers will also be looking to offer full-time remote positions.

15. Outsourcely

Outsourcely connects its well-selected freelancers with long-term and short-term freelance projects. A lot of the clients on the site, however, are more interested in offering long-term remote work. The site also allows you to work and get paid directly by the client. This can save you lots service fees that other platforms charge.

16. Twago

Twago is a freelance marketplace that caters exclusively to Europe. The site is similar to most freelancing sites. To work get clients on the site, create a free profile and then apply to jobs that interest you.

The internet of full of opportunities to make your freelance career a success. Don’t struggle to find clients by limiting yourself to the two freelance jobs board giants. Expand your reach by exploring these other sites similar to Upwork and Freelancer!

Ref: Fulltime Nomad

What is Upwork and How to Make Money With It?

If you have been reading this blog for some time, you will know that we are huge fans of Upwork. We have written tons of articles about how to get started, get jobs and build a successful freelancing career on Upwork.

You can get high paying, good quality clients on Upwork. You just have to know how to approach it right. With the right strategy, you can definitely build up a well oiled freelancing machine that brings you clients without you even having to try too hard.

So if you are a newbie freelancer and wondering what Upwork is and how to make it all work out for you – this is the post for you.

What is Upwork?

Upwork is a freelancing platform – one of the biggest around. Freelancers (like you) sign up and create a profile that highlights the skills you have to offer. Clients (business owners, startup people, entrepreneurs etc) post jobs on Upwork when they need help getting a job done. Clients will normally posts jobs that they want done. You then bid on the jobs you want to work on by sending a proposal to the client.

 

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There are hundreds of jobs to choose from on Upwork. Upwork lists jobs in different categories including Web, Mobile & Software Dev, Design & Creative, Admin Support, IT & Networking, Writing, Customer Service, Sales & Marketing, Translation and many more.

Is Upwork Worth it?

As a freelancer, working on Upwork is your first step to freedom. It’s a great place to start as a freelancer as you try to figure out the world of freelancing.

So is Upwork worth it for a freelancer? In short, yes. For the long version… keep reading.

– You get to work on projects that excite and interest you. You pick the kind of projects that you want to work on. While as a beginner you may be tempted to take on any job that comes your way, with time you will realise that it’s much easier and better to work on projects that you enjoy.

– Upwork clients are diverse and spread out worldwide. You can therefore seek work outside your geographical area expanding your chances of getting hired. Working with clients remotely gives you the perfect opportunity to travel the world as you work if travel is something you fancy.

– There are so many clients looking to hire freelancers but most fear doing so because they don’t have the right infrastructure to manage freelancers. Freelancing sites like Upwork take care of this by doing all the work of managing freelancers. This gives more clients the confidence to hire and work with freelancers. In return, as a freelancer on Upwork you get a higher chance of finding reliable clients.

– The ultimate goal for every successful freelancer is to have a constant stream of income from long term clients. Finding clients on your own when you are starting out can be a struggle. But if you start out on Upwork and impress your clients you can easily get long term contracts as well as referrals.

– Getting paid on Upwork is straightforward and secure. One of the reasons why most freelancers avoid using freelance platforms is the fear of losing their money after working hard. However, Upwork tracks any hours you work and bill the client automatically. For jobs that are charged per project and not hourly, the client is required to deposit funds into escrow. This assures you of payment once you deliver the project.

How much does it cost to use Upwork?

Joining Upwork is free for freelancers but you can also choose to upgrade to a Plus plan for $10 per month.

While joining Upwork is free, working on the site is not. Upwork charges every freelancer a service fee.

This is a percentage of your earnings charged when a client pays you. The service fee is a sliding fee based on your lifetime billings with each client. This means that the service fee reduces as you keep earning more from each client.

The charges are as follows:

  • 20% for every job as long as the amount paid by the client is below $500.
  • 10% once the total amount paid to you by the client is above $500 but below $10,000
  • 5% once the total amount paid by the client exceeds $10,000

What this means is that for instance when you get the first job from a particular client and the amount paid is between $1-$500, Upwork will take away 20% of the amount paid.

But if you get a second job and the total amount paid from the first job and the second job amounts to more than $500 but is less than $10,000 you the platform will take 10% from the amount paid for the second job.

The idea behind the sliding fees is to encourage freelancers to perform their best in order to get recurring jobs from the same clients. This helps to improve the quality of work offered on the site and improving clients’ trust on the site.

How do you get paid on Upwork?

There are two types of contracts on Upwork – hourly and fixed price.

Hourly projects are tracked on a weekly basis from Monday to Sunday. It’s your responsibility to ensure that every time you work on the hourly project the time worked is recorded on your work diary.

Once the work week is over, the client has 5 days to dispute any time recorded. If there are no disputes the money will then be moved to your Upwork account. The funds will be ready for withdrawal after a few days.

You can choose to withdraw your money from Upwork via different payment gateways including bank transfer, wire transfer, Paypal. The methods of withdrawal will depend on your country. More details here.

Is Upwork Safe & Legit?

Every freelancer’s biggest worry is not getting paid. Despite having contracts in place, we have all heard of freelancers who have been ripped off by their clients. And, when your clients are overseas sometimes there’s so little you can actually do!

Upwork helps to take care of this with its Payment Protection guarantee. What does this mean? For every hourly job you do, time will be tracked on a weekly basis and the client is billed automatically. Make sure that you use the Upwork Work Diary every week to track your work.

If you have fixed-price jobs, clients are supposed to pre-fund each project before you start working. This way, there’s money at the end of the project. Always remind the client to fund a project before you start working on it.

How to Get Started on Upwork?

Your success on Upwork relies on creating a compelling profile that will make clients see you as a highly skilled professional.

When creating your profile make sure that you focus on showing the client why hiring you is the best decision they will ever make.

Complete your profile all the way to the end. Add a professional looking photo, create a catchy title and write a powerful description that shows the value you will bring to your client.

Add a portfolio showcasing your past work. Mention your educational background and list your previous experience. Do not forget to take various tests in your skills set. All this information will act as proof of your expertise and convince clients that you are the best candidate for the job.

Think of your Upwork profile as a resume or marketing brochure. So highlight your professional skills, experience, portfolio, education and accomplishments.

Do not forget grammar. Make sure your profile is grammatically correct and error free regardless of the area of expertise you are interested in. Good grammar is not expected from writers and bloggers but from anyone who considers themselves a professional.

We have an exhaustive article on How to Create an Upwork Profile That Gets You Clients, FAST. Make sure you check it out.

See also: Upwork Profile Mistakes That Are Costing You The Job

How do you find clients on Upwork?

Finding your first job on Upwork will be the hardest part when you are getting started. Not going to pretend it is an easy task. But it’s not impossible.

Clients will typically hesitate to hire a newbie without past work or reviews on Upwork. But, don’t get discouraged because everyone has to start somewhere.

To find clients on Upwork, type a keyword in the search box. There will be lots of jobs available so take a good look at each job and read the requirements carefully.

Remember that you will be competing with other highly skilled freelancers both newbies and veterans. So you have to put your best foot forward.  Focus your efforts on the jobs you’re highly qualified for.

Once you find the right job, the next step is to send a winning proposal. When writing your proposal:

  • Avoid using a template. Optimise your proposal for every job that you apply for. This will show the client that you actually read the job description.
  • Remember that a proposal introduces you to the client before they even read your profile. So make it a powerful teaser that will get the client curious to read the rest of your profile.
  • Keep it short and informative. Avoid being ambiguous and instead go straight to telling the client how your skills will help to make the project a success.

Here are Upwork Proposal Tips To Win You More Jobs.

How do you become successful on Upwork?

To help you get started and stay successful on Upwork, we’ve compiled some of our most popular Upwork-related articles from the blog. Go on, have a read and start implementing our tried and tested tips!

A kickass profile will set you on the road to success on Upwork. Get the work done, your freelancing future depends on how good your profile is.

Newbies make lots of rookie errors that can be avoided. Check out the 7 most common mistakes new freelancers make on Upwork and make sure you don’t repeat them.

Ok so you’re sold on why Upwork is the platform to be in. You’ve signed up to the platform but you’ve been rejected. What next? We give you some tips here to help your profile get approved.

Now that your Upwork profile is up and ready to go, it’s time to start applying for jobs. In this blog post, we share tips on how to write powerful proposals that make clients pay attention to you.

Getting that first job is usually the hardest part. So don’t give up if you keep get rejected. To end the rejection streak, we bring you all our “first Upwork job” advice together into a nutshell.

Have you heard about the Upwork Job Success Score (JSS)? Did you know that if your score falls below 70%, you risk having your account suspended? This blog post is all about helping you understand the JSS and how to make sure yours is always high.

Breaking into Upwork, can seem tough at the start. This post will help you stand out, attract clients and make it easier for you to get jobs (and make money).

The most successful freelancers on Upwork are those who have established themselves as an expert in a certain niche. In this post we talk about why choosing a niche is important and how it can help you make more money on Upwork.

Upwork is a great place to get your freelance business started. But with more people starting to freelance, it’s definitely becoming a competitive platform. To remain relevant and to make the best out of Upwork, it’s important you understand fully how it works. Take your time to create a profile sells and put in some thought when sending out proposals.

 

Ref: Fulltime Nomad

Upwork Proposal Tips To Win More Jobs

Upwork is one of the best platform when looking for freelancing clients. In this article we are sharing some solid upwork proposal tips to win you more jobs.

We believe there are two major contributors to success on Upwork.

  1. Having a winning Upwork profile
  2. Writing and sending out awesome proposals

In most of cases, before the client even sees your profile, they will receive your proposal. Which means your proposal needs to make a great first impression. You must highlight why you are the perfect person for the job and do it effectively.

So how do you write a good Upwork proposal?

Here are some tested tips that we hope will help you write a winning proposal too. We have also included an Upwork proposal sample that you can download and use.

Upwork Proposal Tips

1. Find the right job

Before you start writing your proposal, you’ll need a job to apply to. Obviously.

Stating the obvious here but it’s important that you find the right job — one that you are likely to get hired for.

The best job is one that matches your preferred niche and skill set. This is a job that you are more likely to complete successfully and satisfy your clients with, thus improving your profile reputation.

For example, if your niche is graphic design and you have great design skills and experience in desktop publishing, then the job below would be perfect for you.

However, if you’re experienced in marketing with only a surface-level experience of graphic design — you are much less likely to get hired for this job.

 

2. Review the job requirements

Before you send your proposal, make sure you read the details of the Job Description thoroughly. Obvious advice but trust us, it’s not always followed.

Understand what the client wants and honestly assess if you’re able to fullfil the requirements.

As you can see in this job description, the client is very clear on what they want from the freelancer. (Not all jobs on Upwork are this detailed but most of them do describe what they need to some extent).

If you fit the requirements and decide to apply, make sure you address the client’s requests in your proposals. Many, many freelancers don’t full read the job ad, send out a generic proposal and then wonder why they don’t hear back from the client.  😕

Pay attention, put a bit of effort in to show the client you read the job post and you’re much more likely to get responses.

3. Don’t use a generic response

Once you’ve found a job that is the right fit, it’s time to start writing your proposal. Our number one tip? Don’t send out a  generic response.

Note: It’s okay to have a template that outlines your basic skills and highlights why you are an awesome freelancer. In fact, it’s a good idea to have a basic template ready to go as it saves you having to write from scratch each time. But, it’s not okay to just copy-paste your template and send it to all potential clients without even addressing their specific job requirements. 

Unique proposals tend to be more convincing and thus better at getting you jobs because clients appreciate the effort you put into addressing what they are looking for. More often than not, the client can tell when you have copy-pasted your proposal.

See also: 7 Rookie Upwork Profile Mistakes That Are Costing You The Job

4. Explain why you’re the right fit

Your main goal when writing a proposal is to show the client that you are the best fit for the job.

So, your proposal shouldn’t just be a list of your skills and experience (that’s what your profile is for). Instead, explain why your skills and experience make you the ideal person for the job. Address how you plan to complete the job by sharing your unique approach to the project. If you have worked on similar jobs or projects, mention them and show how that experience will be relevant to the client’s job. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask (clever) questions.

All of this will show the client that you actually read the entire job description. (Yes, we keep coming back to this point — but it really is *that* crucial!). Also, if there are any questions the client has asked in the job description, make sure you answer them in your proposal.

5. Give them your interview availability

Avoid the back and forth and tell the client about your availability for an interview right from the get-go. Interviews are a great way for you to open up communication with the client.

As you finish writing up your proposal, simply add in a line that goes something like this:

I am available for an interview Monday to Friday 10 am to 12pm (UTC + 10:00 timezone). I look forward to having the opportunity to discuss the job further.

6. Be attentive to additional questions

Many Upwork clients will ask you to answer one or more Additional Questions during the proposal stage. When reviewing a job, you will be able to see a list of additional questions at the bottom of the job description. This will help you prepare your answers before you start the proposal submission process.

Most freelancers tend to pay more attention to the cover letter and fill in the additional questions just for the sake of it, some don’t even answer these questions.

When you click on ‘ Submit a Proposal’ you can usually see the the section for Additional Questions after the Cover Letter.

However, after you submit your proposal: the additional questions are the first thing the client sees when they receive your proposal, not the cover letter!

So… put the effort into writing relevant, interesting responses to the questions. Most clients usually put in the additional questions because that is specifically the information they are interested in. Receiving generic cover letters is annoying so the additional questions help them weed out the freelancers that didn’t even bother putting in the effort. Don’t get weeded out — answer the questions!

7. Send samples of past work

Some clients will ask for work samples while others will not. Even if the client doesn’t ask, always provide your work samples. There’s no harm in showing them how awesome you are.  😉

You can do this by directing their attention to the portfolio section of your Upwork profile, sending them a link to your portfolio elsewhere or even by attaching a few samples of previous work.

If your samples are good, the client will be suitably impress and it gives you a higher chance of landing the job.

8. Be professional and friendly

Clients want someone they can work with easily. Good communication is a huge part of this.

The way you communicate in your proposal can give them a good indication of your communication skills. Keep your language professional — you want to make a good impression. But, you’re not in a stiff upper lip corporate setting here so relax a little and don’t be afraid to be friendly.

No “Dear Sir” or worse, “Dear Sir or Madam”

Sometimes you might be able to see the client’s name in the job description. Don’t be afraid to use it and say  “Hi John”, Hello John” or “Dear John”.  Some people will say using “Hi” or “Hello” is too casual but we disagree. It’s much more real.

If you can work in a bit of humour into your cover letter — go for it. Just, you know… remember to keep it professional still.

For example:

“Hello John. 

I’m an experienced fashion writer and I think I’d be a great fit for your new brand. I’m good at blogging (I’ll share my experience in a second) but what gets me really excited about this job is that you sell hats! I LOVE hats. I have 57 different hats and some may say I’m obsessed, but I just like to look it as fashion forward. I think you’ll agree?

So anyway, here’s my fashion blogging portfolio and my hat fashion-filled Instagram adventures…..”

A bit of humour and friendliness shows the client you’re not just another drone but actually a real person with personality.

9. Keep it short and concise

You will be tempted to include everything you can in your job proposal. We get it. You want them to see all the awesome things you’ve ever done. Truth is — this will not get you the job.

Long proposals are boring and will often go unread or simply ignored.  Keep your proposals short and to the point. What’s more important is your creativity in proving yourself and not the number of words used in your proposal.

So there you go, those are top nine tips for writing killer Upwork proposals that get a client’s attention.

Also, check out this video by Upwork for some extra guidance on how to submit an effective proposal.

[vsw id=”zj9PWJj0hwc” source=”youtube” width=”425″ height=”344″ autoplay=”no”]

A quality profile and thoughtful proposals are a winning formula for Upwork.

Have you sent out any Upwork proposals? Any tips you’d like to share with us? Or maybe you have some more questions. Feel free to drop us a line in the comments section. 

 

PLEASE NOTE: If your Upwork profile was rejected, it may be because Upwork is now reviewing new freelancer registrations. Unfortunately we are not able to advise on issues with individual Upwork profiles as we do not have access to members’ private info. More info on the Upwork Support website {click on link to read}. If you continue to have issues, please contact Upwork directly regarding this. Good luck 🙂

Ref : Fulltime Nomad

 

Upwork Profile Tips

Upwork Profile Tips – Upwork (formerly oDesk) is by far one of the most popular and credible freelancing sites where thousands of freelancers are earning a living.

Personally, we have had a lot of success with finding quality clients through Upwork and we believe that having a complete, well-written profile has been a huge reason why.

With about 9 million registered freelancers, competition for clients is on an all time high on Upwork. This means that simply creating a profile on Upwork is not enough. You have to have a killer profile that grabs your client’s attention.

So how do you create an Upwork profile that gets you clients? Here is our step-by-step guide.

Getting Started On Upwork

The first thing you need to do when starting on Upwork is to ensure that you create the right type of profile.

There are two types of profiles on Upwork; the Client profile and the Freelancer profile. As a freelancer looking for work, the correct profile will be Freelancer, so click on the ‘work’ button as seen below:

 

1. Link Your Accounts

After choosing the correct profile, you will be given the option to link your Upwork account to other online accounts such as BehanceFacebookTwitterDribbbleLinkedInDeviantArt, and many more as you can see below.

Linking your profile to your LinkedIn account, for instance, will establish your online presence and will make it easy for Upwork to match you to relevant jobs that match your skills and experience.

Linking your accounts also helps you to build your reputation and verify your identity. This will in turn, increase your credibility in the eyes of a client because they are able to see that you have a bigger presence online and not just on Upwork.

2. Add a Profile Photo

When choosing a profile photo, go for a professional and friendly photo. This should be a high-quality headshot that is well centered and in good focus. A good quality profile photo is important because it gives clients a sense of who you are.

Your profile photo is the first thing that represents you so ensure it conveys friendliness and professionalism. When taking a profile photo, look straight in the camera, smile, ensure that the background is clear and uncluttered.

Remember, use your real photo. Do not use cat photos or Google images or worse still, don’t pretend to be Lupita. We all know who she is and she’s definitely not looking for work on Upwork. But if you are looking for inspiration, this photo here is a great example of a quality profile photo, just make sure it is you!

3. Add Your Title

This section is probably one of the most ignored sections on Upwork; yet, it is one of the most important parts of your profile. There seems to be a general tendency of quickly writing whatever comes to mind when writing the title – something just to fill the required bit.

It is important that you realize that this is the first real description of yourself that clients will see, so you want to catch their eye right away. This small line will play a big role in determining whether a client continues looking at your profile and hopefully consider you for the job.

When writing your title:

  • Be simple and concise: Use straightforward words to create a professional title that describes your skills.
  • Be specific: Remember competition is high and therefore you have to be very precise on what niche you want to work in and avoid being a jack of all trades as this will narrow your chances of getting hired. So ensure your specific niche comes out clearly on your title.
  • Use keywords: Use key words and phrases that describe your skills and that a potential client might use to search for someone with your skills.

Example: If for instance, you are a Graphic Designer you can quote specialized areas such as logo designer, visual brand designer, or go for general areas such as web designer, web developer etc. Here is a good example of a title on Upwork:

4. Add Your Overview

After the title comes the overview. This is your chance to tell prospective clients a bit more about yourself. You get to sell yourself in a few more words, make it count.

Express the unique skills that you possess that will be of value to your clients in a professional and concise manner. Focus on your niche-specific skills.

Quick tip: Start with the most important information first because only the first two or three sentences of your overview are visible in search results and other Upwork pages. At the end of your overview you can include soft skills related to your area of expertise such as reliable, good communication skills, fast learner, attention to details etc. When creating your overview, have these things in mind:

  1. Type of work you want to do and the industry you want to work in
  2. Years of experience you hold
  3. Your proficiency with systems and industry-relevant software.
  4. Accomplishments you’re proud of.
  5. Languages you speak and are proficient working in

When writing all of the above, always remember to highlight how your skills and accomplishments can help the client reach their business goals. After all, you have to prove your value to them.

Finally, proofread your overview to ensure that there are no spelling or grammar mistakes because nothing will make a client drop you fast like poor grammar. This is a perfect example of a well written overview:

5. Add an Introduction Video

On Upwork you have the option to add an introduction video on your profile. While this may not be entirely necessary, a video:

  • Makes your profile stand out and increases your chances of getting noticed by clients.
  • Is a good chance to offer a compelling look at who you are, what you offer, and showcase your language skills.
  • Builds trust as clients get a feel for who you are and is much more personalised than just a photo.

Your video should be about a minute long, not more. Introduce yourself, give a brief overview of the type of work you are interested in, describe your skills, experience and past employment. End by thanking the viewer for their interest, express your desire to work with them in the future, and don’t forget to invite them to look at your profile.

6. List Your Skills

List a minimum of five and a maximum of 10 skills that enable you to do your job. These should be the most important and most relevant skills for your job category (and the jobs you will apply for).

Make sure you order them by proficiency. Upwork allows you to ‘drag and drop’ listed skills.

Upwork has thousands of skill-based tests. Make time to take tests related to a couple of the skills that you have listed. Taking tests is beneficial to your profile because employers look at them to confirm if indeed you are the right fit for the job.

7. Assess Your English Skills

The official Upwork language is English but there are thousands of freelancers who posses fluency in other languages. You will be required to assess your English skills – do so honestly.

Even if you’re not a writer, your ability to communicate with a client is important. By being honest about your language skills, clients can have an idea of what to expect from you.

If English is your native language then select the ‘Native or Bilingual’ option. If you can only write or converse in English, then select the appropriate option. If you possess knowledge of other languages, list them as well. Definitely don’t lie that you are fluent in a language when you know too well you can barely write in the said language.

8. Select your Experience Level

As part of having a 100% complete profile on Upwork you must rate your experience level.

There are 3 levels, Entry Level, Intermediate and Expert. The level you choose is not according to your experience on Upwork but the overall professional experience you hold in your area of expertise.

For most freelancers who are employed and freelancing on the side or those who have been freelancing part-time but now want to do it full time, their level of experience will more likely be Intermediate or Expert depending on the number of years worked.

However, if you are just starting out in a particular area, be honest and select Entry Level. This will not affect your profile but will help clients gauge your ability to handle different projects.

9. Add Your Employment History

To improve your profile and credibility, list your employment history as a way to showcase your experience, past projects and qualifications. In this section, list your previous work experience focusing only on projects that relate to the type of job you want.

Use bullet points to highlight achievements and specific expertise.  Make sure that you add a brief description about your responsibilities and examples of projects you accomplished in each position listed.

When you get clients on Upwork in future, remember to go back and add them in this section. This will not only showcase your added experience but also reinforce your credibility as a freelancer on Upwork and get you more work.

10. Add Your Education

To further validate your credentials, let clients know more about your educational background. List the institution name and your degree(s) in chronological order with the most recent degree at the top. Education background is important even if what you studied is not related to what you are currently doing.

If you do not have a formal education, it’s not a big deal. Just add all informal and self-taught education in the “Other Experiences” section.

When listing your education be simple and specific. If you gain new qualifications make sure you update your profile routinely to help you land more jobs in future.

11. Build Your Portfolio

The portfolio is the section where you showcase your past work examples and projects so that people can see the quality of your work. If you’re able to show great ability in a specific area, then clients will definitely trust that you’re an expert in that area and want to work with you.

For some categories such as Web Development, Design & Creative, Writing and the likes, this is a very important section that should be part of a winning profile. So if you fall under such categories putting together a great portfolio will definitely be worth it.

When using a client’s work in your portfolio such as a website you created, a brochure, a blog post etc. make sure that you get your clients’ permission before sharing it.

When adding your portfolio ensure that you put your best work first. If you have some work that you’re not so proud of it is better to leave it out. If you have expertise in more than one area make sure your portfolio reflects your wide range of skills. In essence, let your portfolio tell your story.

Make sure that you keep your portfolio up-to-date by updating any new projects that you finish. This will show clients how your talent has grown over time. Also, when you get feedback from past clients, make sure you link them to a related item in your portfolio.

Finally don’t forget to file every item under the most relevant category for example, Article & Blog Writing, Social Media Marketing,  Web & Mobile Design,  Graphic Design etc. See how well this freelancer has listed their portfolio.

12. Set your Hourly Rate

Finally, the last step when creating your Upwork Freelancer profile is to set your hourly rate. This is probably the most confusing bit of the profile because people tend to feel shy about what they think they are worth, while some just over do it. While there is no right hourly rate, ensure that your starting rate matches your experience and skills. You could also take a look at what other freelancers in your chosen categories are charging and pick a rate that is competitive with theirs.

Taking time to create a well-written Upwork profile will give you great results in the long run because you will be seen as a star freelancer that clients will want to work with. So go on and follow these tips to improve your Upwork profile.

Ref: Fulltime Nomad

Tips for starting your own web design consulting business

So you want to start your own web design consulting business. Is it actually something within your grasp? The short answer to that question is a resounding “Yes!” But there are certain things that you’ll need to keep in mind as you get this new company off the ground. Here are just a few of them.

Remember You are a Consultant

If you’ve been designing websites for other companies, it may be easy to just label yourself as a web designer. But the truth is, with your new business, you’re a business consultant. What does that mean? Well, for one thing, you shouldn’t be selling yourself by the hour; that makes you little better than an employee. You should be creating a business model that is based around results. Your clients want to know exactly what they’re paying for, so set a pricing structure that is clear and concise, and provides you with the pay that your skills deserve.

But it also means that you are in a unique position as the owner of your business. Consulting businesses like yours—regardless of their niche focus—are ideal environments for learning and growing as an entrepreneur. Consulting expert Sam Ovens has said that he believes all entrepreneurs should start out as business consultants, because it provides opportunities to learn about cash flow, marketing, and scaling your business—lessons that are hard to learn on the fly if you’re in a product-based business. So remember that you’re officially a consultant now, and as such, you are poised to learn some of the most important lessons in entrepreneurship from a hands-on perspective.

Consider All Startup Costs

Consulting businesses like yours come with relatively low startup costs, but it’s still important that you consider every potential cost associated with starting this business. You may already have a computer and phone you can use, but some other costs you might want to consider include:

  • Buying business cards
  • Registering a domain name
  • Registering as a business with your state
  • Self-employment tax (including paying the half of Social Security tax that your employer would normally pay for)
  • Paying for your own health insurance

Carmen Wong Ulrich, author of The Real Cost of Living said, “The biggest costs [of starting your own business] are personal. It’s very difficult to separate your life, especially if you are working from home. Every minute you are not working, you could be. You need to make 20% more, if not more than that, to have the same comfort level you had when on a salary.”

Business ownership comes with a lot of opportunities, but a lot of sacrifices as well. So make sure you know what the costs are before you take the leap.

Have a Portfolio

You should always have samples of your work to show to potential clients. When you’re providing a service that is as visually based as web design, you need to allow your clients to see the kinds of things that you are capable of creating. An online web design portfolio is a great way to do this, as it allows you to easily share the samples with potential clients without having to meet in person. Make sure that you have permission to include any websites you may have designed in previous jobs first. And if you don’t have a lot of stuff to share just yet, consider volunteering to design websites for local organizations or charities. Those few free jobs can go a long ways towards helping you land high-paying clients.

Starting your own web design consultation firm could be the first step to living the life you’ve always dreamed of, and these 3 tips can help you on your way to turning that entrepreneurial dream into a reality

Courtesy By shamshinghub.com

How businesses compare to the world’s economies

If the 10th largest global corporation – BP – were a country, it would be the 27th biggest in the world. That’s bigger than Switzerland.

If Apple were a country, it would be the 25th biggest in the world. That’s bigger than Belgium.

If Toyota Motor were a country, it would be the 23rd biggest in the world. Volkswagen would be 22nd. Exxon Mobil 21st. They are all bigger than India.

If Royal Dutch Shell – the world’s fifth largest corporation – were a country, it would be the 18th largest. That’s bigger than Mexico.

If Sinopec Group were a country, it would be 16th biggest in the world.

China National Petroleum would be 15th. State Grid 14th. They are all bigger than South Korea.

If the world’s largest corporation – Walmart – were a country, it would be the 10th biggest in the world. Bigger than Spain and Australia.

Ref: World Economic Forum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Startup Founder’s Guide to Analytics

You need analytics.

I’m very confident of that, because today, everyone needs analytics. Not just product, not just marketing, not just finance… sales, fulfillment, everyone at a startup needs analytics today. Analytics powers every decision, from the strategic to the tactical, from the board room to your line level employees.

This post is about how to create the analytics competency at your organization. It’s not about what metrics to track (there are plenty of good posts about that), it’s about how to actually get your business to produce them. As it turns out, the implementation question — How do I build a business that produces actionable data?—is much harder to answer.

And the answer is changing fast. The analytics ecosystem is moving very quickly, and the options you have at your disposal have changed significantly in the past 24 months. This post reflects recommendations and experience with the data technology of 2017.

First: Why should you listen to me?

I’ve spent the better part of two decades working in analytics. In that time, I’ve seen plenty of things go well, but a lot more go poorly. I spent the early part of my career implementing legacy enterprise BI (ugh). I built Squarespace’s first analytics competency from 2009–2010 and raised massive A round with the data. I was then COO of Argyle Social, a social media analytics startup, and subsequently VP Marketing at RJMetrics, a leading BI platform for startups.

Now I spend my days helping startup execs implement analytics as the CEO and Founder of Fishtown Analytics. At Fishtown, we start working with companies who have raised an A round and help them build their internal analytics competency as they grow. We’ve been through the exact process I’m going to describe in this article with over a dozen companies at this point, including Casper, SeatGeek, and Code Climate.

I’m going to walk you through, stage by stage, how your startup should be doing analytics. At each stage, my recommendations are going to answer to the question “What’s the absolute least I can get away with?” We’re not here to build castles in the sky; we need answers as cheaply as possible.

Let’s do it.

 

Founding Stage

(0 to 10 employees)

At this stage, you have no resources and no time. There are a million things you could be measuring, but you’re so close to the details of your business that you’re actually able to make fairly good instinctual decisions. The one thing you need to make sure you are measuring is your product, because it’s your product metrics that will help you iterate quickly in this critical phase. Everything else can take a back seat.

What to do

  • Install Google Analytics on your website via Google Tag Manager. The data won’t be perfect without more work but it’s not the right time to worry about that.
  • If you are an ecommerce business, you really need to make sure that your Google Analytics ecommerce data is good. GA can do a decent job of tracking your ecommerce business all the way from visitor to purchase, so spend the time to make sure it’s right.
  • If you build software of any type, you need real event tracking. I don’t care what tool you use — Mixpanel and Heap are very similar and they’re both good. At this point I wouldn’t think too hard about what you’re tracking: just use Mixpanel’s autotrack or Heap’s default installation. If you realize you need a datapoint, you’ll find it’s already there. This approach does not scale well, but for now, it’ll do.
  • Your financial reporting should be done in Quickbooks. Your forecasting should be done in Excel. If you’re a subscription business, use Baremetrics for your subscription metrics. If you’re an ecommerce business, use your shopping cart platform to measure GMV. Don’t get fancy.

If you’re not technical, you may need an engineer to help out with GA and event tracking. This entire exercise shouldn’t take more than an hour or two, including reading the docs. It’s worth it to take the time out of building for this.

What not to do

Everything that is not one of the things above. Do not let someone sell you a data warehouse, a BI platform, a big consulting project, or…yeah, you get it. Stay focused. When you make a commitment to analytics, there is an ongoing cost. Data changes. Business logic changes. Once you start down this road, you can’t really put the project on pause. Wait to make this investment until later.

There will be many questions that you just can’t answer yet. That’s fine (for now).

Very Early Stage

(10 to 20 employees)

You’re growing your team a bit. These people need data to do their jobs. They may or may not be data experts, and you need to make sure that they’re doing the basic things right.

What to do

  • You’ve probably hired a marketing person. Make sure they own GA. Hold them accountable for making sure the data is clean. They need to UTM track every damn link they create. They need to make sure your subdomains aren’t double-tracking. Your marketing person may say that they’re “not a GA person”. Don’t listen. There is enough information on the web about GA that if they’re smart and motivated they can learn it and figure it out. If they can’t figure it out, fire them and find someone else (seriously).
  • If you have a sales person or two and use a CRM, use the built-in reporting. Make sure that your people know how to use it. You need to be able to know basic things like rep productivity and conversion rates by stage. Salesforce can do this stuff out of the box. Don’t export data to Excel, build the reports in the (terrible) report builder. Even if it’s painful, this will save you tons of time in the coming months.
  • You probably have a couple of people in customer success. Most help desk systems don’t have great reporting, so choose KPIs that you can measure easily within the interface.
  • Make sure you track NPS. Use Wootric or Delighted.

What not to do

It’s still too early for a data warehouse and for SQL-based analytics—it just takes too much time. You need to spend all of your time doing, not analyzing, and the most straightforward way to do that is to use the built-in reporting capabilities of the various SaaS products you’re using to run your business. You also shouldn’t hire a full-time analyst yet. There are more important things to spend your limited funds on at this point.

Early Stage

(20 to 50 employees)

This is where things get interesting, and where the changes in the past two years really start to become apparent. Once you’ve raised your A round and have 20+ employees you start to have new options.

These options are all driven by one thing: analytics tech is getting better, fast. Previously this type of infrastructure was reserved for much larger companies. Its benefits? More reliable metrics, more flexibility, and a better platform for future growth.

This is the hardest and most critical phase: promising if you do it right, but pain-inducing if you do it wrong.

What to do

  • Set up your data infrastructure. This means choosing a data warehouse, an ETL tool, and a BI tool. For data warehouses, look into Snowflake and Redshift (I prefer to work with Snowflake given the choice). For ETL tools look into Stitch and Fivetran. For BI look into Mode and Looker. There are many, many products in this space; these six are the ones that we come back to time and again with our clients.
  • Hire a strong analytics lead. Down the road, you’re going to need an entire team of analytics professionals: engineers, analysts, data scientists… But for now, you can only afford (at most) a single headcount. You need to find that special person who will be able to provide value on day 1, but who will also be able to hire the team around them as you grow. This person is hard to find—invest the time to find them. Often these folks have backgrounds in consulting or finance, and they frequently have MBAs. While this person should be able to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty, focus on hiring someone that can think about data, and about your business, strategically: they’re going to be the most important piece of your analytics puzzle for years to come.
  • Consider hiring a consultant. While it’s great that you’ve found your analytics lead, that person isn’t going to have the expertise required to put together all of the components of your tech stack or the experience to solve all of the different analytics problems you’ll face across your business. Mistakes made at this critical stage have serious costs in both time and money as you grow, so it’s important to lay a solid foundation. To do this, more startups today are choosing to work with consultants to help them get set up, and then building a team around that infrastructure.

What not to do

  • Unless machine learning is a core part of your product, don’t hire a data scientist yet. You need a generalist, not a specialist, to build your analytics team.
  • For the love of all that is holy, do not build your own ETL pipelines. This will waste so many hours of engineering time. Buy off-the-shelf from Stitch or Fivetran.
  • Don’t use any other BI tool than the two I mentioned above. You will pay for this down the road, hard.
  • Don’t try to “get away with” using a more traditional database like Postgres as your data warehouse. It’s not that much cheaper and it’ll be a real time suck to switch later when you max it out. Postgres does not scale well as a data warehouse.

Mid-Stage

(50 to 150 employees)

This stage is potentially the most challenging. You still have a relatively small team and few resources, but you’re being asked to deliver increasingly sophisticated and diverse analytics to the business, and your work can directly impact the success or failure of the company as a whole. No pressure.

It’s important to make forward progress here while making sure that you continue to lay the groundwork for future phases of your growth. The decisions you make in this phase can cause you to charge straight into a brick wall if you don’t think hard about the future.

What to do

  • Implement a solid process for SQL-based data modeling. Your data models serve as the underlying business logic for your analytics and should be shared across all of your analytics use cases, from BI to data science. Make sure that your process allows all users to make changes to data modeling scripts, is version-controlled, and is run in a transparent environment. We maintain an open-source product called dbt that many growth-stage companies use to do exactly this.
  • Migrate from your existing web analytics and event tracking to Snowplow Analytics. Snowplow does everything that the paid tools do, but it’s open source. You can either host it yourself (and just pay the costs of your EC2 instances), or you can pay Snowplow or Fivetran to host the collector for you. If you don’t make this transition during this phase, you’re going to be missing out on collecting much more granular data, and you’re going to be setting yourself up for truly massive bills from Segment, Heap, or Mixpanel down the road. Once you grow past this stage these paid tools can easily charge $10k+ per month at minimum.
  • Grow your team thoughtfully. The core of your team should always be business analysts: folks who are experts in SQL and your BI tool and spend their time working with business users to help them service their data requests. Figuring out the profile of this person and how to train and equip them is incredibly important. You should also hire your first data scientist in this phase. It’s important to have your data infrastructure and core analytics team in place prior to hiring experienced (and expensive) data science talent, but at some point you should add this skill set.
  • Begin selectively tackling some forecasting challenges. Forecasting is harder than just running counts and sums, but there are a couple of key areas where it makes sense to begin diving in. If you’re a SaaS business, you should be working on a churn forecasting model. If you’re an ecommerce business, you absolutely need to be working on a demand forecasting model. These models will probably not be extremely sophisticated, but they’ll be a big improvement over the random Excel workbook that someone in Finance hacked together.
  • Spend time and energy on figuring out your marketing attribution. This is a whole blog post on its own, but suffice it to say that you simply can’t trust this critical business question to a third party.

What not to do

It’s easy to get carried away with yourself and begin investing in heavy-duty data infrastructure. Don’t do this. At this stage, major infrastructure investments are still an expensive distraction. Here are some suggestions on how to stay agile:

  • Push SQL, and your data warehouse, hard. You can get away with doing almost anything you want at this stage using the processing power of your data warehouse. Buy as much data warehouse horsepower as you need — paying for servers is far cheaper than paying for humans.
  • Add in Jupyter Notebooks for data science work. If the data has been pre-aggregated in your warehouse, you typically won’t need to do this processing on a Spark or Hadoop cluster yet.
  • Find low-cost ways to ETL datasets that don’t have off-the-shelf integrations. This is one of the things we love about Singer.

Avoiding expensive boondoggles will keep you focused on solving real business problems.

Growth Stage

(150 to 500 employees)

This stage is all about creating analytics processes that scale. You need to balance getting answers that you need today with implementing analytics practices that will scale as you continue growing your team.

At 150 employees you’ll probably only have a small team (3–6) full-time focused on analytics. By the time you have 500 employees you could easily have 30 or more. 3–6 analysts can operate in a fairly ad-hoc manner, exchanging knowledge (and code) informally. By the time you have 8+ analysts, this begins to break down very quickly.

If you don’t manage this transition well, you’ll actually perform less well as your team grows: it will take you longer to produce meaningful insights, and your answers will be of lower quality. This is simply a function of non-linear complexity: you’ll have more data being produced and more analysts working with it. In order to combat this, you need processes to keep them working together reliably.

What to do

  • Implement data testing. You have data flowing into your warehouse from at least a dozen sources at this point and you need a process to ensure that the data being loaded continues to conform to the rules you’re expecting it to: uniqueness, foreign key relationship, not null fields, and custom business logic. If you don’t have a rock-solid automated process that checks this stuff the quality of your analysis will continue to degrade and you won’t know why. We use dbt’s testing functionality for this with our clients.
  • Use pull requests and code reviews. Your analytic code is an asset, just like the code that powers your website and application. Producing high-quality code requires being serious about version control. Get every one of your team members in git, train them how to use branches, and disable force-pushes to master. All code that gets deployed to production should be merged via a pull request process that includes a review from a team member.
  • Get serious about documentation. The data environment at your company is complicated. The only way to effectively manage that knowledge and share it with your team is to invest the time and energy needed to document it. This will add some overhead, but if you don’t make this investment you’ll find your analysts spend more time figuring out where to get certain data or how to use it than they do actually conducting analytics. Airbnb has done excellent work in this area.
  • Be intentional about your analytics team structure. There are two primary models for how to structure an analytics team: centralized and embedded. There is no clear right answer, but this decision is going to be central to how you deliver analytics to your growing organization. Carl Anderson describes the tradeoffs well in his book Creating a Data-Driven Organization.

What not to do

Don’t accept excuses. Doing analytics right at this level is hard work, and it requires a talented and motivated team that is constantly innovating and improving. Code reviews take time and energy. Analysts aren’t used to having to test their code. And documentation is painstaking. There will be resistance to doing things this way, especially among your long-term team members who remember the “good old days”. But as complexity increases, you need to evolve your processes to adapt.

These processes will actually make analytics easier, faster, and more reliable, but implementing them will feel like pulling teeth. If you’re serious about scaling analytics, you’ll push through.

You’re a Pioneer

I’ve come to each one of these recommendations after years of doing it myself within companies and now scaling the approach as a consultant. The opportunity to work with a range of similar clients has made it incredibly clear just how rare it is for companies to do this stuff well.

If you take all of the recommendations in this post, you will literally be one of the highest-functioning analytics organizations in the world. Not a bad competitive advantage.


Want to chat about your analytics? I’m always happy to jump on a call and listen! Tweet me at @jthandy. Also, I’d be honored if you’d check out the newsletter I publish every week, The Data Science Roundup. Every week I curate the most useful data science articles from around the internet; arrives every Sunday morning with your coffee ☕

Thanks for reading! 😁

Ref: ThinkGrowth

Critical Things Smart People Never Say

There are some things you simply never want to say at work.

These phrases carry special power: they have an uncanny ability to make you look bad even when the words are true.

Worst of all, there’s no taking them back once they slip out.

I’m not talking about shocking slips of the tongue, off-color jokes, or politically incorrect faux pas. These aren’t the only ways to make yourself look bad.

Often it’s the subtle remarks—the ones that paint us as incompetent and unconfident—that do the most damage.

No matter how talented you are or what you’ve accomplished, there are certain phrases that instantly change the way people see you and can forever cast you in a negative light. These phrases are so loaded with negative implications that they undermine careers in short order.

“This is the way it’s always been done.” Technology-fueled change is happening so fast that even a six-month-old process could be outdated. Saying this is the way it’s always been done not only makes you sound lazy and resistant to change, but it could make your boss wonder why you haven’t tried to improve things on your own. If you really are doing things the way they’ve always been done, there’s almost certainly a better way.

“It’s not my fault.” It’s never a good idea to cast blame. Be accountable. If you had any role—no matter how small—in whatever went wrong, own it. If not, offer an objective, dispassionate explanation of what happened. Stick to the facts, and let your boss and colleagues draw their own conclusions about who’s to blame. The moment you start pointing fingers is the moment people start seeing you as someone who lacks accountability for their actions. This makes people nervous. Some will avoid working with you altogether, and others will strike first and blame you when something goes wrong.

“I can’t.” I can’t is it’s not my fault’s twisted sister. People don’t like to hear I can’tbecause they think it means I won’t. Saying I can’t suggests that you’re not willing to do what it takes to get the job done. If you really can’t do something because you truly lack the necessary skills, you need to offer an alternative solution. Instead of saying what you can’t do, say what you can do. For example, instead of saying “I can’t stay late tonight,” say “I can come in early tomorrow morning. Will that work?” Instead of “I can’t run those numbers,” say “I don’t yet know how to run that type of analysis. Is there someone who can show me so that I can do it on my own next time?”

“It’s not fair.” Everyone knows that life isn’t fair. Saying it’s not fair suggests that you think life is supposed to be fair, which makes you look immature and naïve. If you don’t want to make yourself look bad, you need to stick to the facts, stay constructive, and leave your interpretation out of it. For instance, you could say, “I noticed that you assigned Ann that big project I was hoping for. Would you mind telling me what went into that decision? I’d like to know why you thought I wasn’t a good fit, so that I can work on improving those skills.”

“That’s not in my job description.” This often sarcastic phrase makes you sound as though you’re only willing to do the bare minimum required to keep getting a paycheck, which is a bad thing if you like job security. If your boss asks you to do something that you feel is inappropriate for your position (as opposed to morally or ethically inappropriate), the best move is to complete the task eagerly. Later, schedule a conversation with your boss to discuss your role in the company and whether your job description needs an update. This ensures that you avoid looking petty. It also enables you and your boss to develop a long-term understanding of what you should and shouldn’t be doing.

“This may be a silly idea …/I’m going to ask a stupid question.” These overly passive phrases instantly erode your credibility. Even if you follow these phrases with a great idea, they suggest that you lack confidence, which makes the people you’re speaking to lose confidence in you. Don’t be your own worst critic. If you’re not confident in what you’re saying, no one else will be either. And, if you really don’t know something, say, “I don’t have that information right now, but I’ll find out and get right back to you.”

“I’ll try.” Just like the word think, try sounds tentative and suggests that you lack confidence in your ability to execute the task. Take full ownership of your capabilities. If you’re asked to do something, either commit to doing it or offer an alternative, but don’t say that you’ll try because it sounds like you won’t try all that hard.

“This will only take a minute.” Saying that something only takes a minute undermines your skills and gives the impression that you rush through tasks. Unless you’re literally going to complete the task in 60 seconds, feel free to say that it won’t take long, but don’t make it sound as though the task can be completed any sooner than it can actually be finished.

“I hate this job.” The last thing anyone wants to hear at work is someone complaining about how much they hate their job. Doing so labels you as a negative person and brings down the morale of the group. Bosses are quick to catch on to naysayers who drag down morale, and they know that there are always enthusiastic replacements waiting just around the corner.

“He’s lazy/incompetent/a jerk.” There is no upside to making a disparaging remark about a colleague. If your remark is accurate, everybody already knows it, so there’s no need to point it out. If your remark is inaccurate, you’re the one who ends up looking like a jerk. There will always be rude or incompetent people in any workplace, and chances are that everyone knows who they are. If you don’t have the power to help them improve or to fire them, then you have nothing to gain by broadcasting their ineptitude. Announcing your colleague’s incompetence comes across as an insecure attempt to make you look better. Your callousness will inevitably come back to haunt you in the form of your coworkers’ negative opinions of you.

Bringing It All Together

These phrases have a tendency to sneak up on you, so you’re going to have to catch yourself until you’ve solidified the habit of not saying them.

What other phrases should be on this list? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below as I learn just as much from you as you do from me.

Ref: Linked In