You need to get one thing from your first job on Upwork

Too many freelancers get this wrong. There is only one thing you need to care about on your first job on Upwork (I’m using Upwork as an example, but this is true for any other online freelancing platform).

It’s not the money. It’s not the time. It’s not about how interesting the project is.

It’s one thing, that if done right, will open the door for your next project. And the next. And the one after that too.

But before we get to that one thing, we need to understand one simple concept.

It’s an online platform.

In a previous post we learned about 4 effective strategies to find freelance work.

To recap, the strategies are:

  1. Word of mouth & networking
  2. Online freelancing platforms
  3. Social media
  4. Your website and blog

What is one thing that is different between strategy #2 and the others?

On freelancing platform, each client leaves a review of your work that anyone can see on your profile.

And as a freelancer on the platform, you can’t control which of the reviews and ratings potential client's see.

They can see them all.

With networking, your website, and social media, you get to control the image you portray.

You aren't going to put a bad testimonial on your website, or on your LinkedIn profile right?

Yet on online freelancing platforms, your job history and each client’s opinion of your work is visible for anyone to see.

And that’s a big deal.

Your public reviews

The one and only thing you need to care about when getting your first job is this:

A 5-star rating, followed by a fantastic review from your client.

Here’s why this is so important:

When you’re just starting out, you don’t have much to prove yourself yet on that online freelance platform.

You might have an amazing portfolio, but that’s not always enough.

When a client is choosing a freelancer to hire, one of the very first things he does is read the reviews from other clients.

So if that client sees you got a 5-star rating and a great review on your first job, he’ll be more likely to hire you for his own job.

Your public reviews are a huge factor in the client decision to hire you or not.

Here’s an example from life –

You’re looking to buy a new coffee machine for your office.

You search online, and find one that fits within your price range.

What’s the first thing you do?

Read reviews about the product.


Because you want to hear what other people, who’ve already purchased the product, have to say about it.

If the coffee machine has a 2-star rating, and the reviewers say “it’s the worst coffee machine I’ve ever purchased,” would you buy it?

Low quality review on Amazon

Probably not.

But if it had a 5-star rating, and all the reviews said “the coffee never tasted better, don’t look elsewhere, get it now,” then would you buy it?

High quality reviews Amazon product

See the point?

It’s the exact same with a client who is thinking about hiring you for their job.

They want to get the best freelancer for their project.

So if your bid is within their price range, the very first thing they will do is look at your reviews.


When you start your first job on an online freelancing platform you should have one, and only one goal – to get a 5-star review.

Money shouldn’t be a factor here. It’s ok if you’ll be underpaid for your first project.

Think about it as an investment.

In fact, the very first project I ever got on Elance (now Upwork), was for $75.

Considering the amount of work the project involved, I could have charged at least triple that price.

But I didn’t care about money.

I only cared about getting a 5-star rating, and a great review.

So I did my absolute best, and went above and beyond, to ensure my client was nothing less than 110% satisfied with my work.

Here’s the review I got:


After completing that first project, getting the next project was a lot easier.

So I kept the same mindset for the second project too.

Here’s the second review I got:


And the third:


See the pattern here?

I consistently went above and beyond to ensure my clients were super happy with my work, and that is directly what helped me get more work, fast.

And I’m sharing these reviews not because I want to brag about them, but only because I want you to see how important your reviews are for getting more work.

Once you get your first great rating, the second and third will soon follow – assuming you keep delivering top class work, to ensure you get those great ratings.

It’s all about the mindset

Even though getting a 5-star review should be the mindset for your first project, it’s also true for all future projects you work on.

Your mindset should always be to provide the absolute best service for your clients (not only on freelancing platforms).

If you do that, you’ll position yourself to get a 5-star rating and a great review for each job.

Your long-term goal should be to have a profile full of 5-star reviews.

Bottom line:

Consistently provide high-quality work, aim to always get a 5-star review from your clients, and start building a strong portfolio of fantastic ratings.

Your ratings and reviews are more important to a future client than anything you write in your portfolio.

In fact, at times – one great review can be worth a lot more than several amazing items in your portfolio.

So even if you have an amazing portfolio of work, if your public reviews all average between 2-4 stars, that will scare potential clients away.

Bonus Upwork tip:

If you’re just starting out on Upwork, and you consistently deliver great results for your clients, you’ll be eligible to get a rising talent badge on your profile.


Getting this badge will help you stand out to clients. How? You’ll be included in a special talent pool where top clients source premium freelancers.

And if you stay consistent with providing great work, after working on multiple projects you’ll earn the top rated badge, which brings along more awesome perks.


And trust me, it’s worth it.

Side note

When referring to bidding on your first few projects, I’m not saying that you should ask for $1, regardless of the amount of work involved.

What I am saying is that when getting started, you need to be smart about your pricing.

Otherwise you won’t get any jobs, which means you’ll never have a chance to show what you’re worth and get a 5-star rating.

So when bidding on your first projects, try to bid on the lower tier of the client's budget, but don’t bid under the budget.

If the budget is $70 – $100, bid closer to the $70 range than the $100. But never bid under $70. I’ll talk all about pricing in a later post.