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 a project for your portfolio.
- 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, let's go back in time.
In a previous I shared 4 effective strategies to find freelance work.
To recap, the strategies are:
- Word of mouth and networking
- Online freelancing platforms
- Your website and blog
- Social media
What is one thing that is different between strategy #2 and the others?
💡 On freelancing platform, your client leaves a review on your work and anyone on the platform can see it on your profile.
As a freelancer on most platforms, you can’t control which of the reviews and ratings are public or hidden.
Your potential client can read them all.
Unlike with direct to client, 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.
The one thing
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.
Public reviews are a huge factor a decision to hire you or not.
Here’s an example.
Say 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?
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?
See the point?
It’s the exact same with when clients consider you for a job.
They want to get the best freelancer for their project.
They check out your profile, they read past client reviews.
On online platform, in addition to the regular requirements of a great portfolio and fit for the job, winning top clients requires a proven track record of past client reviews.
Get the snowball rolling
Think about your first project on Upwork as an investment.
In my mind, it’s ok if you’ll be paid less that your ideal hourly rate for your first project.
Complete the project above and beyond your client expectations, get 5 star review, and a great testimonial. The goal is to get the snowball effect started.
In fact, the very first project I ever got on Elance (now Upwork), was for $75. But I didn’t care about money.
I only cared about getting that 5-star rating, and a great review.
Because I knew that would start the snowball effect of more projects, better clients, higher prices, and ultimately more money.
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.
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 and results for your clients, regardless if it's done on an online platform with reviews, or not.
If you do that, you’ll position yourself to get a 5-star rating and a great review for each job. And your long-term goal should be to have a profile full of 5-star reviews.
When bidding on your first few projects on Upwork, I’m not saying that you should bid floor rates regardless of the amount of work involved.
If you have a great portfolio of work and years of experience, you may be able to get your first job at a decent rate.
What I am saying is that when getting started, you need to be smart about your pricing. And with your first project, you should prioritize an outstanding review over revenue.
💡 Consistently provide high-quality work and aim to get a 5-star reviews from your clients. But it's crucial on your first job.
👉 Your ratings and reviews are more important to a future potential clients than anything you write about yourself in your portfolio.
👉 Even if you have an amazing portfolio of work, if your public reviews all average between 2-3 stars, you probably won't win top clients.
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. 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 and top rated plus badge, which brings along more awesome perks.
These badge lead to job from bigger and better paying clients.