Updated: May 27
When I was working as a full-time, salaried designer in New York, our office would sometimes have freelancers come in and work for a few months at a time. Though I was happy in my secure position at the company with benefits, I always envied the freedom that freelancers seemed to have.
They were at liberty to work for a few months at a time with one company, bank a bunch of money, and then move on to their next job, taking a break of a few weeks in between if they wanted to. The freelancers I knew floated between companies of varying types, which expanded their skill set and expertise, and always seemed to be taking time off to travel, and since they weren’t tied down to one particular company or job, they had that option.
As much as I sometimes wished I could enjoy this same freedom, I always wondered HOW they went about making and nurturing connections with the companies for which they were freelancing. As a natural introvert, networking has never come naturally to me, and in my mind, that aspect of my personality took me out of the running for freelance work. Not to mention, I didn’t like the idea of having to manage contracts, chase down payments, and always have the uncertainty of what my next job was going to be, and who would have the need of my services.
All of that changed when my daughter was born and I realized I needed to find a way to earn money from home, on part-time hours, using the skillset I had. Freelancing seemed a good option, barring the seeming obstacles mentioned above.
In case you don’t know it by now, Upwork is a freelancing platform that allows you to create a profile, list your skills and experience, upload a portfolio, and find clients. More importantly, it ultimately enables clients to find YOU, but we’ll get to that in a moment.
Let me pause right here to say this loud and clear: I AM IN NO WAY AFFILIATED WITH OR PAID BY UPWORK. There is no incentive for me to sing the praises of this
beautiful platform, apart from the fact that it got me results. By results, I mean that I went from UNEMPLOYED with ZERO income to FULLY BOOKED with FULL-TIME INCOME on PART-TIME HOURS in 365 days.
If that’s not enough to convince you to check it out, let me break down the many ways in which Upwork is amazing:
1. Upwork eliminates the need for traditional networking.
A natural introvert, networking does not come naturally to me AT ALL. I hate the idea of cold calling or emailing businesses or individuals offering my services, but more than that, I HATE the idea of constantly having to keep the networking machine churning in order to come up with my next job. The beauty of having Upwork’s platform and algorithm behind me is that it serves as the networking machine. It’s constantly matching me to clients who need my skills so that I don’t have to do the legwork. It leaves me free to keep improving my craft and focus on giving my clients an outstanding client experience. And the best part? With Upwork my client pool is GLOBAL. I’m not limited to my immediate area or local businesses. Since I can work as a designer from anywhere, I can (and do!) serve clients anywhere in the world. The opportunity is virtually endless.
2. Upwork takes care of contracts and invoicing.
When you and your client register for an Upwork account and begin a contract together, you are agreeing to a very explicit set of terms and conditions. You agree to complete the work you say you will, and the client agrees to pay you in accordance with Upwork’s terms. You and the client set specific terms in your contract, so there’s no need to exchange any additional contracts. It’s all built right into the platform. There’s no need for manual tailoring of contracts, sending and signing of PDFs, or keeping track of contract files. Upwork invoices your client on your behalf, and your client must provide a valid payment method before your contract begins, which will be automatically charged at the appropriate time (depending on whether you’re working on an hourly or fixed-price basis). No sending invoices or chasing down payments. It’s all done for you, your invoices are all stored within the platform for when tax time rolls around, and you can rest assured that you’ll always be paid in a timely manner.
3. Upwork gives you financial protection.
Messaging, sharing of files, and time tracking all happen within the Upwork platform, and for good reason. With everything documented in one place, Upwork can intervene on your behalf if there is ever a dispute with a client. When you work on an hourly contract and use Upwork’s time tracker, you can set memos detailing exactly what you’re working on and when, and the tracker calculates your activity level as you work and takes screenshots of your screen every ten minutes so there can be little doubt about how you are spending your time. This provides Upwork with ample evidence should a client ever question the time you’ve spent working on a project, and Upwork will vouch for you if a client tries to walk away from a contract. This system ensures that an hour worked is an hour paid. (For what it's worth, I've never had this kind of dispute with a client, but I know that if it ever did happen, I'd be protected).
4. Upwork brings the work to YOU.
There’s no question that landing your first job on Upwork can be tricky. It’s a platform that rewards time spent on the platform and good feedback from clients, so the more you work, the more visible you become to Upwork’s client pool. This can make it tough when you’re starting out, as clients are less likely to take a bet on someone who has no history on the platform. (If you’re looking for specifics around how to get your momentum going on Upwork, click here.) But once you get your first few jobs on Upwork and complete them to your client’s satisfaction (and hopefully 5-star review) you’ll start to receive invitations to submit proposals to jobs. The more jobs you complete, the more you earn, the more hours you log, and the more good feedback you get, the more invitations will come through to you. This is what I mean about Upwork serving as the networking machine. I never have to go hunting for that next gig, because opportunities are literally delivered to me on a regular basis.
Can you go out and find freelance clients on your own? Of course you can. And in fact, once you get a bit of freelance work under your belt you may find that people in your network outside of Upwork start to ask for your services. It’s great to know you always have that option! But knowing that I always have Upwork backing me up takes the stress and financial uncertainty out of freelancing, which is the bottom line for me!