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Career CloseUp: My Enchanting Life As A Freelancer

As one of the admins for the Upwork Nigeria Group, many newbies and those who have spent up to a year or more on Upwork without getting a gig often ask me how they should go about it.


In fact, a few who live in the same town as me have asked for a one-on-one meeting to teach them how to get a gig on Upwork. There are over 4,000 members in Upwork Nigeria and I cannot meet every person individually nor can I answer to the concerns of every member who wants my attention.


To satisfy many of our members, I decided to write this blog so that everyone can pick something from my own experience.


Here we go.



Guide To Earning With Upwork


Upwork is the #1 freelance writing platform in the world, with more than 3 millions jobs posted annually. On any given day when you go to the Upwork website, you will find thousands of jobs posted for freelancers. 

• Writers

• Editors

• Proofreaders

• Photographers

• Videographers

• Video Editors

• Computer Programmers

• App developers

• Virtual Assistants

• Graphics Artistd & Designers

The list is endless.


These jobs come from all over the world, the US, Europe, China, Asia, South America, the Caribbeans, Africa, including Nigeria. 


Most of the time, you set your own time, place and pace to work. No alarm clock to wake you up, no commutes through the city traffic, no irritating and irritable boss breathing down your neck, no office politics. Do your job, satisfy your clients and get paid in USD. This fits into my nature as an introvert who has never been comfortable with bosses.


With the Nigerian economy nosediving and the Naira going down with it, you can export your skills in any of the above-mentioned categories and earn forex through freelancing to mitigate the cost-of-living crisis bedeviling Nigeria and other parts of the world.



Beginning My Freelance Journey


My journey as a freelancer began in 2020 during the coronavirus crisis which led to the cessation of movements and business activities for more than six months. 


I ran brick-and-mortar businesses before coronavirus hit town. I had learned a long time ago to create multiple sources of income from reading Robert Allen's book of the same title. So, I had at least three inter-related businesses which all shut down during the coronavirus period.


I was at my wit's end by the second month of the total shutdown of the economy as to how to continue feeding my family. Fortunately, the internet was not shutdown since it did not require physical contact to communicate on it.



Upwork To The Rescue 


I was checking my emails one day when I saw an article in Entrepreneur Magazine. As someone always on the lookout for business opportunities, I had subscribed to many business magazines and Entrepreneur was one of them. In that particular edition, there was an article there titled, "11 Best Websites to Find Freelance Jobs and Make Extra Money." (https://www.entrepreneur.com/slideshow/299320/).


I clicked on the article, read it, and had an epiphany. It was an epiphany occasioned by the hard times because I must say it wasn’t the first time I was reading such an article, but I never paid much attention or took action because I was earning enough from my offline businesses. 


I quickly registered on the Upwork website as a freelancer. But getting a job there was not walk in the park, however, my persistence paid off after three months. Since June 2020, I have had steady jobs from Upwork; and I have earned thousands of dollars since then.





There has been a saturation on Upwork lately and getting jobs is not as easy as it used to be because now there are more than 4 million freelancers bidding for jobs. While it's now difficult, it's not impossible.


A recent article I read online said that the highest number freelancers in the world come from Nigeria, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. In Nigeria alone, there are more about 4,000 freelancers on Upwork. You not only have to contend with them, you have to also contend with thousands of other talented freelancers from all over the world.


Upwork is not the only freelance platform. There are many others. Just Google freelancing websites and it would bring a surfeit of them. But I prefer dealing with Upwork because they have put in place systems that ensure a level-playing field for everyone. And if you follow their rules, you're not likely to scammed, working and not getting paid. They also have a robust dispute resolution mechanism when you have disagreement with a client which is inevitable in business dealings.



Upskill To Stay Ahead 


To stay ahead of the crowd, you need to constantly upskill. For example, as a writer, journalist, editor and proofreader, I had to take courses in search engine optimization (SEO) when I saw that almost every job description requires that you know SEO. I have also taken courses in WordPress, and I am now taking another course on Digital Marketing and Copywriting.


To win in this business, learn and master a skill that you can sell to prospective clients. If the skill you have now is not in high demand or does not command high fees, learn a new skill and master it.


Upwork also has an academy and offers workshops regularly that can help you either sharpen your skills or win jobs on the platform. Don't miss attending these workshops.



Full-Time Business


For me and most freelancers on Upwork, working on the platform is a full-time. Searching for the jobs that fit your skills, writing and submitting proposals, getting interviewed and tested for jobs, and doing the work when you win the bid is a full-time job. If you want to win jobs, you need to devote your time these skills, master them, and send out tons of proposals.


However, in sending out proposals, make sure you apply to only jobs that match your skills, otherwise, you will be wasting your connects, and  losing money which may soon frustrate you. Connects are the currency you use to bid for jobs. They're like the airtime you buy for your mobile phone that enables you make a call. Because of the new bidding system, connects have become more expensive and you need to use them judiciously.



Creating An Agency


When you become a top earner on Upwork, and you get more jobs than you can handle, you should consider forming an agency and employ others to work on projects for your clients. I think our members in Upwork Nigeria who are top earners should form agencies so that we can farm out jobs for our members who are desperate for work.





The saying that 'winners don't quit, and quiters don't win' is so true with Upwork. If you quit because you are not getting jobs, how can you get jobs if you don't keep applying? So, stick with it and keep trying. One day you will hit the gold mine. You may be near to a gold strain for all you know.


So, decide which of the skills you want to pursue, educate yourself about it by taking short online courses, and dive into it. Master just one of the arts of earning money online, and you could be on a gravy train. Choose the one that best suits your nature.


I wish you all the luck in the world.


Connect with Mohammed on Upwork

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Watch Mohammed's Upwork Video Introduction