Feature image: Neal Strauss, Upwork Ambassador, hosts an event in Philadelphia, PA


Neal Strauss started freelancing as a social media strategist and digital marketer after months of searching for a 9-to-5 dream job that didn’t exist.


“After finishing my studies, I applied to several jobs and went on a good amount of interviews. When I didn’t find what I was looking for, I turned to freelancing. I gave myself three months. If I could find enough work to do what I wanted in three months, then I would give myself a full year. Those first three months were tough but I made it, so I gave myself nine more to see if I could make it work. Now, after almost two full years, I am so glad I made the leap.”


Today, in addition to being a full-time freelancer, Strauss is an Upwork Ambassador for the Philadelphia area.


Freelancing can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be

As an Upwork Ambassador, Neal organizes events for independent professionals who want to connect and share tips to take their businesses to the next level. He also hosts more casual get-togethers for freelancers who are looking to expand their professional network.


“My role as an Ambassador is to create a community for freelancers in the Philly area,” Strauss explains. “Part of that is helping freelancers meet other freelancers and help them build a community to fall back on. Freelancing can be lonely, but together we can make it fun.”


Upwork meet and greet in Philadelphia Image: Upwork meet and greet in Philadelphia, PA.


Although freelancing can feel isolating at times, the good news is that it’s actually more common than ever.

“Today, there are freelancers at every turn,” Strauss says. “I’ve met freelancers at bars, coffee shops, online, and pretty much everywhere I go. I always ask about their business, how they find clients, where they work, how they explain their job to their family and friends, etc. If you’re nervous about getting started, find a freelancer in your industry and ask them a question. Start a conversation with a freelancer and you may find the answer to settle your nerves.”


Freelancers can rise above the rest by keeping their skills fresh


One of the most frequent questions Strauss is asked is “What’s the secret of your success?” and to that, he has two pieces of advice: specialize in your field and keep learning.


“When I first started freelancing, I thought that I had to be the person who could do everything but that was incredibly hard to sell,” he explains. “One day I decided to gear my profile to only social media. I changed my headline and bio to revolve around social media and nothing else. After a few weeks, I noticed I was getting more views and more invites for the jobs I wanted. I continually adjust my profile and have seen tremendous results by specializing in specific industries, fields, and types of marketing.”


The second tip Strauss offers is to take every opportunity to upskill. “There are so many free webinars that various companies and programs offer. I try to attend one to three per week and have found the information incredibly useful when speaking with prospective clients or at networking events,” he says. “If you’re not into webinars, there are podcasts, videos, blogs, Twitter chats, online groups, and in-person networking events. The more you learn, the more you can specialize. And the more skills you can add to your profile, the more knowledgeable you are when speaking with prospective clients.”


Thinking about attending one of Upwork’s events in Philadelphia this year? Strauss plans on taking full advantage of the beautiful spring weather that’s just around the corner. “Between co-working days on sunny roof decks and happy hours at pop-up restaurants and beer gardens, we’re going to have a great time meeting new people, discovering new opportunities, and growing our freelance businesses. After all, the Eagles won the Superbowl. 2018 is the year of incredible experiences for Philly and each of us in it!”


Upwork Ambassador event invites are emailed to eligible Rising Talent and Top Rated freelancers in the metro area where the event is being held. If you’ve unsubscribed from our marketing emails but would like to resubscribe, please submit this form and we’ll add you to the list! For any other questions, please post them below.