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Want to get that first job? Then check this out...

Okay... there are a lot, and I do mean a lot, of posts asking about how to get that first job. I check these posts from new people who are asking "why can't I get hired" and when I go to look, their profiles aren't even filled out, no tests are taken, or what is filled out is just filled with mistakes. To top it all off, there are just as many contractors handing out bad advice.


That's not to say that my advice is the absolute best; nor will it work for everyone. But it's a system that works for me, and has been working for me since I joined oDesk. If you really want to get that first job, hopefully this will at least serve as a starting point for you. My hope is that other oDesk freelancers will read and add to this posting any thoughts on what works for them that might be different from what I post here. So, going through step by step to landing that first job...


1. Set up your profile! Yes, a lot of people come to online sources because it's easy and convenient - but that doesn't mean that they want to completely give up the personal experience as well. Your profile is what will introduce you as a person as well as an applicant to the people reviewing your cover letter. Make it count.


  • Overview - One of the most important parts of your profile is your overview. It should introduce you to the client and establish your objective. Use this to set you apart from other contractors. "I write fast and can get the job done quickly." So what! Chances are, 90%-95% of the other applicants can, too. So how are you any different? "I want to be the best provider to my clients." Again, so what!? This doesn't help you at all because everyone else says the same thing. Not to mention - it should be a given that you want to provide the best service. Your overview should answer the question "why you should hire me over the other guy" ... If it doesn't answer that question, it's not a good overview.


  • Picture - After all, they speak a thousand words, right? It's not a requirement to have a picture, but it does help. Make sure you follow oDesk's identity policy when choosing a picture to post - but in general, any picture of you with a smile on your face will do wonders for you. People like to put a face to a font... So give them one.


  • Hourly Rate - I hate to say it, but there are a lot of clients that will look at your hourly rate. I am not talking about whatever rate you bid on a project, but the rate that is displayed on your profile. This rate should reflect the level and quality of work that you provide and should be a fair reflection of a going rate for the field / category you are interested in working for. Is there a difference? Of course! Can you expect to get paid the same amount of money for site scraping as you can for writing articles? Probably not unless you are the best darn web scraper in the world (and can back it up!). If you're not sure what to set your rate at, look through at other providers, or go through the oConomy pages, figure out how much you would be paid for the exact same job at an office, or do a search to see if you can find out what the average going rate is for that field and adjust that average to reflect your experience level.


  • Resume - Also important because your resume houses all of your skills. Are you a web designer? Great! Then post your CSS, PHP, Javascript, Drupal, Joomla!, and Wordpress skills! A lot of clients search for providers based on these skills - how will they find you if you don't have them listed anywhere on your profile? And your resume is the perfect place to showcase these skills because it allows you to also place a brief description of how you have used this skill in the past and display how long you have been using it.


  • Take and Show Tests - Some clients won't even look at you if you're not oDesk ready - so take that test! Beyond that - take any other test that will help show just how good you are at something. How is a client going to know that you're the best web site designer if the only test you took was an English skills test and a telephone etiquette test? Go to the oDesk tests and search for tests that are relevant to your field and take them. Then make sure you show the ones you need. Tests you happen to fail will automatically be hidden, anyway; But those tests where you barely pass, hide them until you can retake them and try again. Everyone is entitled to a bad day, no need to display for all to see that you are in the bottom 20% of people who took the test. Retake tests as you get the chance to raise your scores and show off your knowledge.


  • Build a Portfolio - This may be easier for some than others... But a portfolio is a great way to display your work. If you build web sites - place some links in there to web sites that you've built. If you're an artist, then throw together some logos and interface designs and place them up there. Writer? Post a link to your blog... Anything that will show examples of your work without violating any terms of service is good. Also important, once it's up - keep it updated. Check the links to those web sites to make sure they're still working and place up new examples of your work as you complete them.


  • Be Honest - If your English isn't a 5.0 - then don't rate it at 5.0... Clients will be able to figure it out and you will look like a liar. If you can't be honest about something like how fluent you are in English, why should anyone believe that you're being honest about anything else?


2. Once your profile is set, then it's time to sell your self to the clients. And by sell your self, I don't mean pay them for the privilege of working for them. I mean convince them that they should hire you and pay you what you want. So, how do you do this?


Cover Letters. Write a cover letter that

A) Proves you know what you're talking about,

B) Proves that you've read the job description,

C) Explains your costs and terms (such as how many hours it will take to complete, or how much money you will require upfront for a fixed rate, or any guarantees that you offer). And for goodness sake - don't send the same cover letter to each and every job posting. The clients always know. You aren't fooling anyone - so just stop. Never beg for a job... It makes you look desperate, not professional. Never lower your hourly rate to a ridiculous amount in hopes of landing a job (or worse, offering to work for free)... Again, it makes you look desperate and gives the impression that you don't deserve whatever amount you have posted on your profile.


Now, for me - and I know other contractors disagree with this (and that's fine) - I also include a paragraph within my cover letter that explains about the ability to contact me. I don't include my contact information - but I do let them know that I am available via Skype, email, and cell phone as well as via my oDesk message center. I also let them know that all of these messages are forwarded to my cell phone to help expedite communications (well, except calls to my cell phone - since that would be redundant). I include this because I would want to know how easy it is to get a hold of a contractor, or if I would be limited to just the oDesk message system.

Also, for me, I will ask all sorts of questions in my cover letter. Some contractors view this as unprofessional, and that's fine. Like I said - this advice won't work for everyone. But if there's a discrepancy in the job description, or if I just want to know more details than was given, I ask then rather than waiting for the interview. What does this do for me? In a lot of cases, the clients want to answer the questions, which gives them more of a reason to place me into an interview, which gives me a better chance of talking to them and convincing them that I am the best candidate to hire for their project. This doesn't mean just start asking any stupid question you can think of. "What's your favorite color?" will probably get you rejected. But asking a question like "Do you think you might also be interested in having Twitter integrated onto your site?" will raise an eyebrow. How else can you sell your self? Glad you asked. You don't have to rely on oDesk's search function to find jobs. Nor do you have to rely on the idea that a client will find you and invite you to an interview. Do you have Facebook, MySpace, or another site that you use? Find the little badges in your account and post them up! Chances are, one of your friends on Facebook might see that you are available for hire as a writer - and they might know someone who just wrote a book that needs editing.


And finally...

3. Bid often and Bid Reasonably Earlier I spoke about the hourly rate that is posted on your profile - now I'm talking about the hourly rate or fixed price rate that you enter onto the little application form that will accompany your cover letter. This bid can be different from what's posted on your profile - but it should still be reasonable. What do I mean by reasonable?


  • Make sure it is worth your time
  • Make sure it will cover your expenses (such as cost to withdraw)
  • If it is fixed price, make sure it reflects the amount of time you will be working on that project

Remember, it looks bad if your hourly rate on your profile says that you charge $10 per hour if you then bid on a project at $1 per hour... And you shouldn't let a client's budget dictate the level and quality of professionalism that you can provide. And bid often! I still continue to fill out my quota of 20 applications per week. *edited* The only time I slow down on my bidding is if I am beginning to get overloaded with projects. Don't send out just 2-3 applications and then get disheartened that neither one has accepted you yet. This doesn't mean sit down and apply to 20 jobs all in one day - spread them out. I read through just about every hourly job posted (I always filter out the fixed price jobs), but I probably apply to only 4-5 jobs every day, if that many. Be discerning - if the job isn't worth your time, wait a couple more hours and see what new jobs have been posted. It won't do you any good to apply to a job that you're only semi-interested in only to find a great job that you would love to work on but can't apply because you've reached your limit already. Okay - wow, this is really long. Hopefully this will help to get some of you started. But, long as this is - you also need to remember that this is not the most complete listing of advice, and it's not meant to be the end-all be-all or any sort of guarantee that following these steps will get you hired, just a system that works for me.


Remember to find your own niche - whatever works for you.


Hi all,


This thread has been closed from further replies due to its size.

Check out these articles to help you create a profile that stands out and improve your profile title and overview. For some great tips on writing proposals that win jobs, check out this article.


Visit our Resource Center and sign up for upcoming events and webinars to learn more about how you can boost your success on Upwork.


Thank you!


View solution in original post

1,396 REPLIES 1,396

I added it, but still, I don't get accepted in any job. Can you check it to see if I need to modify something? I really don't get it.

@Ahmed M wrote:

I added it, but still, I don't get accepted in any job. Can you check it to see if I need to modify something? I really don't get it.

 Your "profile overview" is not related to your "Title".  It should be engaging maybe you can tell your clients why they should hire you as a translator and writer. Another thing which I would SUGGEST is to use a different profile picture. Last but not the least "Studied English grammar and vocabulary for 12 years" can not be your employment experience. You can show this in your overview or Education section. I hope this helps. 


What should be different in my pic? And how can I tell the client to choose me in case I don't have previous experience? As I said I'm still a student.

You have worked on your profile but maybe your proposals are the problem? (Just saying..)

I'm starting to get confused now. Ok, any suggestions for proposals?

You can create new portfolio pieces any time. Create them for yourself. They don't need to be work you were paid to create. Just make new work that demonstrate your skill.


I think you look good in your photo (although I don't like the background).

I have a portfolio already that I created? Can you check it, please? Tell me your opinion.

@Ahmed M. wrote:

What should be different in my pic? And how can I tell the client to choose me in case I don't have previous experience? As I said I'm still a student.

Your picture is great. I would suggest something more formal with a different background as Preston already suggested.  There are so many "Entry Level" jobs start with those. In entry level jobs clients are willing to work with newbies.

Maryam is right on.


That background is used by too many questionable and low-skill freelancers.

But also: You've got the white edges on the left and right... which are distracting and make it look less professional.


I looked at your portfolio.


I don't like your portfolio because it has only one item in it.


Another big problem with your profile page is that you have 8 skills listed at the top of your page. You should really only have 1 or 2 skills at this point in your Upwork career, and they should be very closely related.


And you should have at least 5 portfolio items demonstrating your expertise in each skill. So if you have 8 skills, you should have at least 40 portfolio items. You have one.


Remove the excess skills and add multiple portfolio items to demonstrate your expertise in the one skill area/job niche you choose to work in.

I made some change. Please, take aa look again. Aside from the pic, I will try to change it later. I changed the overview and the portfolio. I created one and I'd like to know if I should create the rest 4 like this one or not. 

Community Member

Thanks.  I just signed on and I found your post to be very helpful.

Community Member

You give very helpful advice.. The beginning is always hard, i sent more than 13 offers, no one replied, i will try with your methods, it might help! 

Community Member

Got the first job by following your tips, waiting for the second one 🙂

Community Member

Hi there,


I'm very new to Upwork and i only just graduated, so i'm looking for my first job(s). I've just read through your advice and basically i was hoping to see what you think of my profile. I knew when i first signed up that it would be completely pointless applying for anything without filling it out, so i made sure that was the first thing i did. Because i've only just graduated i don't have any actual job experience, and no success score or rising talent badge etc. and this seems to be a problem for me. Even though i got a 1st Class Honours and spend time making sure the proposal is perfect with a detailed and confident cover letter, due to the algorithm of how clients recieve proposals there will always be someone with a rising talent badge or even one completed job that will show up first, and supposedly the client will have to go to a separate "view more" page to see other proposals like mine. 


If anyone has any advice at all please let me know, really skating on thin ice here financially and need to find a job fast. Proposed to lots of jobs already and just nothing whatsoever. 


Many thanks



Community Member



I am new on upwork and I have no Job success rate to show. So how can I apply or search for a job which do not require this term.



Siddharth, that requirement was set as a default. Clients often don't even realize it was there. You can still apply to the jobs. Just ignore the warning.

Thank you so much sir.

Hi Siddharth,


While you won't be able to filter out jobs that require Job Success score, you can still apply to them if you feel that you have the skills and experience needed to complete the job. Write great proposals and keep improving your profile.

~ Valeria

Thank you so much Valeria K.

Community Member

Is there any problem with my profile because am not getting any job?



Please, refer and reply to the notification the team sent you earlier this month about your profile issues. Thanks.

~ Valeria
Community Member

Hai..Really it helped me a lot.But I have a query ..Clarify for me..If i post without any portfolio as being an startup but with experienced team how to approach?


As a startup agency How to bid a Job .

Community Member

@Jebanand C wrote:

Hai..Really it helped me a lot.But I have a query ..Clarify for me..If i post without any portfolio as being an startup but with experienced team how to approach?


As a startup agency How to bid a Job .

 why does your agency say US but you're in India?

Hi Jebanand,


You apply to a job posting the same way a freelancer applies to a job. The only difference is that you need to be in your agency company account and select which agency freelancer is it you are applying a job for. To learn more about agencies please check this link.

Community Member

There isn't an oDesk readiness test anymore, so I should skip that part right?

Hi Juan, 

Here is a link to the Upwork Readiness Test. Good luck!

~ Avery
Community Member

Thank you, Naomi.

KI have already implemented some o your suggestions.  What do yo think of this email I received about making one's profile "private" if you haver not earned any dough on Upwpork in last 30 days?  We cannot control how clients behave!  So isnb't this puniative unnecessarily?




Community Member

I have been on upwork for a few years including when it was formerly Elance.


Here is what the harsh reality is as I see it:

  1. Getting that first job will take a while, possibly never.  Why?  Clients can filter out to only show contactors who meet criteria such as percentage of successful projects, min number of hours worked and so forth.  While this does not stop you from applying to a job, most clients will never look in the "B list" of applied applicants unless they are not finding what they need in the filtered "A list" of perferred applicants.
  2. A job shows client will pay top dollar but reality is that a good portion of clients wants top quality for low dollar  and that is where we as consultants give away services for nothing to get our foot in the door. You can write the perfect bid, which I have done in the past, even including visio diagrams of the work and client will not choose you, most likely becuase you don't want to work for $10
  3. Bid on the jobs that clients want to pay next to nothing but BE CAREFUL, state up front what you are going to do for them as this will help protect you from getting taken advantage of and use these low paying jobs to get your foot in the door and build your reputation.
  4. Stick to jobs with flat fees as a start,  It is easier in the beginning with these jobs for any disputes to be paid more especially if the client who wants you to work for $5/hour and then disputes it afters only 30 minutes of work


I have faired well because my stats from Elance were carried over to upwork. I have manged to find great clients with repeat business.


Good luck to all 🙂

Hi All,


I just started using upwork (but made a profile quite a long time ago), and I am looking to score that first job!




So, I have been working quite awhile, however I am reading that I should be only listing 1-2 skills?  Is that right?  Any other tips for my portfolio?


Thanks so much!


Hi Sarah Leigh, 


You can keep 10 skills on your profile, but I would recommend that you only list skills that are related to your job category. This way, clients will have an idea on what you can offer them.


Here's a link to the freelancer resources we compiled to help new users get started on the platform, gain tips, and insights on how you can improve your profile, and write stellar proposals. Good luck!

~ Avery
Community Member

how do I get my first order

re: "how do I get my first order"




Click here and follow the directions.

Community Member

How to get graphic Job?

re: "How to get graphic Job?"




You can get a graphic job by following the instructions for getting a graphic job that are found here:


Getting Started on Upwork


After you have read all of this and followed the instructions, if you have a SPECIFIC question which has not yet been addressed in the Forum, then you may post your question here.

Community Member

How to Get Project From Upwork Fast and Easy Methods
**Edited for Community Guidelines**

Community Member



Hi Aji,


Do you have any questions or issues you need help with?

~ Valeria

Hi Aji,



Do you want to know anything?

Community Member



I am new to Upwork and has Set my profile. 


Everytime am submitting a proposal and no response for that. Am not sure if I do it correctly or not.


Please guide me in how to find jobs


Awaiting your reply





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