How I landed my first client and gig in Upwork from Nepal

How I Landed My First Client and First Pay in Upwork from Nepal

I made my Upwork profile today (March 26, 2022).

I mean, I previously wanted to be a coder and customized a programmer profile based on the little coding I had done on Flutter. But I felt that I should focus on what I know best right now rather than go through a steep learning curve (and probably give up in the middle.)

So content writing it is!

The Upwork profile I started with.
The Upwork profile I started with.

Failure 1: Scams on Upwork

So this is how these scams work. I ventured across Upwork gigs that only wanted me to convert text on an image into a word document. It was an easy gig and ignoring the minimal pay, I thought it would at least give me something to start with and show later to more lucrative gigs.

But instead of encouraging you to apply through Upwork, their job description tells you to contact their “project manager” on Telegram.

The guy on Telegram then asks for your details, pretending to keep things formal. In my case, he even asked me to submit a sample. Pretending to be impressed, he will now ask you to choose one of the contract packages: more pay for more number of pages transcribed.

But here’s the catch. You will have to transfer them a minimum security deposit in order to “prove your commitment” on the job.

That’s when I knew this was all shady. In fact, I ventured across two of such gigs and both had the same trap.

Learning 1: I take help from Youtube

I then decide to type “Upwork content writing” on Youtube and consume whatever content Youtube recommends. I know nothing about writing on Upwork, I don’t know how to persuade clients to choose me over other freelancers. Since I am at rock bottom, any information is good information, I assume.

The second video on the Youtube results is this nerdy-looking Indian dude whose video thumbnail claims he earns $80 per hour. Since I am earning a full $0 an hour at the moment, I decide to hear his grammatically erroneous rant of course.

Learning about Upwork from Youtube
Link to video

Looks like the dude is among the top-rated freelancers in the content writing and SEO niche, and Upwork recommends such freelancers to clients instead of the other way around. That’s how this dude got the gig that paid him $80 an hour.

Quickly into the video, the guy sells me into clicking on another of his videos, one that teaches freelancers to write effective cover letters. These are the takeaways:

  1. Address them with their name. This makes it more personal for them and will keep them hooked.
  2. Address exactly what the job description focuses on or highlights.
  3. Attach past work. If you’re a newbie on the task, attach a self-made sample.
  4. Show positivity and intention to take this forward.
  5. Postscripts (P.S.) can be a game-changer. Write something that makes them want to talk to you.

Back into the initial video, I begin to like this Indian guy. He says something that sticks with me. Khalil, that’s his name, (and he turned out to be a Pakistani), says that most freelancers do the mistake of explaining their features on their profile. However, Khali’s client praised him for talking about the benefits that his work can bring to the client.

I then quickly go back to my Upwork profile and dab a few things up differently. I change my profile description to this:

I can communicate better with your audience because I research well. I understand that your website/ brand has a reputation to live up to. With intensive research on the purpose of the writing and personality of the end audience, I can craft a piece that speaks directly to them.

I like to write content that is simple to read and follow through (without unnecessarily fancy wording that disrupts flow). This increases audience engagement and people stay on the platform longer. This will raise your chances of generating higher revenue.

Damn, bruh’s good. Subscribed.

Proposal 1: Blog writing for an Indian client.

This is my cover letter:

Hi, I see that you are looking for a content writer. I would have better understood your needs if you had posted a more detailed job description. Nonetheless, I have experience writing across multiple industries, the most prominent of them being in the health niche, stock market investing, and travel. I assume that you wouldn’t want to download samples on your computer, so I post the links to my work samples here instead:

Result: No reply yet.

Proposal 2: Ghostwriting for an American client

Result: No reply yet.

Proposal 3: Translation Services (Desperate to land a job that can at least give me good recommendations)

Result: No response received.

Proposal 4: Even data entry works, please. Anyone?

My cover letter for this gig:

Hi, I am willing to do this job. While I am a content writer by profession, I need recommendations from clients on Upwork to kickstart a freelance career here. Hope to hear from you soon.

Result: No reply yet.

Proposal 5: I’ll even extract emails for you!

Cover Letter: Hi, I can do it. It will be an easy task, I will communicate with you fluently and do the job fast.

Result: Haven’t heard back from them as of now.

Proposal 6: Finally!

My cover letter: Hi, man. I love your honesty. I scored higher than 98% of test-takers in a worldwide English test. While I consume content in English voraciously, I have also been trained by an American professor for over a year. Apart from this, I have also worked as a digital marketer and a media officer at reputed companies. I know what you are trying to say: you have translated the text but aren’t sure if the writing has its essence and flow intact. I can review your piece for diction and clarity. You don’t have to pay me, just leave me a recommendation here on Upwork as this is my first time here. I hope to hear from you.

The client then contacted me, he submitted a document that was jumbled and all over the place. Apparently, he had used Google translate to convert his marketing campaign report in Ukrainian to English.

The text had numerous issues. While grammatically correct, the sentences lacked coherence and proper flow. Meanwhile, there were also a few grave errors. Google translate, for example, had translated a word into “tape,” but what he meant was “feeds”, as in Instagram and Facebook feeds.

I also put an effort into genuinely helping him with the minor but sensitive issues in his writing. Overall, he was thankful and went a long way to write me a glowing recommendation.

Wrapping Up

I never imagined I could land a gig on Upwork on my sixth proposal. I made my profile yesterday (at the time of writing) and landed a gig today.

Honestly, not trying to sound condescending, I was prepared to face 50 rejections before I landed my first gig. This is because I stumbled into Upwork a few years ago: After a few unsuccessful attempts, I burned my profile and hopes away, promising to never return.

I then learned from blogs and videos that landing the first gig is the hardest part on this platform.

There are a few things that motivated me to try it one more time after an eternity-long break. I learned and realized that landing a gig on Upwork is like making door-to-door sales. Even after 99 rejections, a good salesman knocks on the 100th door with the same energy that he did on the very first door.

Like Dan Pena says, life is a numbers game!

With this, your boy is now in Upwork for real.

P.S. I still think I was lucky this time. You may have to submit 20 or 25 proposals before you land your first gig. That wouldn’t bug me. Seriously. I was determined to keep applying without getting discouraged. Because I had tried being impatient before, and that didn’t turn out well. So my advice to you is to keep trying, while you keep improving your profile. Remember, however, that submitting five persuasive, well-written proposals is better than spamming a fifty their way.

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