How to Get High-Paying Clients on Upwork - Self-Made Web Designer

How to Get High-Paying Clients on Upwork

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Hi, I'm Chris and I'm super glad you're here. 7 years ago I taught my self-web design and freelancing. Now, I do my best to teach others what I've learned so they don't have to struggle as much as I did.

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“Can you really get high-paying clients on Upwork?”

That’s a question I’m asked a lot.

It’s not always that direct BUT every so often someone will mention something slightly negative about it in passing.

It comes in forms of:

“Upwork is fine…if you’re just getting started.”

Or

“If things get slow enough I guess I could give it a shot.”

The general idea is that Upwork isn’t truly for serious freelancers because the clients there are all looking for the cheapest labor possible. So, if you charge more than a few hundred dollars for a website then you’re better off looking for web design projects elsewhere.

The problem with that is…it’s just not true. It hasn’t been for me and for tons of my fellow freelancing friends.

My work history on my profile is filled with projects that range from $3000 to $6000 jobs.

In fact, this last year I turned down a $10,000 project I was offered on Upwork because I didn’t have enough time for it.

Look, I’m not trying to brag. I just want you to know that you CAN IN FACT find high-paying clients on Upwork.

It’s not even that unusual.

The Truth About Finding High-Paying Clients on Upwork

Sure, there are plenty of opportunities to take low paying projects from clients that probably suck. But, from my experience, your ability to find high-paying clients on Upwork has a lot more to do with YOU the freelancer than it does with Upwork OR the clients that post projects on there.

Upwork is not a platform that you can hop on and find a cash cow project right away. It takes some work and intentionality.

BUT, if you’re up for it and willing to stick around, it can be a source of consistent high-paying projects.

So, let’s talk about what I’ve learned in my nearly 6 years of being on the platform. Here are the 4 main things that I’ve found that help me find high-paying clients on Upwork.

Good Testimonies are Worth Their Weight in Gold

Upwork evaluates freelancers on a system they call the “Job Success Score.” It’s a percentage based system that tells all of your clients how well you typically do on a project.

If you want to be in the coveted “Top-Rated Freelancer” group you’ve got to have a Job Success Score of 90% or above.

They’re a bit secretive on how they evaluate freelancers and with good reason. Upwork’s goal is to keep people from gaming the system.

The ultimate goal is that the best freelancers truly get the best Job Success Score not just ones that have figured out how to cook the books.

Despite that, there are a few things that they do admit have an impact on your score. Things like:

  • Good public and private ratings from your clients
  • Repeat customers AND/OR clients that stick around for a long time with you
  • Higher paying projects

The only reason I go into to detail on this is because your Job Success Score is THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR to finding high-paying clients on Upwork.

If you’re going to find good, high-paying clients on Upwork you’re going to need a strong Job Success Score.

When you’re first getting started on the platform that’s pretty difficult. You have a clean slate even if you’ve been a freelancer for a decade in your field.

If you don’t have a Job Success Score it just doesn’t mean much.

So, the question becomes, “how do I get a good Job Success Score quickly.”

Here’s some tough truth that you might not like:

You have to be willing to take a lower rate at first.

I know some of you are thinking, “Whoa, whoa, whoa there Chris. You told me this was going to be all about finding high-paying clients on Upwork and now you’re telling me I have to take lower rates.”

I get the confusion BUT here’s the thing it doesn’t have to be for forever. It doesn’t even have to be for very long.

You just need to have a few positive reviews under your belt in order to start attracting higher-paying clients.

Once you get a few good reviews it’s time to start raising your rates. But, if you’re going to swing for the fences right out of the gate you might have a tough time finding that first project

That being said there are a few ways around this:

1. Bring your own client onto Upwork

One easy way to get good feedback without necessarily having to take a lower price is to bring your own clients onto Upwork.

You will be charged the standard Upwork fees and that’s never fun. BUT you’ve got to look at it as an investment. You might be taking a cut from your hard earned money now BUT you’ll soon have access to tons of high-paying projects that you don’t have to go out and find yourself.

To do this all you have to do is send your client your Upwork profile. They’ll have to sign up for the platform and post the job making it available only to you.

2. Get past clients to give you testimonies

There’s a feature on Upwork where you can have non-Upwork clients write you testimonies and have it show up on your profile.

This is a great way to prove to potential clients that you are worth a high-paying project without necessarily having the Upwork job-related testimonies to prove that.

To add an outside testimony scroll down towards the bottom of your profile. You’ll see a section titled “Testimonies.”

Upwork Testimonials section on Upwork Profile

From there click the add button and a modal will pop up with information to fill out.

Upwork form to get non-Upwork Testimonies to increase your chances of finding high-paying clients on Upwork

Fill it out and click “Request Testimonial” and boom instant credibility.

Even if you’re just getting started as a web designer. Getting testimonies from former employers about work ethic or your ability to learn quickly can be super helpful in the process.

No matter how you do it getting good testimonies and a solid Job Success Score is the single most important factor in finding high-paying clients on Upwork.

Filter Your Search to Find High-Paying Clients on Upwork

Yes there are tons of possible jobs for you on Upwork BUT not all of them are good ones. One key to finding high-paying clients on Upwork is being able to filter through potentially hundreds of projects that aren’t worth your time.

Thankfully, Upwork has some great search filtering options that can weed out the projects that aren’t for you.

To do this right you need to go to the advanced search filters. There’s a few ways to get to it BUT the easiest I’ve found is by clicking the little green briefcase with a checkmark on it in the search bar.

Upwork job board with arrow pointing where to click to find advanced search options

Once you’re there you’ll see a lot of filter options for you to work with.

Filter options on the advanced search  in Upwork

The main filter we’re looking for is the “Budget” filter. It’s down a little bit from the top.

Upwork budget filter to find high-paying clients on Upwork

As you can see from this screenshot. There are 392 different jobs with budgets of $5k or more in my category alone.

From there you can save custom searches that go directly to your immediate job board.

Screenshot showing you how to save your search to find high-paying clients on Upwork

As you can see there are MORE THAN ENOUGH ways to filter your job search to make sure the low-paying jobs stay off your feed giving you much more of a chance to finding the high-paying projects.

Be First in Line for High-Paying Clients on Upwork

A lot of times clients will get anywhere from 50 – 100 bids on their projects. That’s a lot to filter through to find the right freelancer AND a lot of other freelancers that you’ll be competing with.

Upwork has tried to make sure that the freelancers that have the right skills and qualifications rise to the top of those bids. BUT, I still find a pretty heavy correlation between being one of the first 5 freelancers to bid on a project to actually winning it.

So, one key part of actually winning high-paying projects on Upwork is being quick to the draw. Fortunately, one way to make sure you get notified every time a high-paying job shows up is to add a saved search as an RSS feed on a news app.

On your job board, select a saved search.

Saved search for high-paying clients on Upwork

Then click the ellipsis to the right of the search title.

Screen shot to show how to save a search as an RSS feed

You’ll get a link that you can add to any newsfeed app on a mobile device. A lot of apps even allow you to be notified when a new “job” pops up. That way you can be the first person to apply rather than the 50th.

Be a Good Freelancer

At the end of the day, getting high-paying clients on Upwork is like getting high-paying clients anywhere: if you want to get paid more you have to be a good freelancer.

Being a good freelancer doesn’t just happen overnight. It takes practice, a hefty amount of failures and learning to keep going when things get tough.

So my biggest encouragement to you is rather than trying to figure out some hack for landing high-paying clients on Upwork focus on getting better a little bit on every project.

When I first started as a web designer I was doing it as a side hustle. I only had about 18 hours a week to work on projects and improve.

Sometimes the slow pace drove me crazy. BUT, my thought was if I just improve a little bit over each project eventually I’ll be a world-class freelancer.

So, I focused on things like growing my skillset and even deepening the skillset I already had.

And, listen this isn’t just about being the best person there is at whatever you’re expertise is in.

As a web designer, I’m shocked to see how much some freelancers get away with charging their clients. In my opinion, their skill does not match the price their clients are being paid.

But, they’ve figured out how to attract the perfect high-paying client with the things that matter the most to the client.

Things like:

  1. Knowing how to project manage
  2. Communicating well with your clients
  3. Hitting deadlines
  4. Knowing who your ideal client really is
  5. Niching down and learning how to serve a specific industry really well

All of these things add up and lead you to finding high-paying clients on Upwork.

Learning these things take time. BUT, if you stay focused on the long-term it will really pay out in the end.

Don’t Give Up on Finding High-Paying Clients on Upwork

High-paying clients on Upwork is not an oxymoron.

Despite what some may say it is 100% possible to make a very good living on Upwork alone as a freelancer.

But, you’ve got to realize that if you’re going to find high-paying clients on Upwork you’re going to have to give it some time.

It took me 3 months on the platform before I even landed my first gig. And, most of the freelancers I’ve talked to have had similar stories.

So, stay patient and stay focused and eventually the high-paying clients on Upwork will start coming to you.

You’ll Learn

  • How to find high-paying clients on Upwork
  • How to get feedback and testimonies even if you’re new to the platform
  • How to master the search functionality on Upwork
  • How to add saved searches to an RSS feed
  • How to be first in line when high-paying projects pop-up on the platform
  • How to grow as a freelancer

Man at coffee shop talking on phone to signify how happy you'll be when you find high-paying clients on Upwork

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Hi, I'm Chris and I'm super glad you're here. 7 years ago I taught my self-web design and freelancing. Now, I do my best to teach others what I've learned so they don't have to struggle as much as I did.

Every week, I write an article and release a podcast episode. Sign up if you want to get notified when that happens.

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Comments

  1. Samantha says:

    Very helpful and practical. I had just been thinking it would be nice if past clients could provide a reference, and apparently they can.

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