How to Make a Winning Upwork Profile - Self-Made Web Designer

How to Make a Winning Upwork Profile

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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.

Don’t want to read almost 3,000 words about making a winning Upwork profile. I got you. Here’s a podcast!

A good Upwork profile is absolutely essential to attracting and landing clients on Upwork.

I mean, think about it from the client’s perspective. 

You’ve got a job and you need to hire someone. BUT, you don’t know anyone personally who can do the job for you. SO, your solution is to turn to strangers online.

How scary is that?!

How do you know for sure that they won’t just take your money and walk away? OR what if you put a ton of time and effort into a project only to come to the end and find out the freelancer just isn’t able to get it done for you the way you need it to be done?

The answer: you do everything to find out as much as you can about the person you’re about to hire. And where do you turn to do that?

You guessed it: an Upwork profile.

This is one of the key elements to building trust with a client and making them feel confident that you are the right freelancer for the job.

So you’ve got to make sure your Upwork profile is flawless.

So, here are some things you can do to make sure you’ve got a strong Upwork profile that wows your future clients and makes you stand out as a freelancer.

1. Have a Specific Person in Mind  

When you’re creating your Upwork profile you need to be thinking about the exact type of client you’d love to work with.

It’s really easy to be tempted to say you’d love to work with anyone that is willing to pay you.

And, I get that. BUT, at the end of the day, you’ll be able to get more clients at higher rates if you decide to focus on a specific type of client with a specific set of needs. 

AND, ultimately, your Upwork profile will stand out more if you niche down and speak directly to a very particular type of client.

Hardly any freelancers do this. So, you’ll already have a leg up if you decide to get really focused on who you’re trying to reach in your Upwork profile.

How do you do that?

Your Skills

You can do it in the skills you choose to promote on your profile.

What does your perfect client want you to be good at? What are they hoping you’ll be able to do?

Those are the skills you want to focus on.

You only mention the things that are important to your ideal client.

You’d think the best thing to do would be to list every possible thing someone might want to hire you for in your skills section. You’d be wrong.

I’m sure there’s a lot of things you CAN do but you need to focus on a few specific things.

When I first got started I had spent a lot of time working on a wordpress Plugin/Theme called Optimize Press. So, even though it’s a really obscure skill to list I added it to my bundle. 

Sure enough, the first few jobs I got were all using Optimize Press. 

See, people aren’t looking for someone who is a jack of all trades. They’re looking for someone that is good at the specific thing they are looking to have done.

For the people that hired me, they wanted an expert in Optimize Press. 

Your Description Paragraph

You also do that in your description paragraph. What’s your description paragraph you may ask?

That’s the paragraph that comes right under your title and your hourly wage. 

This is the perfect place to speak to the anxieties and the hopes and dreams of your clients. Talk about what they might be looking for specifically. Address any concerns you know they might have.

And, do it all before they have to click on the read more button. Because, as we all know people skim and don’t make much effort at first glance.

Your Title

Another great place to speak directly to your ideal client is in your title. 

Get specific! 

Rather than just say you’re a web designer or wordpress developer, tell them you’re a WordPress Developer for Course Creators or a UX Designer for SaaS (Software as a Service) companies.

The more specific and detailed you can get for a specific client the more your Upwork profile is going to stand out.

2. Make it all about the client…not you

The first thing you need to do is to make sure your Upwork profile is focused on your client NOT YOU.

Hear me out. I know that sounds weird. After all, this is YOUR profile, right?

But, here’s something I learned from Donald Miller’s Story Brand framework: 

your client isn’t looking for you to be the hero of their story.

They want you to help THEM be the hero of THEIR story. And, you don’t do that by trying to convince them of how awesome you are.

You do that by showing them you know their struggles and you’ve helped other people like them overcome similar challenges. AND you’re passionate about helping them and their business/organization/project succeed.

So, many freelancers get this wrong. 

Their profile focuses almost entirely on how awesome they are, how many skills they’ve got, how many years of experience they have. And listen, none of that is bad per se.

But, if you can’t bring that all back to the client’s success then it’s just not as powerful.

So, for sure, talk about yourself BUT always bring it back to why that helps the client accomplish their own goals and ultimately helps them become the hero of their own story.

Donald Miller explains it really well in this 2-minute video.

3. Fill Out Everything and I Mean Everything

There should be no stone unturned in your Upwork profile. In other words, if there’s a place to add something you better believe it’s important for you to fill it in.

We’re talking outside testimonies, employment history, a video, the school you went to, certifications, absolutely everything.

The truth is you never know what’s going to be the tipping point for someone hiring you over another freelancer.

Clients are sometimes faced with an overwhelming amount of freelancer applications. And, when that happens it’s tough to know why applicant number 13 is much different than applicant number 34.

So, you go with stuff that doesn’t matter like a mutual hobby. Sounds funny but it’s true! It’s happened to me.

I’ve gotten hired because I went to college in Dallas, Texas. I’ve gotten hired because they liked my video. 

So, don’t leave it to chance. Make sure your Upwork profile is 100% filled out.

It also gives you the added benefit of being eligible to be a top rated freelancer on the platform.

Here are a few underutilized Upwork profile options that I don’t see a lot of freelancers fill out. So, doing these is like an easy win!

The video

The video option is one of the most underused features of the Upwork profile. BUT, it’s one of the best ways to connect with your client and help them see what it would be like to work with you.

I’ve literally gotten an $8k job from my Upwork profile video. Like the client said, “I’m hiring you because of your video.”

And, here’s the deal, I did the thing from my laptop with the computer camera and microphone.

You’re not a Hollywood producer and clients don’t expect that from you. Having a clear video with a little music in the background can go a long way. 

Make sure to script out what you’re going to say before you go into it and don’t settle for a bad take. You can do it as often as you like before anyone sees it!

Your Location

I’ve gotten interviews solely based on the fact that I was close to the client. So, don’t leave this puppy out.

You might be saying, “But, I’m in an area of the world that people might look down upon where I live.”

I get the fear in that and honestly, I think someone’s dumb if they don’t hire you just because you’re from a certain part of the world.

BUT, here’s the thing: I can tell when someone is lying about their location. See, I’ve been a client on Upwork as well as a freelancer.

I’ve looked at profiles and been able to pick out whenever someone is lying about their actual location or added some fake headshot that’s actually a stock photo.

Trust me, it’s not difficult.

So, be honest. When I see those things it’s an immediate dismiss from me. I’d rather you be honest about your situation than make up some fake story about who you are.

Other Experiences

There’s a section at the bottom where you can list employment, hobbies, education, etc. You might not think it’s a big deal. BUT, it can be.

Some clients want to feel like they’re connected to you. There’s no way to do that if all they know about you is your skills as a web designer.

So, use this as an opportunity to present yourself as an approachable human being.

Listen, some people won’t care about this section. And, that’s fine. Those people probably won’t make it down that far through your profile anyways. 

But, some people will.

So, use that opportunity to share a bit about yourself in order to make a personal connection with all of your potential clients

4. Don’t Hold Back on Outside Testimonies

One thing that is fairly new to the Upwork profile world is the ability to add outside testimonies to your profile.

That’s great news for folks who are new to the platform but not new to freelancing. You can now add social proof and ease the fear of clients without having to get any jobs on Upwork.

Some of the more impressive profiles that have done this did not cap the number of people they asked to give them a testimonial.

I’m serious. They had like 7 or 8. 

Just think about how that puts a client’s heart at ease. When you have that many people willing to vouch for you as a freelancer it can really show just how good of a job you’ll do without you having to have “Upwork proof” or projects that you’ve gotten from the platform directly.

Now, you may be new to the world of freelancing OR in the skill that you’re trying to freelance for on Upwork. Just because you don’t have testimonies related to that specific skill doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for outside testimonials.

Do you have a boss that would be willing to vouch for you?

Someone you’ve worked with who can talk about your character or ability to stick it through until a job is done?

Really, anyone willing to say something nice about you could be helpful.

One word of caution. DO NOT get fake outside testimonies. 

First of all, your integrity is worth more than getting a job on Upwork. AND, if you’re willing to compromise on small things when it comes to being honest, you’ll eventually be willing to compromise on big things. So, for yourself, just don’t do it.

BUT ALSO, Upwork is pretty good at figuring out who’s trying to cook the books. I’ve seen many a post on Reddit from users who were kicked out or banned from freelancing for doing things like this.

So, always go the way of integrity even if it takes you longer to be successful.

5. Spruce Up Your Portfolio 

An updated portfolio is one of the last things most freelancers make time for. BUT, it’s one of the most important things you can stay on top of as a freelancer ESPECIALLY with your Upwork profile.

Your portfolio is one of the biggest indicators a client has to know what you’re able to accomplish. And, if what you’re showing them isn’t a true representation of what you’re capable of then you’ll have a hard time impressing them with where you’re at NOW.

So, take some time and give your portfolio some love. It’ll be well worth the effort.

AND, when you do, think about it from your client’s perspective.

What are they wanting to see?

How would they want your work to be displayed?

Remember, most clients are just going to skim before they decide to really dive in.

That means they’re only going to see the little tiny portfolio thumbnails.

screenshot showing you how small the portfolio thumbnails are on your Upwork profile

So, make sure you are doing your work justice on a really small scale. Don’t make it tough to see your work by putting it in some fancy mock-up.

Think of this as a Dribbble shot. You want to be able to stand a few feet back from it and still be impressed by it. ESPECIALLY, if you’re doing any kind of design work.

You can also tie any portfolio image to an actual job you’ve done on Upwork. So, your portfolio images will show up in your feedback feed when you do have a completed job on Upwork with client feedback.

It’s not something a lot of freelancers do and can help you really stand out.

Screenshot showing you how to tie your portfolio to an actual project on your Upwork profile

Here’s the thing. It’s important to do as much as you can with your portfolio. Fill the thing up until there’s no more room left. 

The more chances you have to show a client something similar to what they’re looking for the better.

It’s tough for people to connect the dots sometimes. I’ve had so many clients tell me the reason they chose me was that they saw something in my portfolio that reflected what they were looking for in their own project

The reality is I know I can give a client what they’re looking for even if I don’t have a similar project in my pocket. BUT, they don’t know that. So, it’s my job to bridge the gap between what they want and what they see in ME.

You’ve got a few options if you don’t have any portfolio work to show from jobs that you’ve done because you’re new.

The first thing you can do is put anything that you’ve got that is somewhat related to the work you’re trying to do on Upwork in your portfolio.

For instance, when I first got started on Upwork I only hand 3 web design projects to my name. BUT, I had a few graphic design things I did for a band I was in. SO, guess what I put on my portfolio!

You can also do your own non-paid projects. If you’re a web designer who made their own website PUT IT IN YOUR PORTFOLIO.

Do “mock” projects while you’re waiting to get work. Create a made-up business’s website. Redo a well-known website and add your own spin. 

BUT WHATEVER YOU DO, always keep creating something. And, when you finish something put it in your portfolio.

6. Don’t Underestimate a Good Headshot

Your headshot on your Upwork profile is the like front door to your house. And, if your front door looks like something out of a scary movie clients are going to run away in fear!

So, it’s important that you take some time to craft a good headshot for your Upwork profile.

If you can, spend some money on a good professional headshot from a real photographer.

It may cost a little bit upfront BUT you’ll be able to use it over and over again. BUT, if you don’t have the money to spend on professional headshots our phones are great alternatives IF YOU DO IT RIGHT.

Here are a few tips to master the headshot even if you’re using your phone:

1. Use a good backdrop. You’re trying to make this look like you didn’t take the photo on your phone next to your bathroom. 

That’s not to say you CAN’T use your phone and stand next to the bathroom. You just have to make sure it doesn’t look that way.

So, a nice neutral background works well if nothing else. Just be intentional.

2. Edit the photo. Our phones have so many cool features these days. There’s no excuse to have a bad photo on your profile. 

Utilize the “depth of field” setting where your face is the focal point and everything else is blurred out.

Download a good editing app like Adobe Lightroom and mess with the presets. It doesn’t have to be an award-winning photo. You just have to try!

3. Have someone else take the photo. Seems pretty straight forward right? I see so many headshots with people’s arms extended to the camera revealing the fact that their headshot was, in fact, a selfie.

How easy is it to ask someone to take a picture for you? A friend, a family member, heck if we’re close in proximity shoot me an email and I’ll do it for you!

4. Look good. Take a shower before the photo. Do your hair. Smile.

But, whatever you do, make sure you are intentional about your headshot. This is the very first thing a potential client will see.

Make Your Upwork Profile Stand Out

The bottom line is you have to be as intentional as you can and try to think about your profile from the perspective of your client.

If you were hiring someone on Upwork what things would you want to know about the freelancer before you decided to give them the project?

That’s how you have to think about your own Upwork profile

After all, this is kind of a scary thing. You’re giving money to someone you’ve never actually met in person. It could either go really well or really badly!

Help ease their worries and make a winning Upwork profile by doing everything I’ve outlined here.

Hopefully, you feel a little bit more confident about your profile as an Upwork freelancer. And, remember you can make tweaks and adjustments to see what really works.

You’re not locked out of editing your description after the first try. If you’re running into a slow season try making some adjustments to your profile. Test to see if it makes a difference.

But, whatever you do DON’T GIVE UP if you’re struggling to land projects on Upwork. Keep dialing in your Upwork profile and eventually, you’ll unlock the code and start landing clients because of your amazing profile.

Profile with a green circle

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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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  1. Seema says:

    Great tips Chris! Always enjoy your posts
    and love your podcasts, always encouraging!

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