Why Upwork isn't a Race to the Bottom - Self-Made Web Designer

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Why Upwork isn’t a Race to the Bottom

Chris Misterek

I hear it pretty consistently.

“Upwork is a race to the bottom. The only people that go on there bid so low I can’t compete with them.”

Let me set the record straight.

Upwork isn’t a race to the bottom. It’s a platform that you can make really good money IF you’re a good web designer.

How do I know? Because I’ve found a lot of success on Upwork.

Not only was I able to earn $70k in my free time as a web designer. BUT, I also used the portfolio I had built from the projects I got on Upwork to land a full-time UX/web designer position.

I’m incredibly grateful for Upwork and actually thankful for all the opportunities it provides not just to me but to people all over the world.

BUT, establishing yourself as a high-value freelancer on Upwork isn’t always a walk in the park.

You’ve got to be willing to invest time and effort into the platform. But, that investment WILL EVENTUALLY PAY OFF.

If you do the work you can side-step the race to the bottom. Here are a few things I’ve found that can make you a freelancer that quality clients love to hire.

  1. Don’t Take Cheap Projects

    It seems pretty obvious, right?

    I’ve found $10k projects on Upwork. And, I consistently won jobs anywhere from $4k to $7k.

    To be fair, there are more small jobs than high-priced ones.

    But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any.

    It just means you have to learn how to look for them.

    Dialing in how you filter the jobs you see in your feed is one of the best things you can do.

    When I first got started I was open to taking anything. But, as time progressed I didn’t want to do a job for anything less than $1k.

    So, I’d filter out any job that was less than that.

    Later on, my prices went up. So, I filtered the jobs that had a higher price.

  2. Don’t Take Beginner Projects

    When someone posts a job they have to specify what level of freelancer they’re looking to hire.

    It ranges from beginner to intermediate to expert.

    You have to remember that a lot of the people hiring on here have never hired a freelancer before and might not even know what they really need.

    BUT, suffice it to say, I’ve never seen a “beginner” level project that was looking to pay a high-value freelancer.

    Sometimes “beginner” means, “I don’t want to pay that much.”

    Be leary of phrases like, “this shouldn’t take a pro too long.” That instantly gives them away as a nightmare client.

    Bidding on beginner projects can be a good strategy when you’re just getting started.

    Even if you’re a pro who’s been doing this for X number of years, you might find it difficult to land a project at the very beginning.

    So, don’t be too proud to take a simple beginner project. When you start getting feedback you start becoming more appealing to the really good jobs.

    So, start there BUT don’t stay there.

    Once you have a few under your belt it’s time to go intermediate. Then once you’ve got a few intermediates under your belt it’s time to go for expert-level projects.

  3. Serve a Niche

    Being all things to all people isn’t a good thing in business.

    One of the best things to do on Upwork is to know EXACTLY who you want to serve.

    And, please, don’t tell me that you are the perfect web design freelancer for small to mid-size businesses.

    That narrows the market down to MILLIONS.

    You need to be more fine-tuned than that.

    For instance, I know million-dollar web design companies that only build websites for HVAC companies.

    I didn’t even know there were that many HVAC companies in the world.

    Here’s what happens. When you focus on one, really specific type of client you become the expert for that type of company.

    When people are looking to hire freelancers they are looking for an expert in their field.

    They don’t want a great web designer. They want a great real estate web designer, OR they want a great food blog web designer.

    If you don’t niche by the type of client you serve, you could niche by the thing you do.

    I talk about how I got really good at a plugin called OptimizePress when I first got started and marketed myself as an OptimizePress expert.

    Sure enough, the people that were looking for work to be done with that platform would come to me first.

    You can read more about that here.

  4. Communicate Value

    At the end of the day, if you don’t know why you’re worth as much as you’re charging you’ll have a hard time demanding higher prices.

    Things like, “this is what I get paid at my full-time job,” or “this is how many years of experience I have,” means absolutely nothing to a potential client.

    They want to know that the money they give you will be very small in comparison to the money that you’ll make them.

    So, bridge the gap between the skills you have and how it adds value to their company.

    Every time I talk to a client I make it a point to figure out what their needs are as a BUSINESS not just what their web design needs are.

    Knowing that helps me to know whether or not they even really need a web designer to take them to the next level.

    It also lets them know that I’m trying to think about their “big picture.”

    I’m not just here to make a quick buck on a one-off project. I want to partner with them to see their business grow through their website.

    It’s the old adage that people don’t want the tool they want the outcome.

    “People don’t want a drill. They want a hole in the wall.”

    If you can’t communicate why what you have to offer will help them grow as a company or individual it will be tough to compete with people who are racing to the bottom.

The gig economy has really changed the nature of the workforce.

Now, you aren’t just competing with people in the town you live in. You’re competing with people from around the world.

It’s sometimes tough to compete with people who are doing the same exact work that you are for less than a fraction of the price.

BUT, there will always be people that are willing to pay a good price for a quality web designer.

So, don’t get discouraged by the naysayers. And, don’t let their negativity keep you from going for it.

After all, every person that chooses to not even try Upwork because they’re worried it’s a race to the bottom is one less person you have to compete with for the great number of quality jobs on there.

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