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Success Stories: How To Be A Top Rated Freelancer in oDesk (Now UpWork)

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I thought it would be nice to write about how to be a top rated freelancer in oDesk (now Upwork) eversince it was announced but I realized it would be more awesome to hear other people’s stories and experiences rather than share my own. So I searched for people with a Top Rated badge using Twitter (hashtags helped a lot!) and I’ve found a lot of great people to interview and follow! I didn’t realize how inspiring they were until I’ve read their replies. I hope this would inspire you as much as it inspired me!

1Angela J. Ford, Nashville

Freelance Content and Project Manager, Fantasy Author and Inspirational Blogger with a passion for wellness, music business, creative writing & traveling!

Website: http://www.angelajford.com/

1. When did you start working as a freelancer?
February 2013

2. What made you want to work as a freelancer?
For the past year and a half I had been working two jobs, one was part time and one was full time. In order to work my part time job I had to leave my full time job a few hours early each day. However, they offered me a promotion and asked me to change my hours. I ended up quitting my part time job but still wanted the opportunity to have a second income while working on projects I enjoyed and learning and growing with other businesses and entrepreneurs. I’ve always had more of an independent streak especially since I was home schooled, which gives me the intrinsic motivation to stay focused on projects without someone else constantly looking over my shoulder.

3. What jobs have you worked in oDesk?
It took some time to find my sweet spot, my first few jobs were focused on article/blog writing. Once I received positive feedback I was able to progress to other projects I enjoyed more, such as working as a marketing assistant for two self-published authors in Australia and providing social media marketing for businesses in the UK and USA. I was honored to have the opportunity to serve as a Content Manager for an entrepreneur who wrote and published his first book (www.walkthroughfire.com) and worked as a Content Marketing Manager for an SEO Company. Overall my main goal has been to find more long-term projects and establish a working relationship with those I work with. I see freelancing as a double benefit, I only select the projects I will enjoy working on, I learn a lot from the people I work with and also earn extra income.

4. What contributed to your success in being one of oDesk’s Top Rated freelancers?
Time and patience. It’s certainly not something that happened overnight and setting up my profile and taking tests took lots of time and energy. I made my share of mistakes and worked on projects I did not enjoy at all. It’s all apart of the learning curve.

5. What is your advice to the upcoming freelancers?
Be patient and don’t give up. Setting up a profile, taking tests and applying for opportunities takes time and effort. You need to have the ability to keep going even after receiving rejections. You’ll make mistakes and learn from them, you’ll have great jobs, you’ll have some not so great jobs, but the most important things is to keep going.

Follow and connect with Angela on Twitter, @aford21.

2Brent Harris, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Freelance Graphic Designer. Always looking for new work. Always looking for new clients. Logos, branding, social media, illustrations and more.

Website: http://www.thedesigncompany.net/

1. When did you start working as a freelancer?
A: I’m what you would consider a newbie! Of course, I’ve always been doing creative stuff but it wasn’t until last year that I decided to take it a little more seriously. My first contract on oDesk was in August of 2014. I did a few more after that pretty quickly to get my “feet wet” then started the Harris Design Company shortly after.

2. What made you want to work as a freelancer?
A: I knew I had a lot of things bouncing around in my head that I needed to get out on paper. I spoke with a friend of mine one evening, who happens to be in IT, and he told me about oDesk as something to take a look at. The freedom freelancing provides a person is also a great incentive! The ability to create your own hours, be home more with family, and the fact that I can essentially do it anywhere there is an Internet connection is fantastic (and very exciting)!

3. What jobs have you worked in oDesk?
A: I have worked a variety of jobs since being on oDesk. Most of them tend to be around the branding side of things (logos, social media collateral, web design, etc.), but I will essentially do anything that I’m interested in (another perk to freelancing). If someone wants an illustration, or a comic book done, and it peaks my interest, I will definitely do it.

4. What contributed to your success in being one of oDesk’s Top Rated freelancers?
A: I believe that the key to any good business relationship is strong communication. Treat your clients as you would want to be treated. Don’t hesitate to go the extra mile, if possible. The client will notice all the hard work you are putting in. There are millions of clients and designers on these outsourcing platforms, and the easiest thing to do to help set you apart from the crowd is to treat your clients as best as you can. It will pay off in spades.

5. What is your advice to the upcoming freelancers?
A: If this is something you really want to do, don’t give up on it! There are a lot of naysayers out there who criticize the outsourcing industry from both a designer and client perspective. They say things like it not being financially lucrative, a waste of time, or that the low quality of work you get there detracts from the value of the industry as a whole. While there are certainly examples of all this on oDesk, it largely depends on what you as a freelancer put into it. Yes, there are freelancers on there that charge pennies on the hour for their work and this is unfortunate because they are really devaluing the work they do, but look at me; I recently just raised my rates again because I’m comfortable in the fact that I am charging what I deserve. If you do good work, (and work hard!), you will have no problem getting paid and having a satisfying freelance career!

Follow and connect with Brent on Twitter, @brentharrisgfx.

3Florencia Ortiz, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Asistente Bilingue Virtual, Intérprete de Leguaje de Señas, Estudiante de Comunicación Social, ¡Mamá y esposa, Full time!

1. When did you start working as a freelancer?
I´ve started in 2010 after my first daughter was born.

2. What made you want to work as a freelancer?
My daughter was born with cleft palate and her treatment would take several visits to different doctors making impossible to ask for permissions to get out early 2 or 3 times a week. All my experience was as a bilingual assistant so I´ve decided to start working as virtual assistant taking advantage of what I had more experience.

3. What jobs have you worked in oDesk?
At the beginning I was willing to do whatever job was available for a new oDesk from data entry, research to project manager.

4. What contributed to your success in being one of oDesk’s Top Rated freelancers?
I think communication is the first thing of all. Many employers complaint about not get responses. One of the most concerns for them is that you are doing what you suppose to do. All of us can have problems to not commit with a deadline or making the job in a wrong way but if you ask for all the questions while you are doing the assignment, if you communicate them that you are going to deliver the project maybe one day later they have a piece of mind that you are working for them.

5. What is your advice to the upcoming freelancers?
Take the time to build a good profile. Ask all the questions (there are not wrong ones) before starting and during the assignment. Try very hard to deliver the project sooner than the deadline if it is possible.

Follow and connect with Florencia on Twitter, @Florcita_Ortiz.

2Eugene Krevenets, Becici, Montenegro

Software Architect. JavaScript (angularjs, reactjs, node.js), GameDev (http://j.mp/darlingjs ), Python (ML), Java (for fun). http://j.mp/about-hyzhak

Website: http://hyzhak.github.io/

1. When did you start working as a freelancer?
2years

2. What made you want to work as a freelancer?
I decided to move from my previous job. But it was too hard to find other good job in short time. So I decided to earn some money for needs. But after 1st year I realised that I don’t really need office work.

3. What jobs have you worked in oDesk?
I have worked as frontend and full stack developer in variety of jobs. Most of them are startups.

4. What contributed to your success in being one of oDesk’s Top Rated freelancers?
None. it is really not important – you can find well payed job ever if don’t have any spending hours on odesk – I have such a friend. It is real.

5. What is your advice to the upcoming freelancers?
Do short and creative things, follow the best guys. Don’t spend time on what you don’t like there a lot of people that do it with pleasure, better find what do you really passion and do in online. Life is too short to spend on messy things.

Follow and connect with Eugene on Twitter, @hyzhak_en.

2erChristine Everth, Philippines

Manager. CEO.

Website: http://www.artetaonline.com

1. When did you start working as a freelancer?
I started working freelance in 2006.

2. What made you want to work as a freelancer?
When I got pregnant and had family, I stopped working. When my daughter is old enough to be left at home so I can go back to work, I realized that I couldn’t leave her and it is best for me to stay at home. That’s when I started looking for work online.

3. What jobs have you worked in oDesk?
I worked various jobs starting from data entry and general VA. Now, I work as project manager and wordpress web developer.

4. What contributed to your success in being one of oDesk’s Top Rated freelancers?
Leadership, teamwork, responsibility, professionalism and reliability contributed to my success. And most of all, respect and love for clients. They are all really nice and professional.

5. What is your advice to the upcoming freelancers?
Be diligent in finding work. Proper emailing and responding to clients. Use kind words always. And smile even if they can’t see you. It shows in how you write. :-)

Follow and connect with Christine on Twitter, @artetaonline and @christineeverth.

Christine will be releasing her ebook soon about what to say in interviews and meetings with your bosses and clients.

2Edvin Stokic

BPO, IR, Marketing, PR Advisor for SME’s and CORP’s | Tweeting about beneficial random things |

1. When did you start working as a freelancer?
2012/2013

2. What made you want to work as a freelancer?
Independence, flexible shifts, international clients, personal development, aspiration to assist as many clients possible

3. What jobs have you worked in oDesk?
PR and BDM for www.tiqqed.com

BDM and PR for www.readyrashid.com

and few minor projects like SEO and Web Development for www.faaronflorence.com

4. What contributed to your success in being one of oDesk’s Top Rated freelancers?

Brilliant clients, regular communication with everyone involved in projects

5. What is your advice to the upcoming freelancers?

Prepare for 24/7 work – its the only way to go higher

Follow and connect with Edvin on Twitter, @randomdudeEd.

1James Roberts

Editing and writing consultation.

Website: www.storymedic.com

1. When did you start working as a freelancer?

I started working on oDesk about two years ago, but I’ve been freelancing just over 17 years.

2. What made you want to work as a freelancer?

At the time, traditional publishing companies were being phased out. I needed to adapt to the changing market place, so I started freelancing and consulting with emerging online publishers.

3. What jobs have you worked in oDesk?

I’ve ghost written several books on oDesk, coached authors through the publishing process, and edited many manuscripts. I also take on the occasional odd job as a copy writer. However, I’ll no longer be freelancing through oDesk. I now work for a publishing company, and I recently established my own editorial agency. This should be the end goal for every freelancer—complete control over the clients they take on.

4. What contributed to your success in being one of oDesk’s Top Rated freelancers?

The key to being a top freelancer is, of course, an outstanding job success rate. This can only be accomplished through caution. Only accept contracts that you can complete to an exceptional standard. I have many, many complementary skills, but I’d never attempt to typeset a manuscript or design a cover. This is to say that it is better to be a specialist than a jack of all trades.

Always research your clients before accepting a contract. If a client constantly gives four-star reviews, you can bet you’ll also receive a four star review despite your stellar work.The same is true for job success rates; I’d be a perfect 100% if only I exercised more caution when choosing clients.

Often, clients will discuss a contract with a very brief idea of what they want. It’s our job to identify their requirements in order to avoid disappointment and poor reviews.

5. What is your advice to the upcoming freelancers?

To all prospective freelancers, don’t start small. The price of your first contract will become the measure for all future jobs. If you look at my profile, you will notice a pattern. I’ve incremented the rate of each job. My first job was $200, and I’m now up to $800. I can therefore justify charging $1000, but this process could have been streamlined if I just negotiated $500 for my first contract. As you gain experience, it’s only natural that you increase your rate. Failure to negotiate higher rates will ensure you are treated as an amateur.

My approach has always been quality over quantity. Each and every contract is essentially gambling that your client’s feelings remain favorable until review time. Although it is more profitable to turn over frequent small jobs, doing so only increases the likelihood of receiving a bad review, which isn’t sustainable long term.

Clients willing to pay higher rates come with higher expectations, but they also take the project seriously. This means they know exactly what they want, so you’re more likely to hit their targets and get a good review. On the other hand, budget clients typically have unrealistic expectations: they expect perfection, but they’re not willing to pay for it. This can only be bad for client and contractor alike.

Exercise caution and good luck.

Follow and connect with James on Twitter, @storymedic.

1Evgeniy Ognarev, Ukraine

2D Artist, Illustrator

1. When did you start working as a freelancer?
I started freelancing when studying art in University. Then continue after graduating in 2003 when working as designer in advertising studio. Full time freelancer I am from 2007.

2. What made you want to work as a freelancer?

I started as graphic designer in local advertising studios. But always was interesting in illustrations and animation. So I start searching for some freelance jobs related to illustration in internet. And there was odesk.com

3. What jobs have you worked in oDesk?

I understood that I need to be very niche specific to succeed as freelancer. So I choose only projects related to my core skills and with potential for portfolio. It was only 2d illustrations for games or books. Through last years I take part in creating big MMO game worlds, created small flash games, created illustrations for child books and animations for learning projects. Wide range of tasks but all related to 2d.

You can see samples in my portfolio https://www.behance.net/ognarev

4. What contributed to your success in being one of oDesk’s Top Rated freelancers?

I always take money for my job, always.

I do service for my clients not art for myself.

I try to select projects with potential for portfolio or at last very good money.

I work with clients who like my portfolio only.

I try to work with people that I like to work with.

I am very serious about deadlines. Deadlines are important.

I try to optimise workflow. If you can do something cool fast you will have more chances to get freelance job.

Learn your market and niche.

5. What is your advice to the upcoming freelancers?

Start with full-time job in best company you can find. Become professional. Then you will be able to move to freelance with no problem (with less problems to be true :)) Be ready to spent huge time on searching, negotiations, calculating and planning. Sheduling tool will be your best friend.

Follow and connect with Evgeniy on Twitter, @ognarev.

2Matt Keener, Indiana

Marketer, author. The original Exec in Sweats. Built successful home-based consulting biz @keenermarket & telling the world.

Website: http://executiveinsweatpants.com

1. When did you start working as a freelancer?
2009

2. What made you want to work as a freelancer?
I had been working for a start up company. Cash flow was extremely unpredictable, so I was looking for a way to supplement my income. I found oDesk, and I haven’t looked back since.

3. What jobs have you worked in oDesk?
I’ve worked for over 50 clients on virtually every continent. I tend to accept higher paying, ongoing consulting opportunities – specifically those focused on marketing strategy and marketing planning.

4. What contributed to your success in being one of oDesk’s Top Rated freelancers?
I take every client relationship very seriously. I never take on more clients than I can handle. In fact, I turn down more opportunities than I accept. My motto is “Under promise, over deliver.”

5. What is your advice to the upcoming freelancers?
Don’t be frustrated by all the low-paying jobs, especially fixed price jobs for less than $50. Don’t waste your time with them. Instead, look for ongoing opportunities in which you can shine. It’s OK to drop your hourly rate initially to win jobs, but you should have a strategy to increase your hourly rate with each new client. I went from $11 per hour in 2009 to over $50 per hour now.

Follow and connect with Matt on Twitter, @ExecInSweats.

2Stephanie Gonzaga, Cagayan de Oro

I write, blog, and create. staff writer @designgoodnow while manning my online shop: http://gumroad.com/heystef

Website: www.stefgonzaga.com

1. When did you start working as a freelancer?

I got my first freelancing gig in August 2008.

2. What made you want to work as a freelancer?

I was a sophomore at DLSU-Manila receiving monthly allowances from my folks back home. I wanted to earn my own income though, so I sought out work opportunities that fit my skills and that accepted me despite my being a student.

3. What jobs have you worked in oDesk?

All kinds of commercial writing. Informative articles, blog posts, web copy, product descriptions, etc.

4. What contributed to your success in being one of oDesk’s Top Rated freelancers?

#1 would have to be my skills in that I’m always learning and trying out new things. Right after would be consistent positive client feedback, being selective about the projects I work with, and providing quality service every time.

5. What is your advice to the upcoming freelancers?

Be smart about who you work with and the projects you accept. Analyse if the project is worth your time, pays you fairly, and gives you a sense of fulfilment and joy that you’re willing to get up in the morning to do it.

Follow and connect with Stef on Twitter, @stefgonzaga.

1Francesca Peachey, Suffolk, UK

Digital customer service virtual assistant for busy small businesses. Internet addict. Cat lover. Tea slurper. Charity shop fanatic.

Website: www.francescapeacheyva.com

1. When did you start working as a freelancer?

I started working as a freelancer nearly four years ago now.

2. What made you want to work as a freelancer?

I was out of work and not having much luck applying for any ‘traditional’ jobs which I’d always had before – vacancies were few and far between where I live and hundreds of people were applying to the same jobs, so it was disheartening to say the least – I decided to take my working situation into my own hands, registered myself as self employed and I began finding clients. I had nothing to lose (and as I found out, a lot to gain!)

3. What jobs have you worked in oDesk?

I started off with a few writing gigs but then landed my biggest job on there which was a customer service position with 99designs. Since I left 99designs, I have worked similar customer service positions and now market myself as a customer service specialist.

4. What contributed to your success in being one of oDesk’s Top Rated freelancers?

I think quite a few things – my friendly, honest and complete profile attracts people, and my reputation is the single most important thing to me so I have made sure I have chosen clients that I like, and jobs I know I fully understand. I always deliver what I say I’m going to deliver and I’m very responsive. I never ‘wing it’ and take a job, then learn how to do it later – because this can lead to problems and I feel is quite dishonest. I also have persevered in quieter times!

5. What is your advice to the upcoming freelancers?

Don’t give up – it does take time to build up your clients and work, and if you keep rewriting your profile to make it better and up to date, keep applying for jobs you like and stay responsive, you will get there!

Follow and connect with Francesca on Twitter, @FPeacheyVA.

I would like to thank everyone who made this article possible (my ideas have just become a reality, again!) :) It took more than a month to make this post (waiting for replies) but it was worth it reaching out to my fellow Top Rated freelancers. Hopefully this would inspire freelancers all over the world and encourage those who have been thinking of doing freelancing to make the first step. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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