UpWork: Job Search Tips & Tricks

UpWork: Job Search Tips & Tricks

6 Tips for Better Results


4 min read

UpWork is a great way for developers to start freelancing, and build an online profile with customer reviews to help gain further clients. But it can be a little tough to get started and close the deal on those first few jobs. Sure, there are plenty of jobs listed, but there are also TONS of developers applying-- sometimes 50+ on a single job.

So how do you get started?

How do you get noticed and gain those first few clients?

It's a numbers game. 🎲

And there are a few simple ways to drastically improve your chances. 🎯

But before we get to the tips, I should mention UpWork Connects and the free plan limitations.

  • Applying to a job requires at least 2 connects for most jobs, unless you are invited to apply.
  • The free plan limits users to 10 connects per month, or only 5 applications :(
  • Additional connects can be purchased for $0.15 (USD) each and are sold in bundles of 10, 20, 40, 60, and 80.
  • Paid monthly plans include 70 connects per month with rollover.

So you can pay to increase your odds, but I don't really consider that a tip. That's just pay-to-play. It does cut down on clients getting spammed with proposals, though- so I can see the need to charge a little.

Ok, on to the real tips!

Tip #1: Use ALL the Search Tools

This one is pretty obvious, but I mention it because it's what lead me to find the next tip. Try out a few different combos of searches and you'll notice how the 'Advanced Search' form converts the search to a boolean expression. Screen Shot 2021-07-15 at 9.58.37 AM.png Screen Shot 2021-07-15 at 9.58.50 AM.png

You can also type your own Boolean searches directly in the search bar without using the Advanced Search.

Try breaking the 'topics' of your search into groups and search for one key word from each group.

(API OR database OR mySQL) 
(engineering OR construction OR manufacturing)

Tip#3: US Filter

Screen Shot 2021-07-15 at 10.03.30 AM.png Don't be afraid to turn off the US only search! I've gotten plenty of great, long-term clients that are based overseas.

But here's the real tip: Even if you only want US jobs, TURN IT OFF ANYWAY!

It's not always accurate. I've seen plenty of US jobs that only show up with this setting off, presumably because the client didn't enter a location.

Tip#4: Save Searches

So you've crafted the perfect boolean search for your skill set, you run it and... no results. 🀨

Must be something wrong with your search?! ...Right?

NOPE! Don't give up if there are no results the first day you search. SAVE the searches to run again daily, so you can be first to apply once the search returns a match!

Tip#5: RSS Feeds for Searches

Now, take those saved searches and set up an auto-notification system! If you really want to be first to apply, subscribe to the RSS feed for the search and get notified as soon as a matching job is posted.

Screen Shot 2021-07-15 at 10.18.57 AM.png

For my notification system, I used the Slack RSS app to send a private message to myself in Slack. But there are tons of other RSS tools that could be used.

Tip#6: Proposals

This is a HUGE topic. I'm not going to try covering proposal content in this post, but it's definitely important.

The tip, is that you take this fancy, new automated job search notification, and act on it, just as quickly as you got the notification! And to do that, you need to have proposals ready ahead of time.

Type up a standard intro and closing that you can use as a template for most proposals, and include a link to a sample of your work or website. Then, as soon as you get a notification, copy/paste in the template and add a few lines to the body that are specific to the job posting- after throughly reading the posting, of course!

After a few years of dialing in this process, I created a daily routine to review the RSS feed and pick one or two jobs to apply to every morning. With the search automated and the proposal templates already written, I was only spending ~20 minutes a day instead of hours to apply to a few jobs.

Thanks for reading!