How I Became Top Rated on Upwork & Made $1,000 Extra a Month

Isaiah McCall

Message to freelancers: use Upwork.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer, painter, musician, exhibitionist or if you’re the size of a mouse or the size of a house. Upwork is the ultimate way to upgrade your portfolio and pad your pockets with a little extra dough.

So, what is Upwork?

Upwork connects freelance professionals with clients all around the world in a highly efficient process. It’s LinkedIn, except you aren’t sending your resume to a black hole. And unlike Fiverr — another popular freelancing hub — you make good money early if you have in-demand skills.

Furthermore, once you work enough on the platform they’ll award you the shiny new title of “Top Rated.” I’d put mine on the fridge if it wasn’t made out of 1s and 0s.

Since becoming top rated I’ve seen a surge of new clients coming my way. Upwork actually works on your behalf if you’re in this group. They’ll connect you with potential clients consistently, which significantly boosts the amount of exposure you get. No longer do I have to apply for jobs all the time, they do it for me.

Additionally, they’ll take a smaller slice out of your earnings pie (10% once you’re top rated or make over $500 overall. 5% if you make over $10,000 )

So let’s jump into it. How to go from zero to hero on Upwork.

How To Become Top Rated on Upwork

Go for Freelancer Plus

Upwork is an investment in your career. Spending $15 for Freelancer Plus — which you’ll only have to do once before your earnings pay for it — will be the best $15 you ever spent.

Freelancer Plus gives your profile added exposure and unlocks nearly an unlimited amount of “Connects.” This is Upwork’s currency used to bid on different jobs. Competitive and expert-level jobs require more Connects to apply.

It sounds scammy, but in reality, it pays for itself ten times over if you apply to enough gigs and provide high-quality work. Now that I’m top rated I don’t ever use Freelancer Plus, but it is essential when starting out.

The client knows best

Often they don’t, actually.

But that isn’t your place to say. Prioritize building a long-term relationship with your client and don’t take it personally if they ignore your suggestions.

Remember you work for them. It’s their money on the line. If you stay the course and bring their vision to life, you’ll earn more than just a paycheck. You’ll have a lifelong connection.

Waste the right amount of effort

This is a problem everyone runs into on LinkedIn.

For low-quality highly competitive jobs, we’ll drop our resume into the Easy Apply wastebin for it to never be seen by human eyes. And all of this happens while real career-defining positions fall by the wayside because they require a longer application process.

Job hunting is about wasting the right amount of effort. If a gig interests you, take the time to send a proper application. Moreover, it isn’t wasted time if you land the role.

I keep my proposals short and to the point. Knowing this, I make sure that every word is technically sound. Boil your applications down to the tightest copy, but go no less than that.

Create an RSS feed

RSS feeds are an early internet technology that can send any kind of data to you as a text message or an email. So, for instance, you can send specific Upwork jobs to your email using this tech.

OK, this next part might be a little confusing. But hold my hand and we’ll get through this.

Simply search for a job on the Upwork posting homepage. And on the left-hand side click on the parameters you’d like to set (maybe you only want jobs that pay more than $1,000 for instance). Now look for a logo that looks like this towards the top:

Click on that logo and click RSS.

Now, ignore all the crazy code. All you need to do is go to this website: Once there, click Create and search for RSS.

Click on “new feed item” and paste the URL of that crazy code page from Upwork. Now you’ll search for Gmail and select “send me an email;” so every time a new job appears you get an email.

This works for any website — including Medium — that has an RSS feed.

Now the Upwork jobs that you’re interested in will be sent to you without having to worry about searching all the time. Try this out with RSS feeds on podcasts, blogs, or YouTube videos to do the same.

A few more critical tips & tricks

  • Competitive gigs: If a job already has 10+ freelancers gunning for it then it isn’t worth applying for. Unless you believe you’re a perfect match I’d skip it and move on. Low competition is also a good parameter to include in your Upwork RSS selections.
  • If a client bails: I’ve submitted work before and not gotten a response ever again. It sucks. But Upwork will release your funds automatically. It is discouraging especially if you had more work set up with this client down the line. But all you can do is move on.
  • Leave reviews: This is the fastest way to move up the Upwork ladder. Reviews are for the freelancer and client and are showcased on both profiles. If you did quality work for your client, there’ll often be raving reports of how awesome you are. It’s another incentive to see your jobs all the way through.
  • Don’t plagiarize yourself: I often heard about this in journalism school but never thought it would happen to me. However, while traveling last month I had to rush a gig and ended up ripping and tweaking a few paragraphs from a past Medium article of mine. My client was a fan of my Medium work and recognized it right away. It was embarrassing and it ended that relationship. I’ll never do that again.
  • Use Upwork on social media: The team behind Upwork really wants to see freelancers succeed. Anytime I post on LinkedIn and tag Upwork they immediately respond and boost my post so that it’s seen by thousands of people. It’s a cool feeling; one that keeps me loyal to their company.

Hopefully, this is enough to get you started on your Upwork journey.

Besides Medium, Upwork is my favorite platform to interact with and work for. Best of luck to you and your freelancing career.

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USA Today Reporter and Ultramarathoner. I write about Cryptocurrency, Fitness Hacks, and Greek Philosophy. Also a diehard Trekkie |

Jersey City, NJ

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