Here's How to Start a Serious Side Hustle
Then I made almost the same next month, working with a political party that needed copy for the upcoming elections. October was slow, but I still made a few hundred bucks writing with a digital agency. November was the game-changer, and I finally signed two longer-term clients that paid $445 a week all the way until late January.
The total: $9,683 in 5 months of writing on Upwork.
I was not accepting new clients between November and mid-January.
I couldn’t keep up with the new client proposals.
The world has witnessed a decade of digitalization crammed in less than 365 days. Freelance markets exploded, with surging demand for coders, copywriters, marketers, accountants, and other solo professions.
The exact stats are yet not available. But Upwork’s earnings dwarf yearly forecasts by a wide margin, according to Hayden Brown, Upwork’s CEO. Upwork is the largest platform for freelancers and businesses in need of sporadic workers. However, not everyone likes the idea of freelancing on the platform. I’ve stayed away for 2 years, believing the rumors of exploited workers, draconian fees, and bottom-feeding competition.
Maybe Upwork is not for everybody, but it’s a game-changer for some.
I’ve set up my profile last summer, finished Upwork’s readiness test, and immediately received a Rising Star badge. The same offer was probably extended to most freelancers. I‘ve got the badge, wrote down my Medium journey in bulletin points, and set $27/hr, following Upwork’s pricing suggestion.
I had no idea how to price my writing at the time, but $27/hr seemed looked a good start. I charge $54 at the time of this writing.
I’ve sent 35 proposals in the first 3 months and locked-in 6 great clients, which marks a 17% acceptance rate. Each proposal followed a similar outline, but I stayed away from copy-pasting the entire pitch. Most clients can spot a copy-pasted proposal from a moving airplane.
This strategy helped me sign 20% of all proposals.
- Search for your niche. I’d usually search for content writing and copywriting gigs, but it pays more if you can niche down your query. Terms SEO copywriting or Financial Youtube Scriptwriting may help you save time.
- Apply only for the latest job offers. Sometimes, acting fast is more important than quality. The client may see your proposal first if you pitch soon enough.
- Study client's materials, websites, and business. Individual clients don’t provide any beyond the general topic, but some precisely share what they need from you with attachments and examples. Always study the provided info.
- Open with a punchy line. Grab ’em by the throat since the first sentence. Writing a good proposal is essential for writers because it’s your first line of presenting your work. Show your clients that you can attract and hold attention.
- Address and solve any potential issues in the second paragraph. Don’t advertise your weakness, and don’t fabricate vulnerability, but solely address any potential hiccups straight on. The freelancing economy is based on trust that a freelancer can deliver the promised work promised. When you address issues head-on, potential clients learn to trust you.
- Offer a potential solution to the client’s problem. Write down at least one idea that could immensely help the client. Offer a cookie, something that is sweet and tasty, and hints at what you can really do when you invest more time and effort.
- Include a bullet point of potential benefits. Most clients will skim the proposals and search for immediate benefits. Structure the body of your proposal as a list, and outline why your USPs and other benefits.
- Reassure the client. Offer relevant examples of previous work, link to a study, or point to a story that wraps your pitch together. Assure the client that working with you is the right choice.
- Finish with an invitation. Ask clients to hop on a free call or sample your work with a large discount. My largest contract came after a $70 trial copy for a landing page.
You’re in the business of building trust, not squeezing the last cent out of your clients.
You don’t have to worry about the bottom-feeding competition as long as you provide real value. Make more money for your clients than they pay to keep you on the payroll.
You can charge $100 an hour if that hour makes $300 for your client. I’ve generated traffic and signed first paying customers in my second month working with Good Annotations. The lifetime value of a customer easily dwarfs my fees. I was invited to become a growth manager at large with the company soon after.
Build relationships, not money-making mules.
My first client still sends work from time to time, which I enjoy. The early contracts enjoy grandfathered fees, which stay the same throughout our journey.
99 Hustles Podcast and Nick Arter jumpstarted my Upwork journey, and they have the same $15/hr contract, even though my current rate is 3.2x times that, sitting at $54/hr right now.
Is my time worth more than $15/hr? I would argue that I can easily make more money in other places. What I can’t do, however, is enjoy the loyalty and trust that builds long-haul business. I’m getting that intangible detail that money can’t buy. Nick recommends me to his other friends, and I’ve since started ghostwriting for NY best-selling authors, podcast hosts, and startup founders.
Upwork is not the promised land, but it’s not hell on the internet either.
The world is madly going digital, and Upwork offers businesses a quick way to outsource some of their digital troubles.
Most restaurant owners, hairdressers, and small business owners don’t have the time or the money to hire a digital team, but most can find a freelancer to help them patch things up along the way.
Upwork is not the bottom-feeding hell most freelancers would like you to believe, but it’s not a promised digital land either. You can find more clients for your digital services on the platform, and make sure you get paid for your work with Upwork’s escrow accounts.
You probably won’t get rich off Upwork thought, but you can surely jumpstart your freelancing business on the platform and earn an extra $10,000 this year.