13 Upwork Profile Tips From a Top-Rated Freelancer (Updated for 2020)

I’ve worked on Upwork for over five years, both as a freelancer and a client. And I’ve seen lots of profiles in that time. Trust me when I say that most are pretty uninspiring.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not taking a dig at my fellow freelancers. Most just haven’t taken the time to learn how to write persuasively.

And that gives you a fantastic opportunity.

With a handful of straightforward changes, you can lift your profile miles above the competition, resulting in a steady stream of invitations and more responses to your proposals.

In this post, you’ll learn how to spot common mistakes, amplify your skills, and captivate potential clients by speaking directly to their needs.

Sound good? Let’s dig in.

Where Does Your Upwork Profile Appear?

Upwork displays snapshots of your profile in four different places. When clients see these condensed profiles, they can either click through to your page or (usually) invite or hire you directly.

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As a freelancer, it’s essential to understand which parts of your profile gain the most exposure so that you can optimize them for maximum effect.

In a nutshell, here’s what you need to know:

Upwork always displays a freelancer’s name, photograph, title (which is the tagline underneath the name), and (almost always) the first few sentences of the overview. Consequently, these should receive the most attention.

Let’s take a look a closer look at where Upwork showcases your profile:

Generic Search Results

Generic search results appear whenever a client types a phrase like “content writer” or “WordPress coder” into the “Find Freelancers and Agencies” search box in the Upwork header.

Generic Upwork Search Results

“Invite Freelancers” Page

After a client has posted a job, they’ll automatically be prompted to invite freelancers recommended by Upwork.

Invite Freelancers Page

“Review Proposals” Page

Applicants for a job will be shown on a client’s “Review Proposals” page.

Review Proposals Page

“You Have Proposals” Emails

After a client has posted a job, they’ll receive regular emails about new proposals.

Upwork Proposals Email

As you can see from the screenshot above, only the title, photograph and “Rising Talent” badge (if the freelancer has one) are visible in emails.

The Anatomy of an Upwork Profile

Before diving into the tips, let’s take a quick look at a the main sections of an Upwork profile page.

Here’s the overview area from my my freelancer page:

Upwork Profile

The section above includes my name, title, profile picture and main description or overview. This is the main area that clients will look at and, as a consequence, is the most important. You’ll also notice the links to “specialized profiles” just underneath my name. More on those in a moment.

Below the overview , you’ve got the “Portfolio” section:

Upwork Portfolio Example

And then immediately after that, the skills section:

Upwork Skills

There are others, but these are the most important. Your focus should be on optimizing these areas.

What About Specialized Profiles?

You might be wondering about “specialized profiles”, a new feature that Upwork rolled out last year. You should see the option to “Add a specialized profile” on your profile page (Find Work > Profile).

So should you create an extra two specialized profiles?

Personally, I haven’t noticed much difference after creating mine. I don’t see any harm, and the fact that you can include more tags probably means you have a higher chance of getting found in the search results and recommended to clients.

When you’re picking your specializations, remember that all the advice below still applies. You’re just doing everything three times instead of one.

13 Ways to Spring Clean and Spruce Up Your Upwork Profile

Ok, so without further ado, let’s jump into the practical advice:

1. Write a Specific and Benefit-Focused Title

Most freelancers have a generic two or three-word job title underneath their name. But this is a colossal waste of prime real estate.

Here’s an example:

Upwork Profile Example (Writer)

And another:

Upwork Profile Example (Software Developer)

You need two communicate two things in your title: your field of expertise and the main benefit you provide.

Make sure you include your core skill (copywriter, web designer, virtual assistant, etc.) so you show up in search results and clients know what you do.

But don’t stop there.

Play around with these five tips to add some extra zing and sparkle to your titles:

  • Include an adjective before your specialization.
  • Mention your target niches directly.
  • Describe a specific and tangible benefit you provide.
  • Avoid cliches and “cover letter fluff”. Examples of this kind of thing include words and phrases like “conscientious” and “thinks outside the box”.
  • Make use of all the space available (approx. twenty words).

It won’t always make sense to implement all of these suggestions. Instead, use them as a rough outline. My advice is to create a few different versions of your tagline and pick the best one.

Let’s take a look at some examples:

“Writer” becomes “Creative writer with a wealth of experience across genres.”

Upwork Profile Example (Creative Writer)

“iOS Developer” becomes “iOS Developer Specializing in Custom Applications for Small Businesses.”

Upwork Profile Example (iOS Developer)

Try to step into the shoes of a prospective client. And I don’t mean just ask, “What does my client want?” Really imagine that you’re in charge of a project and you’re looking for the best candidate to hire.

2. Give ’em a Smile

A study conducted by Photofeeler (a site where users submit photos of themselves for feedback) yielded some interesting insights about what makes a perfect headshot.

Individuals in photos with the following elements were perceived as more competent, likeable, and influential:

Photofeeler Image
Source: Photofeeler
  • Smile – The best thing you can do to make your headshot stand out in a positive way is smile. But don’t take it too far. Aim for the sweet spot between a closed-mouth smile and a laughing smile.
  • Professional clothing – Formal dress (yep, you’re gonna have to dig out that old suit) was the biggest contributor to the competence and influence measures.
  • “Bust” shot – Your picture should include your head and shoulders or your head and upper body, but not your full body or a close-up of your face.

Colour shots didn’t perform any better than black-and-white alternatives, and background settings were found to be irrelevant too (a garden is just as good as an office).

3. Include Client Quotes and Accolades

Don’t make potential clients scroll down the page to see your testimonials.

Pick your best feedback and make sure it’s among the first things that clients see in your overview.

Upwork Profile With Testimonials
Include your best feedback in your overview.

If you don’t have any direct testimonials from clients yet, pester your past employers, colleagues, or teachers. If you’re really struggling, you can always take on a small free project for a friend in exchange for some feedback.

4. Keep the Overview Short, Interesting, and Focused On the Client

You’re probably tempted to write a long overview. You’ve got tonnes of experience, an enviable list of past clients, and a truckload of results you can deliver.

But hold off just a minute.

I don’t doubt the breadth of your experience or your persuasive ability. But most clients don’t want to read an autobiographical novella. You’ve got ten seconds tops. Often, it’ll be more like five.

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I recommend the following format for your overview: start with the most exciting result you can deliver, follow up with proof of your experience, and then include two to three short(ish) testimonials.

Here’s a simple template you can use:

I work with [name of industry] companies to deliver [specific outcome]. I have over [number of years] years experience in the industry with clients like [client one], [client two], and [client three].

Here are some of my testimonials:

[Client testimonial]

[Client testimonial]

[Client testimonial]

I know that many clients struggle with [common freelancer mistake] and that’s why [explain why you’re different]. Get in touch and I’ll be happy to discuss your requirements.

It’s a good idea to round off by mentioning a common problem that clients often experience but that they won’t have to worry about with you (failure to meet deadlines is a big one). This is the icing on the cake of an already-persuasive profile.

5. Showcase a Streamlined Portfolio

I get it. You’ve got an impressive profile and you want to show off your work.

But bombarding potential clients with every project you’ve been involved with since age five isn’t a good strategy.

Always remember that clients don’t have time. If they’ve made it this far, don’t lose them now.

Instead, give them a concentrated hit of your best work.

Upwork Portfolio Example
You only need four examples of your best work.

A concise cross-section that communicates a range of skills is far better than an extended employment history.

I recommend no more than four pieces of work – two for each of your specializations. As a landing page copywriter and content writer, I have two articles on reasonably well-known websites and two landing pages. That’s it.

6. Maintain a Quick Response Time

Your response time is important because some clients need projects completed quickly. They’ll only send out invites to freelancers with fast turnaround times.

Upwork Availability

Upwork will display one of four snippets on your profile:

  • < 24 hour response time
  • < 3 days response time
  • 3 day response time
  • Blank response time

Getting “< 24 hour response time” on your profile is very easy. Just respond to all proposals straight away. Download the app to receive instant notifications on your phone.

7. Verify Your Identity

This is a simple one. Your profile looks more trustworthy with a nice little blue tick.

Verified Identity on Upwork

Verifying your identity is a straightforward process that involves uploading an image of government-issued identification.

8. Be Proactive About Getting Reviews

There are mixed opinions about asking for reviews. Some people think it’s unprofessional. Others are all for it.

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Personally, I’m in favour of requesting reviews if a job is successfully finished and clients are letting a contract languish. Often, they just need a little extra prompt.

Upwork Reviews
Reviews make a big difference to your profile.

You shouldn’t beg for five-star reviews and Upwork is pretty strict about feedback manipulation. A professional reminder to close the contract is all that’s needed.

I’ll usually send them something like this:

Hi [client name], hope you’re well! Just wanted to check in and see if there’s anything else you need? If not, shall we close the contract?

It’s better to prompt the client to close the contract, rather than do it yourself, because they’re forced to leave a review when they do.

9. Ask for Feedback From Clients

One of the best ways figure out what’s working on your profile is to ask clients.

I’ll wait until the end of a contract then send something like the following:

Hi [client name], just wanted to say thanks again. I really enjoyed working on this project.

If you’ve got a second, I wanted to ask what made you pick my application over the others? I’m always curious about what clients look for.

By asking these questions, you’ll get a specific sense of what clients in your particular niche want. You can then amend your profile accordingly.

10. Snoop on Top-Rated Freelancers

Pablo Picasso supposedly said that “good artists copy; great artists steal.”

I’m not suggesting that you lift sections of competitor profiles verbatim. But it’s always worth looking to pick up some ideas.

11. Don’t Forget Your Skills

Selecting your skills isn’t the most glamorous part of profile optimization. But it’s a must-do.

Nobody knows how the Upwork algorithm organizes and ranks profiles. But skills tags are likely a vital part of the process.

Upwork Skills

Use the maximum amount allowed. The cap is ten for your main profile. On specialized profiles, you can add many more from a list that Upwork automatically generates.

Don’t forget this task. It won’t net you any million-dollar clients on its own, but it’ll help you appear for the right search queries, which is the first step on the journey.

12. If You’re a Top-Rated Freelancer, Take Advantage of the Review Removal Option

Most freelancers live in mortal fear of negative reviews. They work hard for months and years meticulously building their success score and then – poof – one unhappy client and it’s gone.

But not all is lost. “Review removal” is a little-known perk available to top-rated freelancers. They’re allowed to contact Upwork to remove one negative review every three months.

Here’s what Upwork says:

As a Top Rated freelancer or agency, you can request to remove feedback from your Job Success Score (JSS) for one ended contract at a time. Additionally, you can choose whether to remove a client’s public rating and comment (if any) from your profile.

If you’ve been given a terrible review, consider using it. At the very least, you can sleep a little easier from now on, protected from the bogeyman negative feedback.

13. Proofread the Damn Thing

When I was in high school, the headmaster once said something that has stuck with me ever since: “If I receive a job application with a spelling mistake, I put it straight in the bin.”

You might think that’s a tad harsh. And I would have agreed…until I started hiring people.

Nothing communicates laziness more than spelling mistakes. If a freelancer can’t be bothered to run their profile through Grammarly, why would they put any effort into my job?

Conclusion

There’s no great mystery to crafting a persuasive Upwork profile.

Fundamentally, it’s about small gains. By taking a little extra time to do lots of little things that other freelancers aren’t aware of, you’ll set yourself apart in a big way.

It will take less than an hour to implement all the tips in this post – not a bad trade-off for a profile will leave clients itching to hit that “Hire” button.

So, time to get to work.

What did you think of my tips? Leave a comment below and tell me how you’ve improved your Upwork profile.

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