Well, I just passed my 7th-year milestone of being Upwork Top Rated. I’ve never had a lapse in that.
Last year on LinkedIn, I wrote a little post that provided 6 tips for my 6th anniversary of being Upwork Top Rated. So why not give you another one? Let’s revisit.
7 Upwork Top Rated Tips: What I’ve Learned to Remain Top Rated
As I said last year, this isn’t about never taking time off. This isn’t about working 24/7 (although if you’re a new freelancer, you’ll find that you work a lot more because you’re building a business). It’s just what it says: being reliable. When you go somewhere to buy something or you hire someone to do something, you’re a consumer or a client. You want your provider to be reliable.
- I want my doctor and rheumatologist to be reliable.
- I want my web host to be reliable.
- When I hire contractors, I need them to be reliable.
- When I’ve hired lawn people (not professional landscapers), I need them to be reliable.
- I expect my utility service providers to be reliable under normal circumstances.
And if something is happening in your world, reach out to your clients. I had COVID at the end of 2020 and it fucking rocked my world hard. It flared up SLE/MCTD. I kept working. I hardly remember January – March of 2021. My clients knew I was sick but I did what I could to minimize the impact. Now, when I have appointments, I do them on my own time, but I keep my hard deadlines in mind. Or I work my deadlines around existing appointments. If something comes up like when Uriel was sick with a stomach bug and wanted nothing but mommy’s attention, I made sure my clients knew (for the projects that mattered).
Have Clarity in Your Business & Your Projects
I want to elaborate on this from last year. Last year I just touched on the projects portion of clarity. So, for projects and dealing with clients and prospective clients on Upwork, you need clarity. I know that’s a bit of a buzzword. It boils down to asking questions and knowing what’s going on. What do they want from you? What are you doing, exactly? What’s the true scope?
Get good info and ask lots of questions because a lot of the time what seems to be a simple project will expand before you know it. If you’re hourly, that’s cool. If you’re not, well…it depends on if you’ve already agreed and they’ve paid. Now you’ve got a new problem! How big of an issue has this created? Did you charge them enough to cover this little extra thing? Most of my Upwork projects are hourly. The ones that aren’t hourly were hourly previously and so we kind of just averaged it out and went with it. Yet, I’ve learned working off of Upwork (not with Upwork clients) how very important it is to calculate your flat rate or monthly retainer appropriately to budget for any little extras. Or big extras. And to ask lots of questions. Clarity: knowing what is going on or what could go on.
So, for your business…clarity is also important. In the beginning, this is easy. It’s you and one or two clients. When things pick up, it can get interesting because it feels like you don’t know what’s happening anymore. And if you add new services, do you roll them out to everyone or just one or two clients at a time? Then bringing on new clients…how do you onboard them not just through Upwork but with your new services? How do you measure the new metrics? How do you continue to facilitate and manage the growth? When is it time to bring on help? How do you find the right help? How do you track their payments? What about taxes?
I don’t say any of that to scare you. It could be that you decide you are perfectly happy running a very small business with just you and maybe one other person (or just you…and that’s fine!) and referring out once you’re full. There’s NOTHING wrong with that. I added the extra info for anyone who decides they want to grow. I’ve always held a strong interest in business.
Choose the Right Projects
If you want to not just become and remain Upwork Top Rated but also be happy in business, you must choose the right projects. The right projects aren’t just projects that you are qualified to do. That’s a given. The right projects also include a client who isn’t going to be a giant pain in your ass. They will (hopefully) lead to repeat work. If they don’t, that’s not a deal-breaker. You do want and need someone who is pleasant to work with and who can communicate clearly.
Also, please don’t work for slave wages. Look, I do understand working for lower rates under certain circumstances: you want to get some feedback on Upwork (I did that!) or you live in an area where your cost of living is much lower than it is in the US so what we in US would think is really low is a great wage for you. With that said, get some great feedback and raise your rates again (especially if most of your clients are in the US, Canada, and other areas like that and your clients treat you exceptionally well and won’t balk at it). The last thing you need is to have a roster full of low-paying clients because how are you going to get higher-paying clients when your schedule is full and you now hate life and think it’s impossible to win in self-employment?
You would think that since I’m talking to adults I shouldn’t have to say that. And yet here we are… I get a lot of thank you messages on the platform regardless of whether I take a position or not thanking me for being nice. Common courtesy can open a lot of doors. I don’t mean calling people ma’am or sir…and for my friends in Pakistan and India, you do not have to call us “dear.” Most of us don’t mind, but we don’t talk like that…most people in intimate relationships here don’t talk like that, either. If you get pushback for calling someone “dear,” that should be a sign for you not to do it. It’s just not common here in the US. In fact, some women might take offense. Please be careful…
I know that many of you are attempting to be uber professional. Unfortunately, it comes off as cold, callous, and a bit “I know something you don’t know.” Yes, they want to hire a professional…however, that doesn’t make them stupid. People hire people they like and trust.
My grandma would have spanked about 99% of yall.
The Needs of the Clients Are Key to Success
Look, I happen to think I’m brilliant when it comes to copy and social media, mmkay? That doesn’t mean I think others aren’t great. I’ve just been at this long enough to think, “Oh, well…still in business – I guess I know what I’m doing!”
But that does not mean that I get to shove my thoughts down the throats of my clients.
Their needs come before anything. They wouldn’t hire me if they didn’t have needs. Yes, it is my job to serve their needs with my ability. But if a lawyer tells me they don’t want a blog, I tell them that’s a bad idea (nicer than that) but I respect their decision. If they tell me they don’t want to use Twitter, I say okay and we look at the other platforms. Mostly, it’s IG they don’t want to use. I have one that just looovveesss TikTok!
My point is regardless of what I do and what I offer, it is ultimately their decision. I give my input. They can accept it or reject it. They can reject it now and change their minds later.
We are service providers. It’s like how I shop with Imperfect Foods for my groceries. I don’t have to shop there. If I get food that’s in bad condition, they give me a credit. Let’s say that kept happening, though. I could stop shopping there and use Misfit Markets or sign up for Walmart Delivery or whatever. Same with internet, right? I have two providers in my area. I could switch if mine pisses me off.
So, if I am not serving my clients and their needs in the way they want, they could drop me like a bad habit and go somewhere else. I don’t use contracts. I haven’t needed to do that. Three of my clients have been with me for five years. The rest (with the exception of two recently on-boarded) have been with me for at least a year now.
Most of my clients come by referral (off of Upwork) and I am invited to gigs on Upwork. I rarely apply. It is not about me, my accomplishments, how great I am (according to me or really anyone), it is only about my clients and their needs. They’ve all hung around this long without a contract because I am serving their needs.
Freely Give Expert Info
This one kills people… What are you trying to do, Robin, run me out of business? If I’m giving away all my secrets, they won’t need me!
First, I didn’t say tell them everything. Second, you must understand that if the client had the time or the desire to do whatever it is they are talking to you about, they’d have already done it, okay?
Freely giving out a bit of expert advice here and there is really for your benefit, not theirs. It just makes them feel like you care (and you should care. If you don’t care, they shouldn’t have hired you and you are in the wrong business).
- Giving out an expert tip highlights your knowledge in their eyes. It shows you know what you’re talking about.
- If you haven’t talked to them in a hot minute, it puts you in the front of their mind. I do this with a note like, “Oh hey, I saw that you rank for this keyword now at X spot. Did you know that IF this were a PPC, it would be worth $X? Your blog is doing great! Let me know if you need something!” Or “I saw this People Also Ask question [whatever the question is] and something similar would be great for your site. Let me know if you’re interested and I can take care of it for you!”
It does NOT have to be hard. If they don’t understand why they need a People Also Ask question, I explain it. Usually at that stage, they already know why…
Be. The. Expert.
Share Relevant News Once in a While
Let me be super clear with you all…this is not about spamming anyone.
Be relevant and don’t be a pest.
So, recently Google announced that Google My Business app would be replaced and the listings would be managed directly in search. I manage several listings for clients. I also have clients that manage their own. I also have friends with listings. I have some old clients I haven’t heard from who could probably benefit from knowing.
So, I emailed myself with everyone else BCCd. I shared this info WITH the news link and ended with “Let me know if you need help or have any questions.” Not including friends and family, I received three replies. One was a genuine thank you that said they were so glad that I updated them because they missed the original announcement and she updated me on how her law practice was going. The others were questions related to GMB. So, I showed my expertise in GMB for those clients (they manage their own accounts) and I did not charge them because I am not a jerk (remember that be nice convo? It took me less than five minutes…and I guarantee you the fact that I showcased my knowledge and that I am nice will result in referrals).
Questions? Drop some comments!