How to Land Photography Gigs on Upwork

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Back again with another post, Emily May, one half of the photographer duo based out of Indonesia. Last week they talked about how they got into fashion and commercial photography, and today they’ll be talking about how they land photography gigs on Upwork… the platform I met them on!

Enter Emily.

Upwork (formerly Elance and oDesk) was first introduced to us by a friend, who happened to be a freelance UI/UX designer in Melbourne, Australia. When we lived there, we noticed that Melbourne was a slow paced city where the photography industry is smaller… thus we decided to head online and see what gigs we can find. Photography or other, anywhere you are the world, I think itʼs a dream to be able to work from home. And based of our experience, Upwork is a good marketplace to access global clientele. You have the ability to use this marketplace to find part-time jobs to provide a continual project flow for your career and you can do the work (mostly) anywhere. As a matter of fact, one of our highest paying commercial gigs was scouted from Upwork.

Is Upwork right for you?

If you are a: 1) Freelancer struggling to get their first clients. 2) you like to work remotely and/or 3) just want to expand your client base outside your local area… we hope this article will help you get started. So here are some tips to monetize your photography skills on Upwork…

Before the Project

Launch Your Profile. Just like you curating your social media persona on Instagram and Facebook, Upwork is no different. It should be presentable. Roughy, it will take around 2-4 hours of your time for the perfect profile. A 100% complete profile ranks higher on the Upwork search engine compared to incomplete ones. Itʼs a good investment that will lead you to a continual flow of work once itʼs done.

One of the most important things is your overview. It should compel the client to want to hire you over your competition. Make sure your objective clear and differentiate yourself from your competitors. For example, stating “I am a product and still life photographer with 4 years experience and have worked with global brands such as…” is much better than stating “I am a photographer and I can deliver the best work for you”. When you set up your profile, we recommend that you focus on 1-2 skills. Being niche will benefit you a lot more than being a jack-of-all-trades. If you can successfully find your niche, perhaps then you can expand and/or start raising your rates.

Profile Picture. I know you donʼt want future clients to judge a book by its cover, but itʼs important to gain that trust from someone you only know online. Plus, have you ever heard the saying, “Don’t trust a skinny chef.”? Well, do you expect a potential client to trust a photographer with a bad headshot? It’s been shown that your headshot can effect someones opinion of you and a simple, friendly profile picture can give you the right first impression.

Rate. Put a rate that displays your quality of work. We know itʼs hard to decide your own value, especially for photographers. And on Upwork keep in mind that clients have global access to talent, and that’s how clients can work with photographers like us who are based out of Indonesia. And because of that rates are a little lower on UpWork than some might expect.

Resume. Treat it like your LinkedIn or CV. Add skills that are relevant and it will help clients find you. You know how to retouch? Add it. Experience with Photoshop? Let them know!

Show Your Tests. Upwork has various “skills tests” that you can take and show on your profile. Invest your time and energy on several tests that will show your clients you practice what you preach. For a basic starter kit, we recommend photographers take the Adobe Photoshop test and Photography Lighting test. Completing tests on Upwork will give you a boost on the Upwork search engine. Show off your score and youʼll be good to go.

Portfolio. A picture is worth a thousand words and a portfolio is the greatest way to display your work. You can talk about your credentials all day, but if you’re being hired as a photographer, your portfolio is the most important factor on whether you’ll be hired or not. Add links to portfolio pieces you show and comments to why you relate to the projects. And like your personal website, remember to your Upwork portfolio updated.

Find and Start the Project

Search Engine. Once your profile is done, you can start applying for jobs and sending cover letters. Get your first job by diving in to the search engine and hunt for similar jobs to the skills you desire. Donʼt just apply to any job, as you have to be selective. To make it easy to find a project within your skill set, make sure you search for relevant projects by setting up a job feed. Be aware of the filter features that Upwork offers. Pick a skill, set filters, and add it to your job feed. Itʼs okay to apply to a lot of jobs when you’re just getting started, because it’s going to be a challenge to land your first job, as people are more likely to hire someone with experience and reviews on UpWork. A lot of people get discouraged by this and end up giving up, but like any platform, like Yelp for example, if you’re one of the top photographers, you’re going to get a lot of organic business. Better than paying for leads, right?

Understand Different Kinds of Jobs. On Upwork, there are Fixed Price and Hourly Projects. Usually for photographers, we work on our own time so mostly itʼs going to be fixed priced projects, which makes it possible for you to work on your own time.

Donʼt Be Afraid of Clientʼs No Payment History. We know some people consider this as a red flag, but a lot of our clients have had no payment history at all. Just like new freelancers on Upwork, everyones got to start somewhere. As long as you charge a reasonable upfront fee, or as long as the client deposits into Upwork’s escrow system, youʼll be safe to work with new clients.

Cover Letter. Never send cover letter spam, as every jobs need to be tailored accordingly. Just copying and pasting the same cover letter is the number one way to be ignored. Itʼs essential to prove that you’ve actually read the job description. Some clients will actually actually have some sort of caveat or question in the job description to make sure you’ve read all the details. Provide samples of your previous work that are related to the project you are bidding for. Explain your costs and T & C. We always include our contact details and social media handles on cover letter. This will bring another level of trust and transparency to clients, as they can get to know you by checking out your background outside Upwork. We want to let them know that weʼre available via email/Skype/others form of communication out there. If thereʼs anything unclear, donʼt hesitate to ask questions about the project in your cover letter.

Bid Wisely. There are a lot of good jobs on Upwork. But to be honest, there are a lot that are not worth your “connects” (virtual tokens you use to submit proposals for jobs). Use your connects wisely, and make sure that the jobs that you apply for are worth your time, energy, and cover your expenses and production costs. There are plenty of underpaid jobs we’ve seen before, and we, as freelancers and photographers, we’d advise not to bite for those as it really just drives down the prices in our industry. Donʼt be afraid to say no if you feel like youʼre being exploited or undervalued. For fixed price jobs, make sure the clients pay at least 50% upfront for the milestone, as weʼll never know can we trust them or not. What if the clients run away in the middle of the project? Use this strategy to protect yourself and 50% down, and 50% upon completion is common for freelancing.

Attract invitations or Invite-only Jobs. If you checkout at the marketplace today you’ll see a lot of low paying gigs. But what you won’t see were all the high paying projects awarded to freelancers without a job ad at all! We get these kind of projects all the time and no one knows about it, because itʼs totally invisible to anyone watching from outside. And honestly, someone might come across a portfolio and already know they want to work with them. This is the advantage to having a long, good history on Upwork – the chances you’ll get invitations will sky rocket because you’re on the first page of the “invite freelancers” page for clients. A lot of people look for quality over quantity, and invite-only postings will attract good profiles. There invites are far more exclusive than regular job posts with more than 50 proposals/bidders. Because a top client doesn’t necessarily have to put up public jobs and wait for low bidders who apply. They silently watch around for freelances who fit the profile theyʼre looking for, and reach out privately by inviting them, only them, to discuss this job. Talk about VIP guest list.

Have the Meeting. Make sure you agree to what you have to deliver and the clientʼs expectations. Talk about deadlines and other T&C. It can be done via Skype or a Google Hangout, and it can be a little challenging to setup a meeting time, as Upwork is a global marketplace where everyone is working in a different timezone but I’m sure you can find something that will work for both of you. You may also want to ask several questions. List them so you wonʼt forget to gather everything you need. Is there a website that you can take a look at? Are you aware of the purpose of the project? Be honest and never offer what you canʼt promise to clients. If you are aware that there are some problems that make you unable to complete the job, you definitely need to tell your client right away so you both can plan the solution.

Be Proactive. Always offer more than what your clients expect you to do. Give them ideas, creative solutions, and go the extra mile, even if they donʼt ask you to.

Work with Deadlines. Agree with the due dates and be professional about it. If you suddenly need to put the work on pending, you need to inform your clients immediately, and let them know when youʼll be ready to finish it. Sometimes circumstances beyond your control may take a toll. Do whatʼs right and let the client know in advance in order to plan accordingly.

Request Feedback. Like any other marketplace, reviews are an important part of Upwork. Once you complete a project successfully, the clients can rate your work on a scale of 1-5 and add further feedback. This is important as this contributes to your Job Success score. From our point of view, to get good feedback you must be a pleasure to work with, stick with deadlines, maintain an open communication line, and deliver high quality work. A lot of clients will filter by freelancer and job success rating, so make sure to keep yours as high as possible.

Ending the Project

Leave a Good Impression. After you deliver your works, you want to make sure that your client is happy. Revisions are normal, so be open to fixing little things if necessary. If they are satisfied, there’s a good chance they are going to work with you again in the future.

Follow Up. Your clients are your networks, so when the jobs are done, it doesn’t mean that itʼs goodbye. Build your relationships with clients. As communication is key, itʼs important if you want them to consider you for long term projects and future use. Hopefully this article will help you get your first few gigs on Upwork. Bottom line, experience is what you need. Work towards perfecting your skills. The Upwork game ain’t easy, but itʼs doable. Take time to continue learning your niche. This article contains some tips that work for us, and we hope it works for you too. It may not be every job, but we promise you will start to build momentum overtime. Upwork can be a great source of continual income. And we all know a little more money doing what we love is a plus!

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