From CodeNewbie To Full Time Freelancer in One Year - Part 4: Upwork

Part 4: Upwork

In part 3 we discussed websites and the importance of having one as a new freelancer. Yet, once you have this up and running don't expect clients to come flocking to you. You will have to do some work. And when they finally do come to your site, they will be looking for examples of your work, your testimonials, etc. 

In addition, you want to get some experience under your belt in working with clients and creating a workflow that jives best with you. 

One suggestion you hear often hear from the outset is to let your friends and family know your new intentions in hopes that they (or someone they know) will need your services. Perhaps you already have some prospective clients in mind and that is great. 

Regardless, you want to find some work to do to show proof that you have the skills to back up what you are pitching. 

How I Found Clients

At this point, I basically had no prospective clients. 

I decided that I would do three jobs up front (even for very cheap….even for free!!) in exchange for a nice testimonial and the right to post a case study on my site.

And silly me, I put an ad on Craigslist and got two takers. 

The first was the owner of a local gym looking for a site redesign, and the second a local tattoo artist. Both jobs fell through due to poor communication and devotion on their end. The perks of doing jobs for free.!.!

It was during this time, however, that I signed up on Upwork. Sure, there are the horror stories, but there are many, many success stories of those who have played the game right.  

Success on Upwork

Let me give you a quick rundown of my Upwork timeline to the present day: 

  • Built my first website for $300. This got a me a portfolio item and a testimonial. Not much money at all vs. many hours of work, but this was critical to get this one under my belt up front. (Read my post on whether you should do work for free up front for more info). 
  • Got a contract job uploading daily WordPress posts for each month. Now why would I apply for this one? It has nothing to do with coding. Well…1. It was related to WordPress and 2. It could become a second positive testimonial (which is what I wanted at the time).

    Up front I was not accepted, the client had found someone else. No problem. However, a few days later he came back and asked if I could do the job AND ALSO web development work on the site for an hourly basis. Absolutely. 

    Since then, this has turned into a monthly, ongoing contract outside of Upwork. Great!

  • Next, I took on a couple of jobs speeding up websites. This went well with more good testimonials, but the work always outweighs the pay. 
  • Finally, I saw a job for a web company that needed someone to do WordPress blog editing, posting, etc. I applied for this as 1. It was a web company and 2. It was WordPress. Again this was mainly for the testimonial and experience. 

    When I applied for this posting, I mentioned that I was a WordPress Web Developer (as I always do no matter). Well, they wrote me back to inform me that they had chosen someone else for the posting and editing, but would like me to come on board as a WordPress developer instead with them!

    This made all the Upwork effort worth it. This has for about four months now been an ongoing, hourly job that has not lost its steam one bit. 

  • I also have, through Upwork, teamed up with a Content Marketer to handle the technical tasks of website maintenance.

There You Have It

So there is some hope for new freelancers in browsing through Upwork. It may be for a few jobs to get yourself a portfolio and it may just create ongoing work for you like it did me. 

I could have listened to the people who advised me against it, but often you have to go with your gut, and my gut was looking for work!


There is a lot of helpful information out there on being wise and selective on Upwork. Danny Margulies has some very helpful articles on what brought him success. 

You more than likely don't want to stay on Upwork as your business grows as it is always better to be in control of your own outcomes and money than be at the whim of an unpredictable "Success Score" that essentially decides your fate. But in my opinion it is a great place to start, a great place to get some portfolio items and testimonials on your site, and definitely worth a glance every now and then. In fact, why not just make it a habit to apply for one job a day?

Well at this point in my journey I came to the realization web design was not my strength. So much for being a "unicorn!" So what does this mean for my career? How did I even know this? Can a person be successful as a freelance developer and not a designer as well?

I will discuss all of this in the next post. 

Other Posts In This Series:

Are you a CodeNewbie?Tell me about your journey below, I'd love to hear it!


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Travis of

Travis Media

Who Am I? I was 34 years old in a job I hated when I decided to learn to code. Read More

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