How to Make Extra Money On Upwork While Learning To Code

One of the best things you can do to supplement your skills while learning to code is to pick up real coding jobs. Regardless of the assumed downsides of a service like Upwork, it can be a great place to get your feet wet with real coding jobs AND you can earn some extra money on Upwork as well.

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You already know enough

My first few "real life" coding jobs were on Upwork and looking back they were valuable lessons. Some of these clients I have kept in touch with and I continue to do work for them today, outside of Upwork. 

Unfortunately, many CodeNewbie's are waiting until they land that perfect job, or waiting until they become solid programmers before attempting to do paid work, but in reality you are MORE than prepared to take on this type of work already much earlier than you think. 

Do you know HTML? CSS? JavaScript? SEO? PHP? jQuery? Website optimization? Debugging? Copywriting? Marketing? Well guess what, a large majority of the world does not and are looking on places like Upwork for people who do. You have the skill to meet someone else's need. It can be good experience while learning to code, it can help you overcome that initial imposter syndrome, it's an easy way to get testimonials and projects for your portfolio, and you can make extra money on Upwork while learning to code. 

Why not?

So how do you begin?

Step 1: Create Your Profile and Optimize It

Go to Upwork and sign up. It's free. Create your profile and try to make it as thorough as possible. In your job title and overview, try to be specific. For example, put WordPress web developer instead of the generic 'web developer.' Don't just put JavaScript in general, but get specific about what you do, like 'React.js Developer / Specialist' (React is in super high demand on Upwork now by the way).

Next, in your overview don't tell everyone all the technical things you know. Instead, tell clients what you can do for them….what service you provide or specific problems you solve. 

Enter in the max number of skills allowed, include your best (and most relevant) portfolio item, and list any certifications you have. Later on you can take tests to prove your capabilities. 

Finally, upload a nice, professional photo of yourself.

This all should take maybe 30 minutes, tops. You can always add more in the future, so don't spend excessive time trying to perfect it all at once.

Step 2: Set Your Rate

Hourly rates are always hard to set, but don't forget you are a web developer. Yes, you are learning to code but it's still a valuable skill. Don't start any lower than $30/hr for any reason. If you do, you will come off "cheap" and people will expect that result from you. In addition, after you get some solid reviews bump it up to $50. Further down the road as you become a better developer, bump it up again. 

Don't waste time trying to find your perfect rate. Charge what you are worth, make the pitch, and do the work to back it up. 

Another option is to look for (or propose) fixed rate jobs which can often be a more profitable option to make extra money on Upwork.

Step 3: Start Easy

Look for jobs within your capability so that you can produce good results from the outset. If you are just learning JavaScript, don't sign up to create apps or to work in a JavaScript framework. Look for CSS jobs, clients that want cosmetic changes to their website, etc. 

There are a lot of people who post easy jobs. They have their own business roles and web design is not one of them. They need you to do it. 

So choose only those jobs up front you are capable of because…..

Step 4: Reviews are Everything

…on Upwork, reviews are everything. If you have bad reviews, you will NOT get ANY jobs. 

So it is imperative for the first couple of jobs you get that you go above and beyond what is expected of you. If you look at my profile, my first job was for $5! My second was an entire website build for only $275!

But I worked extremely hard and nailed down two 5-star reviews. I now have eleven 5-star reviews with testimonials to match and over 8K made, just on the side!

This laid the foundation for me to raise my rates on my proposals as I could now mention my 5-star reviews. 

Reviews also help to determine your job success score, which is another vital number on Upwork. 

So how can you be certain to get good reviews?

  1. At first, only choose jobs that you are 100% certain you can perform. 
  2. Go above and beyond in your work and your politeness. 
  3. End the project well and ask for a positive review at the end. Most will give it.
  4. Avoid any red flags (jobs you should NOT take). Here are six types that you should never take. 

Step 5: The Right Mentality on Upwork

Half of the people looking for freelancers on Upwork are looking for a steal or have no idea what goes into web development and design. They want a crazy amount of work for dirt pay. These will be obvious and you should give them no more than a glance. Remember, you do not NEED any jobs on Upwork, it's just another option.

The other half consists of four types of people, and these are the people you want. They are companies or individuals who do not want to take the time or resources to either search for potential web agencies or to go through all the contracts and meetings that come along with it.  They know what they want done and they just need someone reliable to do it (except for #4). These four types include:

  1. People who need something completed urgently, who do not want to go through a web agency, and will pay for a good solution from a good developer. These include website errors, broken forms, and bloggers overly obsessive about everything being perfect on their site. The best part is you can usually tell them you can start ASAP and knock it out the same day. These are good jobs and a good way to rack up some extra cash on Upwork.
  2. People who want simple custom coding work done on their site, either functional or cosmetic.
  3. Agencies looking for developers to help them with overflow. Most of these agencies are looking for developers overseas, so do a little research into what they have been paying.
  4. People or companies (many well-known companies) who want an entire website build done, from discovery to deployment, and will pay thousands for it. These are a bit harder to land but if you have good reviews to back you up, you stand a good chance. 

Step 6: Take It Off Upwork

At this point, after landing a good number of jobs, you may decide that freelancing is your thing, that you want to keep accumulating clients. If they have continued work for you, ask them to take it off Upwork so that you don't get hit with that 20% fee anymore!

Usually, this makes no difference to the client as they still pay the same amount. It's you that gets stiffed if you do not. Unless they are in another country like the UK, etc, where the exchange is much easier on Upwork, it's usually a very reasonable pursuit.

My Story

I've documented my Upwork story in a free ebook, "From CodeNewbie to Full Time Freelancer in One Year." You can download that here

Here are some jobs I've done on Upwork. If you can do any of these and are looking for some side cash, go make that extra money on Upwork:

  • Website builds
  • Theme setups
  • SEO work
  • Website improvements/performance
  • SSL Certificates
  • Site migrations
  • Basic CSS, JS, HTML jobs
  • MailChimp troubleshooting
  • WordPress development (of which one I have to this day put in 223 hours with)


So no more reasons for being a broke CodeNewbie. You have some valuable skill and while you are waiting to land that job go and make some extra money on Upwork. 

People need your skill. Find them and meet that need. 


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About Me Author

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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