Reader Q & A
A blog reader sent in a great question asking how I transitioned from finding clients on Upwork to finding steadier work off of the freelance platform. The short answer: Nailing down my freelance niche helped me find steady, high-paying clients! Check out my reply for all the details or scroll to the bottom for key takeaways to help you find better-paying, steady freelance work.
I’m generally interested in the work you do and how you’ve found your freelance clients. I’ve had some luck with freelancing via Upwork, but am curious to hear more from someone more experienced about how they’ve moved from Upwork and bidding for jobs to regular, steady work. With future moves and kids on the horizon, I’d love to do what I can now to set myself up for a successful/mobile professional life in the future.
How I Found My Freelance Niche
Like many freelancers, I started on Upwork. I quickly niched by only applying to jobs that were related to education. I wanted to do things that only people with a teaching background could do well because I knew that I would land more jobs and be able to charge more. I tailored my Upwork profile to that work and applied for jobs that were within those parameters.
Over the course of several months I picked up more and more clients. Many of my clients had ongoing work that they would ask me to do, so I worked with the same people over and over for months, and even years! Because I was so active on Upwork and had great reviews, potential clients started contacting me and inviting me to apply to their jobs.
How I Found Clients Beyond Upwork
I also started looking for clients through web searches and at Flex Jobs. I found that Flex Jobs didn’t have a lot of freelance options in my niche, but it’s a GREAT place to look for remote work if you want to stick with one company.
For web searches, I had the most luck applying to companies that exclusively do assessment item writing. I’ve been writing assessment items (standardized test questions) for several years, so I knew I could do it well and would be a strong candidate. I found the freelance application page for the companies that appeared first in a keyword search and applied to 6 or 7 companies. All but one hired me.
Working for these large companies is awesome because they have steady work and large budgets. For me, this is the holy grail of freelancing: working with a few, high-paying clients on long-term projects.
Finding your niche takes a lot of experimentation and hard work, especially in the beginning. Here are some of the most important steps you can take:
- Pitch constantly. Building a client base will help you learn more about the pay rates in various niches, and it will help you build your business.
- Apply for work that requires special skills or education. You will make more money if you can provide a service that only a few other people can do.
- Experiment. It’s normal to try out different niches and different types of work before you find your niche. Play around. Don’t be scared to try new things.
- Monitor your results. Keep track of important business metrics, like how much you make per hour on each project, which clients have ongoing work (and what type of work is ongoing), and how much you enjoy each project. Use these metrics to help you decide what types of jobs to keep pitching for.
Have a question? Email firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you!