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3 More Mistakes Beginners Make on Upwork

Are you new to Upwork and struggling to land gigs? Do you constantly apply to clients without any success? In this article, I’ll pinpoint three common mistakes beginners make on Upwork. More importantly, I’ll give you clear advice on how to avoid these pitfalls.

I’ll also guide you on how to secure more paid work and how to attract more clients. Not only have I worked on platforms like Upwork, but I’ve been an employer too. In fact, I’ve hired quite a bit, and one mistake strikes me every time.

Female model, screenshot from video filmed with the Canon R5, and the Canon RF 50mm f1.8 lens - 02 - 02
Taken with: Canon EOS R5 + Canon RF 50mm f1.8 STM / Model: @ho.peony

Passion is Bad

This pitfall affects about 95% of the freelancers applying for jobs, including those I’ve hired. The recurring issue is that freelancers tend to emphasize their personal wants. They often discuss how the job aligns with their passion, and how it’s the most important thing in the world for them.

I’ve noticed this trend when hiring people for various tasks, including video editing, writing, administration and translations. Most freelancers lead with their passion. They discuss the significance of the subject and how video editing is their life’s passion. They dream of doing it full-time.

I understand this sentiment as there was a point when I held a regular job, and all I yearned for was to go freelance. However, this perspective fails to consider the needs of the person who’s actually funding your work.

What you really need to do is put yourself in your potential client’s shoes. Your client has designated a certain amount of money to hire someone for a specific task. The candidate they will eventually hire is perceived to be the most capable of handling that job efficiently while also being within their budget.

If all you talk about is your passion for the subject, you’re basically telling them, ‘Please hire me, I love doing this.’ But this doesn’t acknowledge what the actual client wants. The key mindset you need to adopt to secure more jobs is appreciating that the client is looking for someone to help manage some of their stress.

If you’re just starting freelancing, you’re likely in a position where you have plenty of time and are looking to exchange it for money. A client, on the other hand, has money but lacks time. They’re hoping to do the exchange the other way around.

They intend to give you some of their money in order to regain some of their time. This setup only works if you’re competent, capable, and dependable, traits that are surprisingly rare nowadays.

Finding people who will deliver the job on time, as described, without significant delays or going MIA for months, is challenging. I’ve personally experienced this, and many of my clients have faced similar issues with other freelancers.

Female model, photo taken with the Canon R5, and the Viltrox RF 85mm f1.8
Taken with: Canon EOS R5 + Viltrox RF 85mm f1.8

Not Giving a Quote

One equally frustrating thing, if not worse, is encountering freelancers who don’t provide quotes. Most of the time, when I hire someone, I already have a good grasp of how the job works, mainly because I usually do it myself.

Eventually, I look to hire people to help outsource tasks that I know how to do, but for which I do not have time. In these instances, I usually have a pretty good idea of how long something should take. However, many freelancers will tell you they charge a certain amount per hour.

Even though I know how long it would take me to do the task, it’s impossible for me to know their timeline, which is part of the problem. They might tell me, “Sure, I charge $20 an hour.” Great, but how long will it take you?

Often, they don’t know, which strikes me as a massive red flag. I mean, how much will this end up costing me in the long run? Is it going to take them two hours? Maybe it’ll take ten? I have no clue.

So, that, for me, is not a good way to get hired. Whenever I work as a freelancer, I usually quote a flat fee. I’ll tell them it’s going to cost this much.

Understandably, there are numerous scenarios where the time required may not be evident because you’re not fully aware of the project’s particulars. Sometimes, a client posts a job, and you can’t determine the time it will take because you don’t have enough information about the job.

That’s fair enough. In that case, I would recommend presenting them with a couple of approximate quotes. For instance, suppose you’re applying for a job as a video editor. Often, if you’ve done work before, you’ll have a rough idea of your rates.

For a 10-minute video with a certain amount of editing, for example, you could say, “I would charge this much.” For a more heavily edited video or one with more effects, you could state a higher price.

This gives your client a ballpark figure, substantially increasing the likelihood they’ll get back to you. If they don’t know the cost, they will likely ignore you. Why? Because they probably have a hundred other contenders for the same job.

This is a recurring theme in my freelance articles – you always need to consider the client’s perspective and experience. Surprisingly, many freelancers overlook this. Now, one thing I strongly advise against is offering to work for free.

Female model, photo taken with the Canon R5, and the Canon RF 85mm f1.2 L USM - 11 - 01
Taken with: Canon EOS R5 + Canon RF 85mm f1.2 L USM / Model: @andiee.grant

Offering to Work for Free

We’ve all had to start somewhere, which often meant doing projects for free initially. In my case, whenever I did a project for free, it was for peers at my level. For instance, I used to do a lot of sound design a few years ago.

I worked with budding filmmakers on projects that had zero budget. I provided sound design services for free or nearly free so that I could get my foot in the door and build my portfolio. This strategy worked quite well.

The problem arises when you start offering free services to paying clients or corporations. It’s a red flag, often perceived as desperation. To illustrate, I’ve posted job requests on Upwork asking for examples of past projects and a rough quote.

I’ve had responses from people offering to do the assigned work for free. That’s not what I want. I want to pay you for your services, not take advantage of you.

So, to phrase it differently, for good clients, having a professional offer their services for free can be incredibly off-putting. The good clients will not accept free work, whereas the bad ones will.

You’re likely to have a challenging experience with such clients. They’re apt to undervalue your work and make the overall experience fairly unpleasant. There are instances, however, where it does make sense to extend an offer of free work to paying clients.

For example, Imagine you’re working with a client, and there’s an additional task you could perform that you believe would positively contribute to their business. However, they’re somewhat sceptical and want to see tangible results before they commit.

In this situation, you could propose to execute a small portion of the task for free. You might say something like, “Hey, I believe this will boost your business. How about we try it a couple of times? I won’t charge anything initially if it doesn’t pay off.”

If it doesn’t work out, no problem. However, if it does have a positive impact, then I’d charge for the service we’ve already done and continue forward with it. Chances are, the client will agree. After all, it’s a win-win situation for them, right?

I mean, they’re already paying you for the normal work, and you’re offering them a situation where if it works out, their business grows, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t cost them anything to try.

So, this is a situation where offering to work for “free”, can work, but realistically, this is the only one where it actually does.

And of course, if you’re correct about your intuition and you do good work, the “free work” that you’ve just done will pay dividends in the future because it will contribute to and increase the client’s business, therefore boosting your earnings as well.


I hope this guide has been helpful to you. What I do here is help people achieve their dream of being geographically independent by earning their living online from anywhere. To do this, I teach people how to be better freelancers and how to take better images. I also show them the tools required, such as cameras and lensesapps, and audio equipment.

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