How to earn money from Upwork in 2019

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How can I work casually to earn extra money? Where can I find my clients online? If you have ever asked yourself these questions, you may have heard Upwork, an online freelancer marketplace. It has been a big name in the area. I started using the website since 2015 and worked as a freelance translator casually. I have had a daily job, but when I want to learn industry market trends, earn extra money, or just do some other stuff besides my day job, I went to Upwork and searched for a job.

As a translator, I worked with various clients for different projects on Upwork and in other settings. This article is about Upwork, but the overall trend in the freelance translation market was not very different. I applied for many jobs and worked on short- and long-term projects. I will share my experiences so far with Upwork. And I hope that this helps you make good use of Upwork and build your strategies.

My earnings

The below is my earning so far. And you can see the big difference between my earlier days and recent years of 2017 and 2018.

  • $6 – Aug 22, 2018
  • $85 – Aug 8, 2018
  • $14 – Feb 9, 2017
  • $7 – Aug 22, 2015 (And long break)
  • $18 – Jul 23, 2015
  • $131.4 – Jul 3, 2015
  • $323.53 – Jul 2, 2015
  • $30 – Apr 15, 2015
  • $226.44 – Mar 30, 2015

Taking about earnings, I saw some freelancers earning tens of thousands of dollars in total. So, don’t take my example as an average earning of each freelancer in Upwork. There will be higher and lower earners than me. And, I saw many profiles that have zero earning.

Back to my earning record, there was some personal circumstance for me to stop working as a freelancer in Upwork since mid-2015. Back then, there were plenty of jobs, and it was not very difficult to get job offers. When I made a comeback in 2017 with high anticipation, I was surprised by a shifted landscape in the translation market in Upwork. I applied for jobs, but it was very difficult to get one.

One of the big differences was a change of trendy topic. Before 2017, I didn’t see a distinctive topic. In 2017 and 2018, the translation market in Upwork was dominated by cryptocurrencies, blockchain and Initial Coin Offering. That is probably because my language set is English to/from Korean. Back then, South Korea was crazy about coins, coins and coins…

So, as I came back, I felt the skill gap right away. But I kept applying and I got my first job.

Customized cover letter for each project

When I applied to a cryptocurrency translation project, I emphasized on my past translation experiences in the IT industry. And, I promised on-time delivery and translation of quality. I attached some of past IT translation works as a portfolio and lowered my rate to make my application appealing to the client. And, I finally got a contact from a client and started working on their cryptocurrency project.

When you use Upwork, you will be tempted to use a single cover letter for different projects since you will have to apply to several jobs at the same time. It is time-consuming to personalize your cover letter, but I know that that is a significant factor. I always tried to put some relevant words into my application. They will know if you just randomly submitted an application or went through a job description thoroughly.

As a casual Upwork user, I didn’t visit Upwork every day. If you are a serious user, I am sure that you can get better earnings than mine. Just remember to make your efforts consistent, customize your cover letter, and attach a portfolio if you can make one.

Lower rate getting more jobs?

Rich getting richer, and poor getting poorer. This is a well-known saying, and I think it applies to Upwork community as well. Those who have earned a lot, thus have a strong profile, are more likely to get a job. And I don’t think that those profile workers keep getting a job due to a lower rate. It will be a quality of work in the end.

Wait, but that will depend on the type of the job. If you are doing, let’s say, simple translation for a casual letter of 450 words, a client will want the lowest bidder. But, if a client wants someone who can translate a legal document with large volume, the client will consider qualifications of applicants seriously.

Positive experience on contract protection

When money gets involved in the online, things can get easily ugly. If there is no some kind of protection, a client might just run away after receiving your work. Or, a client can get their files returned in an unusable condition. I saw some clients saying that their translators just used machine translation and returned files.

So far, I have positive experience. I have never experiences that clients refused to pay. I’ve always received money and have been able to transfer money to my Paypal account. As long as you follow the instructions of Upwork, you will also be in good hands.

Do you want to start in 2019

I did some research and found that you will not always be able to join Upwork in 2019. Well, this is a bit expected, but it is discouraging. The reason is that Upwork now rejects new people having common skills in Upwork. That could be a good choice since, otherwise, the market would have too many freelancers and too much competition. Yes, some areas are quite saturated already.

After I heard that, I tried to create a new account with web developer skill set. After a few days, I’ve got an email from Upwork saying that there are too many freelancers having the similar skills as mine. So, unless you have a unique skillset, you may not be able to join Upwork.


If you were able to join Upwork, polish your profile and prepare a portfolio. When submitting your application, read a job description thoroughly and write a personalized cover letter. Some blogger recommended taking a skill test, but I’ve never done it. But, it could look better because your skill set exam result will also appear in your profile. For your information, it will take about a day to finish all tests. Consider it as an investment to make your profile appealing to potential clients.

Now if everything is set, don’t give up if you get rejected over and over. You could initially lower your rate to build a work history. As you think you have a good work history, start raising it. I hope that your journey with Upwork becomes enjoyable and profitable!

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