- Chad Wyatt, 31, is a content marketer and digital nomad in France who’s earned $100,000 on Upwork.
- He says there’s some flexibility, but to be successful you have to dedicate regular time and effort.
- Here’s his career story, as told to writer Perri Ormont Blumberg.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Chad Wyatt, a 31-year-old content marketer in Chaillac, France. Insider has verified his income with documentation. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
I started my career working as operational support in Her Majesty’s Prison Service in the UK, where I’m originally from. This role involved various duties to ensure the prison ran smoothly every day, including security checks, camera operation, ground patrols, night patrols, and drug searches. Then I worked as a senior department manager at a private hospital.
I started working toward my bachelor’s degree in business and marketing in 2018, and from 2019 on I’ve been building my freelance career and businesses, focusing on digital marketing and specifically search engine optimization, or SEO.
I joined Upwork in October 2018 while I was still working at the hospital and planned to leave my job after Christmas that year to travel. I was researching jobs you could do online and came across the Upwork platform. I didn’t know anything when I signed up, and I started applying for projects until I landed one.
Since then, I’ve been able to travel the world for four years, live wherever I want, and earn more money than any job I’ve ever had through Upwork alone.
Initially, getting used to the platform was tricky
Starting out online with no reviews and experience is hard, and even more so now. I spent time learning how clients communicated by refining cover letters and proposals to see which ones garnered the best responses, which projects had the most activity, and what methods were most effective to land a project.
I started by offering content-based services. This involved short writing tasks like blog posts, proofreading, keyword research, copy editing, Airbnb listing descriptions, and product descriptions. I then started spending more than five hours every day learning SEO and testing methods on my personal websites to develop new skills. I used YouTube, podcasts, Google documentation, industry-leading guides such as Ahrefs and Search Engine Journal, and news articles as resources.
My services now are similar to when I started, except I offer more in-depth knowledge of SEO and I’m a more experienced writer, which allows me to charge more for my services.
My hourly rate started at $20 an hour and is now $40-$70 an hour. Every contract is different and hourly rates are negotiated separately with each client.
I spend more than 80 hours a week on Upwork
It’s a daily grind to reach a high level of income and requires juggling multiple clients and working long hours.
I work on my longer-term projects during the day and on one-off, short-term projects during the evenings and weekends. I’ve changed my availability settings for what I offer so I can prioritize what’s on my slate.
In total, I’ve made more than $100,000 on Upwork since I started in 2018. Mid-2021 is when I really started focusing on growing. When I first started out, I wasn’t earning much, so almost $70,000 of that was earned from last April to now. My monthly average earnings are between $4,000 to $6,000 depending on the projects I decide to take on.
Upwork is my main source of income, but I fit in other work around the platform. I have clients I’ve found through LinkedIn, Facebook, and word-of-mouth referrals, and I also work on those projects on the evenings and weekends.
There’s some flexibility on Upwork, but if you work with clients on a regular basis like I do, there are deadlines and fixed hours to work. I regularly work from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday. Then other client deadlines will be weekly, so I fit that into my schedule wherever possible. There’s a common misconception when it comes to freelancing that the work is flexible and can be done alongside “daily life.” However, to be successful, you have to dedicate regular time and effort.
The best tip I can give is to work on client communication
Many freelancers use templates and send one-word answers to clients, but this doesn’t get you hired.
When I started, I spent time understanding what clients were looking for and how they communicated, and I went above and beyond to demonstrate I was the person for the job by providing a comprehensive project proposal, making their hiring process easier. I’ve had communication issues with clients before, so to prevent that, I now assess everything in the beginning and try to understand if there’s a lapse in communication before the project even starts. This way, I can alter the way I communicate to reduce friction after being hired.
Optimizing your profile is also essential. I used to have a boring wall of text with no keywords and nothing that stood out. Then I added emojis, a captivating two-sentence introduction, a highlight of my accolades, testimonials, and a cover photo where I look natural and professional.
Adding keywords helps you to show up in “freelancer recommendations,” when the client is inviting people to the project. I also recommend adding a video because it allows clients to see who you are and adds a human element to the process.
Another tip — don’t give up. The freelance marketplace is highly competitive. You have to compete with lower rates to get started and build up a reputation and reviews. It can take time to land your first project, but many people give up before this point. Spend time learning the process, the algorithm, and what works and what doesn’t, and refine that to your favor.
A common mistake people make is treating the platform like a get-rich-quick scheme or side hustle
I would advise that people who are serious about being a freelancer use Upwork, but not those who just want to work an extra Saturday. For those who want extra money, understand that hard work and effort has to come for a long time before reaching a comfortable stage.
Another mistake people make is relaxing once they land their first client. At this point, you should be continuing the momentum and trying to land as many clients as you can handle. Ask your old or current client if there are any other projects to work on or any people they know, keep applying for projects even when you’re working on existing ones, and share your profile around social-media groups or forums such as Facebook and LinkedIn to gain exposure.
Are you a freelancer or business owner who wants to share your story? Email Lauryn Haas at firstname.lastname@example.org.