How to get accepted on Upwork

How to get your Upwork profile approved

Back then, getting your Upwork profile approved wasn’t this complicated.

But again, the number of freelancers wasn’t the same back then.

Imagine, in 2017 alone, there were over 57 million freelancers in the United States. In 2020, it rose to almost 65 million. (Source: Statista)

That’s more than 8 million new freelancers, not counting those from other countries especially in Asia.

This influx is what led freelance platforms like Upwork to tighten up their supply. This is why it’s getting harder for your profile to get approved.

Some even begin to question whether or not Upwork is still worth it (it still is).

If you have just started on your freelance journey, this can be very frustrating. That’s why in this article, let’s talk about how to get your Upwork profile approved.

Let’s go!

Beware of Upwork approval services

Before we proceed, let me warn you about “approval services” that are rampant right now.

If you’ve been to several blogs and forums to read about how to get your profile accepted, chances are, you have already seen these shameless plugs from individuals advertising their services.

Here’s an example:

An example of an advertised Upwork approval service

And another one:

Another example of an advertised Upwork approval service

What these people do is use false and misleading information on your profile to bypass Upwork’s account approval algorithm.

They do this by:

  • Changing your skills and categories to something related to mobile development or programming.
  • Moving your location to another country like Pakistan, the United Kingdom, or the United States.

Now, here’s what will possibly happen in a few weeks or months:

You’ll receive an email from Upwork that your account is on hold. Then, you’ll be kicked out.

You’ll be asking yourself: “Did I do something wrong? I never did anything that went against Upwork’s rules.”

You never did anything wrong.

But what these people did to get your profile approved was in violation of Upwork’s Terms of Services.

See this:

Upwork’s Terms of Services on Account Profile

No matter how frustrated and desperate you may feel, never buy into these services.

True, your account may be approved. But Upwork will catch up eventually and you will find yourself unable to access your account.

Worse, you will not be able to withdraw your earnings.

Takeaway: Do not trust people who are offering services to get your Upwork profile approved. What they will do is against Upwork’s terms of services.

More automated than manual

A key to understanding how to get your Upwork profile approved is knowing how the process works.

I have noticed many people expressing their anger towards Upwork employees and how “unfair” they are.

But spoiler alert, these employees don’t know you.

Stephane Kasriel, the former CEO of Upwork, revealed in a 2017 interview that there are over 10,000 new freelancers on the platform daily.

Upwork doesn’t have the manpower to review all these new profiles manually every day.

That’s why you need to understand that it’s more like an automated elimination process. If you don’t meet certain criteria, your profile will be rejected.

On the other hand, it doesn’t mean that there are no humans behind this process.

People from Upwork have confirmed that there certainly is a human element behind the process.

Upwork has both automatic and manual systems that evaluate profiles

Although Upwork is mute about the specifics of this process, it’s likely that the human element plays after a number of resubmissions.

In short, an Upwork profile for approval goes through an algorithm first before a human sees it.

Takeaway: Upwork’s process of approving profile is more automated than manual. Initially, an algorithm will check the new profiles and automatically reject those who don’t pass certain criteria.

Use a work email address

Before, you can just use your personal email address like the one you used to sign up for Facebook or Twitter. They didn’t care much about this step back then.

But now, as you can see from the image below, Upwork specifically asks for a work email address or a professional email.

This is the first step in passing the automated system of Upwork profile approval.

Upwork requires a work email address upon signing up

I used to believe that a professional-looking, sensible Gmail address like alancatantan@gmail.com will do fine.

But obviously, it’s not what Upwork is asking as anybody who uses such an email will receive a “We noticed you’re using a gmail.com address. Would you like to use your work email instead?” notice.

We noticed you're using a gmail.com address. Would you like to use your work email instead?

A work email address is something that uses a custom domain, typically that of the business’s name.

Unfortunately, you can’t get a domain for free.

Fortunately, Bluehost (affiliate link) has a super low hosting package which only costs $2.95 per month that comes with a free domain name for one year and unlimited email accounts on owned domains.

Create a free email account on Bluehost

But if you only want to buy a domain, the cheapest place is on Namecheap. You can buy a domain with a new top-level domain (TLD) that’s for sale like .xyz or .website for just a dollar.

Then, you can either buy Namecheap’s Private Email Hosting Starter Plan for $0.79 per month or Zoho Mail Lite for a dollar a month.

If you don’t want any hassle and you’re only there for the work email address, I highly recommend Bluehost. You would only need the email to register.

Takeaway: The first step towards getting approved on Upwork is by using a professional email address. If not, you can buy Bluehost’s cheapest hosting plan and open a work email address there.

Enter the maximum number of categories and skills

Once you have verified the email address, you will then be redirected to the application page where you have to specify your main service, categories, skills, and experience level.

Let’s go over them briefly.

Enter the maximum main services or category, subcategories, and skills allowed.

Though Upwork keeps on updating its application page, there’s a chance that the current application page will only accept one service and 4-5 subcategories.

If more than that, just make sure to enter the maximum number of categories and subcategories.

For example, on my profile, I have listed “Sales & Marketing” and “Writing” as my main services with various subcategories under them.

Sales & Marketing and Writing as my main categories

The same goes for skills. Select the relevant skills you possess.

If you’re at loss on what to write, check out the subcategories you have selected and start typing relevant skills on the form provided.

Upwork will show you a suggested list of skills based on what you have written.

Upwork showing suggested skills on the form

Again, make sure you fill it up to the maximum number of skills allowed. But make sure to include skills that you really have.

Although Upwork will not test you to see if you’re being honest, picking the right skills and subcategories will have an impact on the invites you will be getting as well as your profile’s searchability.

Takeaway: Make sure to fill up the categories and subcategories to the brim.

Select the intermediate experience level

The next part is picking the right experience level.

Most people undervalue their experience and choose the “Entry” level instead perhaps to avoid high expectations from clients.

However, if you want to start working at home as a freelancer and use a platform like Upwork, you should not label yourself as an entry-level contractor.

Related: How to be a freelancer and start earning from home

Doing so will give off a vibe that you are new to this and probably, you’re not even sure what you’re doing.

Expert experience level on Upwork

Here’s an unpopular opinion:

If you’re not sure yet what you’ll be doing, or if you haven’t taken the time to learn a new skill and gain experience on it, then you might need to think whether you’re ready for this or not.

Freelancing is not for the unprepared.

But if you have at least put in some groundwork and gain some experience, then you’re at least on an intermediate level.

If not, hold off your application and gain some experience first.

Takeaway: When filling up your experience level, make sure you select at least the “Intermediate” level. If you don’t feel like one, try to learn the skill first and gain some experience.

Complete your profile 100%

The next part is completing your Upwork profile including your profile picture, title, overview, rate, portfolio, certifications, employment history, etc.

Your goal should be to show that you’re serious about joining the platform.

There’s a big chance that the human element of the approval process cares very much on your profile completeness.

My personal Upwork profile

To start, make sure you’re using a good profile picture.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to look really good or that the picture has to be taken professionally.

Just see to it that you’re using a clear, legit picture of you. Preferably, a good, smiling picture of you.

Next is your title.

Aside from your profile picture, your title is one of the most recognized parts of your profile.

Make your title stand out — like you really know what you’re doing.

Generally, clients, especially high-paying ones, are looking for specialists.

They don’t hire generalists who are easy to spot i.e. profiles with titles like Marketer/Virtual Assistant/Web Developer/…

Here’s a tip:

If you want to stand out, show your expertise.

The same goes for your profile overview. Take the time to create a good and converting overview section.

When it comes to your rate, don’t be cheap.

Again, this has something to do with your perceived experience level and value. Don’t ask for the minimum possible rate which is $3/hour.

You may not know it, but clients can actually see a suggested rate depending on the experience level.

Clients can see a suggested range of rate depending on experience

Don’t settle for the minimum rate.

You’re only devaluing your skills and services that way. Of course, don’t set it too high either or you might end up underdelivering — or worse, no one will hire you.

Takeaway: Complete your profile and make sure it’s 100%. Use a good profile picture. Make your title and profile overview work for you by making them persuasive. Lastly, don’t be cheap.

Showcase your experience

The lower part of your profile houses the different experiences you have that clients may or may not check.

However, it’s important that you fill these up too to showcase your experience.

In the education section, some people only write their formal education. But you should also include any education you have, even informal ones.

Some items you can add include:

  • Online courses
  • Internship
  • Training
  • Seminars

In the employment history section, you should enter all the experiences you have — whether formal or not, paid or free — that are related to the services you’re offering.

You may have done sample work for someone or helped a friend on a project. Make sure to include them.

It’s also vital that you support your employment history with some relevant portfolio pieces.

This may not be available right away during the first time you create a profile, but if this section is present, include any projects you may have done in the past.

For example, here’s what my Upwork portfolio currently looks like:

Current Upwork portfolio

Again, what’s important here is you showcase your experience and not leave anything blank. This is part of achieving a 100% Upwork profile completeness.

Completing your profile may have a profound effect when a human moderator will manually review your Upwork profile for approval.

Takeaway: Showcase all your experiences and past projects. It doesn’t matter if those projects were voluntary or not, what’s important is you include them on your profile.

Refine your categories

Normally, if your chosen services and skills aren’t that saturated yet, you will be accepted immediately.

But if not, you will receive an email from Upwork saying that your application was denied because your skill isn’t needed.

If this is the case, visit your profile settings and change your categories.

The easiest way to get to profile settings is to visit your profile and click on the Profile Settings button found on the upper right corner.

How to change Upwork profile settings

If you have been rejected the first time, you will notice that you’re now able to select more categories than the first time.

Add your categories and subcategories up to the maximum allowed.

If not, change the combination of your categories and subcategories. Choose a category that’s still related to your services.

For example, if you’re a content writer and you have chosen “Writing” at first, you can change it to “Sales & Marketing” and select the relevant subcategories.

Takeaway: If your Upwork profile wasn’t accepted yet, you will find out that you can now add another category and subcategories. Make sure to fill them up to the maximum allowed and resubmit your profile.

Accept the unfortunate truth

Depending on your chosen categories and subcategories, the approval may not take that long.

Or you may not get accepted at all even after countless revisions. It’s unfortunate, but you will have to move on.

The truth is:

Upwork is already saturated right now with freelancers, especially on the non-technical side.

So there’s really a chance that if you’re only offering basic services, your Upwork profile may not get approved.

This is simply a supply-and-demand thing — too much supply but too little demand.

If you really want to fulfill your dream of working at home via freelancing, here are my suggestions:

  • Start learning a new, in-demand skill
  • Create a freelancer profile on other platforms like Fiverr, FreeUp, or OnlineJobs
  • Find clients on your own (research and outreach)
  • Start networking professionally on social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn

In the end, if you’re Upwork profile wasn’t approved, don’t think of it as a failure.

Rather, treat is an opportunity to grow and learn more. What’s important is you never give up on your dream.

Now it’s your turn. I would like to know what you think:

  • Are you having problems getting your Upwork profile approved despite following what’s written above?
  • Do you have any more questions about how to get your Upwork profile approved?

Let me know by sharing your comment down below.

About Alan

Alan helps different companies generate more qualified leads and increase their sales by educating their readers with strategic content and writing blogs. He's also the founder of Work Pajama.

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