How to Build a Freelance Business on Upwork and Make a Million Dollars
- Ryan Clark was laid off from his job as a sales engineer in 2017 and started freelance work at Upwork.
- He started a business, Mr. Sharepoint, to help companies with digital processes and workflow automation.
- Clark has earned more than $1 million in payments in the past five years on Upwork.
One of the first things clients ask Ryan Clark on the call is, “Where in the world are you today?”
Some days the answer is Aruba or Brazil. Others, Italy or Hawaii.
“I could be working from the beach, or I could get off a helicopter from touring a volcano in Hawaii,” Clark told Insider.
While living in Chicago, the 33-year-old businessman is free to travel, set his own hours, and work from anywhere in the world. Clark is the founder of Mr. Sharepoint, a company that automates manual processes and workflows. He gets his clients through Upwork, a platform that connects freelancers to companies that need to outsource tasks.
But Clark didn’t always have the lifestyle that many only dreamed of: He worked as a sales engineer before being laid off in 2017. After that, he pursued a job where he had more control and flexibility.
“I didn’t like the fact that another company had so much control over my career path,” he said.
Within five years, Clark made more than $1 million in payments on Upwork, which Insider is verifying with documents. He told Insider how he established his pricing, expanded his clientele, and managed his time.
Start small to win customers
Clark got his first client from connecting in person, then discovered Upwork as a way to reach people more efficiently.
He said he didn’t have a reputation on the platform, so he set his price as low as $45 an hour when he started.
“At Upwork, you compete with people from all over the world,” he said. “One way you can get a client to hire you is just to lower your price.”
It took him about two weeks to get his first client on Upwork. Then, as it gained more customers and reviews, it gradually increased its prices. At first, Clark thought he might lose his business because of this, but he said he not only kept his clients, but also found that they took him more seriously. Right now, it’s priced at $135 an hour.
Get to know your selling points
An Upwork profile is similar to a resume in that it introduces potential clients to your experience and previous work.
“When people first see your profile, it’s a natural and inexpensive way to gain new business,” Clark said.
He established clear selling points to differentiate himself. For example, majored in business accounting and majored in technology and management in college. He said that being “functional and technical” has attracted clients because he can work with people on both the business side and the development side of the projects.
“In my world, usually,” he said, “you find people who are this or that.”
Sixty percent of his clients are repeat customers, and he has done work for companies in the fashion, pharmaceutical, grocery and hemp industries.
Clark said that anyone interested in freelancing at Upwork needs a strategy: “If you don’t know how to do something, you’re not going to be very successful in entrepreneurship.”
When he bids on a project, one of his approaches is to quote a price slightly lower than his usual rate to remain competitive with all other freelancers bidding on the same project. Bidding was a necessary step in setting up his company, but he rarely does so today because most of his clients come directly to him.
No two days are the same, but Clark usually responds to emails and inquiries in the morning before diving into the projects he has for the day. His job often requires moments in between to troubleshoot and help clients resolve any issues that may arise. To make the most of his time, he asks for power of attorney fees for some jobs.
“It doesn’t make sense for me to come back for a job at the company if I can earn more with just a baseline of my service,” he said. “Anything I do on top of that is just an extra thing.”