Step by Step Upwork(oDesk) Instructions For Beginners

The Definitive Guide

This tutorial is good for Upwork(oDesk) beginner.

The recommendations and tips are helpful if you start your carrier as a freelancer.

Main ideas are applicable to any profession.

Your new comfortable place of work?

Upwork (oDesk) - This is international site for freelances and customers.

The main customers: the Americans and Europeans.

The main executors: India, China, Philippines, Ukraine, Russia and other countries with a low income.

This is a really place where people can earn much more money than do on their current place of work.

Pass free registration and you are ready to start.

In the beginning, only 2 job offers are available within a week, but if you pass a simple Upwork(oDesk) Knowledge test and complete your profile you will be given a quote on 20 jobs offers, do not be lazy :) - many people do not to it. It can be even more, but it needs to verify your information (scan passports and payment system with the name), but it is not necessarily.

You can provide your skills by passing some tests. It is funny but many customers rely on tests results, because most of them do not know that many answers are available in the Internet.

So pass as many as possible within you field especially if you do not have a good portfolio.

It make takes a whole day - but it is worth.

Complete personal information, skills and portfolio. Include into portfolio all projects even if they were completed yet:

  • Try to add some value to you experience.
  • Do not afraid to say more than you are - you will have a change to prove it.

It seems that there are two groups of developers on Upwork(oDesk):

  • first group: up to $10/hr. In this category mainly Hindu developers, and other 23-year-old senior developer-s. Ideal for novice developers, because most of project in this category does not have high quality expectations.
  • the second one: more than $20/hr, mostly those who have worked on Upwork(oDesk) ~ 100hr.

Upwork(oDesk) has super tracking time tools, they literally watching you.

These tools make screenshots of your desktop, monitor how many times have you moved the mouse and clicking keyboard.

It is not comfortable for a freelancer from one side, BUT in this case Upwork(oDesk) guarantees payment for your time, which is good.

You may work on a fixed price contracts, where the price depends on a project, or based on hourly rate.

How much can you earn on Upwork(oDesk) per month?

how much you can earn on odesk

The following information based on stories of programmers.

If to work 30hr per week you can earn up to $5000/month.

Most mature freelancers works on 2-3 projects simultaneously.

What professions are OK for Upwork(oDesk)?

It is a great place for programmers - there are a lot of different offers. But it is good for many other professions, even not related to IT.

odesk who can apply

Some observation:

  • Programmers - many different project from small to large. Any skills, any technology. Big rate. Inside a team or alone. up to$100/hr.
  • Graphic Designers - many projects, but less than for programming Also some clients assume that designer can do HTML coding and UX part.
  • Game designers - not so easy to find such job. It is because this field is not so clear for customers and something their requirements is not appropriate. As a rule such projects have huge budgets. It is better to apply as a team for such offers.
  • QA - the niche almost occupied by freelancers from India. They have very low rates, so it almost impossible to offer a better price for a customer.
  • Copywriters / translators - most of them for English.
  • Marketing - SEO and SMM not a big sphere. Very different projects.
  • Project Managers - if you are experienced manager it is not so difficult to became a part of a foreign company as a remote worker, or go to the project management team of freelancers.

Demand on programmers

demand of programmers on odesk


  • CMS - A lot of projects. Most popular Drupal, WordPress, Joomla. Payment is not very big about up to $15/hr.
  • PHP - there are different projects, from simple pages for $ 5 to multi-year projects. The average up to $15/hr. In pure PHP small projects, basically all want frameworks.
  • Ruby, Python - all the same as for php, but that's projects for beginners are much smaller and a little more cost
  • Perl - the average number of projects, mainly support and bugfix. Usually up to $15/hr, but sometimes you can find something worthwhile


  • Android, iOs - probably the most demanded niche. Many projects of any complexity and duration. Competition among a lot of freelancers, but to take a project is easy. Average $15-30/hr.
  • Windows Phone, Blackberry, etc - much smaller projects, but they are. In all other respects as well as Android, iOS.
  • Games - projects less than for iOS and Android, but the competition is less. Basically claimed cocos2d, cocos2d-x, Corona, Unity, Marmelad. Average $15-30/hr
  • Cross-platform engines are also very much in demand, but they have less money ~$10/hr. However, since it is possible for these little engines and therefore short-term projects.


  • Java SE / .NET - small projects. Here there is no project clones. Payment $15-20/hr
  • Delphi - very little, mostly support.


  • Java EE / .NET - mostly large projects for companies, not for singles freelancers. Rate $30/hr.
  • Delphi - very little, mostly support.


  • There are projects for writing drivers and sometimes low-level hacking. Generally difficult and interesting. Rate varies


  • Projects with huge rates. Mainly in the specific programs and languages. Mathematics, statistics, probability theory. From $70-100/hr. Little projects.

System Administrators

  • A lot of short-term projects of any orientation. You can also support projects for a certain amount per month. ~ $15/hr.


  • Sometimes there are projects to port code from prehistoric languages. Prices tend to be large.

What level of English necessary?

English — is the main language on Upwork(oDesk).

For most professionals in IT this is not a problem at all, but even if not, it should not delay the start of work.

odesk English level necessary

About 98% of all work on Upwork(oDesk) is conducted in English, of course there are customers who want to communicate in Russian or Chinese, but it is rather the exception.

So should be ready that all work will be conducted in English.

The Main way to communicate — emails, less - skype chat.

Be prepared that you will have to conduct live chat with a customer, even if not using voice.


It is not necessary to have good speaking English, but the ability to communicate fluently in English gives you opportunity to take an expensive project and lead a more productive work.

If for you it's hard to write in English, it should not stop you to apply for a job on Upwork(oDesk), because you can learn English during you tasks.

The spelling of grammar is not particularly important, the main thing that the customer and you can understand each other.

Clients understand about the fact that English is not the main for you, the main thing - you can do what the customers want.

Simple story:

I tried to learn English from a school, but not luck.

Even after university I can only read and only with a translator.

That time I had a passion to play computer games.

This helps me to improve my skills, now I can read more words, but cannot write and talk.

When I got first job then most tasks required me to go to Google and make a search.

I read much on forums and in the Internet, thanks Google translate.

I started to work on Upwork(oDesk) with the following level: fluent reading technical articles, and write with great difficulty, no talk at all.

In a couple of months, I have learned to how effectively chat in Skype without Google translate.

And although my grammar still leaves much to be desired, for the customers it does brings any discomfort.

Working with clients I thought about an easy way to improve my English speaking.

I did some research and found these web sites: italki, verbling and livemocha. I tried all of them, because they offer an option to find a free partner to exchange languages.

Finally I found a great professional teacher on italki who developed my confidence and prononciation.

You can use this link to register on italki and get 100 points (their local currency).

Upwork(oDesk) Registration


1 Enter this Upwork URL:

odesk sign up


2 Sign Up

Enter information about yourself (information must be valid and correct, it can be difficult to change it later or even impossible. Also odesk require scan of the your passport to confirm some details).

odesk signup details


3 Complete Account

It is important to specify the correct country - otherwise you can have problems filling out tax forms below.

odesk complete your account

I recommend to use this online site to generate strong passwords:


4 Registration Completed. Verify Email address

account created


5 Receive Email and Complete Registration

Then to go to your email and confirm the registration.

confirm your email address


6 Choose work type

You can change it later

upwork set your preferences


7 Jobs Recommendations

Then continue Create Profile.

upwork job recommendations


8 Create Your Profile

You will also need to fill in the profile (Complete profile). Complete your profile depending on your skills

upwork create your profile

upwork review your profile


9 Submit Profile

Submit your profile and wait until it will be approved. It may take 24hr.

upwork submit profile


10 Membership Plan

Basic plan is more than enough to begin. You can change it later.

upwork membership plan


11 Access Tax Information (W8BEN)

Begin to fill out a tax form ( W8BEN tax form).

upwork tax information


12 Modify Tax Information (W8BEN)

If you indicated (during the registration) that you are not a US citizen, so just complete the form W8BEN (see below).

Note: If you are offered to download and fill PDF document, it means that you chosen wrong country at the registration and you need to repeat all steps again.

Fill in the W-8BEN form

upwork modify tax information


upwork enter tax information


14 Security Question

You will be asked to complete security question/answer before Setting up Payment account.

upwork setup payment method

upwork secure question


15 Setting up Payment method

Then you need to fill in the information about payment methods.

upwork get paid


16 Choose Payment Method

Most people from Russia choose to work with Payoneer, this is especially actual if your country is not in a trusted PayPal list.

Using Payoneer you can easily withdrawal money from any ATM.

Also you can choose PayPal if you would like to get all payments on your PayPal account.

upwork payment method

Registration for Payoneer

Payoneer is a good option for people from Russia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

It must be done as early as possible, because Payoneer credit card may deliver during 3 months, depends on your country.

how to register account on Payoneer for odesk

Upwork (oDesk) offers different ways to withdrawal money. The best one is Payoneer.

How it works

The American company creates a dollar card in an American bank for you. It is free!!! You do not own an account, because you are only a card holder attached to a joint Payoneer account. This is perfect for countries where citizens cannot have accounts in foreign banks!!!

Complete a form

All you need is to enter your information in the form (name and address) and in a month you will get an envelope with a card inside.

You must provide only valid actual information, because it will be verified with your passport.

Write all data in English (use transcription for your address, First and Last names take from passport). Your country may have a special document transcription of names in the Latin alphabet.

Service fees

Yearly service fees are $30. This amount is automatically withdrawal once a year and ONLY if there is money on your account.

Withdrawal points

It is very easy and convenient to get money from any ATM.

Activate your card

Before using the card you must activate it on the site and set a PIN code. Prior to the activation of the card it can not be used.

Link the card with Upwork (oDesk)

Now you have to link the card to your Upwork (oDesk) account. You can do it for 1 minute via oDesk settings.

Payoneer has a very good support, any question can be asked on the forum.

Get additional $25 on your Payoneer account

By registering using the link below you will automatically get $25 on your card as soon as earn $100, which is nice, agree: Open your card on Payoneer.

Passing Upwork(oDesk) Readiness test

Upwork(oDesk) Readiness Test

Pass Upwork(oDesk) Readiness test as early as possible. Without it, you will have only 2 possibilities to get a job offer within a week.

It is very easy - just 10 simple questions. You just have to read the Upwork(oDesk) rules first - it takes 10 min.

Do not worry to failed this test, because you can repeat it again as many times as you wish. If you really get stuck, then the Internet has the answers on these tests :).

Fill profile

how to right complete odesk profile

Profile must be filled completely to get a quota of 20 job offers per week.

It gives you some advantages over other who were too lazy to do it.

Profile on Upwork(oDesk) may play important role for you customers. Take extra 2-3hr to complete which help to distinguish your profile among others.

Main idea - profile must be completed! See freelancer profile samples for all jobs.


According Upwork(oDesk) documentation the right photo is a very important. Find a photo which clearly shows your face, where there are no different people and you looked seriously enough, especially if you are young freelancer.

Personal Details

Describe your self, especially your straight sides even if they do not directly connected with you job. Do not just list your skills.


You must add as many as possible, first must be skills where you are most experienced.

Add any skill with which you are even slightly familiar with or interested in.

Often customers when searching through the search for the candidate set filters for specific skills.

Popular skills can be found in a job description, so use them to make your-self more attractive.


Customers sometimes look at them, and use search filters to find more appropriate executives.

Tests may take too long a time, so you can pass 4-5.

Good test results make customer to fill confident offering you a job. Of course these need only to distinguish your-self, because when you get a positive feedback from completed projects then tests will not be important at all - only positive feedback make sense.

See all Upwork (Odesk) test answers.

Employment History / Education / Other Experience

Add any courses, seminars and everything which make sense for your future jobs. In general it does not play big role, but if you profile completely filled in it looks attractive for customers.


Add here only successfully completed projects. Nobody will check them.

Up to 10 project is enough.

As a rule customers read only first 2-3 of them.

No one will read the description very attentively, so add more screenshots.

Workign portfolio examples for beginners:


You must specify that at least a conversation level even if is not true.

You always can reject job if you see that your language is not satisfied for some projects.


Badge increases significance of your profile.

You can get them very easy - enter into different groups and take part in competitions.

Pass tests in your field

how to pass odesk tests

This step is not required, but most Upwork(oDesk) specialists as a rule pass from 3 to 5 tests.

Passing test is not so important as a chance to get and complete your first job successfully.

But if you do not have good works in the portfolio and you are not confident in your skills, please pass tests to increase your points.

Being in Top 30% is enough for your potential clients, no need to try get Top 10%.

You can find some Upwork tests answer here.

Choosing right clients

tips how to find right customers on odesk

Unfortunately you can faced with situations on Upwork(oDesk) when customers do not pay at all.

There are some regulation rules for such situations, but anyway it is better to choose right people from the first attempt.

Customers categories:

  1. Best one. Customer has long history, his paid rate is high, he paid much money, his average rating is almost 5 stars;
  2. New customer - black box. According Upwork(oDesk) info you cannot tell anything about him. This is your responsibility to accomplish a work with him;
  3. The worst option. Average rating is low - less then 4 stars, paid rate is low $2-3/hr.

The most important thing which you must do before starting any relationship with a customer - read freelances' feedback. You can learn more about a customer.

But anyway, if you have positive expectations then as a rule even bad customers will be gold for you.

How much I can be paid?

The following questions raise immediately after opening Upwork(oDesk) account:

What are the average rate on Upwork(oDesk)?

What rate to use in profile?

What is the best rate for beginners?

When to raise/diminish rate?

What cost/rate to use when applying for a job?

how much ask for job on odesk

The notes below applied for programmers

What are the average rate?

The average Upwork(oDesk) rate is from $3 - $50/hr. See all freelance rates grouped by specialities

Specialists use $20/hr. Most IT specialists who are just graduated and does not have much experience as rule use $5/hr.

For example, according site:

PHP rates from $4/hr in Pakistan to $200/hr in Ukraine

MySQL rates from $4.44/hr in Bangladesh to $265/hr 29 years in United States

Rate in profile?

You make use your current salary + 30-50%.

You always can negotiate the rate when applying for a job.

Than smaller project cost is then as a rule a customer is less adequate. Such customers want to make huge amount of work for 5 cents.

Large project budgets as a rule have wise customers.

Large rate in your profile attract customers attention, no doubts.

What is the best rate for beginners?

You can begin from $7-15 to earn first rating and feedback.

If you put the rate less $7/hr, then you may lost among less qualified specialists.

What rate to use for applying for a job?

In some cases make sense to suggest a lower cost to show your loyalty to a customer and explain why: as for example, you may not fully correspond the job requirements.

Get your first simple job

how to get your first job on odesk

What factors are most important for customers when they choose a freelancer for their projects: rate, cover letter and feedback.

Of course, your experience is the crucial factor to complete the project successfully, but not for choosing you among other freelancers.

When you apply for a job then it automatically means that you have experience to accomplish it.

Rate - you can regulate it as you wish, but the feedback it is not the thing which you can easily change.

To get a good feedback you must: 1) get a project; 2) complete it successfully.

The cover letter this is how you can explain a customer that you are the best one for this project. See more than hundred real cover letters examples.

The cover letter should show the following:

  • you can cope with the task;
  • you fully understand the task;
  • you are loyal and reliable person.

Your cover letter should include: (simple rules to write great cover letter)

  • Show that your experience/skill is what is required in the task or even more;
  • Show that you understand the topic. You may add some clarification or questions;
  • Be sure that you read all provided materials and talk with clients on his technical 'language';
  • If the task describe a problem and client is seeking for a solution, you may describe it in general terms;
  • Show that you are interested in getting this particular project;
  • Refer to your portfolio to show that you already completed similar projects. Do it even if you do not have projects in portfolio, because you always can say that NDA does not allow you to share more details;
  • Give customer the best cost you can and if you reduce it then explain why;
  • In some cases show you wiliness to accomplish a test job;
  • Guarantee the customer that you are an adequate person and will be able to do the job.

Do not try to get a big project immediately. Start from small/easy projects, which can be easily completed, with a good feedback. Choose that one, which can be, accomplish during a day. Price can vary from $5 to $10.

You even may choose project not from you specialty. See all most popular freelancer jobs.

One well-done work on Upwork(oDesk) will greatly increase your chances of getting other clients.

As a rule, it takes a week to find such small project.

Do not be afraid, if it look a difficult, try to accomplish it - this is how everybody started on Upwork(oDesk).

If you already take a project you cannot give up.

Increase a positive feedback

That time to develop your confidence and gain experience in dealing with customers.

You need to learn not to give offense to yourself, without offending the customer.

Perform simple 2-3 tasks $10 - $200, usually a task takes several weeks.

positive feedback plays important role on odesk

Good luck

Now you have a portfolio and positive feedback. This is your chance to get a big project.

Big project can became you long-term playing project with following support and new features.

how to earn much money on odesk

As a rule many clients rely on a freelancer once they found a good one.

On this step you should apply only for projects which you are sure you can successfully complete.

Sort out offers very carefully.

Once you get such project - do not give up.

You must complete it successfully - forget about everything, just do it.

The search of such projects may take a month, so you can simultaneously complete small projects.