This last week was a pretty cool week for Misterek Web Design. SPOILER ALERT: I (Chris) was featured in an ad in New York Times square as a top rated web design freelancer by a company I use to find projects called Upwork.
As a freelancer in web design, I have used every method available to find projects. At first, I was banging down the doors of the people closest to me: friends, relatives, and neighbors. Conversations went a little something like this: “Hey! You’ve got a business right? Man, if you ever need someone to do web work I’d love to help you out. I’m just getting started. So, whatever you can give me is totally fine.” (long awkward pause) “Okay, cool…well I hope your daughter likes the gift we got her.” (sheepishly exits princess themed 6th birthday party)
As tough as they were, those conversations finally gathered some interest. After a while work started coming in. Word got out to an inner circle around me but I still didn’t have the work load I was looking for.
A little bit of the back story…I entered the freelance scene after coming out of a pretty tough divorce. I have 3 beautiful daughters and I share custody with their mom. But, being a single dad of small children on one income was a pretty scary reality. My total household income had been cut by more than half from the separation. So, my desire to find work wasn’t just for sport. Freelance was out of necessity.
I had to keep scratching for more projects. They came from Craigslist ads, cold calls, whatever it took. Yet from all my best efforts I was still have trouble finding the work load I needed.
Then a friend recommended I check out a website called Upwork. Basically, Upwork is a big network of two types of users: those looking for work and those looking to get work done. So, if you need work done you go on and say, “Hey! I have a job I need to get finished. This is how much I’m looking to pay and this is the kind of person I’m looking for.” Then if you’re looking for work you put a bid in along with other freelancers looking to get the same job. The potential client picks from the pool of freelancers that have applied and goes through interviews until they choose their freelancer.
I had heard of similar sites like Freelancer and Fiverr and was somewhat familiar with the concept. But, I had also heard from other web designer friends that these kind of sites were for people who would work for way cheaper than what it was worth for me to do anything.
I didn’t care what my chances were, I just needed work. So, I signed up. The sign up process isn’t easy. These sites do a decent job of trying to keep out those who aren’t serious about actually doing work for people. So if I wanted in, I had to hustle.
No Luck Landing Projects
Finally, my profile was to the point that I could actually bid. I think I spent an entire afternoon looking through all the relevant job postings. One after another I would make the best sounding proposals that I thought for sure would win over the potential client and get me the project. I would bid and then find another one and bid again. So on and so on.
I thought to myself, “It’s only a matter of time.” Pretty soon I’ll have more work than I’ll be able to handle. The deal was that these systems work on ratings. Once you’ve finished a job the client will give you a rating and that rating is shown for the world to see. The only problem is if you’ve never gotten a job before you have NO RATINGS. And, potential clients are much less likely to give you a shot if they don’t know whether or not you’ve been successful with a project on Upwork in the past.
So, my excitement for all the new work quickly began fading as the days went by without a response from a single bid. I almost gave up and deleted my account out of spite. All that effort, with a great headshot…I even made a video and nothing.
My First Job on Upwork
But…finally, the day came. I was actually out of town with my kids. I had been asked to come out to California to do some contract work for a friend of mine. So, instead of going by myself, I packed up my kids and took them with me. We made a “work-cation” out of it complete with a trip to Legoland. One night as our long day of riding Lego dinosaurs and chomping on overpriced theme park food was coming to a close my phone pinged me. I had a message from a potential client.
I was so overwhelmed with excitement I had to respond right away. A few messages later and I had landed my first gig. It was a small one. But, it was something. I was overjoyed. I started on it right away. I don’t know if it’s a bad idea to start working on a vacation but this was a “work-cation.” I went for it.
I got a great rating from that job and then slowly but surely more projects started to roll in.
Web Design Projects Here We Go
Before long, I became one of the top rated web design freelancers on Upwork. I didn’t have to bid for projects. Clients would find me specifically and ask me if I could help. Not only was I finding a lot of work, but the work was what I initially had in mind when I applied. They were great projects that I enjoyed and that clients were actually willing to pay a fair amount for good work.
My friends were dumbfounded. I’d get questions all the time like, “Why do you think you are having so much success on Upwork?” I even talked to a business coach who had actually steered her people away from working on these platforms and was confused by how I figured it out.
Then one day, I got an email.
Would I like to be included? Are you kidding me? Of course, I would. I was elated. I filled out the form in less than 30 seconds and thought of all the possibilities of what this might mean. I tried to contain my excitement. I told myself things like, “Even if they don’t end up using me, it’s really nice to be asked.” But, deep down I desperately wanted to be featured.
Time went by and I got busy doing other things. This was in the back of my mind but I figured with as long as it was taking I probably wouldn’t ever hear anything about it. Then came the news that Upwork had gone public. That alone was exciting news. This meant more potential exposure for Upwork and therefore more people interested in getting work done through the platform, which in turn would mean more potential projects for me.
But, that wasn’t all. The email I received notifying me the company I had found projects through was going public was also using freelancers in their advertisement in Time Square to let the world know the news. WAS THIS IT?! Would I be one of the ones featured? Of course you read the first paragraph and all ready know the end of the story. But, I couldn’t time travel to see what would happen.
Could it Be True
I tried not to get to excited. Maybe even though they asked me they decided I didn’t fit the motif of the campaign. Hey! I’m a web designer, I have tons of ideas that never pan out. Unused graphics, pictures etc. Maybe that was the case for me.
Soon after they sent an email out saying if you were featured in the ad you’d get an email letting you know. So, I waited…then:
How cool is that!? I couldn’t believe it. Maybe this isn’t a big deal to you. But for me, this represented years of hard work, years of struggle, years of working my tail off to make sure all of my clients were 100% satisfied with what I delivered. This was the culmination of staying up until 4 in the morning getting that home page just right. This was a result of revision after revision until finally the website became exactly what it needed to be. This…was a big deal.
How I Got Here
Truthfully, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the journey. For every client that picked me out of the crowd. For every friend, mentor and confidant that would cheer me on or help me change directions when I needed it. I’ve been so incredibly blessed.
I love the work I do and the people I get to work with. From the get go, I’ve tried my hardest to go above and beyond to help my clients. I don’t just want to have a good final product. I want them to be floored with what I give them. I plan to keep doing this and hopefully one day teach other people how to do it themselves. Until then, I’ll revel in what may be to others a small victory but to me feels like a pretty great milestone.
You can see the video of the ad here. I’m somewhere around the 39 second mark:
Or you can cheat and just see me here 😉
(P.S. not sure why I’m labeled as a Logo Design and Branding guy but hey it’s the thought that counts)
If you would like to see my profile on Upwork: here you go
And, as always if you’re looking to start a project just click the button below