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How to Make the Most of Upwork as a Student
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How to Make the Most of Upwork as a Student

If you’re a college student looking to earn some extra money or gain hands-on experience while managing your studies, there are various options available to you. Working part-time locally or freelancing online from home or school are popular choices.  

However, balancing these options with your academic responsibilities can often be challenging. Traditional part-time jobs, often come with tight schedules that may clash with your classes, assignments, and extracurricular activities. 

Luckily, freelancing through platforms like Upwork offers an ideal solution. In this article, we will delve into how you can leverage Upwork to make money, gain valuable experience, and grow as a professional while pursuing your college education. 

Let’s dive in, but first things first.

Read Also: Top 9 Tips for Juggling School and Work

What is Upwork and How Does it Work?

Upwork is an online platform that connects freelancers with clients seeking various types of freelance services such as web development, graphic design, writing, digital marketing, customer support, and more. It was founded in 2013 as a result of the merger between two platforms- Elance and oDesk. However, it was officially rebranded as Upwork in 2015. 

So how does it work?

The process involves clients posting detailed project descriptions (which can be long-term or short-term), followed by freelancers submitting comprehensive proposals highlighting their competencies and methodologies. Clients then select freelancers, and work progresses with clear terms and communication tools. Payments are handled securely through the platform.

What Qualifications Do You Need to Work at Upwork?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer for the qualifications needed to succeed on Upwork, as the requirements can vary depending on the nature of the work and the preferences of potential clients. However, it’s generally true that the more qualifications and experience you bring to the table, the more likely you are to attract clients.  

Certain Upwork jobs may only require basic qualifications, like a high school diploma or its equivalent. In contrast, others may demand more specialized credentials, such as a bachelor’s degree or higher in a specific field.  

If you’re uncertain whether your qualifications align with a particular Upwork job, the most practical approach is to submit an application and allow the client to make the final decision. Bear in mind that clients aren’t solely seeking individuals with the right qualifications; they’re also seeking a good fit for their unique project. Thus, showcasing the skills you have acquired in college, experience whether internship, attachment, or volunteer; and compatibility with the client’s needs can be equally important as your formal qualifications.       

Upwork Jobs: What Type of Jobs are Available for Students?

In this section, we will discuss 6 common types of jobs available for students on Upwork. Note that this list is not exhaustive as Upwork offers a wide range of job opportunities for students.

  1. Social media manager  

If you find yourself spending a significant amount of time on platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and possess strong creative and relatable skills, you can consider using these abilities by becoming a social media manager for a small business. 

In this role, your responsibilities would include creating content for various social media platforms, engaging with followers, analyzing interactions, and developing strategies. 

Social media management can be an engaging and practical job opportunity that allows you to balance your academic commitments. Additionally, working as a part-time social media manager can help you gain relevant exposure and communication skills that might prove useful if you plan to pursue a marketing or communication career after college.   

On Upwork, the average earnings for a social media manager range from $14 to $25 per hour.

  1. Virtual Assistant

Engaging in virtual assistant work on Upwork can be a suitable job option for students seeking flexible employment. 

As a virtual assistant, your role will revolve around providing remote administrative support to clients. This might include tasks such as email management, data entry, appointment scheduling, making travel arrangements for business owners, answering customer questions on sites, research, and more.     

The benefits of working as a virtual assistant on Upwork as a student are numerous. You can set your own hours, allowing you to accommodate your class schedule effectively. Additionally, virtual assistant work can help you develop valuable organizational, time management, and communication skills- skills that can prove valuable in both your academic pursuits and future career.   

On Upwork, the typical earnings for a virtual assistant range from $10 and $20  per hour, based on your skills and experience. 

  1. Graphic Designer

As a student, you can find freelance graphic design opportunities on Upwork, particularly if you’re familiar with graphic design tools like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Figma, Sketch, and After Effects.   

As a graphic designer, your role would involve creating visual content for clients, such as logos, posters, social media graphics, and more. Even if you’re not yet an expert, developing proficiency with graphic design tools is relatively straightforward and can be enjoyable if you are creative and have a strong interest in design.

By taking on graphic design projects on Upwork, you can build a diverse portfolio, gain exposure to real-world design requests, and improve your ability to work with clients and meet their expectations while earning income to support your studies.

The typical earnings for a graphic designer on Upwork range from $15 to $35 per hour.    

  1. Online tutor

Tutoring online as a student on a platform like Upwork is a promising way to earn extra income while making the most of your expertise and knowledge.

If you choose this path select the subject or subjects you feel confident in tutoring. This can include a wide range of topics, from academic subjects to practical skills such as programming, language learning, music, or art.  

The beauty of tutoring as a student is that you have the advantage of being in a learning environment, which can be leveraged to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in your field. Besides, studies have demonstrated that teaching others can actually reinforce your own understanding of the subject matter.

The average earnings for an online tutor is $19.65.

  1. Blogger or copywriter

Many small businesses prioritize expanding their customer base through the creation of high-quality content. Blogging, in particular, plays a pivotal role in this endeavor and it involves writing blogs, product briefs, and writing website content. 

Writing about topics you are knowledgeable about can not only help you produce high-quality content but also provide valuable information to readers and extend your knowledge base across a wide range of industries. 

Moreover, blogging on Upwork allows you to work on your own terms and schedule. As a student, you can balance your academic commitments with your blogging endeavors. You can also set a pace that suits your availability, ensuring that your studies remain a priority. 

Through consistent blogging on Upwork, you can build a portfolio of writing samples that showcase your versatility and proficiency. This portfolio can be a valuable asset as you transition into your professional career after completing your studies. It demonstrates your ability to effectively communicate, conduct research, and engage with different audiences.

Bloggers on Upwork earn anywhere from $15 to $40 per hour.  

  1. Transcriptionist

Transcription work can offer flexibility to students, allowing them to earn income while honing their listening and typing skills. As a transcriptionist, you’ll convert audio recordings into written text. This role requires strong typing skills, attention to detail, and familiarity with transcription tools. 

By offering transcription services, you can cultivate crucial skills in attentive listening, accuracy, and time management.      

Earnings for transcriptionists on Upwork range from $12 to $22 per hour.

Other job opportunities worth considering on Upwork as a student include- web designer, video editor, proofreader and editor, SEO jobs, photo editor, and more.

How to Make Money on Upwork for Beginners

  1. Define your skills and niche

The first step in your Upwork journey is to identify your skills and niche. What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? By defining your expertise, you’ll have a clearer idea of the types of jobs you can excel in. Remember that clients on Upwork are often looking for specific skills, so showcasing your expertise in a particular niche will make you more appealing to potential clients.

  1.  Create an impressive profile 

Your Upwork profile is your digital resume and portfolio rolled into one. Make sure it stands out and clearly outlines what sets you apart from other freelancers.

Use a professional photo, write a compelling headline, and craft a detailed bio that highlights your skills and experience. You can also include samples of your work, and emphasize your dedication to delivering high-quality results. 

  1. Make use of  the “connects”

Upwork operates on a system of “connects”. Connects are essentially virtual tokens that allow you to submit proposals for jobs. Spend them wisely by targeting projects that genuinely interest you and match your skills. Remember, quality proposals are more effective than quantity.

  1. Read Upwork reviews

Take some time to explore the profiles and reviews of successful freelancers in your niche. This can provide valuable insights into what clients appreciate, the quality of work that’s expected, and how to establish lasting relationships with clients. 

Additionally, before you apply for a job, take the time to read reviews and feedback from clients on a potential client’s profile. This will give you insights into their past experience with freelancers. It’s a good practice to avoid clients with a history of disputes or negative feedback. 

  1. Set Realistic Rates

It’s very important that you price yourself appropriately on Upwork. While it’s tempting to lower your rates to win more jobs, undervaluing your skills can lead to burnout and dissatisfaction. Conversely, setting rates too high might deter potential clients. Research the average rates for your niche and level of expertise and then use this information to set rates that reflect your skill and the value you provide. 

  1. Start with Entry-Level Projects

As a newbie on Upwork, consider taking on entry-level projects to build your profile, gain experience, and accumulate positive reviews. These projects might not pay as much, but they can be stepping stones toward more lucrative opportunities in the future.

  1. Proactively Apply for Relevant Jobs

Do not wait for jobs to come to you; actively search and apply for relevant jobs. Use Upwork’s search filters to find projects that align with your skills and interests. Apply to jobs that you believe you can excel in, and remember to customize your proposals to show how you can solve the client’s specific needs. 

3 Pro-tips 

  • Communicate effectively: Timely and transparent communication is key in any work environment. Respond promptly to client messages, queries, and concerns. This demonstrates professionalism and helps foster positive working relationships.
  • Continuously Upgrade Your Skills: The freelance landscape evolves rapidly. Invest in improving your skills by taking online courses, attending workshops, and staying up-to-date with industry trends. This not only enhances your abilities but also makes you more appealing to clients.
  • Build your portfolio: As you complete projects, update your portfolio with your latest work. A diverse and well-presented portfolio shows your range of skills and can be a decisive factor in convincing potential clients to hire you. 

How to Apply to Upwork

Ready to start earning on Upwork? Let's help you set up your account. Signing up for Upwork is a simple process:

  1. Visit the Upwork website (
  2. Click on the "Sign Up" button.
  3. Choose whether you want to sign up as a freelancer or a client.
  4. Fill in your basic information, such as your name, email, and password.
  5. Follow the prompts to complete your profile by providing more details about your skills and experience.
  6. Verify your email address through the confirmation link sent to your inbox.

That's it! You're now registered on Upwork and can start exploring opportunities.

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Karuana Mwai is an award-winning freelance journalist based in Nairobi Kenya with a passion for telling business, health, and social justice stories. Find here on LinkedIn

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