Email Love is supported by

October 19, 2023 - Articles

#Emailgeeks Guide to Upwork

I know what you’re thinking – Upwork is full of cheap talent and cheap clients looking for caviar quality work on a tuna fish budget. And there is that element to Upwork. However, have you ever tried to hire cheap talent from Upwork or any other freelance marketplace? I have, and I can tell you, you get what you pay for. The truth is that you aren’t going to get high-quality work if you’re only paying $10 per hour. In my experience, many companies on Upwork value quality work and service and are willing to pay for it.

Twelve months ago, I signed up for Upwork to help beef up my portfolio and find some exciting work that I can do on the side. In that 12 months, I have landed 14 jobs, worked 214 hours, and billed $16K. So, I’m not about to go all in on Upwork, but it’s been a fun experiment that I’ve enjoyed most.

So, if you are also an email marketing professional looking to pick up some extra work on Upwork, here is my advice.

Types of email work available on Upwork

Upwork offers a wide variety of email marketing-focused jobs, but most fall into three categories:

Design & Coding
Brands and agencies that need help with email design and coding production. These jobs could involve both design and coding or one or the other. I go for jobs that involve structure and coding or at least include a design element. I have also helped brands fix small coding and rendering issues, but digging into other people’s code is frustrating. I’ve had a few nightmare jobs where it would have been faster to re-code the email from scratch, so proceed with caution in those opportunities.

Campaign Management

This job usually involves the creation of email content, design work, and campaign setup. Companies seeking campaign management often create a template and use a drag-and-drop email builder. These roles are best suited to full-time freelancers as campaigns must be set up and delivered promptly. These roles also require a lot of communication between you and the client, so it’s best to avoid this type of job if you are doing this on the side.


Startups and new eCommerce brands often need help creating an email marketing strategy. This type of job is usually centered around automated emails and can lead to some exciting work. If you do a good job creating the process, you will often be asked to help with design, coding, and setup.

Typical clients, you’ll find on Upwork

  • Small e-commerce stores
  • Startups
  • Agencies
  • Enterprise brands

Finding your first email job

My first job on Upwork was coding a Campaign Monitor template for a Real Estate company. I had zero reviews on my profile and only a few emails in my portfolio. What differentiated me and won me the job was that I have deep experience with Campaign Monitor, having worked there for five years. My advice is to think about what you can do better than anyone else, search for an Upwork job that involves that skill, and clearly explain why they should hire you:

  • You know the product better than anyone else
  • You have created a similar email over 100 times at a previous agency
  • You have previously worked with an equal company and helped them achieve X

Writing a custom proposal letter that clearly outlines your differentiation is super important when you don’t have any jobs under your belt.

Here is what my first job looked like:

Optimizing your profile

You aren’t going to win any jobs with a half completed profile. Go through the entire sign up process ensuring to verify your location and identity, upload a professional profile photo, and complete your previous work history.

Once you have completed the basics, you can get to work on your profile. In Upwork you can have several profile pages that are targeted at different types of jobs. I just have two profiles, one for everything and another for Email Marketing. You could potentially set up separate profiles for email design, coding, and strategy or even target a profile at an ESP. A MailChimp or Klaviyo-focused profile would do well.

When writing your profile overview, focus on being authentic and discussing why you are different from the hundreds of other freelancers. Describe your areas of expertise and the niche that you specialize in. Remember the keywords you think people will be searching for, and ensure those are included in your profile.

I don’t think you have to include a video on your profile, but it can’t hurt. I just uploaded an existing video I had where I’m talking about email, but it’s probably best to record a more specific video aimed at your prospective clients.

Ask for reviews

Once you complete your first few jobs, ensure you ask for a review. Both clients and freelancers are reviewed on Upwork, and if you give good feedback, you will get some back. Don’t be shy about asking if you don’t receive anything, especially if you have done an excellent job.

Set up your Upwork Portfolio

Ideally, you will have some previous work that you can upload into the Upwork Portfolio. This is critical to looking legitimate and prospective clients usually ask to see some of your work anyway. The Portfolio is ideal for showcasing emails you have designed or coded. Each image in the portfolio also has a description if you want to talk about tactics or strategy.

Add some Projects

Projects are like productized services that you can sell for a set price. If you take a look at other Projects, you will see a ton of competition selling email templates for low prices. I personally haven’t found much success selling projects and find the clients I work with prefer a more bespoke service.

Keys to being successful on Upwork as an Email Marketer

  • Be picky about the jobs you accept
    I turn down way more Upwork interviews than I accept. The primary reason is that I only want to take jobs I know I can knock out of the park. Only take any job, especially if you are confident you can deliver what the customer wants. I have also hired freelancers from Upwork, and I can tell you I often don’t get the quality of work I am looking for. This has enabled me to charge more and keep a 5-star rating.
  • Start with a lower rate and increase it over time.
    You won’t be able to charge top dollar in your first few Upwork jobs. I don’t suggest pricing yourself too low; you shouldn’t be doing professional work for $10 per hour. I charged around $40-50 per hour in my first few jobs. As I got more jobs, I increased my price to $70 per hour, and today I charge $90. I’ve seen some top freelancers charging well over $100 per hour, but I found my interviews dropped off significantly when I did this.
  • Build a good portfolio
    You need to be able to showcase your past work on your Upwork profile, and it’s worth spending time creating a curated gallery or emails you have previously worked on. I recommend uploading new examples of publicly available work every few months to keep your profile fresh and showcase your latest emails.
  • Look at other successful freelancer profiles.
    Set up a Client profile on Upwork and search for freelancers that do the types of work that you want to do. Take notes on what the top-ranked freelancers are doing on their profiles.
  • Focus on getting good reviews
    Being successful on Upwork is about quality over quantity. Your reputation is tested with every job; if you have too many failed jobs, this will show on your Client Success Score. It’s OK if you have a few failures, but clients will start to skip over your profile if your success score gets too low.
  • Don’t over-extend yourself.As I keep saying, less is more with Upwork, especially as you build up your experience. It’s straightforward to take on too much work and start resenting your clients. I limit myself to working with 3-4 clients at a time. I have a couple of long-term clients with consistent work every month, and then I have the bandwidth to take on additional jobs that interest me when they arise.
  • Differentiate yourself
    I’m not exaggerating when I say there are an Sh!t ton of email freelancers on Upwork, but this shouldn’t discourage you. You can easily differentiate yourself from the pack if you have good experience and a solid portfolio. I recommend focusing on a specific area like design and coding or specializing in an ESP that you know inside out. I previously worked at Campaign Monitor for five years, so when I started, I looked for jobs that involved that platform. My other differentiators include focusing on enterprise-grade service and fast communication, and I only work with B2C brands.

Is Upwork worth it?

My motivation for signing up for Upwork was to build out my email design portfolio while making some extra cash. Yes, I work for a few hours on nights and weekends, but I only take on work that I genuinely enjoy, and I’ve found some great clients, so it’s not a burden. On average, I’ve made $1,000 per month from Upwork. I could probably make a lot more, but as I mentioned, I’m very picky about who I work with and the types of work I take. Ultimately, I’m not sure if I will continue to work on Upwork forever, but it’s been a fun experience that has helped me sharpen my design and coding skills and that is priceless.

Much love,

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @emaillove


Sign Up for
Curated Inspiration

Join over 3,000 other Email Geeks that receive actionable insights, new tactics, fresh design inspo, and profiles of your favorite #Emailpeeps.