how to become Top-Rated Plus on Upwork + replace your full-time income

If you’ve been looking to get more time freedom (and clients), consider striving for one of the top tiers as an Upwork freelancer.

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July 11, 2023


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In November of 2022, I got fired from my full-time job.

But before we get into that, let’s fast forward a little bit before that to span out the whole story. Because I’m an artist– so what was I doing working at a full-time job?

How to become top rated plus on Upwork

In 2020, when all of us had a little more time on our hands, I started getting into the world of content writing and blogging. I was going to school for acting, working as a substitute teacher, and teaching English to kids in China online through VIPKid and QKids before the Chinese laws got stricter.

I was already having a small semblance of a work-from-home job, and then, everything shut down.

While I was making some income online from teaching English, the hours were either really early in the morning between 4 and 7:30 am, or later at night starting at 7:00 pm, where my energy was already beaten down. I started exploring the world of working online: freelance writing, creating online courses, and blogging. I gave blogging a go a few times but realized it would take a while to monetize this before seeing results, so started playing my game by joining Upwork freelancers to be a content writer.

I got my first two clients a few months into the process, but I was still new to the game of working online and hustling. I tried finding clients using so many different methods, including sending fifty cold emails a day to try to get leads.

After a few months of this, I was tired. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to return to acting school for a while, so I decided to find a full-time job so I wouldn’t have to wake up wondering where my next paycheck would come from!

Fast forward about a year and a half into the job, and I was let go. My job as a content writer for the SaaS tech company was no longer needed– and rightfully so! There was a lot more going on in the company, and it just didn’t make sense to keep me on when they could hire freelancers on an as-needed basis.

I was given a nice severance and gave freelancing another go, which brings me to November of 2022, where I began my journey once again! Thousands of people come to Upwork to find freelancers, so if you’re there, you’re already gaining a better chance of getting work than if not.

Many people will dissuade potential freelancers from getting started on Upwork because they take 10% of your earnings. But in my opinion, it’s a basic finder’s fee. A platform where clients look for some of the best freelancers based on their targeted expertise, a strong background, and past successes on the platform– with an audience that’s already right there waiting for you? That’s definitely worth the cost, in my opinion.

Related: 13+ art job ideas for creatives to make money + abundance

How I started freelancing on Upwork (again!)

I went back on Upwork, watched a ton of YouTube videos on how to perfect my profile, proposals, and approach, and started seeing a lot more luck. During that month or so that I was receiving severance, I didn’t want a week to go by when I wasn’t making any money.

And so, I threw in $10 or so for some Connects and started applying like crazy. I think at that time, my goal was at least 10 or 15 proposals per day.

By the way, if you’re looking to get started in freelancing but have no idea where to start, I highly recommend watching My Name is Deya on YouTube! She’s grown an impressive reputation as a digital business manager and has grown her YouTube channel helping people become full-time freelancers and find early success in their efforts. Her videos are insanely binge-able, and her approach to freelancing and view on making money online is insanely practical.

I’d also follow Freelance MVP who basically (unbeknownst to him) coached me on how to write my profile and proposals so I could actually get replies. He’s a top-rated freelancer, and at one point was one of the highest-ranked freelancers on Upwork in the world.

The benefits to being top-rated status (or top-rated plus!)

Of course, you can be a full-time freelancer on Upwork without having a top-rated badge. I was for a while. But as you start working more, the Upwork rating system along with their algorithm will oftentimes bring you a growing client list as you show success and consistency on the platform.

Anywho, there are definitely some benefits to having a Top-Rated badge and to having a Top-Rated Plus Badge:

Benefits of a Top-Rated Badge:

A Top-Rated Badge for potential clients to see

More control over your JSS (Job Success Score)* with a feedback removal option

Talent Specialists will help bring more jobs to you (instead of you spending time applying yourself)

It lets potential clients know that you’ve built a strong reputation on Upwork with your clients and have delivered amazing results!

Representing the top 10% of Upwork freelancers and agencies

Key qualifications for a Top-Rated Badge:

Your first Upwork project needs to have been more than 90 days ago (3 months prior)

Have a JSS (Job Success Score) of at least 90%

Have an up-to-date account and an accurate availability

Have “strong” earnings in the past (although they don’t specify what this means)

A 12-month earning of at least $1,000

Benefits of a Top-Rated Plus Badge:

A Top-Rated Plus Badge for potential clients to see

You’ll have more control over your JSS (Job Success Score) with a feedback removal option

Premium Customer Support (including phone and chat!)

You’re representing the top 5% of Upwork freelancers and agencies

Key qualifications for a Top-Rated Plus Badge:

Your first Upwork project needs to have been more than 90 days ago (3 months prior).

Either keeping a Rising Talent badge or a Job Success Score of at least 90% for at least 13 of the previous 16 weeks

A 100% completed profile

A 12-month earning of at least $1,000

Have a JSS (Job Success Score) of at least 90%

Have an up-to-date account and an accurate availability

Have “strong” earnings in the past (although they don’t specify what this means) including work on high-value contracts

So, while these weren’t direct goals for me when I started freelancing (I just wanted to replace my full-time income), it was definitely icing on the cake, and I saw many more clients coming to me after it happened.

*Job Success Score

Your JSS (Job Success Score) is how satisfied your clients have been with your work, based on your work, according to their manual feedback. Of course, a high JSS score will reflect better on your profile, because it’ll show potential clients that you’ve had good feedback from other clients in the past. Some things to know about your Job Success Score:

Longer contracts and relationships will help boost your Job Success Score.

Higher-earning jobs will weigh more on your job success score.

JSS’s over 90% are deemed excellent; JSS’s under 75% might make it more difficult for you to get new jobs.

You can request feedback removal from one Project Catalogue contract per month.

Related: 5 beautiful + free Notion templates for creatives

There are two main differences between Top-Rated Status and Top-Rated Plus Status for freelancers:

  1. You’ll need a total earnings of $10,000 in the past 12 months
  2. Are working on 1 (or more) “Large Contracts” within the past 12 months. *Large contracts can be read more about here!

Okay, but how can you get started freelancing on Upwork so you can start building towards Top-Rated Status or Top-Rated Plus Status?

Yes, yes! Now that you know everything here, how can you apply it and become a top-rated Upwork freelancer?

How to get started as an Upwork freelancer

1. Create an amazing, client-geared proposal template.

This is where you can start with this video below. I binged Evan’s channel for a while, particularly the videos about creating a stellar proposal template. Something I want to let you know before you do this– your templates should never be the same as what you’re learning. You have a unique voice that’s never going to fit any template created for you. So take this video, understand what Evan’s saying about keeping your proposals client-geared, and be yourself.

2. Optimize your bio to be readable and chock-full of deliverables and skills.

Making your Upwork bio and profile skimmable will make it so much easier for clients and businesses to seek out exactly what they’re looking for. The truth is, I bet you have a ton of skills that you might not be thinking of that could actually be exactly what someone is looking for!

3. Stay humble: start with a super low rate and take low-paying jobs to build leverage with 5-star ratings.

This is something that many people might fight me on, but I think it was one of the only reasons why I was able to grow so fast! Push your ego to the side for a big, and take on low-paying short-term gigs. My first Upwork gigs after my full-time job was writing a company operations manual for a low hourly rate and writing 4 chapters in a book for $20. Both of which I got a 5-star rating for.

But the best part about that second one– he actually didn’t like my work and proceeded with another writer!

It just goes to show you that with a good cover letter and a little humility and leveraging your skills, anything can happen!

4. Leverage your soft skills, especially if you’re new to your role or niche.

Many people who get started on Upwork are new to what they’re doing. For me, I definitely was. I went to school for theatre, and was a performer, but suddenly, started teaching myself everything to know about writing and SEO. I was a beginner, so I had to leverage what I had, which, as I was gaining writing and SEO skills, was having strong soft skills. I focused lots of my efforts on:

✨ strong and positive communication with all clients

✨ on-time deliverables

✨ flexible availability

✨ a multitude of different projects and niches

As I was learning with these skills, an awesome thing happened– I started getting more projects and clients! I didn’t have any negative outcomes or bad feedback on my complete projects because I focused on my soft skills as I was developing my hard skills. As soon as I knew it, I’d gained lots of experience in writing and SEO and gained Rising Talent status, marking a milestone in my journey and showing that leaning in on soft skills

5. Apply, apply, apply.

As much as it would be amazing to have Upwork clients coming to you– that didn’t seem to happen to me until I became a Top Rated Plus freelancer (and even now, it might happen once a week, if at all!).

When you get started as fresh, new talent on Upwork, you need to actually get your name out there! Submit proposals to jobs as much as you can– even ones that might be a little out of your reach. You’ll never know what niches and projects you’ll want to do until you just start taking them on.

I started with 10 proposals per day, but you can go with more or less based on your current workload.

What would being an active freelancer on Upwork bring to you and your lifestyle? How could it allow for more creativity, whether it’s in the jobs you do, or the time freedom it will give back so you can work on your craft?

Creative Career




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how to become Top-Rated Plus on Upwork + replace your full-time income


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