Discover the 8 steps required to become Top-Rated on Upwork. Get your ‘golden’ ticket now!
As a freelancer, there are very few things that can really turn your life upside-down as much as Upwork’s “top-rated” badge.
Freelancing can be a really boring routine that always follows the same pattern. You first search for clients. Then, you negotiate. And finally, you work. Rinse and repeat.
This never-ending process is independent of any platform in particular (it could be on Upwork, Freelancer.com, Fiverr.com, etc), and is pretty much the same for *real-life* clients as well.
So why does the Upwork “top-rated” badge matter, if everything is even across the board?
Well, first of all, Upwork is the biggest and most notorious freelancing platform in the whole world with its 14 million users. This means, in other words, that if you make it on Upwork, you’ve pretty much made it *overall* as a freelancer.
Secondly, the Upwork “top-rated” badge is probably the most important reason for working through Upwork in the first place. It’s *the* edge that can help you beat your competition just by *being*.
Let’s see together how you can become a Top-Rated freelancer on Upwork.
Your JSS (Job Success Score) should be higher than 90%
If you’re not too familiar with the whole concept, the Job Success Score is a *metric* that Upwork uses to evaluate your clients’ satisfaction on Upwork.
Sounds going back to school, right? That’s pretty much the idea.
Upwork calculates your Job Success Score using various factors that are weighted based on how important they consider them to be. Among them, we know for sure that:
- All your feedbacks are taken into account (both public and private).
- The currency of your contracts matter (I mentioned why recurrency is important in this article).
- Your contracts should be long enough rather than a succession of small gigs.
Upwork considers that these two factors are penalizing for your Job Success Score:
- Contracts without activity (which happens when you remain in a bizarre “status quo” with clients you don’t want to talk to).
- Excessive lack of feedback (which happens with flaky clients that appear and disappear as if they were professional ninjas).
You can read the whole list directly on Upwork here.
According to Upwork, clients that have repeatedly given a bad time to hard-working freelancers are flagged by the system. Their review is *supposedly* only partially counted in the whole equation.
I don’t know at what point that’s true, but a shitty client almost systematically means that your Job Success Score will be affected one way or another.
The tip I generally give to my students is very simple: select your clients very, very carefully. It doesn’t matter how juicy the gig looks like. Fight against your own internal emotions (greed), and think with your head.
There are in my opinion a couple of indicators that tell you whether a client will cause trouble to your Job Success Score:
- Has the client worked with other freelancers in the past? And if so, was it pleasant? (The more bad experiences a client had, the more likely it’s that he will be pissed off from the get-go).
- How big is the client’s ego? How much of a know-it-all is he? (Typically better when a client knows that he doesn’t know everything – which is, by the way, why he hires you in the first place).
- How greedy is the client? Does he say that he wants an expert that’s paid at a beginner’s rate? (Greedy clients usually terminate contracts by leaving bad reviews, as they feel that they’re never getting enough for their money).
Another thing working to your favor: Upwork checks your Job Success Score during three periods (6 months, 12 months, 24 months) and only displays the best of all.
So don’t worry if you have one or two bad experiences with your clients. As time passes, your Job Success Score will start improving over time.
And if your Job Success Score hasn’t appeared yet, don’t worry. It generally appears after 5 projects.
Your first hire on Upwork was 90 days ago
That one clause is probably annoying to most of you who are getting started since there’s absolutely no workaround for this one. You’ll have to get hired and wait for more than 90 days before you can qualify for your top-rated badge.
I remember when one of my best friends was a few weeks away from getting his top-rated badge. He became really impatient and he counted every single day.
Don’t be too obsessed with the deadline itself. Freelancing is, after all, a long-term game that needs to be played wisely. However, stay obsessed with all the requirements of being Top-Rated. You want that to happen.
Maintaining a Rising Talent status for 13 weeks
When you begin on Upwork, you’re not only competing with other Top-Rated freelancers, but with all the freelancers on the platform.
Upwork has designed a specific badge for beginning freelancers that are not yet Top-Rated but show good promises. It’s called the “Rising Talent” badge.
This badge is an absolute necessity if you later want to become Top-Rated, and you should, therefore, pay a lot of attention to it.
The rules are simple:
- You must take and pass the “Upwork Readiness Test“. It’s a simple test that verifies that you know the basics of Upwork (such as stuff related to fees, proposals, good practices, etc).
- Deliver on time. Basically, don’t be late to deliver your milestones.
- Maintain a 100% complete profile. Administrative and boring, but necessary.
- Remain available. Which basically means that you have to log in often.
- Submit new proposals on a regular basis. That will show Upwork that you are alive.
- Comply with Upwork’s ToS. No comment on that *obvious* one.
- Be active on the platform. Apply to new gigs, work for clients, make money, etc.
Upwork remains quite vague about how the whole thing is decided, but the truth is that if you behave *normally*, everything should be fine. And by normally, I mean working hard and conscientiously on Upwork.
Thankfully, this is not all for nothing. The “Rising Talent” status gives you a couple of perks while you’re waiting for your golden “Top-Rated” status:
- The badge. Of course.
- You are included in a pool of talents (and Upwork may even invite you to projects that match with your skills).
- A one-time 30 free connects (sweet).
- Reduced fees on Featured Jobs (starting at 10%).
I like the idea of this intermediary status and I find it very motivating for beginning freelancers. Once you get it, it will give you a taste of what’s to come.
Also, please note that your “Rising Talent” status comes *before* your Job Success Score, which comes *before* your Top-Rated status. So, as long as you’re still a “Rising Talent”, there’s no way you’ll suddenly become Top-Rated. It’s a gradual process, in other words.
Have a 100% complete profile
That one is obvious since it’s also a requirement to access the Rising Talent status. We’ve already discussed this point in other articles, but let’s sum it up here in case you’ve not read them yet.
The 100% profile completion metric is broken down into two parts (60% and 40%). To get your first 60% completion rate, you should fill these items:
- Your profile picture
- Your profile headline
- Your profile description
- Your profile history
- At least one skill
And to get the other remaining 40%, you should perform a combination of all these elements (you can get the exact value for each here):
- At least one portfolio item
- At least one employment history item
- Your education
- A profile video
- Linking an account
- A certification
- Any other experiences
All of this is really simple to do, so that would be a shame not to have your profile 100% complete when everyone else has it.
At least $1,000 of earnings over the past 12 months
That one is pretty self-explanatory. You should make sure to make at least $1,000 to show Upwork that you’re a serious player.
It usually takes a single recurrent contract to pass the $1,000 bar. For instance, let’s imagine that you get paid $25 per hour and that your client is OK to allocate 5 hours a week to the project.
That means that you would roughly make $25*5*4.2 = $525 in a month. Essentially, you would pass the $1,000 bar in 2 months, which is pretty cool given that you anyway will have to wait at least 90 days to become Top-Rated.
Your profile availability has a dual function, since it will both help Upwork know that you log daily on the platform, and your clients to know whether you’re currently available to accept their invitations.
Personally, I set myself to “As needed”, since I already have a couple of contracts and clients going. If you don’t have any clients yet, I recommend setting yours to “Available – More than 30 hours/week”.
To change your availability, here’s the process:
An account in good standing
In certain cases, it happens that Upwork *holds* your account (never happened to mine, though). If you respect Upwork’s ToS, there’s little to no chance that this will ever happen to you, though.
In case you may be tempted to do anything fishy with your Upwork account, here are a couple of things that you should *NOT* do under any circumstances:
- Don’t share your account with other people.
- Don’t receive payments outside of Upwork.
- Don’t lie about your qualifications (and end up underperforming or not performing at all).
- Don’t mix up with your Freelancer and Client profiles.
- Don’t specifically try to contact clients outside of Upwork (unless necessary for the completion of the gig).
- Don’t pressure clients to leave you a good feedback.
If your account gets hold by Upwork, you will be uneligible for the Top-Rated and Rising Talent statuses for 90 days after your account is resumed, so don’t play with the rules!
Be active on Upwork
That one is both vague and simple at least.
As stated before, you basically need to show Upwork that you’re serious and very active as a freelancer (at least more active than most other freelancers).
It’s very common on Upwork to see freelancers with $0 earnings, no Upwork history, and basically inactive profiles. That’s exactly what Upwork doesn’t want from you, and the only way to prove to them that you’re serious is to show up every day like you would for a regular job.
My advice is therefore very simple:
- Log in every day on Upwork.
- Make sure to apply to 5 to 10 gigs matching with your skills every day.
- Answer all and every clients’ messages that are addressed to you.
- Answer to most or all invitations sent by clients
- Make sure to make at least some money on Upwork.
All these points alone should be more than enough to show Upwork that you’re an active freelancer.
We’ve seen all the requirements to become Top-Rated on Upwork. Most of them are pretty straightforward, and to sum it up:
- A Job Success Score above 90%.
- Your first hire at least 90 days ago.
- A Rising Talent status for at least 13 weeks.
- A 100% complete profile.
- At least $1,000 earnings in the past 12 months.
- An updated availability.
- An account in good standing.
- Be active on Upwork.
If I had one last tip for you, that would be to not obsess too much about the Top-Rated status in itself and for itself. The real way you should look at it is more like a reward that’s given to you for being a professional and conscientious freelancer.
Don’t worry if you get bad reviews from time to time. It happens and even if your JSS diminishes a bit, it will rise again after a couple of weeks.