What should you not do on Upwork? If you do them, what are the consequences? These are crucial questions you might have, and they ultimately determine whether you’ll land a high-paying gig with your skills (Check out our what is the highest paid skill on Upwork article for a deeper dive).

There’s no doubt that Upwork is such a robust freelance platform, especially when you consider the many freelancers who have made a decent living from the platform. So my advice for anyone is: if you’d like to be a freelancer, get on Upwork as soon as possible.

However, I should also probably mention that freelancing on Upwork is neither a get-rich-quick scheme nor a foolproof way to make money. Instead, the platform is a formal business model, and as with most businesses, there are rules you’d need to follow to succeed.

There are many rules to working on Upwork – a simple read-through of their community guidelines would tell you that much. But I think the wiser way to look at it is to identify what not to do rather than the things to do.

Today, I’ll show you five crucial actions you should not do on Upwork if you intend to thrive on the platform and make lots of money.

  1. Never Put Out a Shabby Profile

I understand that you might think Upwork profiles are a means for clients to get to know you. But I must tell you: your profile is much more than that. It makes or mars your chances of getting successful job offers. Therefore, you must never put out a shabby Upwork profile.

“Why?” You might ask. Anything less than a well-thought-out profile page would get ignored by most clients. Instead, you must pay attention to how you sound on your profile, as you must come off as honest and competent to the client.

One of the ways you can create a great profile is by starting with a clear title. The profile title should immediately tell anyone what services you offer. Then, take out time to write a crisp and short overview about yourself.

To wrap things up, ensure that you don’t forget to add a clear headshot profile picture, education, skills, and work experience.

  • Never Leave Out your Portfolio

Many newbie freelancers say that they don’t have any completed work to fix on their Upwork portfolio page. You don’t need to complete a client’s task before you can build your portfolio. As such, you have no excuse for leaving out your Upwork portfolio, and that’s one of the things you shouldn’t do.

The lack of a portfolio tells the client that you don’t have work experience and aren’t ready to get one. From there, it would be challenging for them to engage you on a task unless it’s an entry-level (which often doesn’t pay all that well)

It would help if you tried to build your portfolio, even before getting any genuine client. One secret I like to use is to make mini versions of my services for my portfolio. Say you’re a writer. You can develop a short web copy and put it in your portfolio. Web designers can quickly create a mock-up and have it in their portfolios.

  • Never Undersell Yourself

We’ve gotten to the part of the list where you need to pay closer attention. One of the things that could undermine your freelance experience on Upwork is when you Undersell yourself to clients.

What do I mean by that? First, it’s when you set a lower rate for your services than the average on the platform. Such a move is disastrous to you on several levels.

While you might think the client would appreciate getting a job done at a lower price, all it tells them is that you’re cheap and would probably do a less-than-adequate job instead. Also, you attract “low ballers” when you Undersell yourself.

These manipulative clients seek to get the most job out of you for the lowest possible price. They’d stress you out and cause you a lot of trouble.

What’s worse, you would always struggle to deliver tasks on time. That’s because you would be working just as much as other freelancers but for much lower returns – a wrong business move if you ask me.

Therefore, try to set your rates at the average for your skill level. Studying a few other people’s rates could help you get a better idea in this case.

  • Never Send your Proposals Willy-Nilly

You’ve just gotten on Upwork; congratulations! I understand you’re eager to land your first job and earn your first freelance pay. The excitement might lead you to send proposals to just about any job offer. I’m here to tell you that you probably shouldn’t do that.

Sending proposals willy-nilly on Upwork opens you up to some of the scummiest parts of the platform. Some profiles only post bait offers and scams, looking for the next naive freelancer to apply – Don’t be that person. Others might want to waste your time and won’t hire anyone who used the job offer they posted.

All of these could come together to frustrate you and leave you demotivated in a short while. That’s why it’s best to read job titles carefully before sending your proposal.

  • Never Flout Upwork’s Guidelines

New and existing freelancers on Upwork already know that the platform has some community guidelines every member must follow. Upwork strictly enforces these rules, and you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong end of the deal.

What are some of the things you need to watch out for? Upwork doesn’t allow adult content sharing of any form; it also doesn’t allow data mining and other illegal information dissemination. So you can visit their support page for the full details.

The takeaway is that you should never disregard any of the guidelines. If you do, your account will get blocked temporarily or permanently.

Wrapping Up

Upwork is a great freelance platform that’s friendly to new freelancers looking for some experience. However, there are certain things you must avoid if you want a smooth and lucrative time on Upwork.

I’ve highlighted five of the most common errors, and avoiding them means that you get to stay on Upwork long enough to make lots of money and build your skills.


Rufus S. is an author and blogger who writes about freelancing and career development for the Busy Earner blog. He is an expert on platforms like Upwork, LinkedIn, and Fiverr and shares practical tips for building a successful freelance career. Rufus is also passionate about helping busy earners manage their time and avoid burnout.


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