Great Upwork jobs for beginners (and how to spot them)

There are plenty of great Upwork jobs for beginners. You just need to know how to find them.

When I first stumbled onto Upwork, I was a total beginner — I’d never freelanced before, had no experience with the type of work that’s offered on Upwork, and I didn’t even have a college degree.

By applying a little bit of hustle and street smarts, I was able to find enough beginner-friendly jobs to pay all of my bills through freelancing, right from day one. (And even propel me toward my first six-figure year as a freelancer on Upwork.)

Below I’ll discuss the Upwork jobs I’ve found to be the most friendly and accessible for beginners, including specific examples from my own personal experience.

But, regardless of which one(s) you decide to try, it’s important that you start small.

By that I mean, I recommend you look for relatively simple, straightforward jobs that you can complete in just a few hours, or maybe a day.

That will help you in a lot of ways.

For one thing, it’s psychologically easier. Knowing you’re swimming in the shallow end of the pool will help you feel safe and protected, never in over your head.

It’s also best to be on the safe side in case you underestimate how long a job will take you. For example, if you think something will take about two hours, and it ends up taking twice that long, you’ll end up working just a couple more hours more than you planned — not so bad. But if you think something will take a week, and it takes double that amount, you end up wasting a whole week!

Another, often overlooked, reason why it’s better to start out with small, simple jobs is that it’s easier for the client to take a chance on you as a beginner when the stakes are small for them, as opposed to a bigger job where most would prefer to hire a freelancer with more experience.

So, for example, when I discuss something like creative writing, I’m referring to jobs that require, say, a few pages of writing — not a 200 page novel!

And no, this doesn’t just apply to writing. The same principle can and should be applied to any type of work you’re doing. For example, a beginner graphic designer would be better off starting out with a simple logo design, rather than a full scale corporate rebrand. Regardless of the type of work you’re planning to do, I always recommend starting small.

Now, without further ado, let’s talk about the best Upwork jobs for beginners. Here they are, in no particular order…

1. Creative writing

Creative writing can be a good place to start as a beginner, as long as you stick to small, simple jobs.

My very first Upwork job fell into the creative writing category. The client was looking for someone who could write a bunch of very short children’s stories.

Now most people in my shoes would look at a job like that and conclude, “Well, I don’t have experience writing short stories, so this wouldn’t be a good fit for me and I should not apply.”

But I don’t think that’s the right way to look at it. I absolutely saw it as a job that can be done by a beginner.

If you look at the job description there are some clues as to why. It sounded something like this:

We’re looking for someone to write very short children’s stories, about 700 words each.

The stories will all follow the same basic template: 

A young boy travels to a tourist destination with his parents and his beloved teddy bear. 

While he is there, he loses his teddy bear, wanders off to find it, and gets lost. This turns into a mini-adventure where he learns 3 cool facts about the place he’s visiting.

Finally, he finds his teddy bear, and is reunited with his parents.

As you can see, each story is essentially the same. The only thing that changes is the destination being visited, and the 3 cool facts Billy learns on his mini-adventure.

The first clue that told me this job would be beginner-friendly was the fact that the stories themselves were very short — 700 words comes out to just under two pages.

Another clue was the simplicity of the writing itself. It’s basically just following a template. I’d guess any high schooler could do it. So, I thought, why not me?

So, contrary to what most people might think, this sounded like a great job for a beginner like myself.

The client ended up hiring me, and paid me $20 per story. Since they were so easy to write, each one took me less than an hour to complete, which meant I was getting paid pretty well for an entry-level writer with no experience! I made $340 in my first week, and never looked back.

2. Transcription

Transcription is when you take an audio (or video) recording and turn it into text.

I did a few transcription jobs as a beginner on Upwork and it went very smoothly. I even managed to get paid as high as $30/hr, which is pretty good considering how new I was.

I’ve developed an incredibly powerful system for doing entry level transcription on Upwork, which I’ll share with you.

But first a quick story.

Some years ago an Old Pro (my pet term for those cranky, insecure freelancers who try to scare beginners from entering the game, for fear of competition) laid into me in a LinkedIn group after hearing me recommend transcription as a good Upwork job for beginners. He insisted that I was being “irresponsible” to tell people that they could start out doing transcription with no previous experience.

He even went so far as to say that my advice was “dangerous.” Maybe he thought that people would get electrocuted plugging in their laptops? I don’t know.

My point here is that I think he must’ve been unaware of the system I’d developed, which worked so well for me and the others I taught it to.

I’ll share that system with you now. It consists of two steps:

Step 1: Listen to the audio

Step 2: Type out what you hear

That’s it. 🙂

Simple, I know.

But it worked for me, and I see no reason why it can’t work for others too. I also see no reason to complicate something that works.

3. Email copywriting

Modern businesses have email lists — these are lists of email addresses belonging to people who’ve bought something from them in the past, and/or people they hope will buy something from them in the future.

There are many, many different types of emails they might send to these lists.

They might send a single email to the entire list; for example, to announce a special sale or promotion.

Or they may occasionally send out an individual email that contains useful information, like a helpful article — this serves as a way of building trust and “staying in touch” with the people on their list.

Or they might send out a regularly scheduled email “newsletter”, perhaps once a week, once a month, twice a month, or what have you.

A business might also send out a series of emails to the people on their email list — these are generally multiple emails, sent out over the course of days or weeks, that usually combine helpful information along with some sort of offer. (This is what I do when I sell my courses — I usually send out a few helpful-information-emails  followed by an offer to join one of my courses.)

In any case, all of these sorts of emails are written by an email copywriter.

Sound complicated? It really doesn’t have to be.

For example, one of my favorite Upwork clients, a financial planner, hired me to write simple emails inviting people to join her monthly webinars on retirement planning.

I didn’t know anything about retirement planning, but that’s okay because she wasn’t looking for someone with retirement planning expertise. She was the expert on that!

What she wanted was someone to whom she could say, “Hey, I’m doing a webinar on retirement planning and I want to send an email invite to the people on my list. The webinar will be called [WEBINAR NAME], it will take place on [DATE], at [TIME], and anyone who shows up will learn XYZ… Can you write out an invite based on that information?”

That’s it — not too difficult, honestly. I didn’t even have to send out the emails, she took care of all of that. All I did was write the copy, which is just a fancy way of saying I wrote the words.

I’ll even show you one of the actual emails I wrote for her:

Again, all of the information itself came from the client — I just organized the information, and used some wordsmith skills to turn it into a nicely written email.

To learn more about how to get started as an email copywriter, check out this post.

4. Explainer video script writer

An explainer video is a short, animated video that explains how something works — for example, an app, or a product. Like this:

An explainer video can also explain something more abstract, like, say, a company’s hiring process. Or really anything else.

Countless new explainer videos are made everyday, and they all need a writer to write the script before they can produce the video.

One of my best clients hired me to write hundreds of explainer video scripts. It was interesting, relatively easy, and extremely profitable.

One great thing about writing explainer video scripts is that they’re usually pretty short — often just a page — so they generally don’t require that much writing. That’s one of the things that makes it a great choice for Upwork beginners.

They also all tend to follow the same basic formula, which can easily be learned by someone in middle school. I wrote an entire tutorial about it, which you can check out here.

5. Blog/article writing

An enormous (and quickly growing) number of businesses today have blogs. Unlike personal blogs, which talk about personal things, company blogs use blog posts to inform and educate their customers and potential customers in the hopes of increasing sales.

For example, Whole Foods Market posts recipes on their blog. It’s free and helpful information, but they’re also hoping you buy the ingredients for the recipe next time you’re in their store.

And it’s not just big businesses like Whole Foods, either.

For example, a small private school might write a post about one of their recent events, with pictures of happy students and parents, as well as inspirational quotes from people who attended. That sort of posts helps strengthen their bond with their existing students (and their parents), and also looks great for parents who are researching the school to see if they want to send their kids there next year.

Another example might be a local dry cleaning company publishing a post about a new environmentally friendly cleaning technique they’ve adopted.

There are as many different types of company blog posts and articles as there are stars in the sky — and there are no shortage of clients on Upwork looking for people to write them.

I know from personal experience that many of those jobs can be a great fit for beginners. For example, one client paid me $125/hr to write relatively short (500-700 words), straightforward blog posts about the various services they offered. They came up with the topics, and they even gave me an outline for each post — my job was basically just putting it all into words in a nice article format.

And one of my students got her very first Upwork job writing an article about “5 great beaches to visit” — she did the research online (searching google, reading reviews of beaches on travel sites, and so on), wrote a simple article, and got paid.

To see for yourself how simple this can be, check out the video below to watch me write a short, simple article from scratch, right off the top of my head:

6. Proofreading

Proofreading might not sound very beginner friendly, but in the right situation it certainly can be.

Again the key is to stick to small, simple, straightforward jobs. So for example if a client needs proofreading for a 600 page manuscript chock full of technical jargon and Latin scientific terms, that would not be a good fit for a total beginner!

But consider a different scenario — one of my first Upwork clients had some articles that needed proofreading.

He didn’t care about perfect grammar or strict adherence to English rules or style — he just knew that his articles were full of egregious typos and wanted someone to do a basic cleanup, mostly just fixing the typos.

Based on his needs, a high school student could have done the job.

This is another area where I’ve taken some flack from the Old Pros, who are convinced you need to be some sort of genius to be a proofreader, but my experience shows that isn’t the case.

For many clients’ needs, a good attitude, an eye for detail, and basic feel for written English (or whatever language you happen to be proofreading in) can easily be more than enough.

7. Miscellaneous tasks

As you’ve probably gathered by now, just about any small, simple Upwork job can be a great opportunity for beginners.

Over the years, I’ve seen countless niche-type jobs that — while they may not be common enough to make a career out of — can certainly be good opportunities when you’re new to Upwork and just trying to get some experience, income, and good reviews under your belt.

Here are a few specific, real-world examples:

  • A client once paid me $30/hr to watch YouTube videos and write a few bullet points summarizing each one.
  • Another client paid me $40/hr to rewrite their “boring” job advertisements to make them more fun and exciting.
  • A student of mine got his first Upwork job installing a simple WordPress plugin — something any high school student could have done, in less than 10 minutes.

Notice that none of these things requires any special education, training, or significant amounts of experience.

So next time you’re on Upwork perusing the latest job listings, keep your eye out for anything that might fit the bill, even if it doesn’t quite fit any of the categories I’ve discussed above.

Do you know of any other great Upwork jobs for beginners? If so, please comment below and tell us what they are so we can all benefit from each others’ experience.

(Image Attribution: “Little Biker :P” by Gunjan Karun is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0)

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