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Over the last month I've continued exploring the wonderful world of freelance WordPress development. Since I started in January I've made $2685.34 in revenue from four clients. I spent 350 hours doing either sales or development work in a freelance capacity. This yields an effective rate of $7.67/hour.

The Numbers

Here is the distribution:

spreadsheet screenshot

In the first half of February I got invited to work on six projects, and it seemed like things were going great. But then invitations suddenly stopped, and I haven't gotten another invitation since February 12th. I did a bit of googling and apparently Upwork rotates freelancers in some way so that some subset will be boosted to the top of the search results for a week or two. This makes sense, but now it looks like freelancing on Upwork is not as promising as it initially seemed. I don't know how long it will take for me to reach the top of the rotation again, but I guess I will not be able to count on invitations to drive revenue.

If we exclude invited jobs, I have sent 125 proposals on Upwork since December 18th, got responses on 24 of those proposals, and contracts on 2. That's about a 20% response rate and about a 1.6% contract rate.

In addition to the time spent on development, I also spent 93 hours on sales. A large majority of that time was spent writing proposals. I spent significant time going back and forth with clients on deals that ultimately didn't go anywhere. In this category I also include time spent tweaking my profile and how I present myself on the site.


Only with this moment of downtime have a had a chance to look back and audit how much time I spent working for each of these clients. I did this by adding the capability to add multiple tags to Task Ranger, my time tracking tool. I went back and tagged all of my relevant work from the last couple of months with the name of the client, or with #freelancesales for sales-related work.

Obviously my actual hourly rate is super low. My advertised hourly rate on my profile is far higher than my actual hourly rate (I've tried advertising values between $29 and $59/hour). I'm mostly ok with how things have gone so far since I've essentially gotten paid to learn how to work with WordPress and do customer discovery. At this point I have a much better understanding of all the work involved and am ready to start charging more. Or at least I could do the same kind of projects much more quickly.

My portfolio is pretty bad. That seems to be the lowest hanging fruit in terms of improving my proposal-to-contract conversion rate. I should probably spend a week or so making some nice looking demo sites to add to my portfolio. Although I'm concerned that on a place like Upwork it won't make much of a difference. It's possible there's just so much competition for the kind of work I'm offering that the conversion rate will always be low.

The big question is whether I should continue down this road or move on to something else. I think I will continue for another few weeks at least and not give up unless my conversion rate drops below 1% or I fail to reach a new weekly revenue high soon.

Some interesting learnings about my four clients:

  • They are all small businesses run by a male over the age of 45.
  • Two have WooCommerce integrated and sell products directly through their site.
  • The other two are brochure sites and sales are handled externally.

Over the last couple months I've learned a ton about how to work with WordPress. When I started I didn't know the difference between a theme and a plugin. I've learned that Elementor is the best page building tool. I've learned that WP All in one Migration is the thing to use to make a copy of a site. I've learned that PHPMyAdmin is the way to hack on the sql database. I've learned the database schema used by WordPress and WooCommerce. I've learned there's a Chrome extension called PHP Console that you can use to get a repl on any WordPress site once you install and configure a plugin. I've learned where to stick custom CSS for quick changes. I could list a lot more stuff here.

Perhaps the most interesting thing I've learned is that one client sells 10x more products by listing them on Amazon than by listing them on their website. This has me thinking that selling products on Amazon might be a good direction to move toward. Maybe building my own eCommerce site would be a good idea.

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