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How To Hire The Right SEO Specialist On Upwork (Step-by-Step) – 2024


Angel Diaz

In this post, you’ll learn the best way to hire a reliable SEO specialist on Upwork step by step. 10-minute read.


Hiring an SEO specialist on Upwork can be a daunting task. There are many factors that need to be considered when hiring the right person for your business.

This post will address some of the most common questions about hiring SEO freelancers, as well as provide red flags you should watch out for when interviewing potential candidates for your business.

Let’s dive right into it!

Hiring the Right Upwork SEO Specialist 

Before you start your search for the right SEO freelancer, there are a few things to take into consideration.

SEO Specialist

The first one would be to know exactly what you want to get from hiring an SEO specialist. To that end, you need to create a sound job description:

Preparing Your Job Description

Before even considering reviewing dozens of proposals from potential SEO freelancers, you should first create a job description.

The content of your proposed job listing is as important as the keywords used in it. A well-written and detailed job posting will attract more credible candidates than one with vague descriptions or incomplete statements that leave gaps for creative interpretations by applicants.

With Upwork proposal filtering options now available to all members and clients with an upgraded account, you’ll be able to easily filter out proposals from contractors whose skills are not relevant to your campaign needs.

If you’re looking for someone who’s experienced in copywriting, design work, programming, or video production (to name just a few) then use the filters on your dashboard page to reduce search results down to only those candidates that match.

A solid job description is the first step to a successful recruitment process. Not doing this well enough might result in a waste of time at the end of the day. Therefore, it’s crucial to spend time crafting a job description that effectively details the skills and qualifications required for this position.

Finding the Right Upwork SEO Specialist (Step by Step) 

I have designed this step-by-step guide to help you determine who is the right Upwork SEO expert for your needs.

Step 1: Look for the right cover letter

The cover letter is the first glimpse you’ll get of the person you would be working with. It should present a professional and enthusiastic tone, as well as detailed skills that are relevant to your position.

Although an academic background might be good, you should avoid giving the highest value to degrees and academic background. Instead, focus more on relevant skills and experience.

There are many freelancers that might have a lot of theoric knowledge but have not worked on real SEO campaigns before. If you are looking for experts, an academic background won’t do the job on its own.

The best SEO specialist will outline the exact way they can help you succeed with the project instead of showing off their academic background only.

Step 2: Review Candidates Profiles

Review the profiles of freelancers that you are considering hiring to work on your project.

It is essential for an SEO specialist to be professional, detail-oriented, and personable. Put yourself in their shoes: How would they write about themselves? What do they want from this opportunity? This will help you get an idea of how someone might behave with customers if chosen as a finalist for hire.

Seek out any red flags or warning signs during these reviews, so you don’t have to regret later down the line when your first campaign launches, and things go awry because of misrepresentation by the candidate you hired.

Step 3: Review Candidates Upwork Reputation

This is a crucial step. Check the reviews and feedback that candidates have received from past employers.

This will not only give you an idea of someone’s work ethic but also their customer service skills as well.

upwork reviews

If they have a poor track record on Upwork with regard to negative reviews or a lack of completed projects, it is best to stay away.

A reputation that’s above 90% is recommended. Also, if the SEO freelancer has a top-rated badge, that’s a big plus.

Upwork’s top-rated freelancers have completed many SEO projects in the past with important clients. Therefore, you might want to consider hiring top-rated freelancers only if you want to get top-notch results.

Step 4: Ask for Candidates’ Portfolios

This is a very important factor. I’ve played both parts in the Upwork world in my career. I have been a freelancer looking for projects and I’ve also been an employer looking for SEO potential candidates to work in my SEO agency.

You want to make sure the potential candidate has an external portfolio. If this portfolio is in the form of a web page, that’s even better.

A serious SEO specialist will usually have their own website where you can see accurate descriptions of their services, as well as past clients and relevant blog posts.

Candidates who show their work in Google Docs format or in a format that’s not clear enough might be at an early stage of their careers and might lack the experience necessary to take on a major SEO project. Remember you are looking for a marketing expert.

Step 5: Look for case studies

A true SEO expert will have case studies of their work. In these case studies, they should pinpoint projects completed, the strategy they used, and the results they got.

Look for SEO professionals with a proven track record in the industry. Also, you might want to ask them what companies and digital marketing professionals they’ve worked with in the past.

Step 5: Set up an interview

An SEO professional won’t be afraid of going on a phone or video call with you. In fact, SEO experts will usually propose to go on an interview so they can show you exactly how they would help you.

Central Washington Works: How to prepare for that online job interview | Local |

A solid candidate will likely prepare a presentation for you, which is extremely valuable, as it demonstrates their knowledge and experience. Remember, you want to see honest and open candidates who really know what they are doing and have no problem explaining that to you.

Step 6: Ask for relevant experience

It’s not a bad idea to ask them about their experience with your company’s industry, or the specific site you need help with.

Although a professional SEO specialist will be able to work with practically any industry out there, having worked in your industry might be a big plus.

Step 7: Define milestones and deadlines

This needs to be an in-depth conversation. You want them to know what you expect, and you need to know how long it will take for each task.

An SEO expert will know the approximate period of time each of the milestones you agree on should take. You can create a 6-month project and assign milestones for specific dates based on your needs and the freelancer’s bandwidth.

Creating specific milestones and deadlines will help you create a healthy workflow and a professional work relationship.

Step 8: Create a (fixed-priced) contract

Fixed-priced contracts are the best way to make sure goals are met. By creating a fixed-priced contract, you’ll be able to decide on the quantity of copy you need by the word, the number of blog posts, and other specific SEO-related tasks with great accuracy.

SEO professionals know how much time it will take to write 10k words for example. Also, how long it would take to optimize the content and perform any SEO tasks necessary.

Also, creating fixed-priced contracts guarantees that the freelancer will complete the required work within your budget. No surprises or extra hours to be paid.

Agree on a reasonable budget for both parties and rock and roll.

Step 9: Monitor the progress

Once you have defined a work scope, deadlines, and budget, it’ll be time to get to work. At this stage, you want to make sure your new SEO freelancer is on the right track.

Before you start, it’s important to know what metrics are essential for your project and how they should be measured. This way you can monitor progress from day one.

What not to do when hiring an SEO specialist on Upwork

Not only is it important to know the best way to select a potential candidate, but also to avoid certain actions that might lead you to choose the wrong candidate. Choosing a non-qualified SEO freelancer will result in wasted time and money.

Therefore, you might want to avoid the following:

1. Don’t look for people in a single location

Chances are that the best SEO professionals are not located in the same place as you or your company. You’re more likely to find the right person if you look internationally.

Don’t be afraid of foreign countries or languages, as they are just another advantage when it comes to hiring a great SEO freelancer. The world is pretty big and there are thousands of incredible SEO professionals out there.

2. Avoid creating hourly-based contracts

The thing about hourly-based contracts is that is really difficult to stay within your budget. By just letting the freelancer work as many hours as needed, you won’t be able to control how much time they’ll invest in your project.

Also, getting paid based on the amount of time you spend working is not a good premise. Instead of improving productivity and efficiency, an SEO freelancer working on an hourly-based contract might take even longer than needed to complete a task.

Of course, why be productive when you’ll make more money the longer it takes you?

A better option is creating a fixed-priced contract where you can control your budget and set specific deliverables under an agreed rate.

3. Rule out candidates who promise results

A real SEO expert knows that it is impossible to promise results. If the person you’re talking with says they know how to get your site on Google’s first page, or that their strategy will guarantee a jump in ranking and traffic, then don’t bother looking any further.

The best thing for both parties would be if this candidate were disqualified from the start of your hiring process.

This way you’ll avoid wasting time over interviewing someone who can’t perform what they say – which could lead to sour feelings between employer and employee as well as wasted resources such as time and money.

4. Don’t go for the cheapest or the most expensive

According to Ahrefs, the average hourly rate for SEO agencies is between $100 and $150 an hour whereas an SEO consultant will typically charge between $75 and $100 an hour. As for hiring an SEO freelancer, you can expect to pay $41–$50 per hour.

SEO Pricing 

With this information, my recommendation is to go for an average rate when hiring an SEO specialist. For example, if a candidate is charging you $15/h for specialized SEO services, you might want to pass on that one.

On the other hand, if an SEO freelancer is charging 200/h for the same services, you might also want to keep looking. I would say something between $60 to $100 might be worth it.

5. Avoid skipping the interview process

Don’t rush. Finding the right SEO freelancer on Upwork might take time. You definitely don’t want to hire the first one that pops up on your search. Hiring a freelancer should not be taken lightly and it is better to wait for the right person with a competitive rate than compromising quality because you’re looking for someone now.

Schedule the interview, take the time to know the potential candidate, review their portfolio, and only then you’ll be ready to make a decision.

What should you expect from SEO services on Upwork?

Upwork, just like any other freelance platform, might be plagued with many freelancers that claim to be experts when they’re really not. However, there are many top-rated professionals who can really help you grow your business only.

Also, I recommend you come to terms with the idea that SEO doesn’t happen overnight. The right candidate will also know this.

You should expect months of work and monitoring before actually seeing the results. SEO freelancers on Upwork will not be looking to produce quick results, but rather long-term ones.

Most SEO strategies take time to produce results. You may not see a good ROI for at least six months.

However, SEO is the best long-term marketing investment you can make.

Therefore, it is best to invest in the right SEO specialist on Upwork now and not wait any longer or spend more money later.

Good luck with your recruitment process!

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