There is an art form to getting hired on UpWork and writing great proposals is a critical element. An excellent Upwork proposal can make up for weaknesses in other areas, such as reviews, experience, and your profile. But when you combine a well-crafted Upwork proposal with all the steps from previous lessons, you become UNSTOPPABLE.
In this text I’ll try to summarize my experience and show you:
- How do I write an UpWork proposal?
- How do I write a good freelance proposal?
- What is the format of an UpWork proposal?
But, first, let me share my personal experiences with this platform. I used to use it quite extensively to hire freelancers for various types of jobs.
Charge What You Are Worth
Pricing is the eternal debate that everyone struggles with.
Should you charge what you think you are worth or should you charge what you think will get you hired?
There is a zone between these two ends of the spectrum that will get you the more revenue.
If you price yourself too high, you can price yourself right out of the market.
Ghostwriters who embed with celebrities or CEOS get paid upwards of twenty grand to write a book.
But they spend months on the project.
If you bid that high on every UpWork project, you won’t get any jobs.
At the other end of the spectrum, nobody trusts a writer who is too cheap.
Would you buy a Ferrari for $5?
When a price is too low, we assume it is a trick or a scam of some kind.
I’m in a Dry Spell
I’ve been through those periods where there just isn’t any work coming in, and those dogs chasing me are getting closer and closer.
In that moment, it’s very tempting to bid lower in your Upwork proposal just to get a job.
But when you do that, something terrible happens.
Bad clients pay the lowest.
I was just on a phone call with a new client who told me that if I do a good job on this project, he’s going to pay me more for the next one.
He wants to improve my skillset and raise what he pays me.
That’s the type of client you want to work with.
When I was first starting out, I took some “just to pay the bills” jobs, and I ALWAYS regretted them.
Lower paying clients are high-maintenance and will suck up all the time you could spend trying to find a better project.
There Is No Trick To A Good UpWork Proposal
Estimates are Just Guesses
When I post a job on UpWork, it asks me to post what I want to pay for the project.
Why on earth would I bid against myself?
Like everyone else posting jobs, I bid at the low end of the spectrum.
I’m looking for high-quality workers who are willing to undervalue themselves.
But ninety-percent of the people I hire bid higher than my initial post.
Whenever someone bids a higher price, I look at their profile and portfolio to see how they justify their top price.
If someone can back up their pricing, I usually hire them.
I want to hire the best worker for a job, not the cheapest.
The Price is Right
When posting a price in your initial Upwork proposal, put down what your time is worth.
If you are just starting out and need to build up your profile, you can take some cheaper jobs just to get reviews on your profile.
But after 1-2 months, you don’t need to do this anymore.
There are other ways to get those reviews discussed in previous lessons, but this is another way to do that.
After that initial review-gathering phase, start sending out serious Upwork proposals with serious bids.
I give a lot more attention to high bids than low bids.
You are more likely to get hired, and it’s better to spend time finding a great job than working on a time-waster.
Custom Cover Letters
The majority of the workers on UpWork are non-native English speakers from foreign countries, and they act like it.
UpWork is the merging of two freelancing sites oDesk and eLance.
They have merged the high-end and low-end sites into a new site where the signal to noise ratio is terrible.
I always hated oDesk, and this merger has killed the quality of jobs on UpWork.
When I post a job, I get tons of cover letters, UpWork proposal included, from people who clearly didn’t read the actual job.
They just have a cover letter template that they just copy to every single job that MIGHT be inside their wheelhouse.
When I get a copy and pasted cover letter, I immediately delete the proposal.
These type of Upwork proposals are a waste of my time and the cover letter usually says it all.
The Old Bait and Switch
The second thing that lower-quality workers do is send in a false bid.
They will send in a bid that matches my initial offer and then when we enter the contract negotiation phase, they will get upset that I’m trying to rip them off and pay so much less than they are worth.
They get mad when I accept their bid.
This is a classic bait and switch, and it’s becoming a big problem on UpWork.
It’s a dishonest business practice, and it’s the reason many people on UpWork now restrict themselves to hiring Westerners.
This is to your advantage.
When you write a real Upwork proposal with a real bid, you separate yourself from the rest low the quality workers on UpWork.
There are loads of workers on there who have a lower than 80% job completion rate.
UpWork had to change the rating system when they merged the two sites because the numbers were broken.
A terrible oDesk worker could easily have a higher rating than an amazing eLance worker.
This new system is kind of misleading.
It means that the person does a terrible job much of the time.
I would never hire someone with a completion rate below 80%, and I try to hire 98% or above.
Would you bring an employee into your office who only comes in four days a week so I usually turn down proposal samples like these.
The Correct Order
When you are putting together a job proposal, UpWork has your work on the cover letter first and then answer any additional questions.
But when a client sees your answer, the additional questions are at the top.
Those are the most important part of any project.
Most freelancers skip over the questions or put in minimal effort, but this is your chance to shine.
Spend your time working on the additional questions FIRST and then work on your job proposal properly.
The additional questions are only there if the client specifically added them.
I don’t often add any questions when I’m posting a job, but when I do, the answers are the primary factor in who I hire.
How do I write an UpWork proposal?
Your goal is to get the client to message you as quickly as possible.
You don’t want a client to wait two weeks before they decide to hire you.
That’s an annoying waste of time.
An excellent Upwork proposal will move the client out of comparison mode and into negotiation mode.
Once a potential client sends you a message, it becomes your job to lose. In this moment, ask all questions related to the role you consider important. After that, submit your cover letter and a proposal.
Next, my proposal sample must haves.
How do I write a good proposal?
1.Focus on the customer’s need
Most freelancers want to show off how great they are and focus a lot on past successes and experience.
All of that is wonderful, but it’s not how you want to start.
Your profile should have all the proof of your greatness.
You don’t need to shove it into the top of your proposal.
Which would you respond to?
A. My name is Jonathan, and I’m the greatest writer of all time with over forty novels under my belt.
B. My name is Jonathan, and I will write a book that gets you excited to share with people
In copywriting terms, we call this focusing on the benefits.
How will your work benefit the client and solve their problem?
That is what gets a potential client excited.
They want to hire someone who “gets them” and that feeling comes from focusing on their need.
You don’t want to go too far into copywriting and create the hard sale where you begin to make massive, outlandish promises.
Focus more on how you will get the job done and how you understand what they need.
2. Prepare for objections
Customers tend to ask the same questions over and over again.
As you write more proposals and get responses, you will start to see the same questions and objections over and over again.
3. Justify your price
When you are the highest bid, expect a new client to ask you to justify your price.
Instead of waiting for that message, add your answers into your proposal.
“I know that my price is higher than you posted for the project and here is why I’m worth it.”
Last year I posted a job looking for someone to help set up the first version of this site.
I was looking to spend in the $2-300 range because it was just working from templates and customizing some pages for me.
One guy from England had the audacity to bid $750, and in my reply to his proposal, I sent him this exact sentence:
“I noticed your bid is more than 2x the other ones, but if you can bring the noise, I’m willing to pay for quality.”
He then replied that he usually charges much more and that if I want premium work, then I have to pay premium prices.
In the end, I hired him, and he did a fantastic job.
Rather than wait til you get that message, explain that you’re a premium worker.
Most of the time, when I post a job on UpWork, I will get loads of unqualified replies that have super low bids.
Ignore the competition because they don’t matter.
Just focus on why you’re awesome.
4. List your relevant experience
The second most common question from clients will ask to see your portfolio work that is closest to the project.
If you have an article that you’ve written in the health space, then be sure to point that out to a potential health client.
The project doesn’t have to be an exact match but point them to your most similar work right out the gate.
This will shorten the number of messages between your proposal and getting hired.
Here is where you can snag the job from a competitor with more experience.
[easy-tweet tweet=”The freelancer with the most relevant experience is going to win the job.” user=”ServeNoJonathan” hashtags=”servenomaster”]
If I’m looking to hire someone to write an article about high school basketball and one writer has a sample about the NBA, and another one has a sample about junior high ball, I’m going hire the second writer.
5. Force the reply
When you ask valid questions, the receiver feels obligated to respond.
This is another area where you can demonstrate a higher level of competence than the competition.
Many UpWorkers copy and paste generic project questions that only waste the client’s time.
Don’t ask them about budget or timeframes, that’s too generic.
Ask specific questions that demonstrate you read the job description.
- Do you want me to send you all articles in one bundle or would you like to receive each one as it is written?
- Do you have a specific book that you want to model for this project?
- What do you want people to do after they read each article?
Most workers are so desperate to get a job that they don’t ask any questions.
They want as little friction as possible between sending a proposal and getting hired.
This demonstrates a lack of abundance.
Premium workers ask critical questions because their time is valuable and will reject jobs that don’t meet their standards.
They care more about delivering an awesome project than just getting one more client.
I recently took on a new project and during negotiations, I had to expand the timeframe because I’m traveling next month.
I told them upfront that I would have to push back the delivery date because of my schedule.
This isn’t a power play; I really am flying to America for a week.
When you ask targeted questions, you demonstrate that you read the job description, that your time is valuable, and that you care about meeting the client’s needs.
What is the format of an UpWork proposal?
The easiest way to show how awesome you are is to send a sample of the work you would provide if you were hired.
Create a portfolio that matches the clients you want to work with.
If it’s an article writing job, you can write one sample article.
Take a look at exactly what they want and their existing website.
Write an article that you think would be a good fit for their site and send it as part of your proposal.
“I wrote a sample article to show you the kind of work you can expect from me. I looked around your site and saw that you didn’t have an article on this topic, but it would definitely fit with the rest of your messaging.”
There are plenty of ways you can show a client what you can do.
For a web redesign, show a new logo or color idea.
For a book project, write a sample table of contents.
Putting in a little extra work will help you to get those serious jobs right out the gate.
I know that it feels like you are putting in work that you might not get paid for; you won’t get every client you send in spec work for.
But that’s ok.
You will close a LOT more clients using this technique.
Common UpWork proposal mistakes
I get proposals from people who are so desperate for work that they will do just about anything to get hired.
They are desperate financially or for reviews.
Usually, I get a job proposal from someone who has earned less than $1,000 on UpWork.
They have no reviews and are willing to do the job for way less than my proposal.
They say things like “Give Me a Chance – I Would Work Really Hard” or “I promise to do a great job.”
Instead of using the proof of past work, they make promises about the future.
This doesn’t inspire me.
Nobody serious is looking to get the lowest bidder for a project.
I don’t want to “give someone a chance” and then risk the chance that they can’t do the job and lose all that time trying to hire the replacement.
My time is very valuable.
Offering to work for free and trying to leverage emotion is a big mistake.
[easy-tweet tweet=”You don’t open negotiations from a position of weakness if you want to succeed.” user=”ServeNoJonathan” hashtags=”servenomaster”]
Even if you haven’t gotten a job in weeks, never reveal that to a potential client.
Leverage your location
Be sure to include any advantage you have over the competition.
If you are in the same country or time zone as the client, point that out as an advantage.
You can communicate in real time, so there will be no project delays.
You should mention that you are a native English speaker right away.
That’s usually a requirement in my job postings, but I still get loads of job proposals in broken English.
Don’t assume that the client will notice where you live; there are loads of UpWork profiles with false flags.
Treat it like a business
This is the final and most important part of building up your revenue streams.
Every day, start out dedicating 1-2 hours to finding and submitting proposals to jobs.
Over time, you can start to adjust your daily work ratio, but even when your book is full, you want to continue finding out new, higher-paying clients.
If you are just starting out, you may spend 6-8 hours a day blasting out proposals, but if you have followed the previous steps in this process.
The key is to plan for the future.
You want to grow your book of clients and continually raise your prices.
As with any business, marketing is a big part of your investment.
Just like some businesses spend money on ads, you need to spend money writing proposals and finding those great jobs.
When you use the business mindset, you will see the time you spend as an investment in your future.