I recently posted a job to the freelance site Upwork.com and get 63 proposals overnight. There’s a TON of competition.
So you really need a great Upwork proposal if you want to get any interviews at all.
Fortunately, I’m going to walk you through the exact steps I used last year to make thousands of dollars per month from Upwork projects, as well as the mistakes you NEED to avoid if you want to get jobs on Upwork.
Let’s get started.
1. How to Open/Start Your Upwork Proposal
Within the first sentence, you want to show you’ve read their job posting.
This is ultra-important. It’s more important than your name even. I see a ton of proposals that start like this: “Hi, my name is Michael and I’m a ___”.
They don’t care. That’s boring and what everyone else does.
I’d start like this instead: “Hi. I just read your job posting and it sounds like you need ___”.
This is so much better, and if you just make this one single change you’ll get more job interviews, I guarantee it.
Talking about their needs and their job posting before talking about yourself is also powerful because it immediately shows them you read their job posting.
Most freelancers just cut and paste the same garbage proposal to every client, and clients delete it immediately.
So the sooner you can show this proposal is really for THEM, and not a generic cut & paste message that’s going to bore them half to death, the better.
2. How to Write the Middle of Your Upwork Proposal
There are two key pieces to the middle or main body of your Upwork proposal.
First, you’ll want to share a bit about your background, and ideally how you’ve helped other clients solve the same problem or do the same thing in the past.
But keep this brief. Four of five sentences is enough. You don’t want to tell your life story; they don’t care. They care about how you can solve their problem. That’s it!
Then, the second part is you want to show you’re the expert here.
You can do this by making a recommendation and pointing out the opportunities you see.
Or you can do this by asking a question. For example, you might say, “I’d be curious to hear if you’ve tried ___. I recently implemented that with another client and the result was ___.”
Either way, you need something to show them you’re the expert. Why else would they hire you?
3. How to End Your Upwork Proposal
If you followed the steps above you’ll have a great Upwork proposal. It should be very brief, too. You should NOT be doing a ton of writing or sending out big bulky paragraphs.
So now, how should you end the proposal?
There are two good options:
The first option is to ask a question about their project/needs. If you haven’t already asked a question in your proposal body, you can say something like, “Do you have a website so I can understand this more?”
This is a good way to get a response and be able to find out more info about the project.
The other option is to have a more traditional “call to action” telling them to reply or asking them when they’re free to talk. Examples:
- “Reply to this message and let me know when would be a good time for us to connect this week.”
- “I have a couple more ideas I could share as well. When is the best time for us to connect this week?”
- “Are you free Wednesday or Thursday to talk briefly? Let me know what works best for you.”
4. Mistakes to AVOID in Your Freelance Bid Proposals
Here’s where so many people on Upwork go wrong:
- They write big, bulky paragraphs without enough spacing. The reader immediately dreads reading your proposal after they open it
- They cut & paste the same proposal to everyone without customizing it for their posting. Nobody is going to hire you if you do this. It’s dead-obvious when you’ve done this. I know because I’ve hired a lot of people on Upwork myself (along with landing high-paying jobs on Upwork as a freelance writer).
- They write about themselves too much, instead of writing about them and their needs
Now that you know what to do, and what not to do, you should be able to avoid these mistakes in any future proposals you send.
5. How Long Should Your Upwork Proposal Be?
I made tens of thousands of dollars on Upwork within a few months of starting, and got multiple interviews each day that I applied for jobs.
And I tried to explain above how short your proposals should be in order to do this! (Really short).
But sometimes it’s difficult to get this across via words.
So I did something better…
I just counted the words in my most recent, successful Upwork proposals. Here’s what I found:
I just glanced in my actual Upwork account and here are the word-counts on 5 recent successful proposals: 83, 91, 87, 116, 87.
That’s an average of 93 words per successful Upwork proposal.
That’s very short. Use this as a guideline and keep it brief if you want to start getting interviews on Upwork.
Remember, clients get 50+ proposals within the first eight hours of posting a job typically.
Do you think they want to read a giant block of text in each proposal?
So keep it short, save your time and theirs, and get far more interviews.
6. CRUCIAL Step Before Sending Your Proposal
Before sending out your proposal, you want to make sure it’s about them and their needs, not about you.
I mentioned earlier – the average job seeker on Upwork is talking all about themselves in their proposal, and the client doesn’t care. It’s boring and generic.
So before sending, do CTRL + F (or Command + F on Mac) and search for the word “You”. Count how many times you said “you”.
Then search for the word ” I ” (put a space on either side so you don’t see each “i” in the middle of words. You only want to see the actual word “I”.
Now that you’ve counted these, you should be saying “you” at LEAST as much as you’re saying, “I”.
If not, edit it or rewrite it until this is the case.
7. Best Time of Day to Send Upwork Proposals
I’d recommend only sending proposals for jobs that have been posted within the past 24 hours.
This is another place where most people go wrong on Upwork.
Don’t waste time/proposals on jobs that are 48-72 hours old (or more).
This means you’ll need to apply for jobs on Upwork multiple times per week, since you’re only going to be applying for jobs posted within the last day.
Your exact schedule will depend on your timezone, the timezone of your ideal client, and your schedule/availability.
I usually applied mid-day (11 AM or noon) in my ideal clients’ timezone (US Eastern Time).
I also experimented with applying at 8 p.m. in the evening, and that worked fine as well.
And I did this Monday – Friday each week.
As you get more clients and don’t need as many interviews, you could switch to Mon/Wed/Fri if you’d like, and skip Tue/Thurs. I started doing this once business picked up!
But while ramping up, do it every day! Get a system in place in terms of keywords and search filters you use (I’ll cover this in a future article), and just repeat it each day.
It’ll become habit and will be super easy to do after a few weeks.
Quick tip: I’d recommend grabbing a free account at Calendly for scheduling. It’ll save you hours of back-and-forth scheduling with clients and it’s amazing if you have clients in different timezones because it converts the timezones automatically.
8. Deciding What Rate/Price to Put in Your Proposal
If you have an hourly rate, that should be consistent, so pricing your proposals on Upwork is easy.
Things get more complicated if you do mostly flat-rate projects, though, like I did.
I’d personally either have set prices for services you offer, and propose whatever your set rate is.
(For example when I did email marketing I charged $200 per email. Flat rate. So it was very easy to price out projects).
Or, you could propose at or near the top of the client’s stated budget.
For example if they say their budget is $2,000, I might either propose $2,000 or $1,800.
Sometimes going a tiny bit lower is good, so they don’t just think you proposed their maximum after seeing it. So I’d probably do $1,800 in that example.
But you don’t want to try to be the cheapest option, ever. Don’t compete on price. That’s what the people who struggle are doing.
I always aimed to be one of the most EXPENSIVE proposals a client got. Because I wanted to work with clients with great budgets who want quality. These clients are often easier to work with, believe it or not.
If you’re really unsure how much to propose in terms of your flat rate, you can also add a “P.S” at the bottom of your Upwork proposal mentioning that you’d need to discuss the project more before determining the exact price.
P.S. – the proposed cost is an estimate. I could give you an exact figure, timeframe and what I expect to be able to accomplish if we talk. If any of the above sounds interesting, reply to this and we’ll set up a time to talk this week.
That way you at least won’t be ruled out based on the proposed rate. They’ll see that and even if you proposed a number above their budget, they’ll consider talking with you.
I don’t use this all the time but it’s a good tactic if you’re worried.
9. Make Sure Your Upwork PROFILE Backs Up What You’re Saying!
Your profile is different than your Upwork proposal, but it’s very important. It’s what the potential client sees if they click your name and view your whole profile/bio.
If you’re writing a great proposal, making suggestions, asking questions and sounding like a true expert, you need your Upwork profile to confirm that you’re an expert who they NEED to talk to.
I’m going to write another article soon focused just on how to write an awesome profile, but here are some tips to help you right now:
- Be a specialist, not a generalist. People want to hire an expert in the one thing they need. You’ll actually get more projects if you go after fewer TYPES of projects.
- Just like your Upwork proposal, your profile should be more about THEIR needs, and less about you.
- Start with something interesting to catch their attention. I personally started by quoting a testimonial I had received from a past client. That’s far more interesting than the typical, “Hi, my name is ___ and I’m a ___.”
- Have a “Call to Action” at the end. I put: “Send me a note with a bit about your company, your track record, and your project. If it seems like a good fit, we’ll schedule a call to talk.”
Notice in that last bullet I’m implying I’m not the right fit to work with everyone. This is how you should be positioning yourself…
Show that you’re selective and careful about who you work with!
Stop acting desperate. Stop chasing projects that aren’t a good fit for your specialty.
And if you don’t have a specialty yet, definitely go choose one…
You can always change it later if it doesn’t work out. But you’ll get far MORE work by specializing, and each project will be easier to complete because you’ll be able to create systems/templates, etc.
All the broke freelancers I know say things like, “well, I don’t want to limit myself”… or, “I don’t want to cut off my options.” They’re going to stay broke, unfortunately.
The freelancers I know making $5-10K+ per month easily and consistently all niched down and specialized. They became a true expert.
FYI there are two ways you can niche down:
- You can niche down by service offering (I started as a general writer/marketer, and niched down into just writing marketing emails for B2B companies. That’s a very niche service).
- Or you can niche down by industry. You could offer a service just to real estate agents. Or just for restaurants.
You can also do both, eventually. If I had kept going I would have eventually taken my B2B email marketing service and focused on just a few industries.
But fortunately, my passive income from this blog – CareerSidekick took off and I stopped having to take any freelance work.
Upwork Freelance Proposal Tips – Quick Instructions
- Use the first line to show that you’ve read their profile and understand what they need (instead of saying your name and talking about yourself).
- Introduce yourself and explain why you’re an expert in what they need.
- Make a recommendation or ask a question to reinforce the fact that you’re an expert in this topic.
- Close with a Call to Action to get them to reply. Either ask for a website to learn more, or ask them when they’re available to talk.
- Sign off with your name.
- Keep everything brief. Aim for less than 120 words in your Upwork proposal. 85-100 words is ideal.
- Use great spacing; you should only have two to three sentences MAXIMUM per paragraph in your proposal.
- Only send proposals for jobs posted on Upwork within the last 24 hours. You’ll be more likely to get the interview if you do this.
- Commit to sending out proposals five days per week (Monday – Friday) for at least a month to build up your leads on Upwork.
- Price yourself near the top of the client’s range. Never compete on price and never try to be the cheapest.
- Make sure you have a great Upwork profile that backs up everything you’re saying in your Upwork proposal.