I recently posted a job to Upwork.com and got 63 proposals overnight. There’s a TON of competition. So you really need a good Upwork proposal if you want to get any interviews at all.
Fortunately, I’m going to walk you through the exact steps (and proposal templates) I used last year as a freelancer to make thousands of dollars per month on Upwork.
What we’ll cover:
Let’s get started…
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.
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 or five sentences are 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?
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 for how to end an Upwork proposal:
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:
Here’s where so many people on Upwork go wrong:
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.
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 glanced at my Upwork account and here are the exact word counts of 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, prospective 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.
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.
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.
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.
This is an Upwork tip (and a powerful sales tip in general) that most people don’t know: You should only be selling the next step in the process.
Here’s what I mean:
The only goal of your Upwork proposal (and profile) is to get clients on the phone to discuss their project.
Then your goal on the phone call is to sell your service and get them onboard (by paying an initial invoice, signing a contract, etc. – depending on your setup).
The mistake a lot of people make – especially people who are new to sales – is trying to sell everything at the same time.
They write their Upwork proposal trying to convince the client to pay to work with them. All you should be doing is selling them on why it’s a good idea to get on a call with you. That’s MUCH easier.
So keep it dead-simple, take it one step at a time, and you’ll get more clients.
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:
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.
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 who are making $5-10K+ per month consistently all niched down and specialized.
They became true experts.
FYI there are two ways you can niche down:
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.
The following are REAL Upwork bid proposal samples that I sent out and used to get clients when I was active as a freelance copywriter on the platform (after I had niched down into email marketing in particular).
I just read your posting. It sounds like you need an expert in cold emails to advise you on everything from the content to the overall strategy.
I have a background in email marketing and have been doing this for 3 years. Cold emailing in B2B is what I specialize in.
I can work with you to write the content and subject lines, recommend the best technologies for you to use, and more. Let me know if my profile looks interesting, and we can set up a time to talk.
Hi! Just read your posting. Sounds like you need an email expert to advise you on a few things… from funnel setup and strategy, to what you should offer to get signups in the first place.
I have a background in funnels and email copywriting and have been doing this for 3 years, including for some other subscription/membership businesses.
I can work with you to come up with a great strategy and high-converting emails to turn your prospects into paying customers. And I can help you get more email signups going into this funnel, too.
If any of the above sounds interesting, let me know when you’d be available to talk this week.
These are both real Upwork proposal samples that I sent out and got jobs from. Feel free to use these Upwork proposal templates for yourself… however, this blog gets a lot of visitors now, so I’d highly recommend customizing this. You aren’t going to be the only freelancer reading this article.
Biron Clark is a former executive recruiter who has worked individually with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.