How to write an Upwork proposal: 11 proven tips with samples

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Part of being a successful freelancer is learning how to become a good salesperson. Presenting yourself as a knowledgeable professional who understands the needs of your clients is crucial when it comes to winning contracts.

In fact, my ability to communicate my worth to my clients is one of the things that I credit to having earned over $500,000 on Upwork in just 4 years on the platform.

Read Also: Can you make good money on Upwork? How I earned $500,000 in 4 years

Below are a few of the tips and tricks that I’ve personally used to write an attention-grabbing Upwork proposal and cover letter, regardless of your industry or niche.

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1. Keep it short and sweet

Aim for 200 words or less. Keep in mind that your potential client is likely sifting through a dozen different proposals trying to find the right candidate for the job, and they simply won’t have time to read a 1500-word proposal letter. Value your client’s time as you value your own.

2. Use the client’s name whenever possible

Begin every proposal letter with a personalized greeting.

Dale Carnegie once wrote: “A person’s name is to that person, the sweetest, most important sound in any language.”

Client names are not always included in job postings, but about 90% of the time you can figure it out with just a bit of detective work. Try browsing through client reviews. That’s usually a great place to start.

Find a client's name in their reviews

3. List your professional qualifications

Answer the following questions: How many years of experience do you have? Have any degrees or certifications? Won any awards? Have any similar work related experiences that make you uniquely qualified for this job? Worked with any impressive clientele? Don’t be afraid to name drop.

Upwork Qualifications Example

4. Display your understanding of the requirements and an interest in the work.

You need to at least include a couple of lines in each proposal that acknowledges the specific needs of the job and prove that you read the posting carefully.

I once posted a “fixed-rate” job as a client for a $300 logo but stated that the $300 was simply a placeholder and that I would gladly accept bids. I cannot tell you how many proposals I received telling me that my “budget was too low”. It was clear to me that these individuals didn’t actually read my job posting. Why would I hire someone who doesn’t pay attention to detail?

Upwork Requirements Example

5. Throw in a compliment

Think about how you feel when a client compliments your work. It immediately puts a little extra skip in your step and makes for a memorable engagement.

Consider tossing in a compliment when you write your proposals, but make it genuine. People can always tell when you’re sucking up.

Upwork Compliment Example

6. Include a unique selling point (what makes YOU right for this job)

Always include a selling point that is unique to you. What makes you a great freelancer? What makes you a great designer? Are you a skilled communicator?

Upwork Example Selling Point

7. Include a link to your website and/or your Upwork profile

Having a website in 2019, especially if you’re presenting yourself as a tech or design professional, is an absolute MUST. Clients often ask for more information or additional portfolio samples, and having that website locked and loaded for their viewing pleasure is a contract-winning strategy.

Splurge on an easy-to-remember, simple domain name. I’m a big fan of just using your name – something like

If you’re on a budget, use a site like Weebly, Wix or Squarespace.

Also consider including a link to your Upwork profile in your proposal letter. As silly as this might sound, on the client side of the interface, multiple clicks are required to see a freelancer’s full bio, so many clients never bother. It doesn’t hurt to make it a bit easier on them.

Upwork Website Example

8. Include a call to action

No proposal is complete without a call to action. What do you want your client to do? Reach out to you for more information? Contact you for details? Make the next steps crystal clear for your potential client, and 90% of the time they will follow suit.

Upwork call to action example

9. Include relevant portfolio examples

Include as many relevant portfolio samples as possible. I literally keep folders of portfolios examples on my computer labeled by category and industry for a quick, easy reference.

If the job is about a logo, send logo examples. If the job is about real estate, send real estate examples. This advice sounds intuitive, but you’d be surprised how many people take the easy way out with generic proposals and unrelated examples.

If you don’t have any related examples, make some. Demonstrate that you are capable of successfully completing this type of job.

10. Ban passive phrases from your vocabulary.

Don’t subconsciously undermine yourself by using the wrong words. Consider the following phrases officially banned from your vocabulary:

  • I think …
  • I feel …
  • I believe …
  • I just …
  • I actually …
  • I should be able to …
  • I’m sorry …
  • I apologize …

Use phrases like “I will” and “I am” instead.

Women are the biggest offenders of using phrases that suggest a lack of confidence.

Put yourself in the client’s shoes. It can be scary hiring a stranger on the Internet. Smart clients want to hire a professional who knows they can get the job done. They aren’t hiring you because you’re a charity case, so don’t act like one.

11. If you’re new to Upwork, tackle the elephant in the room.

Winning that first contract can be a difficult task, especially with that “$0 earned” text staring both you and your prospective clients in the face. But it doesn’t mean that it can’t be done.

I personally hire Upwork newbies all the time. Their earnings, or lack thereof, don’t play a huge role in my decision on whether or not to hire them.

But with that said, don’t be afraid to explain to your prospective clients that you’re new to the platform.

Read Also: How I got my first job on Upwork: Tips (and examples) from a $500k freelancer

During my first month on Upwork, I included the following line with every proposal I sent out:

Upwork Newbie Example

Just remember, it’s unlikely you’ll get the first job you apply for, but if you take the time to craft a carefully worded proposal and demonstrate your abilities as a professional, success is sure to follow.

What are your favorite Upwork proposal writing tips? Let me know in the comments. Also, don’t forget to connect with me on social media using the links below.

17 thoughts on “How to write an Upwork proposal: 11 proven tips with samples”

  1. I’ve read some tips about how to win the job on Upwork even with the very high rate like $5000 for their first project. But they all attached the presentation video to the client in the proposals and they are native English. I’m Indonesian, not a native English so don’t push your self to make it even worst. But if you are a native English then you have great chances to win the high rate jobs in your first gig on Upwork by attach the presentation video in your proposal.

  2. I thought it was against Uwork’s policy to include a link to your personal website in not just the proposal but all buyer communication. That’s not the case?

  3. As you can see in your link provided, you are not allowed to post the website on your public profile, but you ARE allowed to use it and include it in your proposals, cover letters and personal communications. 🙂

  4. My first contract on Upwork is a $25 for emoticon designs, luckily the client let my self to decide how many emoticons I can provide for $25. And when I checked back the job post, it’s only submited by 4 freelancers, which I’m the winner. But it doesn’t mean if you submit to the job with more than 20’s freelancers you don’t have any chances to win. At least sometimes there are chances to do the other scope tasks outside the job post description that client will ask you then inviting you while you will be invite by client in a job post that has no related with your tasks.

  5. Hi,
    I have a question if you don’t mind. I am an accountant (not CPA) and have years of experience working on QuckBooks (Accounting Software). I would apply to projects that need help in this area but I don’t have anything to share and I don’t have my own company or website. Does that matter?



  6. Hey Donna!

    Do you at least have a LinkedIn or professionally designed resume? It never hurts to have a professional web presence.

  7. Hi Morgan,
    This article I have gained commercially viable skills that I can be able to harness online work opportunities as a freelancer.
    Please Morgan I want to ask you some questions so, get in touch with me if it’s possible through this number +254704699960 so that you can assist me.

  8. I am new in Upwork but I do not find any job yet.How can I get first job? Another question -Is there any way to get free bid or connect? Please tell me.

  9. There are 5 ways to earn free connects after your initial batch runs out:

    1. Passing the Upwork Readiness test (40)
    2. Earning the Rising Talent Badge (30)
    3. Freelancer Basic accounts get 10 free connects each month. (10)
    4. Freelance Plus (paid) memberships receive 80 free connects each month. (80)
    5. When you win an interview from the job feed, and respond you get a bonus free 10 connect (up to 50 every 7 days)

  10. While reading this post i am getri g experience about how to shot first deal in upwork.I am freelance web developer since 2013 but have never earned any work in upwork although i found this market newly i think i will.

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