How to write the perfect Upwork proposal, score your first job with these 11 tips (with examples!)
By Morgan Overholt
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 this article, I’ll give you a few tips and tricks on how to write an attention-grabbing proposal.
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.
3. List your professional qualifications
Answer the following questions: How many years of experience are under your belt? 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.
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 in my job posting 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?
5. Throw in a compliment
Think about how you feel when a client compliments your work. It immediately puts you a little extra skip in your step – and makes for a memorable engagement.
So consider tossing in a compliment when you write your proposals – just make it genuine. People can always tell when you’re sucking up.
6. Include a unique selling point (what makes YOU right for this job)
Always include a selling point that’s unique to you. What makes you a great freelancer? What makes you a great designer? Are you a skilled communicator?
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 domain name. I’m a big fan of just using your name – something like MorganOverholt.com instead of ImPretendingToBeABigDesignAgencyInsertCheesyNameHere.xyz. Cheesy firm names are a dime a dozen. Keep it simple and professional.
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.
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.
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/industry for 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 copy/paste proposals and limited/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 perfect 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, just 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 just explain to your prospective clients that you’re new to the platform.
My first month on Upwork I included the following line with every proposal I sent out…
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.